Joe Thunder on Lazy Sundays and the idea of local hip acts grinding until they can't be denied

Categories: Profiles

Anya Strauss
Joe Thunder is not a DJ. Nor is he an MC. Just the same, he's a widely recognizable figure in the local hip-hop scene, and he's equally as well regarded as those who are making the music.

A tireless champion of Colorado hip-hop, Joe has been doing everything he can to help cultivate hip-hop culture and community locally, while at the same time creating exposure for the dudes he's down with like Jewell Tyme Music, Fresh Breath Committee, Colorado Casuals, as well as his friends in graf crews like True Kings Only, and everyone else living for, pulling for or otherwise just representing hip-hop in the Mile High City.

From keeping his Box State Music blog updated to putting out music by an array of artists such as B Blacc and Deca -- whose hotly anticipated Blacc & Deca Lost Tape was just released -- to producing a series of local-centric videos featuring all local artists (Mile High Madness and Lazy Sundays, respectively), Joe has his hands in a little bit of everything.

Mile High Madness, shot at various locations and venues across town, features interviews and performance footage. The second volume in the series dropped in May, and a new installment is due next month, along with Lazy Sundays, Volume 4. In contrast to Madness, Lazy Sundays is about what it sounds like: An informal hang at Joe's apartment on Capitol Hill that takes place on, well, Sundays, in which he and his guests chill out, smoke a little and get their freestyle on.

We caught up with Joe recently and asked him about how and when he first got into hip-hop, how and when he first became immersed in local scene, what Lazy Sundays is all about and how he came up with the concept and what he thinks it's going to take for the local scene to finally break through.

Purpose & Earl Gray-V

Westword (Dave Herrera): So tell me about the whole concept of Lazy Sundays, like, how did you come up with it, and when did you come up with it?

Joe Thunder: Probably about a year ago. Everyone was always kicking at the crib. It was Sunday, and we weren't doing anything, just sit around and smoke or medicate, and we just started playing beats and stuff. And then before you know it, I was doing the other DVD stuff [Mile High Madness] and we were like, "Let's record it," you know what I mean, "and see how it turns out."

My thing's always been like trying to bring people the raw, uncut -- not the rehearsed, like, all the pretty stuff -- but real MC type shit. You know what I mean? Like almost like some old school shit or even some DJ Screw shit, just live - not to say, "keeping it real," but we are keeping it real. Like I said, it's not like we're over here practicing and stuff. We're giving 'em some raw talent.

Ww: So you were just hanging out and you were like, 'This is kind of dope. Let's do this?'

JT:: With doing the other DVD, the Mile High Madness, I'm starting to see how much [impact] visuals [have]. I mean, audio's good - they can hear what we're doing - but everyone wants to really see what we're doing. And this is just basically giving them a little window to see what we do when we're just messing around.

Ww: How did you first get into hip-hop?

JT:: Shit, since I was a little kid, man, just growing up, like, honestly, going to camp when we're real young in Curtis Park. And those guys down there kind of just showed us the way. You know what I mean?

Ww: So you grew up in Curtis Park?

JT:: I grew up in the Swansea area but we went to daycamp out there during the summers.

Ww: And that's where you first caught the bug?

JT:: Yeah. The influence of the older kids from there, the counselors and stuff - man, I'm about to give up my age and stuff - but, man, I remember hearing the first U.T.F.O. and Whodini and, like, who else... the Boogie Boys and stuff like that through all those cats. They would make us tapes. They'd be like, "Yeah, just bring us some cassette tapes" - they were DJs and stuff and rappers themselves - "and we'll make you a tape."

They used to always jam "Roxanne, Roxanne," and all that shit. Like I said, Whodini, the first Fat Boys, U.T.F.O. One of my favorite albums of all time is the first U.T.F.O. I remember hearing that all the time, you know what I mean, playing basketball or doing arts and crafts or whatever.

Jay Money Mayes, Turner Jackson

Ww: You're a real big champion of the local scene. How did you first get immersed in the local scene?

JT:: Man, it's funny: It happened right after the [NBA] All-Star game [February 2005]. When the All-Star game was in town, I met this cat. I knew him from high school; his name was DJ Phire - some people call him Blaze. I had just moved into Capitol Hill. I think I might've just moved back from Vegas, and I ran into him. He gave me a couple of mixtapes that he did for the All-Star break. It had some local stuff on there, and there was real tight stuff on there.

I don't even remember what it was called, but there were a couple of people that caught my attention. This cat Contact caught my attention. This cat Dow Jones from Ground Zero Movement caught my attention. Earl Gray-V from the Fly, he caught my attention.

Even before that, before I ran into that cat - it was a couple of months before that - I had just got back into town from Vegas, and I went and saw Slick Rick at Cervantes'. I saw the Break Mechanics, and I saw the Fly perform, and I was like, "These guys are from here? For real?" I had no idea. These dudes had it cracking on stage. I mean, they had good music. Man, they had, you know, the whole nine.

Ww: That's kind of a good parallel to what's going on right now. Right now, the Denver hip-hop scene is so slept on. Hip-hop is one of the biggest forms of music in the country, even in Denver. It dominates the radio. But it's almost like people don't know that local hip-hop exists in this town.

JT:: Like on that video, The Soulz of the Rockies, they're like, "Hip-hop in Colorado? What? All they care about is skiing." People have no idea.

Ww: Dent put it well when he said, "Cowboys? We're b-boys out here." So how do you feel about that? You can't really get angry at people for not knowing about what's going on. It's just not really getting the widespread exposure that it should. How do you feel about that?

JT:: I just think we need to keep on grinding, man. If you look at a perfect model, or a perfect scenario, Texas was the same way. They didn't have any record labels. They didn't have shit. You know what I mean? It's the same thing. When you think of Texas, you think of cows and cowboys and shit like that. What they ended up doing was they started building their fanbase within the city.

They just hustled and grinded so hard, they made it so big that they had to recognize. You know what I mean? They were doing numbers. Before they even got famous, cats like Lil Flip and Paul Wall and Chamillionaire, they were selling hundreds of thousands in the streets to fans.

I just think people need to band up. Like instead of doing a show with a hundred people, we need to do shows with thousands of people. Until we do that, no one's really going to recognize, especially not the radio or anything like that.

Ww: What do you think is stopping that from happening?

JT:: Everyone wants to do their own thing, man. I know you've heard it before: Everyone wants to be the first one to make it. Everyone just kind of has their own vision, man. You know who I can kind of compare it to? The dispensaries. It's like everyone has their dispensaries and they don't want to band up and do stuff together. They just want to be the first one to make their million dollars type stuff. You know what I mean?

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