Feels Community Has Embraced Him With Open Arms
BY PAT HILL
Though rap music artist Parlay Starr grew up in south-central Los Angeles, he did not want his son growing up on those same city streets, so he moved his family to southwest Montana instead.
The Montana connection was already in place, as Starr’s partner Whitney Nelsen was born and raised in the Gallatin Valley. After their son was born, Starr (whose given name is Deshawn Carter) said he and Nelsen decided to “go somewhere and raise him right.” The couple ended up moving to Whitney’s home territory in the Gallatin Valley to live. Starr said he’s enjoying living in a place “where I can walk around freely…where I don’t have to watch my back.”
“I like it here,” the 29-year-old Starr told the Pioneer. “Everybody has embraced me.”
Starr said that although he did not embrace rap as a career until about ten years ago, the seeds for that career were sown while he was still in high school.
“I grew up playing basketball,” Starr said. “I got pretty good.” He was a standout player at Crenshaw High School in Los Angeles, which led to an “in” with the entertainment crowd from Hollywood: Starr said rap artists and actors would often drift down to watch games at the school in south-central LA with a reputation for producing quality basketball players destined for college and the NBA. Starr said he met quite a few of those artists during his high school career, and although he entertained the idea of making rap his career path, he followed the basketball route initially.
“I got a [basketball] scholarship and went to Blaine College, an all-black college in Augusta, Georgia,” he said. “But I had to leave school after two years to take care of my grandmother.” Starr said that after his grandmother passed away, he returned to school, but a career shift left him seven credits short of a degree.
“I started rappin’ big-time in 2001,” said Starr. “The rappers I’d met in high school had said ‘we can do something with this cat.’ I started out rapping with them…soon I was second to none.” In 1999 Starr began rapping with the group 2nd II none, and he soon met DJ Quik, with whom he would tour nationally. In 2005 Starr began to tour with Tha Realest: he met rappers like Too Short, Jim Jones, Terrance Howard, and the Outlawz. But Starr said he got impatient waiting for the studios to make a move in his direction, and, encouraged by Too Short, Jones, and others, went out on his own.
“The independent gig is good,“ said Starr. In 2009, he founded Most Hated Mob Entertainment, soon releasing his own “mixtapes.” This format of recording differs from a studio album from the production costs and methods down to the packaging of the final CD or DVD product. Mixtapes are cheaper to both the producer and the consumer, are usually not sold in a retail setting, but rather at a show (or given by the artist to fans), and are frowned upon by the Recording Industry Association of America as “bootlegged or pirated” products, even though such recordings are often implicitly supported by recording labels as a means of raising “hype” about a particular artist. Mixtapes, with their somewhat dubious nature on the legal front, have become identified most particularly with the hip-hop/rap scene.
In 2010, Starr released his debut album, Welcome to My World. The recording features guest perfor-mances by Tha Realest, Yukmouth, and the Outlawz, as well as Chris Brown and Tyga performing on the track Like You with Starr.
“I’m the hottest unsigned hype in LA right now,” Starr said. He said he turned down a $600,000 contract in order to stay independent and make the move to Montana. Starr said he sees the move to Big Sky Country as a good decision on both the career and the home front.
“Tech 9n9e told me there would be a good fan base here,” said Starr, and the reception Snoop Dog received when he performed at the Brick Breeden Fieldhouse to a packed house some years ago is a good indication that Tech 9n9e’s advice was right.
“Rap can happen here,” Starr said. “I want to bring people to Montana who haven’t been here before…I’m gonna try and bring the headliners here…every month have a different artist come out here to Bozeman. Hopefully we get a good venue to keep things going.” And Starr has plans beyond just bringing other artists here to perform.
“Yeah, I want to make some other big moves while I’m out here, but I’d like to help somebody else out while I’m at it,” he said. “I’m also looking for hot Montana rappers and singers, right? I know everybody in California, so I can help. It’s all about who you know…people make the world go around.” And Starr’s entry into the world of rap is a perfect example that meeting the right people can take you places.
“Montana is a good state,” said Starr. “I hope they continue to welcome me with open arms here. Hopefully we can reach each other [professionally].” But the rapper, whose stage name Parlay Starr roughly translates to Chillin’ Big, or Kickin’ Back Big-Time, doesn’t seem to be totally preoccupied with the business end of life.
“Out here it seems you make your own fun,” he said. “During the summertime you can catch me floating the Madison.”