Rappin’ Alaska Style: Fairbanks Rapper Alaska Redd Showcases Interior in Music
He’s also trying to build some regional brand identify.
“I rep(resent) my city, my state, I’m from the great Northwest” he raps in “Northwest Connection,” a song like “Lyrical Stick Up” on his recent mixed tape “The Smokalation.” That song also is a chance for Silva to talk about the less glamorous and bittersweet side of music promotion:
“Nobody knows the real work behind a small man’s trade/Politics and making connections, straight grinding for days./All the funds you put and won’t never get back/just to put a CD out and put your city on the map.’”
’90s hip-hop scene
Silva has a grandmother who sang opera in San Fransisco and a father who had a rock band that played in bars and had jam sessions at home.
But Silva’s introduction to hip-hop music came not from his family from but from doing break-dancing moves. As an elementary school student in Spokane, Wash., Silva first got into break dancing, then beat-boxing. Learning to emcee came after his family moved to Alaska in search of better-paying roofing jobs for his step-father.
Fairbanks had a minimal hip-hop scene when Silva was going to West Valley High School in the mid ’90s, but he found himself improvising short raps with friends. Before long he was doing impromptu hour-long free-style sessions at house parties.
That led to an introduction to 50 Below records, a group of early Fairbanks rappers led by former Ryan Middle School teacher Brad Johnson. Some of them were going to Los Angeles to record, and Silva was almost seduced by promises of wealth and fame in Southern California. But at 18, Silva had become a father and the move did not make sense.
Silva wanted to keep rapping in Fairbanks, but when his friends at 50 below left for California he needed to create beats to rap to himself. He still writes most of his songs by finding beats he likes and then finding words that go with them. He began ordering equipment through local music stores and catalogs, working as a roofer to pay for the gear.
In 2002 he rented a downtown storefront to open Redd Dot Studios The business was a success for a short while when it was still a novelty and when there was no competition, he said.
“Every dude in town who wanted to be a rapper or thought they were a singer came to my studio,” he said. “But people start finding out how serious they are about their music when they start paying for it. ...I found out after about 5 years in the business, it’s not the biggest cash cow in Fairbanks.”
Silva still operates Redd Dot out of his home studio but does not spend nearly as much time with the studio side of his business as he used to.
Alaska hip rock
Hip-hop has a bad reputation in Fairbanks — for being associated with violence — Silva does not think is deserves.