If you scream in the forest, asks Kedrick Mack, and nobody's around to hear it, are you actually screaming?
In music, this translates as: If nobody knows you've made a record, how can you expect them to hear it?
This, in a nutshell, is why Mack — the rap artist whose stage name is Knife — is jump-starting an independent label, based here in Savannah.
Or, rather, he's kick-starting his label, via that beloved, all-encompassing, dreams-come-true online fundraising tool Kickstarter.
One of the founders of the city's hip hop collective Dope Sandwich, Mack says he merely wants to take his music — and that of his talented friends —to the next level. "We're re-branding Dope Sandwich," explains. "Instead of it being a rap group composed of a bunch of different emcees, it's going to be a record label. We're done with the days of 'Hey, we just recorded this last night,' where we post it on people's Facebook walls."
Here's the deal: The Dope Sandwich Kickstarter drive opened Jan. 13; the goal is to raise $8,000 by Feb. 22.
Mack, Steve "Basik Lee" Baumgardner and DJ Blue Collar began Dope Sandwich in the mid 2000s. It came to include numerous emcees, dancers, artists, designers and other styles of performers. Through passed-around mix tapes, then CDs and then downloads, DS came to dominate hip hop in southeast Georgia.
The demand was so great that Dope Sandwich actually toured as a rap trio.
"Right now, we know a good amount of people who are just waiting to see what the next move is," Mack explains. "We have tons of contacts from people that we opened up for over the years, touring and stuff like that. We're primed to make the next move."
So here they go. "We can tighten up to get some more professional recordings for some of the stuff we're doing," says Mack. "Right now, a lot of the music is home-recorded. We can tighten those up. We can pay for professional mixing and mastering. And manufacturing."
And public relations. Getting a strong, professional, consistent mouthpiece is paramount. "You get what you put in," he explains. "With the ability we have of making our own music, in terms of making our own records, the time, labor and cost of in-home studios, the investment's already been put in it. I'm sure that when you calculate all the money each of us has spent on our own recordings, we've already paid for the studio time. So now it's like investing the money to get the word out."
In time, the entire Dope Sandwich back catalog — including the many solo projects from Knife, and from Basik Lee — will be made available, for free, online.
The immediate desire is to get three new albums out of the can and into people's hands, via vinyl, CD and download.
One is Iconoclast, Knife's long-gestating sequel to Blackmale; the artist proudly describes it as "industrial hip hop" with, for the first time, totally live instrumentation. "I got out of my fart-joke stage," he laughs. (Knife turns 30 this month, by the way.)
Then there's Son of a Gun, the debut from Miggs (Son), Knife's sometime collaborator and one of the emcees from the probably-now-defunct big band Word of Mouth. The third record is a "boom bap" traditional rap platter from the trio F.E.B. (including Miggs, his New York-based brother, and Savannah DJ Werd Life).
"Miggs' album has been in production for a year," Mack says. "We had to make sure we had videos shot, really taking our time with how the music was being produced."
And Knife and Miggs still plan to complete their "passion project," a rap album/graphic novel called Hangman.
Dope Sandwich 2014 (and beyond) will encompass merch, live shows and more — most especially a steady (and well-announced) stream of product by artists from every aspect of Savannah's hip hop community.
"Rap is just one aspect of hip hop culture," Knife says. "So I want Dope Sandwich to be a label that celebrates hip hop culture by exploring the musical element, not to confuse people that hip hop is just music; hip hop is a way of life. It's culture, it's the way you talk, it's the way you dress, it's the way you think and the way you approach your daily life."
• The Accomplices, City Hotel and the Train Wrecks will perform at Trinity United Methodist Church Thursday, Jan. 23. This "Opry Night" show (each band will sing and play around a single, old school-style microphone) and end things will an all-out jamboree. It's designed to the first in a series of concerts at Trinity (Velvet Caravan is next, on Feb. 1). Show starts at 7:30 p.m.; admission is $10. All ages, of course, welcome.
• Junkyard Angel, a band we don't to see live as much as we ought to, will perform at the Charles H. Morris Center Jan. 31, in a benefit for The 200 Club of Coastal Georgia.
• Is a second Art Garfunkel show at Dollhouse in the offing?
• Kylesa is among the 17 local bands confirmed for the 2014 Savannah Stopover in March; Phillip and Laura have also started a record label, Retro Futurist, and Darkentries, Jagged Vision and Sierra will join Kylesa for a full Retro Futurist showcase March 6. Soft Science and Furious Hooves will also showcase during Stopover week.