When inspiration strikes, you'd better be ready.
Last week, Savannah rap artist KidSyc had a burst of creative energy, the likes of which he'd never experienced. Despite writing, rapping and recording for 11 of his 27 years.
He was sailing, he says, on the focused love from his "Best of Savannah" win on May 21. Along with Brandywine, the exceedingly funky jazz/R&B band he shares the stage with, KidSyc had been voted the city's top hip hop artist.
Shortly after the group's incendiary performance at the Morris Center, for winners and their friends and families, KidSyc's muse began whispering in his ear.
She was telling him to get busy.
The result is Singles, a nine-song EP KidSyc — his real name is Lloyd Harold — recorded at home in a 48-hour period, utilizing beats from a California producer named Este, a bunch of his Savannah friends singing and rapping, and his own fertile, word-association brain.
Just about every rap on Singles — which became available June 1, less than a week after recording concluded — was free-styled. Improvised. Right off the top of his head.
As for the title, Harold explains, "The original concept was just to try to make a bunch of singles. An album of songs that I could hear on the radio. That was kind of the drive behind creating these hooks first, and then just filling it in with these freestyle rhymes."
But experimentation, and the participation of fellow rappers like Knife, Miggs and Vanimal, was just too much fun. Everybody stayed up till dawn working on the tracks, which took on lives on their own.
KidSyc is admired for his thoughtful and intelligent rhymes — he carries a notebook around with him and is always jotting down ideas for the next project.
Freestyling is something else altogether.
"Now that I'm able to record at will, for the most part, it takes that notebook aspect out of it," Harold explains. "And if I'm in the zone, so to speak, I can just be right there at the mic. I think having done it for so long, being at the Jinx and practicing for so long, honing my freestyle skills ... I try to freestyle as well as I write."
Also new: KidSyc sings! Several of the new songs have curvy melodies that intertwine with the beats, the musical arrangements and the spoken sections.
On his early homemade mix tapes and CDs, Harold says, "I never sang a full song. I sang on the hooks, hid it in the background by mixing it down really low, not because I was embarrassed by it but because I was so adamant about being the rapper. 'Can't be singing!'
"And just recently there's been an influx of singer-slash-rappers that have been successful, so that sound is a little more accepted. And I'm more comfortable."
Other vocalists on Singles include Britt Scott, Amelia Jamerson and Melissa Hagerty.
Down the road, a full-length KidSyc solo album is planned for September, to be followed by a new collection from KidSyc@Brandywine.
In the meantime, you can check out Singles at Syc's bandcamp site, and on Soundcloud.
This week also sees the unveiling of the first album from Damon and the Shitkickers, our area's own honky-tonk outlaw country band. Short Cups and Long Nights is available via CD Baby, on amazon.com ... and at the band's shows.
Speaking of the latter, Damon and the Shitkickers will celebrate the CD release June 8 with an extended version of their regular Happy Hour Saturdays gig at the Jinx. They'll crank up at 6 p.m. and play until 10.
Singer/guitarist Damon Mailand is a luthier (guitar maker) for Benedetto Guitars here in Savannah. He arrived in town seven years ago.
"I was raised in rural Montana," Mailand says, "and grew up listening to classic country music. That's what my mom played, so I guess it was kind of ingrained in me. My family was pretty musical — my dad played guitar, and my uncle and grandpa played fiddle, so there was always country music going on when I was growing up."
Over the years, he played guitar in classic rock bands. "But the classic country never really left my system, I guess," Mailand says. "I got started because I would go out to the bars and stuff and couldn't find any good classic country bands. So I started my own and took it from there."
In Savannah, "I was lucky enough to randomly run into some really good musicians. They all had a feel for what I was going for. Whether they had different backgrounds or not — and most of them did — they knew the style I played. And they added their own elements as we went."
Damon and the Shitkickers excel at the sort of brawling barroom country made legendary by the likes of Waylon Jennings, Merle Haggard and (to some degree) George Jones.
Not a lot of rabid fan interest in that sort of stuff in a college town, I suggest to Mailand.
"I thought that would be an issue, too, but we stay as busy as we want to be," he responds. "We all have day jobs, so we only play on the weekends. And on most weekends we have two to four gigs. And we book out several months in advance.
"So finding work is not a problem. And I'm sometimes surprised at some of the places we play where we get great crowds."