Emerging from Madison’s live music scene, underground producer Chris LaBella is regarded as one of the most versatile producer/performers working to define a new hip hop, one that emphasizes live performance and is laced with blues-rooted guitar riffs threaded through soulful samples and hip hop rhythms. His sound is strong, embracing funk, jazz, and grunge with equal enthusiasm.
Over the past five years, LaBella has established himself as a dedicated producer, performer, music historian, and creative impresario. He has produced numerous tracks and remixes for notable artists such as Dana Coppafeel, Speak Easy, Logic, Michael Medall, Lil Chief, and many others. With his longtime friend and collaborator Matt “Sillabul” Reines, he has created the innovative bands Bevo Fox, and most recently DRT MiNDZ, groups that explore unexpected genre fusions and satirical commentary on US media and advertising culture. As a performer, LaBella has shared the stage with artists who represent an astonishing range of styles, including Klassik, Higher Education Records, Sweet Delta Dawn, Sincere-Life, and Worthless Righteous. His music has been featured on music blogs such as Thisis50, Coast2Coast, Audiofeign, CrayonBeats, and GetYourBuzzUp among many others.
In 2012, LaBella established his own studio, Blue Dream, from which he released his original beat tapes Late to the Party and Ten Shades under the name FreeQuenC. He was nominated 2012 Madison Hip Hop Awards Procuder of the Year. Around that same time, DRT MiNDZ released its first album entitled FTW. This album led to its 2013 MHHA Group of the Year nomination.
LaBella’s lifelong love of honest musical rebellion began with his rejection of regimented piano study at age eight. He would refuse to follow lesson plans, instead spending hours teaching himself new songs by ear His subsequent middle school swoons into hip hop and his absorption of nearly every song from Hendrix’s Axis: Bold as Love solidified his early artistic direction. When his studies at the University of Wisconsin developed a familiar, restrictive resonance, he transferred to the Madison Media Institute. His MMI mentor, Chris “Godxilla” Taylor, supported his break with traditions, and encouraged him to dive deeper into the hip hop aspects of his own sound.
These days, LaBella is at work on Flyaway, his debut solo exploration involving a blend of live instrumentation, and soulful samples. With his diverse influences, unrelenting work-ethic, and unmatched passion, LaBella is quickly becoming one of 2014′s most promising artists.