Local Spotlight: DeevoDaGenius & The Dream Team

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The Lowell-based player-coach and his Mass-made teammates showcase their chemistry on and off the court, detailing how iron sharpens iron individually and collectively.

Entering the SoundLab Recording Studios parallels tapping the scorer’s table and tightening the laces on a pair of Jordan 7s. Engineers, producers, recording artists, and those who “keep the lights on” enliven the space on a Saturday afternoon, as Lowell-based hip-hop producer, engineer, and curator DeevoDaGenius ensures that everyone is dapped up while giving a tour of the space. Between the three recording studios and the open communal spaces that connect them, it quickly becomes apparent that the DIY conditions of the 2023 Boston Music Awards’ selection for Recording Studio of the Year — curated and frequented by Massachusetts visionaries of all forms — harness and celebrate the imaginative. If I weren’t conducting an interview, I would automatically whip a rhyme book out of my back pocket and start scribbling.

Such is the earth that Deevo (Coach/Allen Iverson) has tilled with the execution of his newest produced record, CHAMPION SOUND: step onto the basketball court, and there is no choice but to break a sweat from baseline to baseline. Accompanied for the duration of our conversation by four other members of the Dream Team — the collective of artists represented on this project as the reincarnation of the dominant 1992 US Men’s Olympic Basketball Team — Deevo attests to this spirit in a room full of wholehearted agreement. “It was an extremely competitive atmosphere day in and day out during the recording of this album,” Deevo exclaims without hesitation as we settle into the couches against the navy brick walls of the Summit Room recording studio. “But what was most important was having guys that could actually talk to one another and swallow their pride and be cool with not making the final cut of a track.” 

The emcees in the room elaborate on the feeling of channeling their hardest-hitting material while in the same vicinity as each other. “It’s a bloodbath being in the studio with Deevo versus being in my house or some shit,” Randolph-based hip-hop artist Arold (Patrick Ewing) explains. “You feel a different type of energy when you get to the creative process: it starts flowing easier, it’s crazy. Add everyone else who’s already in the room, it gives you that mindset of… you have no choice but to go hard.” Randolph-based R&B vocalist Notebook P (Reggie Miller) piggybacks on this illustration of the do-or-die mentality required to flourish in the CHAMPION SOUND recording sessions: “It’s kind of like an unspoken competition. You want to finish [writing] first and solidify your spot on the record, but it pushes you to write your best thing instead of saving your best moments for another beat. You have to treat it like a game: until the clock runs out, you have to do your thing.”

Seefour (Magic Johnson) has only known Arold for a bit… “despite feeling like a lifetime.” His favorite moment throughout the making of CHAMPION SOUND, however, involved teaming up with Arold on “LIGHT DA TORCH” — a menacing, compelling exemplar of knowing exactly what the game needs and demanding to be subbed in. “When I was thinking about my verses, I was thinking about how Patrick Ewing (Arold) would come after it,” Seefour maps out his approach. “I was thinking about how to set up the play so that when it’s finished, we get that point we needed. ‘LIGHT DA TORCH’ was one of the best experiences for me because when we started getting into our characters, there was just so much creative ball-throwing back and forth.” 

The best memories, according to Roxbury-based hip-hop artist Najee Janey (Michael Jordan), come from stepping out of the booth (or off the court) following their most high-octane efforts. “The greatest moments are always after you record it, and you’re in the studio listening to what you’ve recorded after the fact,” he reminisces. “The praise, the adulation… that’s the best part.” Janey additionally asserts that the best part also lies in future performances of the record, to which Notebook P nods and replies, “Because people were already rapping each others’ verses in the sessions. The sportsmanship was really good, and I feel like when it comes to performing, I can just imagine the energy on the stage is about to be insane.” 

VICTORY LAPS (OUTRO)” — a Dilla-esque feat in its layering and vocal-scratching of every artist who contributed to the project, all embedded into one looped sample. “That moment was really special to me because every vocal from every artist was all scratched and consolidated over this one instrumental, and no one was in the room when I did it,” he details. “I didn’t even let anyone know when I did it, but everyone knew I was going to eventually.” What started as a standalone beat with some vocals from Janey on top evolved into a collective culmination of the project… before the seed of the project was even planted. “I had made the outro before I knew that the album was gonna be what it was; it was already CHAMPION SOUND without having a name for it yet, and I gotta give that up as my favorite moment,” Deevo reflects with a look of triumph and a sense of arrival. 

When asked what knowledge and insights will occupy their memory banks as they shift to a chapter beyond CHAMPION SOUND, the Dream Team aligns in their takeaways. P has learned to speak up if he has an idea, as well as lean into his community more; Janey recognizes the importance of not only having a vision and sticking with it, but also finding a unified, collective ecosystem that shares it; and Arold echoes these sentiments by intending to build worlds that are firmly rooted in his own, while simultaneously offering something others can gravitate towards. For Deevo, the priority has been and will remain to be collaborating with artists who hold genuine conversations with him outside of music, as well as match his love of creation “no matter what medium they’re creating through.”

here, or book a session at the award-winning SoundLab Recording Studios here

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