Speed on the Beat Interviews Angela Byrd of @IGotIt4Free & @MadeintheDMV

It’s been said that everyone in Hollywood can be connected within six degrees of Kevin Bacon. The same rule applies to the DMV rap scene. Just take out Kevin Bacon and swap him for Angela Byrd. The founder of artist and brand think tank MadeintheDMV and artist consulting service I Got It 4 Free, Byrd is an entrepreneur who desires to introduce the entire region to similar opportunities.
From Lightshow to Black Cobain to Fat Trel and everyone in between, if you’ve heard it and it’s come out of the DMV, chances are that Byrd had a hand in creating it. For instance, the MadeintheDMV seminars bring in a who’s who of DMV–and outside-the-area–talent from the artist and journalist point of view. One of the 2014 seminars actually helped me get introduced to local artists such as Brain Rapp, Nature Boi, and Dugee F. Buller on a face-to-face level. It’s cool to hear an artist or work with an artist or even cover an artist. But, there’s nothing that tops actually meeting and networking with them. Again, that’s just a part of what Byrd and her multifaceted projects bring to the area.
For, at least, the past nine years, this student of the game does it all for two reasons: the love of the game and her city. The love and closeness she feels for the area and its music has made her a go-to resource when it comes to music and creating a more unified scene–musically and otherwise.
Born and raised in the DMV, the thirty-one-year-old entrepreneur has been around music and unified movements her whole life. From playing with her church choir as a youngster to interning at Universal Music Group after graduating college to running information panels with Def Jam, Byrd’s passions eventually lead to her work with The Board Administration and writing gigs with publications and websites such as Yo Raps!, AllHipHop.com, The Rapfest, and The Source. However, while still interning, she saw a potential to do more for her city.
“At UMG, I saw that artists needed marketing…for cheaper [than it was being offered],” Byrd said via a phone and written interview. “I went to LA [and saw that] people [back home] needed that quality, that knowledge. If I could provide that level of marketing for [a lower price to aid my city], I wanted to.”
Through this mission to uplift, I Got It 4 Free, originally conceived as a nonprofit organization–but later saw that idea dropped–was born. The grassroots media and marketing company has allowed Byrd the opportunity to work with many artists in the area. And it’s through that desire to unify and collaborate that Byrd stumbled upon two of the biggest talents in the area, Fat Trel and Black Cobain.
“I met Black Cobain through Legreg Harrison because I wanted Nuvo at one of my panels. It was an example of a favor for a favor,” Byrd said. “I first thought his name was ‘Black Cocaine,’ so I was intrigued by that. But when I hear him, his flow is effortless. I knew he had it.” Byrd can be credited with putting Cobain on his first hip-hop show in D.C. With Trel, things were similar. During her time with The Board Administration, Byrd met with Trel. From her first interaction with him at Pure Lounge, she knew that he, like Cobain, had something special.
“When I first heard ‘Cremate Em,’ it was a given.” For artists such as Trel, Black Cobain, TopDolla Sweizy and more, Byrd does “a little bit of everything.” From marketing to artist development, to helping an artist like the aforementioned Sweizy, who hasn’t had much major press, get to the point where he “can’t even walk down the street without having fans run up to him,” to putting Visto in contact with other like-minded individuals to further his HippieLifeKrew movement, Byrd’s been there for a bevy of artists.

But, it’s always been deeper than rap. And Byrd seeks out artists who can make that all-important connection with people outside of their bars. “[For an artist like] Trel, [he’s] got this thing with him…it’s not just about his music. He’s a people person [and] can rap something that’ll bring tears to your eyes.” Additionally, Trel’s ability to connect and pull people into his stories, for Byrd, makes him stand out among the crowd; if you can connect on a musical level, you can use that influence to build something bigger and better. Being about more than the music is a key that Byrd harps on.
While she feels the DMV could produce a platinum artist in a way that Kendrick could go platinum in California alone or Diddy could run New York to go platinum, its hindrance is growth and unity. This unity is a bit complex; it requires everyone’s input while still embracing each region’s individual sound—versus lumping everyone together. 
“We’ve got the normal growing pains…[but] we’ve got to take a lot more pride in our city, our culture,” Byrd suggested. “We can’t just have Maryland rappers telling DC’s story. They’ve got their own scene, DC has its own scene. You don’t show the real DC or the real Maryland that way.” Because of that homogenization of the area, Byrd feels, you don’t get as much of a Virginia or Baltimore sound coming through; everyone’s labeled as being from DC or the DMV because it’s easier. That fight for unity, but against homogenization and simple labels permeates through everything that she does, from writing to aiding community efforts such as WillRap4Food.
“[When I write for sites], I push for strong writing, more than [just blurbs about songs]. [When I listen to artists], if you believe in you, I can believe in you; you don’t have to be ‘big.’ When I [and the MadeintheDMV team] work with WillRap4Food, we want to bring awareness to the cause, to bring in those ‘popular’/’street’ rappers in to make giving back ‘cool.’ When I [work with MadeintheDMV at events], I want to create a platform because there’s a certain quality that the DMV needs [from its artists].” An activist in the body of a “female Hov,” Byrd also wants to use her platform to unify the entire area, not just the rap scene.
“Altogether, [music or otherwise] we’re gonna be alright. But, even our leaders need to be more open [in listening to the community].” From issues regarding the region’s marijuana laws to helping the less-fortunate, this unity is dire. And Byrd’s already shown she has an eye for what works, from the “street artist” to the “internet/blog rapper” to aiding the DMV down to the communal level. So, when she says something, it’s probably best we all sit back, relax, and listen.

Byrd and the MadeintheDMV team are prepping for the upcoming DMV Track Stars event, featuring guest judging from Genius’ Rob Markham. The event happens on August 15th at 7:00PM. More details to be announced. To register to perform or enter the production battle, visit MadeintheDMV.com

Speed on the Beat

Whatever you need to know about me, you can find out on speedonthebeat.com. Dad of two, cat dad (of two), mental health advocate, Team Support Dope Music in All Its Forms.

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