By Hilary Rawk
Rapper, performer, hype-man, break-dancer, leader of the Murder Club moped crew and DJ, Hollywood Holt grew up bouncing between Chicago’s fierce South Side and the North Side suburbs. Holt has been rapping for five years and DJing and break-dancing for roughly seven.
His song “Throw a Kit on that Bitch,” about buying a moped, has enjoyed mass play in clubs and online on popular music blogs like Hype Machine and IHeartComix and in magazines like URB (which named Holt one of its “Next 1,000”) and Resonator. Turntablist and producer DJ Klever recently remixed Holt’s track “Caked Up,” a ridiculously fun dance track that gets booties bouncing.
Holt learned to DJ in high school. His older brother Miles was, and still is, a DJ, and in high school his best friend, cousin and producer Million $ Mano would come over and play on Miles’ turntables. Eventually, Mano got his own turntables and then he and Holt started DJing every party they could. Holt explains that DJing is not just about playing songs, “There’s a lot to DJing in general. One, you have to be able to blend songs. Two, you have to have good song selection. You gotta know what to play at what club. A DJ should be able to play anything anywhere.”
Holt discovered break-dancing when he was 17 years old. He went with his brother to the mall, and he stopped in a store where they were playing a breaking battle. Holt remembers, “I didn’t leave that store. We were in the mall for like an hour, and I did not move. I just stood there and watched that whole video—mesmerized.”
The guy from the store gave Holt the tape, and he carried it with him—put it into every VCR he could. Holt explains that he uses breaking to channel his violent energy. “There’s an energy in break-dancing that you can only get through fighting—throwing a punch and connecting it is the same as throwing an air flare. You feel like you’re fighting everything when you’re break-dancing.”
Holt’s diverse music taste influences both his music-writing process and his live show. He listens to everything from punk rock like Crass and The Clash, to hip-hop like Mos Def, Easy-E and Young Jeezy, to pop-alternative artists like The Bird and The Bee and Office and Canadian punk-electronic artist Trouble Andrew.
He wrote his first rap when he was 14—he recalls, “It was about nothing! No, seriously, though, it was the nineties when Das EFX was out, so it was really about nothing… I’m an artist—I’m a rapper, so it’s like… I rap about whatever’s on my mind. A lot of people try to stick to a certain gimmick or a certain style—like, ‘I’m a rapper who talks about this’—but I’m a true rapper, and I rap about whatever I feel like. So if one day I’m pissed off, I write a pissed-off rap song, or if I get a new hat, I might write a song about my hat. I just write raps about whatever I feel, and if I see something happening—a social issue that I think I can shed light on, I’ll write a song.”
Holt’s abilities as a hype-man and performer coupled with his vibrating excitement bring his live audiences into the show as they respond to calls and dance, hands high, reaching for his attention.
Fresh off a three-month tour of the U.S. and Canada where he played sold-out shows in Los Angeles and accompanied artists MY!GAY!HUSBAND! and The Cool Kids, he is gathering energy for his upcoming show tonight at the Darkroom.
Holt says we can expect his live show to be “Pretty nuts. My thing is—I’m very, very big into punk rock, so when I perform, it’s like a punk-rock show, but it’s hip-hop music. The way I rock is crazy. I just go off. I’m gonna perform for you guys and make it a big, fun show, and you’re gonna be like ‘Whoa, damn, this shit is tight.’”
In his immediate future, Holt is working on a song with Lupe Fiasco, a song with Joel Madden from Good Charlotte, possibly a song for a major motion picture, touring and “A whole bunch of rap shit… I’m gonna keep touring and making better shows and making people love me, cause I’m great.”
Hollywood Holt, Yea Big and Kid Static and Meat Number 5, with DJ Johnny Kesh & DJ Mikey Dance Panther at Darkroom, 2210 West Chicago, (312)276-1411, on February 7 at 8pm. $7.