‘You Can’t Just Be Sad-Sad’: Local Hip-Hop Artists Share Inspirations Behind ‘Sad-Happy’ Tunes
St. Louis-based rapper pinkcaravan! acquired her stage name from her first car: a Dodge Caravan gifted to her by her grandfather.
“Usually Caravans are looked at as ugly or something,” Jasmine Davidson explained in a conversation that aired during Wednesday’s St. Louis on the Air. “When you paint it pink, it makes it pretty. That’s what I feel like my music does – paint dark situations in a happy tone.”
The “sad-happy” musical composition her stage name embodies is beginning to become her signature as she expands her reach in the underground hip-hop scene. Her frequent collaborator, Kansas City-based producer Darron Edwards, who goes by the stage name Namesake, aids her tremendously in achieving this sound.
Edwards also joined the conversation with former St. Louis on the Air producer Xandra Ellin. He described the music he creates with Davidson as “colorful … vibrant … upbeat, fun. A hard-bop life.”
Davidson found Edwards’ music via Soundcloud, where a track inspired by a video-game theme song caught her attention.
“I need those Mario sounds,” Davidson recalled thinking when she first heard Edwards’ music.
The pair have been collaborating ever since, creating music together that defies simple definitions of genre and feeling. As Davidson put it, “You can’t just be sad-sad.”
Davidson’s lyrics frequently make reference to her childhood. Though the allusions she makes to St. Louis aren’t always explicit, she said that the city always serves as a key source of inspiration for her.
“I find inspiration in the simplest things,” she noted. “Rapping about when I was a kid making grape Kool Aid in St. Louis. It doesn’t, you know, necessarily have to be [about] like the Arch.”
Davidson’s second EP, “2002,” is another collection of songs that reflect on childhood. She drew inspiration for the project from her idol Missy Elliot, whose name is the title of one of the EP’s seven songs.
“Missy Elliot has been influencing me since I was a kid,” she said. “Whenever I need to feel myself or get in that mood, I turn on Mary J. Blige or Missy Elliot, because I feel like those are two very confident women, or at least … they express it that way.”
Edwards agreed, adding that Elliot is a “legend and a pioneer in a lot of different ways.” He also explained that one of his key inspirations as a producer has always been Timberland, a producer who collaborated frequently with Elliot.
The duo also reference St. Louis rapper Nelly’s sound in their song “hot wheelz.” The last song Edwards produced for the “2002” EP became the intro to the album.
“It sets the tone for what the project is going to be, musically and thematically,” Edwards said. “It’s got a little Nelly interpretation on there too – shout out Nelly.”
“Just to introduce people to the St. Louis sound, I had to throw in the little Nelly ‘your street in a Caravan,’” Davidson added, referring to Nelly’s “Country Grammar” song lyrics “I’m going down down baby, your street in a Range Rover.”
Both artists expressed optimism about the future of St. Louis hip-hop. Edwards explained that hip-hop produced in cities like St. Louis “is really … DIY, especially if you’re not in like a huge market where there isn’t a lot of industry presence.”
Davidson added that “there’s a lot of versatile artists just not sticking to any standards” in the St. Louis region.
And it doesn’t hurt that St. Louis is home to one of the nation’s five Seoul Taco franchises. Both artists are hoping to collaborate with the Korean-Mexican fusion chain in some capacity eventually. But at the very least, everyone can look forward to some Seoul Taco-oriented music from the duo in the near future.
St. Louis on the Air brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh and producers Alex Heuer, Evie Hemphill, Lara Hamdan and Xandra Ellin give you the information you need to make informed decisions and stay in touch with our diverse and vibrant St. Louis region.