PUNKSUHATE: A mosaic of hip-hop and folk

Jun 20, 2013

Credit J.R. Reynolds

PUNKSUHATE combines two unlikely genres: hip hop and folk. The result is a homegrown West Michigan sound that punctuates their desire to keep the region’s music fresh.

PUNKSUHATE consists of Grand Rapids-based Venson Dix and Duke Greene. Together they are on a mission to show West Michigan that local musicians hold as much talent and potential to entertain as nationally known artists. Dix, who plays soprano saxophone, says the duo’s sound can be challenging for an audience, but in a good way. 

The duo playing at a neighborhood concert in Eastown Grand Rapids.
Credit J.R. Reynolds

“Typically when people ask us what kind of music is it that we do, we tell them we do a mixture of folk and hip hop," says Dix. "And I think it’s pretty accurate. Obviously we’re both MCs. I produce and I play a little bit of guitar – not like Duke. Also play a little bit of keys, and uh, we just, super lyrical content heavy, hip hop and we flip it on people and do complete folk music, which kind of gets people a little bit more to like us.”

Dix's partner, Duke Greene plays acoustic guitar. Greene says the bands goal isn’t to fuse the genres together. The duo wants the sound to be more like a mosaic than a melting pot.

“We try not to water down a sound that much. Like, a lot of times when you combine genres you end up with something sort of a shapeless mish-mash that combines the least interesting parts of both genres,"  says Greene. "So we thought we should keep the folk stuff as ‘folk’ as possible, but then the hip hop should be as hip hop as possible. The lyrics should be heavily crafted and there should be respect to that art form.”

Greene says the flow of the music is especially important since they are combining music forms.

“Having symmetry in your music like that helps make it possible for somebody that’s unfamiliar with the genre to find a place to be comfortable when they’re listening," he says. "And one our most important goals is to bring people into this that have not seen it before, not interacted with it before.”

Greene says PUNKSUHATE also spends a lot of time and effort on carefully crafting their lyrics.

“The work of a lyricist--if you’re really trying to be respectful to the beat and respectful to the flow that kind of lives within the song--is to find a good place for the words to flow together with syllabic match up so that it flows nice to the ear, even if you can’t understand it," he says. "But the words need to come from an honest and true place that when somebody’s listening to it the sixth or seventh time they can still pick apart new layers of meaning.”

Dix has toured nationally before with other artists. But for right now, he says Punksuhate prefers to do gigs close to home. 

“I think that’s one thing me and Duke have in common and that’s our family life is more important than music," says Dix. "And we’re not willing to sacrifice that and I don’t believe we have to if we overcompensate with quality.”

“We both have wives; we both have families and we both care deeply about the cities where we live and the time that we’ve spent here and the relationships that we’ve built," says Greene. "So we feel like we’d be turning our back on those things just to jump and go to the next level or whatever.”