For Tempe-based rapper Bill “Mouse” Powell, representing his hometown is just part of the way he produces music.
“I like the idea of, you know, representing where I’m from,” Powell said. “It seems like it’s always people’s tendencies to latch onto the negative parts about Arizona rather than trying to, you know, make the positive stuff more the main line.”
Powell, who grew up in Avondale, started rapping when he was 15 years old. Straying away from mainstream hip-hop, he incorporates a soulful influence in his music while supporting local culture.
In his summer song, “Holding Home (The AZ Anthem),” a track that samples Simple Red’s “Holding Back the Years,” Powell shouts out to Modified Arts, Four Peaks and even traffic on the 101.
“I grew up on a lot of soul music,” Powell said. “My mom would always listen to it all the time around the house, like Motown, that kind of stuff. And then when I was in high school, I was really big on A Tribe Called Quest and Wu-Tang Clan.”
Powell’s new album, “These are the Good Times,” out Nov. 12, is the result of a year-long collaboration with Reuben Martinez of Universatile Music and producer Andrew “The Ref” Johnson.
Unlike Powell’s previous albums, “These are the Good Times” steps out of the boundaries of the traditional hip-hop formula.
“He’s getting older and working with ‘The Ref,’” Martinez said. “He’s producing great shots that are kind of a little bit broader musically than just regular hip-hop.”
Powell, who participates in the longest running weekly hip-hop show in Arizona, Blunt Club at Yucca Tap Room, started a Kickstarter fund to raise money for the album to be produced, mixed and digitally mastered. He surpassed his goal by nearly $500.
“Mastering is kind of what separates the amateur sound from the professional,” Johnson said. “It’s like if you listen to one of your close friends’ mix tapes and then you listen to Kanye’s album. That difference that you hear is most likely the professional mastering and mixing that goes into it. So we wanted to put our best foot forward in the way that the sounds were presented, just dynamically.”
Martinez, a disc jockey who also manages and markets “These are the Good Times,” said their highest priority was simply creating a good product for listeners.
“I don’t know how much effort other people put in, but I just know that I sometimes I’ll listen to music — and it’s not even just hip-hop — I mean bands in general, and you can look at their product and be like, ‘All right, they just kind of threw that together,’” Martinez said. “For me, that’s less interesting.”
“We just want a good product. We don’t want to feel like we’re cheating anyone,” Martinez said.
Meanwhile, Powell is eager to tour and promote “These are the Good Times.”
“Touring is kind of a weird thing, because you’re always only in that town for like, that day, so it’s super easy to fall in love with the place,” said Powell. “I’ve kicked around the idea of moving to like, Seattle.”
But for now, Mouse Powell is holding home.
“I think we could do it anywhere,“ Powell said. “But I’d prefer to do it where I’m from.”
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