Los Angeles is a glamorous beacon of movie stars, palm trees and perpetual 80-degree weather that gives this town an identity unlike any other city in the world. Its very existence is an alternative and this has been no better reflected than in the diverse and rich Hip-Hop scene that has been cultivated in the sunshine since the 1980s.
Hip-Hop in California has always been the alternative to what’s happening out in the East. In the ’80s, when Rap was all about good times and partying, rappers in LA took things to the streets and gave us the gritty gangster rap of NWA, Ice Cube and Ice-T. When the east coast was delivering us hard hitting beats and jazzy breaks, Dr. Dre and Snoop were delivering a new melodic sound that helped Rap become a mainstream force. Years later, when Rap became all about fisheye lenses and shiny suits, acts like Hieroglyphics and Jurassic 5 were delivering fans a more conscious alternative to that flash. You can always find something a little different in Los Angeles and the next great artist to carry that tradition is California native, Sahtyre.
Sahtyre, born Cassidy Howell on September 17, 1987 in Bellflower, California; was a precocious young child. His mother enrolled him into kindergarten at only three years old by forging a fake birth certificate to fool school administrators. His childhood lacked structure as his mother’s ongoing problems with drugs led him and his siblings to jump from town to town, school to school and hotel room to hotel room around different neighborhoods from Los Angeles County to the Inland Empire. Thus, he would find his life in a constant state of flux.
Despite the uncertainty of his ever-changing living situation, Sahtyre had a love and interest in music. As a boy, Cassidy would sneak off to listen to the profane rebellion of notorious rap group, NWA, beyond the supervision of his mother. Years later as a teenager, listening to Rawkus Records’ classic compilation, Soundbombing II, (especially Eminem’s underground classic, “Any Man”) would spur a nascent interest in rapping.
Soon, he found himself sneaking out of the house in the middle of the night to attend the legendary open mic workshop, Project Blowed. For a budding young artist, the workshop was like a school where he was surrounded by legendary underground masters like the Freestyle Fellowship, Busdriver, and Abstract Rude. It was there he started battling much older emcees, winning respect from his elders by being one of the youngest rappers, at the mere age of 14, to compete and win battles; a genuine honor considering the incredible caliber of talent that came through those open mics.
Following the death of his biological father, the incarceration of his brother’s father (a man he considered his true father figure) and an unsuccessful bid at a university in which he was kicked out of school for “excessive partying and violating school drug policy,” Saht found himself at a crossroads in his life. With little options left, Saht decided it was time to get serious about a career in music and pursue his dreams.
In 2009, Sahtyre released his first mixtape, High Saht, and began touring the country performing low budget shows, hoping to build a buzz for his music and keeping the lights on by collecting iTunes royalties and winning prizes for battling. A year later, Saht released another mixtape, Exclamation Point! that began to build recognition for himself. Soon after, a budding following would grow when he released YouTube videos for nearly every song on the mixtape.
In 2011, Saht dropped his most successful release to date, The Buddha, a twelve song mixtape that featured guest appearances from fellow Swim Team members, Open Mike Eagle and Alpha MC as well as Los Angeles underground Rap stars, Nocando and Pistol McFly. The tape was a surprising success for the young artist amassing over ten thousand individual downloads (and growing) and attracting the attention of the major music label companies.
A voracious lover of music, Sahtyre credits the development of his laid back yet quick-witted style on a diverse set of influences. He credits everybody from Eminem, Snoop and Redman to underground legends like Thirstin Howl III and the Outsidaz as some of his most formative muses. Yet, his truest inspirations are musicians that transcend the normal boundaries of Hip-Hop including legendary rock stars, Jimi Hendrix, John Frusciante and Kurt Cobain; as well as timeless soul musicians like James Brown and Marvin Gaye.
In the last few years, Los Angeles Hip-Hop has been enjoying a renaissance of talent not seen since its ‘90s heyday. A wealth of diverse acts like Odd Future, Kendrick Lamar, Schoolboy Q, Ab-Soul, Nipsey Hu$$le and Dom Kennedy have been bubbling under the surface and looking to break nationally into the public’s consciousness. Sahtyre is primed to join them with the upcoming release of his new project, L.S.D, later this year.
L.S.D, an acronym for “Love. Sex. Drugs,” is Sahtyre’s most ambitious work of art to date. On the tape, we find Sahtyre channeling the spirit of his personal musical heroes and delivering a record that at times has more in common with drug addled rock stars than most rappers. L.S.D. is a dark and personal record for Sahtyre that sets it as an alternative to the rest of the burgeoning LA Hip-Hop scene.
He’s not Odd Future. He’s not Kendrick Lamar. He’s not the Game. He’s Sahtyre. You can always find something a little different in Los Angeles.