When hip-hop artist Quincy Osborne, known musically as itsQObaby, played open-mic shows in Tampa, people he met thought he was local. When he told them he was from Gainesville, those connections immediately fizzled.
“Certain areas are very territorial,” he said. “Gainesville — the people that are here — we’ve got a chip on our shoulder.”
Osborne has lived in Gainesville his whole life. The 32-year-old has been writing songs since he was 8, but only began building his professional music career three years ago. He said entering the hip-hop community opened his eyes to a side of the city he had yet to see.
“I didn’t really feel like Gainesville was the spot,” Osborne said. “Now, I feel like we should build it from the ground up. There’s a lot more artists here trying to branch out and make a lot of noise.”
Osborne is one of many hip-hop artists breaking barriers in Gainesville’s music community. Local names like Azazus, DJ Mellow Blendz, Edgar Brann and more have grown in popularity as the artists hustle to expose their platform to the world.
Osborne’s first EP, “Greetings Earthlings,” released on Spotify Aug. 20. He said the welcoming community he found when producing music for the first time is the key to elevating the genre.
“Every artist I came across in Gainesville, they want to work, and they show a lot of love,” he said. “That sense of unity, that’s what’s going to make up for the fact we’re not a bigger city.”
DJ Mellow Blendz, also known as Anthony Showell, has lived in Gainesville for nine years. He has become a household name for Gainesville musicians, often DJing for major acts when they perform in the area.
As a veteran DJ, he said he often volunteers his help to aspiring artists, sometimes DJing for free to help build up local venues and businesses.
“I like to inspire the next generation the way I was,” Showell said. “I like to consider myself that charity go-to guy.”
In Gainesville, the hip-hop community faces particular challenges. Hailing from a city that has churned out successful rock and alternative bands like Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Against Me!, Less Than Jake and Sister Hazel, the genre faces the risk of being overshadowed by its more mainstream counterparts in the area.
For Gainesville musician Brandon Register, known professionally as Edgar Brann, the disconnect between local hip-hop music and listeners stems from the lyrical content found in the genre, particularly in rap music.
He said relatability contributes to the disparity between rock and indie listeners and hip-hop listeners.
“These indie bands who are talented because they’re playing instruments, they’re normally not speaking upon stuff like that,” Register said.
Register battles these hip-hop connotations by incorporating different messages in his work. Inspired by soul, hip-hop, R&B and reggae influences, Register uses his lyrics to touch upon social issues, including poverty, climate change, homelessness and more.
Rapper Brian Williams, known professionally as thepsychogen, also tries to incorporate these relevant issues in his content. Williams said rap and hip-hop face ridicule when the line between the two genres is blurred.
“Hip-hop is actually political with a meaning,” Williams said.
Combatting the misconceptions about hip-hop makes it difficult for emerging artists in Gainesville to pave their way. Williams, who splits his time between Gainesville and Tampa, said musicians increase their versatility to build their brand.
“Hip-hop is oversaturated,” Williams said. “These artists need to get more involved with community projects and showcasing their other talents. Show them they’re not just a rapper.”
R&B artist Kelsea Martinez said being a woman in the industry makes finding a foothold in hip-hop even tougher. While currently located in Jacksonville, Martinez made music in Gainesville for four years while attending Santa Fe College.
“Something about being a female artist in a hip-hop world makes people think that you’re not going to be as good or that you’re going to rap about something that has to do with your body,” Martinez said. “I didn’t do either or of those.”
After her first album “Love Is…” released Sept. 25, Martinez saw disparities in her listenership compared to the average number of listeners experienced by her male counterparts.
“I did the same routes that my male friends as artists have done,” Martinez said. “And I still see the difference.”
Regardless of gender, Martinez said any young artist can benefit from the hip-hop community found in Gainesville. Williams is releasing a single with Martinez in the next two months. These collaborations, Martinez said, build relevancy that is hard to come by as a young musician.
While Gainesville’s hip-hop scene is gaining traction every day, Martinez said the obstacles persevere as well.
“It’s a good thing I like a challenge,” she said.