North Texas Daily

Rapper looks to put Denton on the map

Rapper looks to put Denton on the map

Rapper looks to put Denton on the map
April 17
01:50 2014

Javier Navarro //Staff Writer

On a cloudy Friday afternoon, Chris Avant approaches Fred Moore Park in Southeast Denton and takes a second to reflect. He points to the direction of the neighborhood down the street where he grew up in: Alexander Street.

“This is my come up right here,” Avant said. “I would come outside and the older cats would be free styling. They would play their music loud and you grow up doing that. It just takes over you. You just want to do music.”

Avant has the  build of an athlete and appears to be laid-back. But when it comes to discussing his music, Avant’s face becomes extremely serious.

Avant, also known as “A.V. The Great,” has been in the hip-hop business for more than 10 years and is one of the driving forces in the Denton hip-hop scene. With humble beginnings recording music in a bathroom in the ninth grade to currently working as a radio personality for K104.5 under the moniker “Chris Cole,” the 27-year-old has come a long way.

As Avant’s life has progressed, his music has concurrently moved forward. Not only has he gained local recognition, but his music has also spread nationally. Recently, his album “Live From The Struggle,” is available on digital outlets such as iTunes, Pandora and Spotify.

Avant is grateful for the achievements, but he also makes it clear that these recent accomplishments make him feel like he has more work to do.

“From a business standpoint, philanthropy standpoint and from a music standpoint, I want to do it all,” Avant said. “It’s cool [getting recognized] but it’s the times when I don’t get recognized by people or when they play me that [motivates] me like ‘Yeah, one day you’re going to respect it.’”

Hip-Hop in Denton

Denton is typically known as a jazz and indie rock town, but also houses a vibrant and talented hip-hop scene, Avant said.

“The hip-hop scene here is serious,” Avant said.

Denton’s hip-hop scene dates back to at least the 1980s, but Avant said it wasn’t until between 2007 and 2008 that the hip-hop scene started to hit the ground running.

Rappers such as Jacob Ward, 27, also known as “J-Whoa,” have also played a role in getting the Denton hip-hop scene noticed.

Ward believes the hip-hop scene in Denton is strong, but could be even stronger. He and other Denton rappers have put in a great deal of time and commitment to music, something he said is important.

“Smitty, Buk Baby, Wreck-A-Mic, A.V., T.C., Pap, Fab Deuce, Renzo, Kick Door, these are people that have grinded for this,” Ward said. “There’s a lot of other artists out here that are doing their thing too.”

Not only should the music sound good, it has to look good as well, such as making high-quality music videos, Ward said.

“Denton has a lot of talent and should be looked at in a good way,” Ward said. “When I do my [music] videos, I want people to think ‘Wow, people from Denton know what they’re doing.’”

Avant believes Denton should also be considered apart of the whole Dallas-Fort Worth scene and every city in it should stop being isolated from each other.

“The thing that bothers me is you look at places like New York and when you think New York [music], you’re thinking Brooklyn, Queens, Harlem, Bronx,” Avant said. “When you say ‘DFW,’ people act like we’re all not apart of it. Denton County, Tarrant County, Dallas County, Collin County—that’s the DFW. We got to do a better job of appreciating ourselves as one.”

Avant is helping to get the scene noticed by setting up shows and festivals. He is part of the Thin Line Festival team and has assisted with booking rappers to perform at the festival.

Ward believes hip-hop in Denton has a big future and can reach notoriety like other cities with a big hip-hop scene.

“I don’t think, I know it can [be on that level],” Ward said.

Beginning of A.V.

Avant was born and raised in Southeast Denton. Growing up without a father, his uncle—who lived in Atlanta and worked as a radio disc jockey—played a vital part in his life. Avant said he would visit his uncle during the summer. There his uncle introduced him to music, but more importantly he provided a father figure.

“He was pretty much raising me over the phone,” Avant said. “I was going to do music anyway, but seeing him working in the music industry motivated me.”

Avant started his venture in music as a DJ and played his first gig at his cousin’s birthday party when he was in fifth grade. He recalled playing artists such as Master P, E-40 and 2 Live Crew.

“I knew what to play, I knew I could do it and get everybody dancing,” Avant said. “I was a kid, but I enjoyed it.”

Avant would soon find himself writing down rhymes during class. Being a big LL Cool J fan, the first song Avant wrote was a remake of “Rock The Bells” when he was in eighth grade.

“That’s what got me like ‘I think I want to do this for the rest of my life,’” he said. “I wanted to put myself in position to turn these poetic moments into a groove.”

Then came the moniker “A.V. The Great.” The name is a mix of the first two letters in his last name and “The Great,” stemming from Alexander St.reet, where he made the connection with “Alexander The Great.”

Avant usually has a room in his house that’s dedicated to recording music. He prefers to do it alone quietly so he can concentrate and “get in the zone.”

Live From The Struggle

It wasn’t until his 2012 album “Live From The Struggle” that Avant started gaining people’s attention, he said. The album was influenced by the recession that hit America and the struggles involved in overcoming those difficulties.

“That’s what my whole mindset was [with the album]. Living in the struggle,” Avant said.

Since the album dropped, Avant said he has gained a “nice following.” He said his music has more downloads in California than Texas, and has even been downloaded in countries like Brazil.

Avant’s music has also been featured on local stations such as Denton Radio. Jake Laughlin, CEO of Denton Radio, even wrote about his performance that took place during the Thin Line Festival.

“AV (being the consummate Performer) made everyone feel as though he was performing for and speaking to them,” Jake Laughlin wrote in a Discover Denton article.

The album is an example of what hip-hop from Denton can bring, which Avant said is “too slept on.”

Getting the Radio Job and Future

After graduating from the American Broadcasting School in 2012, Avant landed the job at K104.5 in September of that year. He started his first day of training on his birthday and when he walked into the station, he realized just how significant an opportunity he was going have.

“I show up and I see Wale there,” Avant said as he cracked a smile. “I was like ‘I’m here baby.’”

He works the overnight shifts from Tuesday through Thursday from 12 a.m. through 5 a.m.. He also works the weekend from 3 p.m. through 7 p.m. on Saturday and 10 a.m. through 7 p.m. on Sundays.

Avant admits it can be a challenge working the overnight shifts and driving from Denton to Dallas, especially concerning gas money.

“It sucks, but it’s worth it,” he said. “What the station has allowed me to do is be around music as my job. I’m doing what I love to do and I’m grateful for that.”

His music has given him success, but Avant wants to reach a higher status. He has a new album coming out this year, and though he hasn’t set a date yet, he is excited for the album and what it could bring.

“This will be one of the best albums you’ve ever heard coming out of this area and in the hip-hop game today,” Avant said. “I want to be respected as an artist. I think I have people’s attention. Now it’s time for me to deliver.”

His music can be found at his website here.

 Feature photo: AV The Great is a hip hop MC from Denton who is represented by Trunk Pop Entertainment. AV graduated from the American Broadcasting School in 2012 and now works at K104.5 FM as a disc jockey. Photo by Edward Balusek / Staff Photographer

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