Host intro: Artists who are just starting out may not have a well-defined sense of who they are, or the wherewithal to make their ideas into reality. None of that applies to $avvy, WNXP’s Nashville Artist of the Month. It was just last year that he introduced himself as a singer and rapper with his own sense of style, and he’s already creating a DIY empire, with the help of his friends. Jewly Hight takes us inside the chaotic epicenter of the action.
Hight: I can hear the music before I even step inside $avvy’s apartment.
$avvy: So many people have come through here. It’s been nights where it’s been people I don’t even know. It’s kind of become like a club, I guess. It’s open right now, so we can go and come on. Welcome…
There’s an impressive stack of broken skateboards, and plenty else to take in.
Yeah, this is the living room. When we moved there, we wanted to, like, have art on the walls. So a lot of this stuff is painted by our friends.
$avvy grabs a tangle of green fabric from a shopping cart that serves as storage.
So we have this green screen. Well, it’s like a sheet. And we’ve used it for a couple of things.
There are no videos being made at the moment—only video games being played.
This is my roommate, Richard, also an amazing producer named Enxgmaa, produced a bunch of songs off the POOR Tapes, and me and him make up the DJ duo GAS. So this is Kemontae, one of our best friends, who’s a model and, yeah, super cool guy. Cool hair.
Buried in that list of proper nouns is the title of $avvy’s new album, POOR.
$avvy thrives in this lively environment, after growing up in a more sedate one in Huntsville, Alabama. His family was Seventh Day Adventist, and he didn’t have a computer at home until the small religious school he attended issued him one when he was around 15. He promptly started learning to make beats on it.
He enrolled at Middle Tennessee State to focus on music production, but decided that he could learn more from activity outside the classroom when he met students in an artist collective.
They were seniors and they were the coolest people to me… I’d be at their apartment every day. I’d call one. If he didn’t answer, I’d call the other one, call the other one, and somebody would answer and be at the crib. And I would just go. And I just learned so much from them being in sessions, to them planning shows and festivals, to them editing videos.
Just then a member of $avvy’s own collective, the Dadabase, stops by on his lunch break.
What’s up y’all?
This is Jewly
Nice to meet you.
That’s Jonathan. He’s got his day job, and his creative hustle.
I do a lot of the visual marketing behind $avvy. So whether it comes to clothing…
And flyers, photos, videos. You get the picture. That’s not what Jonathan was studying, though, when they met in college.
I failed out of my audio production major, because I was spending all my studio credit time just actually recording my friends and wouldn’t do the labs. I mean, it’s free studio time, so I would just use it for them and book them instead and work on their projects.
When the pandemic hit, $avvy also left the program to get down to work on his first project, Boys Wear Pears. The slouchy singing and rapping on it introduced an artist who was rebellious in the most nonchalant way. He threw shade at displays of economic and social status.
What’s so sick to all these other artists is having all these houses and having all these cars and all this money. And what’s sick to me is finding a cool bag at the thrift store.
$avvy took those songs, and the 14 other members of the collective, on a short tour last year. Carpooling, of course. Everyone helped capture the action on their cameras and phones for a documentary.
I mean, it’s fun for sure, but it’s not like we do this just for fun, like a hobby. We want to be able to be free, financially free, mentally free, worry free, work free, whatever the case is, doing what we want to do, and we do this because we have a legit passion about it and we see that it’s possible.
As you can hear in the background, his roommates are passionate about their gaming too—when they’re not making music. $avvy can’t resist writing verses and hooks to tracks they create within earshot.
Even after he’d finished his new album POOR there were more steps to take.
There’s no manager handling the details. It’s up to $avvy himself to upload the music to a distributor’s website, so he’s hunched over his laptop.
[typing sound] I’ll have to fill out the writers and the publishers, the contributions, whoever played the guitar, additional vocals, all that.
He figures he ought to check in with his contact at the company: I just want to walk through everything and make sure everything is cool.
There’s a little bit of phone tag, then the guy calls him back.
I got you, right.
The day that $avvy’s album finally appears on streaming platforms, he and his crew throw an immersive event. It’s yet another occasion for them to get resourceful, with their photo booths, DJ sets and hand-made pins.