Passalacqua, hip hop for Detroit’s changing era
By Steve Furay
Special to the Michigan Citizen
This current era of Detroit has an energy within itself, a spirit and resonance that will soon become something new.
Detroit 2013 is marked by accelerated change in many aspects of city life, from politics and economics to culture and arts, as well as the resident’s demographic make up.
Detroit hip hop duo Passalacqua represents this era binding the city’s dynamic past to its unwritten future, with a present awareness of evolutionary art and current rearrangement of public resources and creative spaces.
Emcees Mister and Blaksmith are artists who both possess the microphone skills to keep them ahead of the pack for now. Lyrically and rhythmically diverse, they also bring the stage theatrics to win fans at every show they perform.
“We were fortunate enough that people rallied behind us. I think it’s a timing thing,” says Mister. “There are so many talented people here; people don’t get the shine that they should. We’ve just been fortunate enough that people have been backing us and supporting what we’ve been doing since we started. It’s a really good feeling.”
Mister, blue-eyed and full beard with the ascot cap ever-present, and Blaksmith, a politically astute Moor with full passion for his craft, have a musical chemistry that has attracted the attention of the city’s new urban population.
With the implementation of a state takeover through emergency management and bankruptcy filings, the city of Detroit is also experiencing a shift in demographics. More suburbanites, or whites, as well as people of other ethnicities are moving within the city’s boundaries. Conversations about these changes are happening, and Passalacqua, who’s made their name popular by appealing to hip hop, rock and electronic fans, have made their music a part of that dialogue.
This evolving Detroit is creating many opportunities for professional growth among local artists, and this mixed-race duo are well positioned for the future.
“I think there’s a lot of opportunity in regards to presentation,” says Blaksmith. “We have to ask ourselves as demographics change or as things change, what are we saying? How are we reflecting that change?”
“The city, it’s not just us; a lot of people are coming this way for inspiration,” says Mister, “because there’s a lot of people starting from the ground up, and we’re just lucky to be a part of that and thrown into the mix.”
Mister and Blaksmith have also made time to contribute to the community with writing workshops for local youth. The two have seen many of their artist friends doing similar educational programs in the community, and felt they should also do their part to ensure their contribution to the bigger picture of helping the city grow.
Collaboration with artists outside of the group is key to both of the rappers’ creative growth. Blaksmith is a member of one of Detroit’s best hip hop groups, Cold Men Young, and Mister now lives in Eastern Market with producer Eddie Logix and emcee Doc Waffles, members of the Co-Ownaz collective.
Both listen to and have performed with their friends, like Detroit CYDI, Lord Scrummage, James Linck and more.
“There’s dancers that I’ve performed with, a lot of our collaborators are here and present, a lot of people that we’re working with,” says Blaksmith. “So it’s very nice to be able to see these people, talk to these people, have ourselves accessible in the flesh.”
Mister likened the collaboration to a movement.
“It’s just feeding off of everyone’s energy, and everyone is building this thing little by little,” says Mister. “It’s not for one person. This is for the bigger picture. It’s not just about me; we’re all trying to achieve something bigger than ourselves.”
Passalacqua members are creatively free spirits, as comfortable rapping on stage in a space helmet as they are doing double time freestyles in a rap cipher. Freedom is their deepest connection to the legacy of Detroit music.
Artistically, the duo is whimsical and abstract, grounding their songs in a single tangible concept, then straying to the ethers in wordplay and rhyme syllables. Non-forceful, intellectual, non-political and modern, Passalacqua’s sound uniquely represents today’s Detroit.
“I think people just like being genuine,” says Mister. “I think people appreciate how it translates. People in Detroit won’t resonate if you’re not being true to yourself. So whatever it is you’re doing, they can tell if you’re being honest with yourself and the audience, and I think they can see that in our stuff, that we’re just doing what we feel is the right thing to do.”
For more information about Passalacqua, visit www.tomandbootsy.com.