Talk to young artists, and they’ll tell you the hip-hop scene in Denver is just getting going; that they will be the next big thing and put Colorado on the map. Of course, youthful rappers have been making that claim since the }80s, despite Denver never gaining the hip-hop notoriety of Compton, Atlanta, Brooklyn, Houston or Detroit.
Even so, over the years, rappers, DJ crews, graffiti writers and B-boys have made their mark in Colorado and beyond.
With this year’s Artopia celebrating decades of hip-hop at The Church Nightclub on March 1, we reached out to a handful of players in the Colorado scene — a longtime promoter, a studied fan who has cooked food for hip-hop artists, a multi-talented B-boy and MC, and an emerging rapper — to get their take on where local hip-hop’s been and where it’s going.
This is the fourth in the series.
At 23 years old, Melz Staccz, born Melanie Fox-Siler, wants to be known as the top female rapper in Colorado.
Though she’s not a native — Staccz (pronounced “Stacks”) grew up on the West Side of Chicago — she’s been spitting bars since first grade. Her earliest inspiration was her big brother, who owned a video camera and would record himself and his friends rapping. Their family would hook up the camera to the TV and sit around watching those videos, cracking up at his antics. She wanted some of his spotlight, so at six years old, she gave emceeing a try and hasn’t quit.
Growing up, Staccz listened to music constantly. Her mother was a record collector, and when the family would do the dishes and clean the house, they would sing along to Run-DMC. But it was her aunt who took her to the store to pick out her first CD.
“The first album I ever personally purchased myself was a Tupac album,” Staccz recalls. The legendary rapper was still alive when she was born (in 1995), but died the next year. “I didn’t even really listen to Tupac, but because of his history and everything, honestly, I just really wanted to know what the fuss was about.”
As Staccz sees it, hip-hop really began in the ’90s. She has checked out “a few older artists,” she says, quickly clarifying with a laugh: “When I say older, that’s like Jay-Z. Not like LL or nobody.”
Mostly, Staccz has been influenced by the biggest rappers in her lifetime, starting with 50 Cent, who inspired her as she laid down her first tracks in 2013 and formed her own Chicago hip-hop crew, Break Bread or Fake Dead Entertainment.
That same year, her mom, who served in the Army, relocated to Fort Carson. Staccz moved back and forth between Colorado and Chicago.
But after a knife fight at a party in Chicago sent her to the emergency room, she moved in with her mom in Colorado Springs, where she has stayed since, even after her mother left the Army and returned to Illinois.
During Staccz’s first few years in Colorado, she wrote but didn’t record much. In 2017, she ramped up her ambitions and started dropping new music.
“I’ve got my own official team, called Feed the Family, FTF, and that’s one of the biggest teams in the city right now,” she explains. She and the other artists in her crew have been making waves up and down the Front Range. “We’re on every flier. We’ve been doing every show. I’ve literally been booked for seven months straight — every weekend, booked.”
Staccz likes to write party songs as well as more introspective fare. But it’s the party music she’s best known for on YouTube, where a few of her videos have garnered a sizable number of views for an up-and-coming artist.
“For me, it took, literally, a hit song for people to gravitate,” she says. “Then after that song, another one came and another one came. If that happens, your fan base is huge — but it has to do a lot with the Internet here. But if you perform and you get around, they definitely support you.”
Staccz has worked hard to cultivate an Internet presence, releasing regular mixtapes, singles and music videos, aiming to attract fans in Colorado and beyond.
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And she’s betting that fans will respond to her more introspective work. For her debut album, which is slated to drop in the fall, she’s writing about the struggles she’s overcome in life, including the stabbing, and her quest to be the greatest female artist in Colorado.
She accepts that she was just an infant during hip-hop’s heyday. “I know when rap music first dropped, it was the biggest thing to ever drop in the music world, period,” she says. “That was the era I should have been a part of.”
Still, hip-hop resonates with youth, she says, even if the sounds have drastically changed over the years.
“Hip-hop and rap is a huge part of the culture,” she concludes. “I feel like it’s affecting the youth in every way, no matter what kind of hip-hop you’re listening to.”
Artopia 2019 will celebrate decades of hip-hop culture on Friday, March 1, at The Church, 1160 Lincoln Street. Find the complete lineup of artists and performers, as well as ticket information, at westwordartopia.com.