St. Louis rapper Black Spade Takes on New York, Om Records

Having signed to indie powerhouse Om Records earlier this year, St. Louis rapper Black Spade hosted his own coming-out party last Tuesday night at a club called the Lion’s Den, as part of New York’s annual CMJ Music Marathon.

It felt like a Lou reunion, with many of the 200 or so people in attendance sporting Cardinals caps -- including Spade himself, who was flanked by a pair of his former Soul Tyde cohorts. To his right was a wiry and energetic Coultrain, who had a scarf flung across his shoulders and was doing a lot of dancing. “Gotta Be” Karim anchored the left side of the stage, helping out on choruses and even rapping a couple songs himself. DJ Needles manned the CD player.

But the night was all about Spade, whose real name is Veto Money. (According to the Om Records folks, anyway.) Exuding charm and charisma, he performed tracks from his upcoming CD, To Serve With Love, including the title track, “Revolutionary Bullshit,” “Ship Has Sailed” and “Lavish Life.” Though the crowd was a bit distracted during his soul-influenced sing-alongs, he had its full attention by the time he got to the bass-heavy bangers at the end.

Om hip hop artists Zion I & The Grouch, J Boogie and Ladybug Mecca were also on the bill, the latter formerly of Digable Planets. Rap is a fairly new focus for the Bay Area based imprint, which is mostly known for releasing downbeat stoner music from artists such as Mark Farina.

Om A&R Jonathan McDonald says Black Spade is an important part of the label’s foray into the genre. He was first introduced to the emcee’s music after a DJ called Fake One brought him to a Black Spade show in the Bay Area in 2004, after the DJ had heard Spade’s promo at Miami’s Winter Music Conference that year.

“It was dope. It was really dope,” says McDonald, “but this was before we had the hip-hop label going. A couple years went by, and his manager, Sean Richards reached out to me, and I put two and two together.”

Spade was signed in February to a two-album deal, and McDonald says you can expect To Serve With Love around next February. (Give or take a few months, or a year, it goes without saying.) The album will feature Karim and Coultrain but, again, the focus will be squarely on Spade.

“He produced all the beats, ninety-nine percent of the rapping is him, and he sings the hooks,” says McDonald. “He does it all.”

-- Ben Westhoff


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