Hip hop music needs a return to the fundamentals, bass-heavy beats, drums to get the people moving and an emcee to keep the crowd hype.

“For Namesake” from Nametag and Nameless is one of those albums that will make fans remember why they first fell in love with hip hop, from the first rhyme to the last bass kick.

“It’s been a good year, I’m happy about the album, and hopefully everybody that’s hearing it is happy about it,” said Nametag, who spoke to the Michigan Citizen before hitting the stage at the monthly event The Air Up There at Bob’s Classic Kicks in Midtown. “I put a lot of hard work into it.”

Nametag, the emcee, and Nameless, the producer, took their time to get the sound right and made sure to give their fans what they’d be looking for — soulful and funky instrumentals over lyrics that are both thought-provoking and overflowing with confidence. Hip hop fundamentals in action.

Nametag performs at The Air Up There, Detroit. Photo by Steve Furay

Nametag performs at The Air Up There, Detroit. Photo by Steve Furay

The two artists share a similarity in their stage names, but the chemistry in the sound was what brought the two together for the project. With Nametag being from Detroit and Nameless from Flint, they brought together the best of their own worlds and attracted some of Michigan’s brightest stars as featured guests, including Guilty Simpson, Miz Korona, Black Milk, Mahd, Jahshua Smith and Chell, who sings the hook on the powerful track “The Teacher.”

“I’m reading some of the reviews, and they’re saying we bridged the gap on the Michigan hip hop scene based off the features,” said Nametag. “It wasn’t intentional to do it that way, it sort of happened that way, but it’s a great feeling to having this album out here, people enjoying it.”

Inside the evening’s venue, show host Sheefy McFly introduces Nametag to those who came out Saturday night, a younger audience of hip hop artists and fans who represent a new generation within the city. Though Nametag is more seasoned than the rest in attendance, he confidently understands that his music bridges an age gap between veteran artists and the younger acts, like the ones there to perform.

“I guess it happened that way because I find myself between both. I’ve rocked with a lot of the older generation that’s more so established and with a lot of the upcoming cats — I’ve rocked with them, too,” said Nametag. “I didn’t want to count nobody out, saying I don’t rock with these cats, I only rock with them on the features. But we just meshed it all together, it came out a great album.”

Hip hop music has been a tradition in Nametag’s household since he grew up with his older brother Black Bethoven, a music producer who helped mix the “For Namesake” album and worked on past projects. The music is a family affair, as their cousin, Black Milk, is also a hip hop artist who has earned fans worldwide.

“I grew up on it, my whole life. (Black Bethoven) raised me on certain music when we grew up, so you hear your older brother say play this, that’s all you’re hearing. It becomes embedded,” said Nametag. “I hear a lot of stuff that I like, but it’s nothing like the type of music that I was brought up on. It’s timeless.”

“I’m proud of the kid; he’s an inspiration to me,” said Black Bethoven, standing next to his brother alongside Woodward Ave. “Keep the hip hop going.”

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