San Antonio hip-hop trio Get Lifted is blazing new trails in the local music scene. Despite a population of over one million, the Alamo City is notoriously underrepresented in the hip-hop genre. While many would cower at the uphill battle a budding hip-hop group from San Antonio faces, Get Lifted has made it their personal vendetta to push their innovative music into the limelight. Get Lifted is Marcel Pean, a business and philosophy major at UTSA, Brandon Chenoweth, whom performs on stage as “B.Chenz,” and Art Institute of Austin-trained DJ Rockwell, born Issac Arquieta. Featuring cerebral lyrics presented with poise and precision coupled with sophisticated, complex beats with a myriad of samples, Get Lifted would stick out anywhere, much less in a San Antonio scene desperately lacking a hip hop presence.
Get Lifted’s music is available for free download at soundcloud.com/get-lifted. Check out Get Lifted with Dextrophobia at Sam’s Burger Joint (330 E Grayson St) on Friday, October 8th.
“Get Lifted” Interview
Paisano: So let’s start with the trite basics; where do you guys come from musically?
Pean: Musically, Get Lifted is kind of an intellectual type of hip hop. Getting back to the basics of hip hop is what we’re about. Individually I take a lot of my influence from people I used to listen to like Lupe Fiasco, Kanye, Talib Kweli and I also listen to some off-the-wall stuff that I like to incorporate in my music via production. I try to make music that resonates with people, especially when we perform.
Chenoweth: When I was growing up my dad used to listen to real soulful stuff, Earth, Wind, and Fire and James Brown was a big thing so I guess that became my influence. When hip hop came around I saw those influences in them and it was something I could recognize really easily. I think I just caught on with it, I could feel what they were saying. I grew up listening to Nas who was my biggest influence and also Common, Rakim, De La Souls and A Tribe Called Quest.
Paisano: I assume you took your name from the John Legend track, “Get Lifted” right?
Chenoweth: [Laughs] Nah, not really. We had a meeting about our name at a Hookah bar called Gypsy’s with the two of us and our DJ, Issac. We were just smoking hookah and trying to come up with names that combined our first names then we started to just go with something general. At first it was just going to be “Lifted” but “Get Lifted” stuck out to us after we wrote a couple of songs. People really have this hilarious misconception about us that we’re always just talking about getting high or we’re some type of religious hip hop group.
Pean: It’s kind of cool to attract religious pot heads. [Laughs]
Chenoweth: Those are some of the best people to make music for!
Paisano: How did you guys meet up and start doing music together?
Pean: We went to high school together at Madison. I did battle of the bands my senior year and it was the first time, I think, that anyone had ever done hip hop.
Chenoweth: I don’t really know how Marcel knew about me, I just kind of remember us talking on Myspace at the time. I had come out with a CD our senior year called “The End” and I was planning on doing stuff from that CD at the battles of the bands with a full band backing me. Marcel came up to me and asked if I would be interested in doing a song together. I said that would be cool. I was wanting to do a song over this beat from 9th Wonder called “The Rain.” When Marcel asked what we should do together I told him about the track and a verse I had for it, turns out he had a verse that fit perfectly and it tells about what we come from and what we’re about. I think it’s our best song lyrically.
Paisano: Before the interview you mentioned that you wanted to take your music in a more experimental direction, could you expand on that?
Pean: Well right now we’re not really in a transitory phase but we have been talking about changing the way we do our production and songwriting where we will write out the words to our lyrics first and then make beats around the words.
Chenoweth: I feel like the music for Get Lifted has grown as we have since we started doing this, I think it’s a good description for our name
Pean: When we talk about our name we also use it to describe what we want to do when we preform.
Chenoweth: Get people hyped! Have a good time!
Pean: Yeah like when I was young and listening to Nas and Tupac and stuff I know that there is a certain feeling you can get only when you hear a hip hop track that resonates with you.
Chenoweth: And you “get lifted!”
Pean: It puts you somewhere else and you just vibe with it in that moment and it’s beautiful.
Chenoweth: We make music to make people feel their emotions.
Pean: We’re trying to hit that certain realness and touch on that feeling that I suppose you can get from any genre but for me and Brandon it’s always been hip hop.
Paisano: Does DJ Rockwell construct most of the beats or just play them back on the tables live?
Pean: He’s in a lot of our first songs but we’re producing our newer stuff our self, the more experimental stuff.
