By Dylan Deprey
It is a combination of adrenaline inducing basslines, heart-racing hi-hats and trunk rattling percussion. From Milwaukee’s East, South and North Side, local rappers spit street tales and witty one-liners over eerie synths and fluttering piano loops.
Some compare it to Detroit’s bass heavy trap sound booming across the lake. Though the basslines and dark keys are similar, slap music has Milwaukee’s fingerprints all over it.
Local artists premiere their visuals on various filmmaker’s YouTube channels. TeeGlazedIt Production, PhatPhat Production, Rich Nerds Productions, JSwaqq Productions and countless others have worked with artists from around the city.
RayShotIt’s YouTube channel, “DineroGangRay,” has amassed roughly 28,400 subscribers since its inception in 2015. His video discography is extensive – he’s worked with everybody, from the no name beginners to the well-established masters of the craft.
Shooting videos and making music was his passion, but he really wanted to showcase a story centered around Milwaukee’s growing force. So, he reached out to his longtime friend and music collaborator, Rick Taylor.
“We were doing music, and he told me he wanted to do a movie,” Taylor said. “We wanted to do something relatable, the life behind the slap music. It started as a movie, but we thought it’d be even better as a show.”
“Slapp City” was born.
The seven-episode YouTube series begins with the main character, Bud coming home from prison after a five-year bid.
His best friend was murdered while in prison and he swears to take on the big brother role for his friend’s younger brother, Treayshawn.
Though he wants to stop the fast life and pursue music, things don’t work out as planned, and he falls back into old ways. Whether he is dealing with Treayshawn, running the streets, dealing with a sister in a domestic violence situation or handling envious rivals plotting his demise, leaving Milwaukee might be his only option.
The series touches on local issues like stolen cars, reckless driving and the aftermath violence has on a community.
“It’s basically our everyday life, and what we see,” RayShotIt said. “We were showing real life situations that people go through.”
Taylor wrote the story, but didn’t have a set-in-stone script. He had scenes and some dialogue, but the mannerisms and slang belonged to the ever-growing cast of local artists from across Milwaukee.
The team shot scenes in the artist’s neighborhoods. They wanted them to be authentic as possible. Most of the rappers and singers had never acted before, so they told them to “just be natural.”
“We were just giving another platform to showcase their talents on, and bring some light to the city,” Taylor said. “We wanted to get people out of their box.”
RayShotIt said a lot of people doubted the show would ever come out after releasing a trailer two years ago. Little did fans know, there was actually a lot of work and troubleshooting that went into the first season.
The first thing that was somewhat noticeable was that the audio was lower during certain scenes.
RayShotIt said most of the filming was done around 2018, when he did not have his own camera equipment.
“When we first started, we were renting equipment. When I decided to buy our own, I forgot to grab the card when we returned it. By the time I got there, it was wiped already, and what we shot was all gone,” he said. “I tried to finesse the best I could, but in-camera audio isn’t always the best.”
Along with the technical issues, he also worked as a one-man camera crew.
“Just for one scene, it could be a while. Take, after take, after take. I’ve got plenty of bloopers,” he said.
The first episode was released Aug. 10, 2020, and episodes dropped consistently over the following weeks.
Though fans begged for longer episodes, each one ran around 20-30 minutes in length, which took him around 15 straight hours to edit.
“I would stay up from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m., nap and then wake up and finish it,” he said. “I don’t think people ever thought we were going to drop it, but it was a process because the editing was hard. When you’re working with one camera, and putting together quality scenes, it takes some time.”
The first season averaged around 28,900 views. Overall, they were excited to see fans engaging with the content, even with the bumps in the road. The attention they received online for just the month after the series released was enough of an indicator to continue the story.
“It was just our first run, and it out it took off, but season two is going to be way better,” RayShotIt said.
“Slapp City’s” season finale ended pretty violently, and Taylor said season two was going to address that. The first season was a stepping stone—a learning experience.
At the time, Milwaukee was going through a very violent time and the story mirrored that. The sequel was going to dive further into the root causes and backstories behind the issues, Taylor said.
Though some characters might not be in the second season, a lot more artists have reached out, and Taylor’s got stories for them.
“We’re trying to elevate it with more episodes and more of a story line, so it will make even more sense,” he said.
As for now, “Slapp City” has not found a streaming placement for season two, but they are both totally fine with that.
“I’m just happy for us even doing the show, and people checking out and tuning in each week like they were,” RayShotIt said. “Even if we don’t get a deal, the way we’re doing it by not waiting, we’re making it our own way and showcasing our own city. That’s more important to me.”