I knew I wanted to do something on Austin's hip-hop scene. It's alive and kicking, yet no one really knows anything about it. So, I thought, SXSW is the perfect time to feature a thriving aspect of Austin's music scene, right? Well, the story I discovered ended up being so much better.
I met Priscilla Villegas at her home one evening. Her husband was there as well as her two young daughters. She says her family, often doesn't get her full attention. Most nights, she's on the computer, on the phone, as the manager of hip-hop label Die Slo Entertainment. She was convinced Die Slo had success within reach, and wanted to advocate for them.
The label itself was created by Sertified. He started it back in 2007. But, it's what led to the label that caught my attention. Sertified is a giant teddy bear. When sat down to chat, I asked him, "So, what do you rap about?"
"Anything that comes to mind," he tells me. "So you don't rap about drugs and gangs?" I joked with him, really, and, then, he says, "No, those days are over."
At this point, Sertified, aka JD Flores, opened up about what led to the label. He tells me in his teens, he was messing around with the wrong crowd and got tangled up in drugs. He ended up in DelValle jail on a possession of marijuana charge. When it came down to spending some real time in the big house or rehab, he chose the latter. He spent 6 months in rehab and he calls it a blessing. He came out a new man, said it's what turned him into a man. He snapped out of his old ways.
That's when JD became Sertified, because "without him it's not official." He got real serious about his music and thought the label would be the best way to collaborate with other entertainers he knew growing up. He said since joining forces, they've been well-received, created a following of fans. The chant rings through the crowds, "D-I-E S-L-O, D-I-E S-L-O!" That just fuels him and the rest of the crew -- a taste of success that helps JD grow stronger in his talents and in his convictions.
JD started rapping when he was just four years old. His mother wrote it for him. You know her -- Priscilla, the label's manager. She was, too, a rapper back in the day. She'll never forget JD and his first rap and the dollars he would collect for performing. Now, she tells me she's living her dream through him.
The dream lives on--Die Slo Entertainment's success landed the label its first SXSW showcase. Priscilla and JD are preparing very differently, but busy nonetheless. Like JD says, it's not just about the performance, there's tons of music he wants to see too. But, this isn’t just any showcase; it's a celebration of generations of entertainers and the hard knocks it took to get there. Clean. Sober. Blessed.
Die Slo Entertainment and Sertified's SXSW showcase it Saturday, March 20 starting at 11:40pm at the Victory Grill. To find out more about the label or hear some of its music, check out http://www.myspace.com/diesloentertainment.