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A new beat

Elliot B. in Missoula’s hip-hop house


The final broadcast earlier this month of the Wild Boyz’ all-night show on 107.5 FM created a whirl of speculation about the death of mainstream hip-hop in Missoula. At the same time, longtime KBGA underground hip-hop director and DJ Jimi Nassett (aka Nasty) was preparing to leave Missoula for the summer to focus on his own recordings in Spokane. That confluence of events led local fans of the hip-hop scene, both underground and mainstream, to wonder how much the burgeoning genre would suffer in the void.

Enter Eugene, Ore., producer Elliot Blair, aka Elliot B. The relatively new Missoula resident has taken over the reins at KBGA from Nassett, and brings a slew of his own work to the local scene: he’s already released four hip-hop albums and four more are slated for release over the summer. He says he’s found strong audience support for his beats since moving to the area, even if his networks are less established.

“Eugene and Missoula are comparable for underground hip-hop audiences,” says Blair, noting one major difference. “But in Eugene everybody’s rapping, so there’s tons of competition.”

Blair is prepared to use his new position to promote the work of artists working anywhere from his hometown to Portland, Seattle, Denver and now Missoula. With his own work, Blair favors original beats with guitar and drums over the heavy sampling that can sometimes overtake the music. It’s a switch from his earlier albums, which he produced with artists like Sapient and The Sand People, in that those included generous cuts from the Buena Vista Social Club and Steely Dan. The latter was so thick with samples Blair laughs, “We were joking about calling [one] album ‘Steely Dan.’”

Blair is certain that upcoming projects producing original beats with Nassett and Denver artist Sentence will show the maturity of his work. Like most aspiring artists, Blair walks a line between wanting to make it big and avoid selling out.

“Ninety percent of the people I’ve known…who have rapped about hating labels, hating the mainstream, have all wound up selling out in the end,” he says. “[But] everybody I know [now] speaks the truth, because they’re all broke.”

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