The tireless street hustle of Grey Sky Appeal

Allston rap city
By CHRIS FARAONE  |  August 17, 2011

GreySkyAppeal
ALL AGES SPACE “We do a lot of clubs, too — no doubt,” says Taj. “But it’s a lot easier to stand out at some crazyass show where nobody expects a hip-hop act to come and crush shit.” 

The Boston rap world is like a crab bucket made of glue and mud, an unforgiving free-for-all wracked with hate, spite, and jealousy. Though recent years have seen increased unity, Hub hip-hoppers largely remain mired in self-sabotage and selfishness. Which is why the Allston alt-rap crew Grey Sky Appeal more or less avoid the local scene altogether, opting instead to play shows where people give a shit, and sometimes even enjoy themselves.

GSA, which comprises beatmaker Taj and MCs Subtex and Outwrite, are decidedly hip-hop. Their homonymous debut is among the hardest — and dare I say most outstanding — Boston rap releases in years, a motherfucking mess of concrete metaphors and bass bombs. But like Moe Pope, Fameless Fam, and a select cadre of other acts who operate beyond prescribed boom-bap social networks, most of GSA's buzz is with non fitted-hat heads. "When we play shows around here, we get everyone from hip-hoppers to crusty punk kids," says Taj, guzzling a draft brew at the Silhouette. "In a lot of ways that's what we go for — hip-hop with integrity, but that's accepted by a wide range of people."

You'd think GSA was an indie-rock band, what with their conviction that props come through hard labor. They've played more than 100 shows up and down the East Coast since uniting last year; prior to that, Vermont natives Taj and Subtex sparred as the duo Defcon, while Outwrite rolled solo. Far beyond a fondness for dramatic synth and turn-of-the-millennium underground flavor, GSA's bond is rooted in ethics that have escaped the genre in the current frat-rap era. "A lot of people are un-determined to be successful," says Outwrite, who moved to Allston from his home state of New Hampshire six years ago. "I come from a working class family, so it's ingrained in me that things are only possible if you're willing to put work in. But that's not an image in hip-hop anymore — it's more important to be the life of the party than to be the person who's actually hustling."

Here's the thing, though — GSA is the life of the party, even worthy of a cocaine metaphor or two. Soon after Taj and Subtex were introduced to Outwrite — by subterranean Bronx icon C-Rayz Walz, who sensed potential chemistry between the factions — they began rocking every house party where hipsters would have them. After a score of blowout performances at the now-shuttered Unit 11 warehouse space in Allston, it was clear they'd picked the right path.

"I'd rather perform in a basement than do pay-to-play shows where the audience is filled with all rappers," says Outwrite. "I just find that people get crazier at those kinds of spots, because they can do whatever the fuck they want." Adds Taj: "We do a lot of clubs, too — no doubt. But it's a lot easier to stand out at some crazyass show where nobody expects a hip-hop act to come and crush shit."

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