Nashville has a new sheriff in town, and it's not country, it's rap. Formerly known for his work with hip hop group Last of the Horsemen, kidDEAD has taken new ground with ferociously gentle word-plays combined with concise heartfelt lyrics. The spokesman of the city's fastest growing hip hop posse, #RAPCLUB, is hitting the scene hard with his first official full length studio album entitled, Rap and Destroy. Produced by The Phantom Farmer and recorded at The Green Lodge, Rap and Destroy features joint efforts by rappers Sole (Sole & the Skyrider Band/Fake Four Records), Brzowski (Milled Pavement), Zac HB, and Erin Rae along with Invisible Library label mates Spoken Nerd and Brandon Brains. kidDEAD doesn't just write raps, he writes soul songs that follow a track in and out of the ears, making stops at all the right stations in your mind. With a wide range of influences from Say Anything to Outkast to Aesop Rock, kidDEAD is poised and ready to push his way onto your iPod and stay there.
kidDEAD was born Ross Norton in the city of Tallahassee, Florida. He doesn't have the usual “Nashville” story, where an artist leaves home to pursue his dreams in the music city. Instead his arrival in Nashville was more of a tumultuous journey that made pursuing his dreams the only option left.
The journey began with an early love for all things rap. When he was 10 years old he landed his first rap album, The Beastie Boys License to Ill, and he put it on repeat. A couple years later he lifted a copy of Notorious B.I.G.'s Ready to Die, and then he got his hands on his first Outkast album and it quickly became sure that he loved hip hop. Even then he didn't totally stick to the genre, as he strode into his teenage years he started to accumulate a love for punk rock. It started out with Green Day Dookie and Offspring Smash, but as he entered high school he began to find himself listening to true punk rock like The Dead Kennedys, The Misfits, and Propagandhi. As he became more into that scene, he started to branch out and see bands like The Get Up Kids, New Found Glory, Dropkick Murphys, and Saves the Day.
Though he was committed to the punk/emo scene, it was during this time that he started to really love rap as an artist. Rap music was the sort of outlet that kidDEAD could easily be a part of. At the time, the biggest rapper in the world was Eminem and with a myriad of family and life problems, it was easy for a a young resentful teenager to fall in love with that kind of hip hop and kidDEAD did. He fell in, head over heels. He had always enjoyed writing poetry and after he heard Eminem and Eyedea battle rapping, a light bulb turned on in his heart and he knew rap was right for him. He began to break dance and practice free-styling on a regular basis and he found it to be therapeutic as a way of releasing his anger, but it wasn't the only way to get that release and at the same time that he began to love hip hop, he also became addicted to drugs.
In a hurry to leave home, kidDEAD began a journey to do whatever he wanted. He started to travel, following the Grateful Dead, going to Phish shows, and attending different festivals. All the while loving hip hop and getting deeper into it as he discovered some of the underground rappers like Atmosphere, Cannibal Ox, and EL-P. He kept rapping but never was able to make anything consistent musically because of his addiction to drugs. As he traveled from place to place he would often be the “weird” hip hop guy selling drugs at the festival or show. He moved around a lot, always returning to Tallahassee for a while and then heading out again. This lifestyle was taking its toll and he was burning bridges with everyone around him making more and more bad decisions.
The whole thing came to a grinding halt, when he was at Bonnaroo and through a series of events he got arrested. Though he had been in trouble in the past, this one was big. When it rains it pours, because while kidDEAD was in jail his mother passed away. With his mom gone, Tallahassee was no longer home. With mourning in his heart, he knew everything needed to change. He knew that Nashville was his last chance, his last chance to make the right choices and to turn himself around. To find hope, to make music, to live out his dreams, and he wasn't going to let that chance pass him by. Driven by this new desire to stop living for himself, he was finally able to put the drugs behind. For years his addictions had kept him in a place of complete instability. So without looking back he was finally able to find hope, and he poured all that he had into his music. During this period, kidDEAD was still hurting, maybe even hurting more than he was. However, he found a way to start writing songs that made him able to get that hurt out in a more positive way with less anger and more honest true to heart feelings. He began to connect with the music and started to find his niche. His early work in Nashville consisted of a solo project that was more of a mixtape, but he was also one of the key ingredients to the satirical rap group, The Last of the Horsemen.
With a renewed passion for the hip hop scene and a renewed passion for life, kidDEAD realized he had a story to tell. His goal is to write honest songs about hope and love and the struggles of falling short. To make honest attempts to relate to the human heart and to use his art to inspire those around him, as other artist have inspired him. He has learned some hard lessons and through those he hopes he can help others to avoid those mistakes and to make good choices. He believes the words of Bill Hicks who said, "it's just a simple choice, right now, between fear and love.” He believes that all people have the opportunity to make that choice and that they should let nothing stop them from doing so. He says, “things can be good, even through the hardest things we go through, the hardest times of our lives knowing that even though things can be really hard and tough, there still can be hope that things can be better. On a personal level and on a world level. No matter how messed up things are, we have to believe that there is good in human nature and that things are going to be ok.”
To know pain, it must first be experienced. To have hope it must first be found. There is no accurate way to practice what pain feels like, nor is there a way to “fake” hope. But through the clever, real life words of Nashville rap maker kidDEAD, one can at least understand what pain and hope look like. kidDEAD leaves a poetic trail of authenticity with every verse combined with the gentleness of a man who has found hope in his future and has harnessed the wisdom and power of words. Feeding off experiences that most Americans have been familiarized with, but many have been lucky enough not to face, kidDEAD reminds us all that we are not necessarily the past or where we come from, but we are who we decide to be, right now.
When kidDEAD is not on the road sharing songs with you, he can be found in Nashville with his Invisible Library crew in the #RAPCLUB. #RAPCLUB is a community of people that support and want to be a part of a really great underground hip hop scene and every one is invited to join the club. His new album, Rap and Destroy, will be released on Invisible Library Records on January 17th and will be immediately followed up with an album release tour with kidDEAD coming to a town near you.