Izm White, still in the game almost two decades later, has a Ghostface feature on his new album

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izmwhite.com

Izm White (aka Hayden Laybourn) has been immersed in the local hip-hop scene since the mid-'90s, when he first started heading down from the Western Slope to Denver to compete in MC battles and attend shows. During that time, he's had some ups and downs, including releasing multiple albums, taking trips to Europe and doing a stint in prison. Through it all, Izm has continued to build his name and has grown wise in the game, which has changed dramatically over the past two decades.

See also: For more local hip-hop check out our Tip Sheet and That's a Rap archives

Izm is a self-made visionary. Witty and charismatic, the avid hip-hop devotee hails from what might seem at first like one of the most unlikely of spots for hip-hop in in the state -- the Aspen area -- but in his mind, Colorado's the place to be. "People want to live here," he declares. "It is the best state in the country. We have good air, good marijuana, and so a lot of young people with money are coming out here."

Music captured his attention early on, and his interest eventually led him to school in Vancouver, British Columbia, in 2001, where he studied audio engineering at the Center for Digital Imaging and Sound. Izm says he wanted to learn how to record better and work around the studio, skills that would help him along in his aspiring career as an MC. The lack of access to quality studios he experienced in the late '90s drove him to learn the tools of the trade. "Just the whole learning process, how sound travels," he says. "I was learning how to make music as clean and nice-sounding to the ear as possible."

After finishing his studies in Canada, Izm headed back home, where he began working on his artistry. He established Ryme Kryme Family with Creepy Loc, released Bulletproof Love in 2004, and began flooding the Front Range with music. He hustled over 10,000 units, an aspect of the game Izm says has changed since those days.

"The mixtape and hustle game was different," he recalls. "A lot of people were in the street. You used to have physicals, advertising and posters, not really your Instagram followers or Facebook followers. People don't really put out mixtapes in the streets like that anymore. It's a digital game. They can manipulate the game more, and, not to mention, every day there are more rappers."

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