Crescent City Sounds Spotlight: Meet Austin Rapbaum
Local hip-hop and R&B artist Austin Rapbaum has been performing in New Orleans since 2012, when he started studying music industry at Loyola University. Just over a decade later, Rapbaum’s album “State of Mind,” was picked to be featured on Crescent City Sounds, the Library’s locally sourced music streaming platform.
The Philadelphia native made his foray into music from slam poetry, which he performed with his brother when the two were in high school. A classmate encouraged the duo to make music after seeing them perform during a school assembly, and the rest was history.
“This kid came up to us afterwards and asked us if we made music. And we told him, ‘No, we just make poetry.’ And then he was like, ‘You should. I produce music, let me give you some beats. ‘ And that was how we really got started,” he recalled. “As it turns out, he went to Loyola, too, and started a pretty popular band called Stoop Kids. So, we got to grow together in that regard, which is kind of cool.”
Looking back, Rapbaum cites dance as his introduction into the music world. He started taking ballet classes when he was five years old, and later did jazz, tap, and break-dancing. When he was 14, Rapbaum was accepted into the Philadelphia High School for Creative & Performing Arts.
“But, I kind of already knew that I didn’t want to pursue dance and I felt like studying it might be a distraction,” he said. “I kept dancing, though, and worked professionally as a dancer for an entertainment company for a few years in high school.”
During that job, Rapbaum started DJing, which helped solidify his choice to focus on making music. Over the next 13 years, Rapbaum dedicated his life to producing, writing, and performing music. He’s collaborated with several celebrated local musicians and recently opened for iconic hip-hop group, The Pharcyde.
Rapbaum describes his sound as “honest and organic,” and music that “will make you move and groove.” However, he notes that there’s more depth to his work than people might catch on the first listen.
“I promise, there’s something in there for any person, no matter what they’ve been through in their life,” he said. “Everyone has different challenges, and I try to make music that encapsulates the similarities of those challenges, as opposed to the differences.”
Rapbaum points to his album “State of Mind,” which is made up of two EPs from an ongoing project he describes as “a love story in reverse.”
“Each EP focuses on a different phase of a relationship, but backwards. So, the first one I released is about the process of unraveling emotions after a breakup. The second is called “It’s Over,” which is about realizing that a relationship is coming to an end,” he said. “The third, which isn’t on Crescent City Sounds, is about falling in love.”
In addition to that project, Rapbaum is staying true to a goal he set almost five years ago to make new music every day. Today (Aug. 30), marks the 1,787th day he’s released a new beat, and Rapbaum said he has no plans to stop.
“I started in 2018, and I’m still going at it. It’s been really fulfilling and practicing every day with that consistency has made me a much better producer,” he said. “Why would I stop?”
Rapbaum said his friend and fellow artist Alfred Banks inspired him to submit his music to Crescent City Sounds when the platform started accepting new artists this spring. Banks – an award winning-rapper and New Orleans native – was a Crescent City Sounds curator when the platform launched last year.
While he was not involved in the selection process for the second class of CCS artists, Banks said Rapbaum’s album is a fantastic addition to the collection.
“Austin’s music is dope, and his work ethic is incredible. He’s doing the work to lift other artists up and push New Orleans’ hip-hop scene forward, and he’s also super talented,” Banks said. “Outside his music, he’s a great dude. He’s all about positivity and he always has a smile on his face.”
Banks has been a vocal advocate for Crescent City Sounds, and he said it’s great to see more hip-hop artists and rappers included as the platform grows.
“Unless they’re part of it, I think people tend to overlook the hip-hop scene in New Orleans, which is a shame because there’s some really great music being made here,” Banks said. “I think Crescent City Sounds is an awesome way to showcase local music, and hopefully it will make people realize they shouldn’t underestimate our rappers and our hip-hop artists.”
With that in mind, Banks said he’s glad to have Rapbaum as a spokesperson for the scene.
“The dude’s talented, you can’t deny it,” Banks said. “He makes music every day, which is super impressive in and of itself. But he’s also touring and getting the message out there that New Orleans hip-hop is dope. He’s a great representative of what the city has to offer, and he very much deserves to have his work up on Crescent City Sounds.”
Rapbaum said it’s an honor to have his album featured on the platform and that the accomplishment made him feel seen as someone who takes their craft seriously.
“When I got the email saying I’d been chosen, I was elated,” he said. “I see it as a recognition of my art being appreciated and how hard I’ve been working for so long. And also, it’s just a big accomplishment, so be to be respected among so many other musicians who are so talented and by like a prestigious institution like the Library.”
As a listener and creator, Rapbaum said he’s grateful to the Library for creating Crescent City Sounds.
“It shows that the Library is staying on the pulse of what’s new and current. It shows that the Library is continuing to reinvent itself in ways that are tailored to our city, our people, and our culture,” he said. “The local music scene definitely took a hit during COVID and it’s great to see institutions like the Library are thinking of unique ways to support it and bring it back.”
Another way Crescent City Sounds supports local musicians is by paying for the streaming rights, which Rapbaum said is extremely rare.
“Nowadays, it’s very difficult to make any significant amount of money as an unsigned artist, especially on streaming,” he said. “I’ve released music for, you know, I’m nearing 2000 consecutive days and I have over 1,000,000 streams across platforms. I make more money on streaming than any other artists I know that have music on streaming, and it’s still next to nothing.”
All Crescent City Sounds artists receive a $250 honorarium – which Rapbaum said might not sound like much, but in comparison, it’s huge.
“Any type of monetary recognition feels gratifying. It feels like your art is worth something,” he said, “It costs money just to be a musician, so getting paid – even if it’s just enough to keep putting music out – it’s fantastic and it’s super appreciated. No other platforms that I know of pay their artists a flat rate to host their music, so it’s a big deal that the Library does.”
Rapbaum’s album is among the second class of Crescent City Sounds artists and the Library plans to add new music next spring.
“I’m excited to see how the platform grows and I feel lucky to be a part of it,” Rapbaum said.
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