You could call it a tale of two cities. Within Denton city limits lie two distinct communities separated by nothing more than railroad tracks and a sign. On one side, you have the Denton everyone thinks of: Dan's Silverleaf, great indie bands, and the Courthouse. On the other side, you have Southeast Denton, home to one of the most vibrant hip-hop communities in the region.
Increasingly, there are attempts to bridge the gap between these two musical communities. One artist leading the charge is AV the Great, aka Chris Avant. Avant is a rapper from Southeast Denton and also manages numerous other acts when he's not raising his kids. He's a busy guy, and as any independent artist knows, sometimes the work is slow to pay off.
"You got all these mix tape sites now," Avant says. "The rock or country crowd might be more willing to pay for music, but hip-hop, you get shit free." He sites other rappers like Wiz Khalifa and Lil Wayne releasing mix tapes every few months as an example of the competition for independent rappers, and since the competition is online giving away music, Avant knows he needs to be there too.
AV is resolved in this approach. To him, it's all about paying dues and playing the game. "Everybody's got to go through the same process right now," he declares. "You got to sacrifice a lot of marketing money and not getting paid just to get people to hear your [music]. Unless your pops is famous or something and they were gonna sign you anyway."
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Not everything has a dollar sign attached to it, especially when you truly believe in it. Avant isn't just doing his thing in Southeast Denton, satisfied with the gulf that separates that side of town from the rest of Denton. He's dedicated to bringing the two sides together. After all, Avant says, both sides have a lot more in common than a DIY approach to creating and distributing their music.
"You go over [to Southeast Denton] and it's the same shit. It's all Denton," he says. "I'm very open to mixing and mingling with the rock scene and doing shows with them. That's my whole goal, bridging that gap and making that handshake."
Avant sees Denton's unique character as clearly as anyone, and also understands something others in town, like 35 Denton organizers and, increasingly, Denton City Council, already understand: The music scene is a commodity. And not just a music scene with white kids and guitars, but the whole music scene.
"[Denton's] not a suburb. We're our own thing," he says. "The hip-hop coming out of Southeast Denton is strong, man. I don't think you can find as much talent as far as arts and music in any other city."