Saturday, May 14, 2022
Partners in rhythm, rhyme and raucous good times.
Hick-hop? Rap-rock? Nah, categories are way too confining. Collectively as the LACS, Baxley, Georgia’s renegade redneck rap duo Clay Sharpe and Brian King create the kind of music that created them; a hybrid of elements drawn from raw outlaw country to southern rock to crunk hip-hop. That’s quite a fusion indeed, and one that captured the hearts and ears of those yearning for something fresh and relatable. “I call it the mix CD era, you put a little bit of everything on it,” Clay says of the eclectic vibe. “I feel like that’s how our music is and how it’s evolved.”
“I’m crazy about the 90s,” Brian proudly declares. “George Strait and Garth Brooks, and when the rap scene hit in Atlanta – that was a great time for music.”
Similarly, Clay was shaped by the country and rock his parents loved, plus his generation’s input. “My own style was influenced by rap as well, from Outkast to Tupac,” he says. “It made us well rounded artists and appreciate a lot of genres of music.”
While taking full advantage of the pause in their normally busy schedule, The Lacs looked back on their origins for inspiration and began penning an array of new songs. “The last few albums we kinda ventured out,” Brian surmises, “but with the new songs we’re writing, it’s getting back to what it was on the first two albums. I think it’s going to be more like the older Lacs stuff.” Additionally, says Clay, “It’s another step in the evolution of what we’ve done.”
It’s been a long yet worthwhile wait. The Lacs have delivered a symposium of sounds that are sure to please everyone. So then, what is country lit? To ask Clay, he will mischievously retort – “I would say it’s exactly what you think it means.” It’s what people have come to know and love the Lacs for, the stuff that makes them who they are. “We’re talking about jumping in a four wheel drive, hitting a mudhole, getting drunk all night!”
And it doesn’t stop there. “I think our true fans and the majority of our fan base will be happy we went back to our roots,” Brian says of the final product. The new album including songs like ’Hellraisers in Heaven,’ ‘Hurt Like Hell’ and ‘Redneck for Life’, delivers a wild ride through every mood. “We tried to hit every emotion on this album, Clay assures, “Some breakup songs, some outlaw country songs on there, proud to be American songs, some rap anthems, songs to shake your ass to and some stuff to get crunked.”
The two became fast friends around the turn of the new millennium, “And,” says Brian, “we’ve been making music together ever since.” By 2002, armed with combined talents for beat-making, guitar strumming and songwriting, they ventured to the next level. After self-releasing several records, they made another jump by signing with a label to drop the ‘Country Boy’s Paradise’ album in 2011. But the road wasn’t easy. Painting a visual picture of how they were initially greeted by the industry, Clay sums it up – “Us going into a radio station and a seventy year old man saying ‘my kids love love your stuff, but we can’t play it because it’s not top forty.’”
Undeterred, Clay and Brian’s persistence paid off, cranking out over a dozen records since their humble backwoods beginnings. “Once we were out there,” recalls Brian, “it was a such a surprise there was so many people in America like us, and that could relate to our music.”
Besides the fickle nature of the radio airplay, the Lacs also discovered truth in the old adage ‘things glitter are not necessarily gold’ when it comes to record deals either. “We were young when we signed, and didn’t know the business part of it,” Clay reflects. “We’ve all been screwed one way or another so that’s what brought us together to come up with a label that’s artist friendly, it puts the artist in control of his destiny.” This ultimately led to the creation of Clay and Brian’s own record label, Dirt Rock Empire. Clay says the label serves a greater purpose – “More power in artist’s hands, with the label’s guidance. It’s what the music business should be, a partnership instead of an ownership.” The label has grown to include a formidable ensemble of artists including Crucifix and Creed Fisher.
The Lacs know the value of the hustle and grind, so don’t expect the party to end anytime soon. The boys have a slew of music videos on the queue, and will be touring over the next twelve months in support of Country Lit.