Who knew that Shel Silverstein had street cred? The best-selling children’s author—who was also a songwriter (Johnny Cash’s “A Boy Named Sue” was his) and Playboy cartoonist—is probably most recognized for his collections of poems, such as 1981’s A Light in the Attic and 1974’s Where the Sidewalk Ends. It was the latter that sparked the imagination of Missoula hip-hop artist Snuph as he was writing rhymes for his newly released mixtape.
“I was tired of what I was hearing and I don’t watch rap videos—that’s all disgusting to me,” explains Snuph, aka Frank Beaty. “So, that [mainstream rap], to me that’s the sidewalk, that’s where everyone else walks. I wanted to play off Shel Silverstein, in the sense that it’s not only abstract and out there, which I think I am, but that’s where the mainstream and the garbage stopped. My album is about what happens after that.”
Snuph’s Where The Sidewalk Ends is a 14-song effort that showcases the 24-year-old MC’s smooth lyrical style. He carefully chose the beats on the album—all from preexisting industry sources—to match his rhymes, such as Jay-Z’s “Encore” beat on the opening title track to represent the mainstream sound he tries to avoid.
A Las Vegas native, Snuph moved to Missoula in the summer of 2004 to attend the University of Montana. He’s been rapping since he was 5 years old with his older brother, Text 1—together they perform as Dirty Earthlings—but his time in Missoula is when his personal style started to take shape.
“At first, I didn’t really know anybody,” says Snuph, a broadcast journalism major who’s taking a semester off to be with his two kids in Nevada. “I’d just sit in my dorm room and write and write and write…I wouldn’t just obsess over songs, I’d obsess over each line.”
His writing style comes through in tracks like “River Phoenix” and “Barely Famous.” In the former he raps, “Too many topics and not enough time on the beat…Every day looking for some clarity/We’re trapped in a parody of life and hip-hop/It’s apparently reality refusing your inexcusable views on what’s not natural but has to be.”
“I just want to be a breath of fresh air in a whole midst of bullshit and gangsterisms,” Snuph says. “I just want to bring that thought back into it. I want to get it where people debate lines. My stuff, it’s poetry.”
Snuph performs for his CD release party at Hammer Jack’s Thursday, March 30, at 9 PM. With special guests Text 1 and Tahjbo. $2.