If there is one thing that DJ Trumastr understands, it is the power and influence of women. Four women in particular, his mother, grandmother, aunt, and sister all played important roles in his development that made him one of the most important DJ’s in the capital district, a beat maker and one of the founders of the yearly Beat Shot Music Festival. Because of his appreciation for women the theme for this year’s Beat Shot, the ninth overall, is celebrating mothers, daughters, and sisters.
“I’ve been doing this festival with this musical background for nine years and because it’s nine years and the number nine is symbolic to all of us being in existence because it takes nine months for us to arrive, and the number nine just has so much prominence around the world” said Truemastr. “I thought it fitting to recognize some of the life givers.”
This year’s Beat Shot will be held at The Hollow Bar and Kitchen in Albany beginning July 13 and ending on the July 15. The three nights will feature an eclectic mix of music ranging from hip-hop to alternative as well as spoken word from local artists and artists from across the country. The theme is “celebrating mothers daughters and sisters.”
“I always try to make the festival as diverse as possible,” Trumastr said. “I grew up in the city, I grew up in Westchester, so my influences–whether they are my people, my friends, or the music that I’m into–is very reflective of my upbringing and my childhood. I know rock, I love rock, alternative, funk, jazz, soul, and world music and I have always felt that the festival was a reflection of that. Now, we may not have that many rock bands, but I do feel like the music does vary.”
The origin of the Beat Shot Music Festival began in 2005 when Trumaster began making beats for his friend Ralph “Oddy Gato” Marrero from a program left on a computer given to him by his mother’s co-worker. Trumastr was also making videos for a museum program he was in. Since the program he was using to make beats with was similar to the one he was using to edit videos, it was a seamless transition.
“He was rhyming, I was making these beats, he liked what I was doing so we started making these beats together,” said Trumastr. “In and around this time there was already an established hip-hop scene in the Capital District. I used to go to the shows with my camera and I would shoot all the different artists. I would get their email addresses and send them the photos so they could load them up on Myspace. That’s basically the beginning of Beat Shot because I was making beats and I was going to shows shooting. Beat. Shot. That’s literally where the name comes from.”
As the two grew in popularity in the area, they started putting together hip-hop shows with a twist. They were known for their outlandish themes and costumes.
“I was working at the museum and I was involved with not only the exhibits and teaching there, but some of their more obscure and theatrical things, for example every year we did a haunted house at the museum which was a big fundraiser for the after-school program and I came up with the idea,” said Trumastr who was raised on a steady diet of 70s and 80s sci-fi and horror movies. “Me and Gato were doing hip-hop shows and I would use props and costumes from the haunted house shows and he would perform wearing a grandmother’s nightgown with a white wig looking like something out of Alfred Hitchcock or he would have a giant claw. It varied and the shows were nuts. It was good hip-hop, it was boom bap, it was fun and clever.”
During this time Trumastr was not a DJ yet, but he soon became one during the rise in popularity of their shows. The two were joined by Jody “Lo-Fi Lobo” Cowan who made beats with Trumastr, while Oddy Gato rapped over them. The Beat Shot movement began gaining momentum through their shows, photography, and the music they were making. The trio didn’t make any money from what they were doing, and they never thought they would, as they were seriously doing it for fun and the love of hip-hop culture. Soon after, Cowan came up with an idea that birthed the first music festival.
“Ten years ago, Jody said, ‘Let’s invite all of our friends that we’ve been taking pictures of to the club Red Square for our birthday–because both of our birthdays are in July–and just have a party for all of our friends to perform,'” Trumastr said. “This party at Red Square turned out to be 300 people singing and rapping on a Friday or Saturday night and it literally was the first Beat Shot Music Festival. That’s how it started, so raw and so magical. The energy was ridiculous.”
Over the years the music festival increased from one day, to two, and then three. It became more than just hip-hop, as spoken word poets, singers, and vendors were also included. Soon local artists were sharing the stage with nationally and internationally known artists. Each year they learned from the mistakes of the previous year to make the following year better. They’ve tried to give the audience a good balance of performers with different lyrical content and messages.
“People at our shows are like, ‘Wow, this is cool everybody feels good here,” [or] “Alright that rapper is super-duper obnoxious and misogynistic and I’m going to walk away.’ And then when they come back there’s someone else up there that is not that way, and then they’re like, ‘Oh wow, there’s something here for everybody cool.’ That is something that I think we brought to the Capital District,” Trumastr said.
Eventually Gato and Lobo fell back from Beat Shot to spend time raising families and settling into adult life, but Trumastr has carried on. Now he has help from a younger generation of Beat Shotters who include JB aka Dirty Moses, Masai, We Stole The Show, Moses Rockwell, Mike Larry Draw, and Amani O.
Performing at this year’s music fest are Climbing Poetree, a spoken word duo consisting of Alixa Garcia and Naima Penniman, hip-hop activists KATANI featuring Kat SoPoetic and Amani O, JB aka Dirty Moses, Boog Brown, LIKWUID, alternative singer Girl Blue, singer and activist Taina Asili, Bells Roar, Decora and several other local acts.
“There are some very prominent women or non-gender conforming artists this year,” said Trumastr. “Katani is a very powerful local rap duo and they are powerful activists. Their message is strong, and they are addressing topics that are rarely addressed in music. I’ve seen Climbing Poetree about four times in small spurts doing maybe three pieces. This year I put them on stage for an hour. We also have another up and coming local artist named Girl Blue. I’ve been watching her grow, and she’s been a huge supporter of mine.”
Arielle O’Keefe aka Girl Blue is a singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist from Albany who plays guitar and piano and got her stage name from a song by a legendary jazz singer.
“I had been putting music out under my name Arielle for a long time and I wanted to start a new project and have a little bit of distance and that name had been on my mind for a long time for a lot of reasons,” said O’Keefe. “I am a big fan of Nina Simone, she had a big impact on me. When I heard the song “Little Girl Blue,” I felt like it was about me.”
Boog Brown was born in Detroit, currently resides in Atlanta and has been rapping for more than a decade. She feels that a good MC is a good MC no matter what their gender is.
“My vagina has nothing to do with how good of a rapper I am,” she said during a phone interview. “I know people need labels to classify things, but I’m more interested in speaking of sisterhood whether that’s with a transgendered person, a gay male, or anyone who identifies as a female.”
Originally from Columbia, South Carolina, LIKWUID now resides in Brooklyn. She got her first taste of rapping when she performed in front of her aunt’s church at the age of nine. She got interested in rhyming after hearing the word play of KRS-1 on the anti-police brutality song “Sound of the Police.”
“There was a line where he compared an officer to an overseer and I didn’t quite understand allusions and metaphors at that time,” she said over the phone. “But I just thought it was something cool to do with words and that’s when I really decided to be a writer myself.”
The last day of this year’s festival will fall on Trumastr’s birthday and when it’s all said and done, he only wants everybody who attends to be happy with the event and the artists who are performing.
“I want folks to find an artist that they like that works for them–or five–follow them, and buy their music,” he said. “[Beat Shot] has brought something here to the city to all of our friends, and their friends, that they now look forward to every year.”
Beat Shot Music Festival will take place July 13-15 at The Hollow Bar + Kitchen in Albany.