We’ve always known Donny Apollo to share from a vulnerable place. The hip hop artist, producer, and Nashville native has courageously overcome addiction, homelessness, heartbreak, and more; and has never shied away from leaning on his experiences to help others navigate theirs.
With that being said, Donny’s latest single, “811 Freestyle,” sees him open up about his own mental health journey like never before. Through soulful, stream-of-consciousness verses, Donny recalls a traumatic experience involving a relapse — and the recovery process, which includes finding the strength to put out this track to speak on his struggles.
“This is the first single I feel I’ve been this vulnerable within my music. I’ve been through a lot, and harboring this one for a while,” he said in an Instagram post. “I hope you hear me. I hope you understand.”
Our first week back in action has led to a cascade of support — and of course, that means a steady flow of new music submissions.
It was nice to see so many familiar faces jump in to let us know what they’ve been up to, so we thought we’d take this opportunity to highlight a handful of them. Welcome to the return of Songs You Should Hear!
Song: Moving Day Genre: Pop/Rock/Funk Why You Should Hear It: There’s a certain, McCartney-esque whimsy to the steady-marching rhythms and shimmering vocal layers on “Moving Day.” These uplifting properties support the song’s deeper meaning; to move past what isn’t working, so we can find what is.
“The song is about a literal Moving Day, but also about moving on and growing through things that aren’t working,” DaChri said. “It’s about getting out of your own way to make the changes necessary. It’s about not living for other people.”
Artist: Fame & Fiction Song: Famous Genre: Pop/Rock Why You Should Hear It: This rollicking alt-rock anthem — imagine a sonic cross-section between Walk the Moon and Paramore — features dreamy guitars, crisp vocal harmonies, deftly-layered keys, and fast-paced, intricately groovy work from the rhythm section. “Famous” — written by keyboardist Mary Jennings alongside collaborator Coley O’Toole — delivers tongue-in-cheek commentary on the pitfalls of fame, and the lengths some people will go to attain it, while offering a subtle reminder of the importance of authenticity in the digital age.
“I admittedly struggled figuring out where ‘Famous’ fit in my solo catalog, but once I brought it to the band, we all realized pretty quickly that it was always meant to be a Fame & Fiction song,” Jennings said. “As the newest member of this group, contributing this track really strengthens my sense of belonging in the band, and I absolutely love the way it turned out.”
Artist: Goodnite Robicheaux Song: Pinewood Genre: Soul/Hip Hop Why You Should Hear It: This slickly-produced, modern meld of soul, hip hop, funk, and jazz pops off from the opening keyboard progression. Powerful horn accents, bumping bass, and a memorable hook team up with the song’s message — about persevering through life’s challenges — to get us ready to face the day.
“‘Pinewood’ speaks heavily on the bands younger days, and the trials a young musician goes through trying to break into the business,” the band said. “The message of Pinewood is to not let those trials stop you. You must always ‘keep your head up.'”
Got something you think we should hear? What are you waiting for?! Shoot it our way, and you might just be featured in an upcoming edition of Songs You Should Hear!
Pictured: The sun setting behind the Rocky Mountains from the Gaylord Rocky Mountain Resort (Denver, CO).
I need to tell you about my trip to Denver a couple weekends ago.
I was in town to attend the Achieve Systems BizExplosion Conference. Admittedly, I was looking to shake up my day-to-day, and get some perspective on the direction of this platform — which, as you may remember, recently took a brief, yet thorough detour away from being Underground Music Collective.
On Thursday, October 19, I attended the conference’s welcome reception. Upon entering, I sensed pretty much immediately that this was a different room than the ones to which I had become so accustomed. You had speakers, coaches, and entrepreneurs who had reached a levels of scalable, sustainable success that I, plucky UnderDog that I am, still aspire to reach.
That night — before the conference even officially kicked off — I found myself on the receiving end a ton of valuable feedback about the concept, its niche, and ways that it could be better executed. I heard people’s intrigue around the notion of a music industry-centric platform — and what it could do, if properly built, for independent artists everywhere. I learned so much that night (and throughout the ensuing weekend) about exactly how to properly build it, that I’m still combing through and applying the lessons.
And, to be honest, it all felt a bit overwhelming at first.
I left the reception at about 12:30 a.m. when I caught an Uber back to my Airbnb. I explained to my driver, Mateo, that I was in town to get educated about my business, and I was receiving more of an education than I ever could have expected. I also expressed a bit of self-doubt as I digested the lessons, and wondered what it would take to meaningfully level up from this experience once it was finished.
Mateo then told me he was about to restart the song playing in the car. He wanted me to listen…
That song is “Mirror (You Ain’t Know)” by Brian Hyppolite ft. Nelse… and these words were exactly what I needed to hear in that moment, from the opening refrain.
“Oh, you had it twisted?
Oh, you didn’t know that you was gifted?
You ain’t know that stuff you went through just set you up for winning?
You ain’t know that you was chosen?
You ain’t know that you was golden?
You ain’t know you was important, huh?
You ain’t know you had a purpose
Much bigger than anything you ever considered?
Well, I’ma be your mirror So you can see it clearer…“
When we step out of our comfort zones, our minds can play tricks on us. The stories we’ve internalized can delude us into believing that we aren’t worthy, or ready, or “good enough.” These stories will do everything they can to pull us from our purpose, or fool us into thinking another lane is best for us.
That night, the cards of my imposter syndrome were laid out on the table. However, as I listened to “Mirror (You Ain’t Know)” I realized that I — and not the stories — hold the winning hand.
That moment — and the entire experience of that weekend — helped me reconnect with my mission and vision for this platform. We’re here to build something of impact for independent artists, and connect them to the world of entrepreneurship so that they can built their platforms — and lives — regardless of whether they ever receive traditional music industry approval.
In that moment, it dawned on me that there was no better way to do that than to #GoUnderground.
That’s why we’re back as Underground Music Collective. And frankly, it feels damn good to be walking in this purpose again.
Big congratulations are in order for our community partners at Ether Nashville for the success of the 2023 Citywide Cypher tournament, which concluded with the Citywide Cypher Finals on Sept. 24 at The Pyramid Nashville.
The tournament — held at select locations throughout Middle Tennessee — was a summer-long celebration of the 50th anniversary of hip hop. Preliminary rounds were held throughout July and August, with eight finalists (plus a special round of Nashville hip hop legends) invited to compete for top honors at The Pyramid.
Murfreesboro-based rapper Izzy Rage took home top male emcee honors, while Nashville’s own Yonna Jones was named top female emcee. Throughout the evening, members of the Greater Nashville hip hop community presented the true artistry, sonic diversity, and cultural impact of the hip hop genre, while supporting Ether’s “Heal Hop” movement and overall mission to “empower leaders of the hip hop community with the tools they need to consistently deliver transformative work.”
Check out a few photos from the event below. Congrats to the Ether team on making an impact!
How fitting for us, an independent music outlet, to unveil the latest, freshest edition of our independent music playlist to celebrate the Fourth of July?
It’s worth noting that there are some VIBES on this one. It’s rich with R&B and soul, but that’s not all she wrote. This week’s playlist also brings the rock, delivers some bars, and even has some tender, heartfelt Americana to appeal to those tastes.
All and all, it’s a dazzling sonic fireworks show. Jump in!