Chenoweth: When we make beats it’s a weird process because you see the two different sides. He’s way more experimental and I’m more of a classical guy, heavy soul samples and all that. For some reason it meshes really well when we write songs like that.
Pean: I would compare the way we do our beats and our style to like Blu and Exile. They have an experimental side but also have a good amount of samples in there. I think that’s what it’s going to come down to [in hip hop] the thing that’s going to last is going to have to have a dynamic musically and a dynamic lyrically.
Paisano: Do you feel like you’re getting better at putting on a compelling live show every time you go on stage?
Pean: Oh hell yeah! I feel like our last show was our best yet, especially our intro.
Chenoweth: I feel like our stage presence is getting better at each show, playing at the White Rabbit was different because it was a much bigger stage than we were used to so we had to work our way into being comfortable with moving around and interacting with an audience that was looking further up at us.
Pean: The White Rabbit was a little weird for us because the sound board wasn’t tuned for hip hop real well the first time we played there so it was tough for us to get comfortable.
Chenoweth: Involving the crowd is so important to us because we want people to c
ome back for every show we do.
Pean: San Antonio has this weird thing about just staring at performers at shows, never moving around or showing any emotion like it’s a jazz show or something. We’re trying our best to break that.
Paisano: Touchy question, but do you think playing hip hop in San Antonio is detrimental to your group? There’s not much of a local market for it, I can’t name one hip hop artist that has come out of San Antonio and done something nationally.
Chenoweth: Good question, I’ll have to ask a guy that works at an Apple store. [Laughs] But seriously, things can either go really well or really poorly since not many people here have had that live hip hop experience in San Antonio.
Pean: I think it also plays to our advantage because there isn’t no hip hop here, there’s just terrible hip hop. We’re really doing it and people don’t really know how to put it down in San Antonio.
Chenoweth: When people get over what it is, who you are, where you’re from and all that and just listen to the music I think our music is going to catch on. The mentality of San Antonio is weird because a lot of people don’t support the music scene here.
Pean: So often some one tries to rise up and local people do their best to drag them back down. You can’t let that get you down. We should all want each other to succeed and work harder if you want to do music right. It should be like “Oh they got a show so that means I need to work harder to get one!” I don’t think there’s ever been a hip hop group quite like us in San Antonio though.
Chenoweth: I know for sure we’re going to be the first hip hop group ever to play at Sam’s Burger Joint next weekend. There’s been some hip hop acts at places like the Ten Eleven and the White Rabbit but they don’t get asked to come back often.
Pean: I feel like there are so many more hip hop fans out there in San Antonio. I don’t think they’re thinking about going to shows, especially at places like the Ten Eleven or White Rabbit. They’re probably thinking that they have to be 21 which isn’t necessarily the case and they probably think that hip hop shows are hidden throughout downtown which also isn’t factual.
Paisano: What’s the story behind your song “The Offspring?” It seems to be a special track for you guys.
Chenoweth: I actually thought of it while I was driving in my car. I have this Pete Rock “New York’s Finest” instrumental CD and that beat came on, I got to give credit so I don’t get sued! [Laughs] So I heard it and started free styling in my car, if you would have pulled up beside me you would have thought I was crazy. [Laughs] And the line came up “Yo cause I’m the offspring, the unwanted until I started that money flowing” so I pretty much came up with the chorus while I was free styling in my car. I just kept saying that part over because I was going to Marcel’s house right after wards so I went over there and pitched my idea. I kept saying those two bars and threw the CD in like “Listen to this!” and that’s pretty much how that song came up.
Pean: And it’s dope so y’all should download it! [Laughs]
Paisano: To wrap things up, what are Get Lifted’s goals, both immediate and in the coming future?
Pean: Definitely trying to get as many shows as possible, hopefully shows that are centered around us so people don’t freak out when they hear a hip hop band. [Laughs]
Chenoweth: One thing we’re looking at is getting some shows at SXSW, we’ve been putting our name into a lot of slots around Austin that week.
Pean: Also we’re about to get started on creating some type of a Get Lifted street team. We’re working on T-shirt designs and we’ll be giving out stickers and CDs for people to hand out to their friends so we can get some more exposure. Once we get an EP finalized we’ll probably give it out for free online and also have some free kiosks in local music shops.
Chenoweth: We recently got some air time on a couple of online radio stations so I sent in some applications for other radio stations and was shocked because I got messages back saying that we fit their criteria so hopefully once we get our press kit finalized we’ll be getting more air time in college towns.