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MIA at the SDMAs

2021 stars and snubs

Black Hesher’s “Drag Me 2 Hell” video appeared before he died.
Black Hesher’s “Drag Me 2 Hell” video appeared before he died.

The San Diego Music Awards nominations were made public at the beginning of May, with qualifying material required to be released between January 1 and December 31, 2020 in order to be eligible for trophy consideration.

Among the seven nominees for Best Hip-Hop or Rap Album is Saints and Sirens by Black Hesher, aka Van Bates, who died less than two weeks before the announcement. “This is something that was very important to Van and he deserves to own this category,” says Bates’ Cult Muzic co-founder Jason Nichols, aka J. Andrews, who worked with him on several projects, including the San Diablo Allstars.

A new Allstars track called “No Good” dropped April 30. “We were only gonna put a teaser up of the new EP, but decided to leak a whole song.” Nichols calls the upcoming 3 Piece Combo EP “Almost a final gift of sorts, Van recorded some stuff that absolutely needs to be heard.”

Shortly before he died, a Black Hesher video debuted for “Drag Me 2 Hell.” In an online post, Bates discussed “Battling addiction, depression, and my demons.... So here it is everyone, a piece of my soul.” Bates’ final performance as Black Hesher was a benefit to raise mental health awareness.

Other frontrunners among the seven nominees for Best Hip-Hop or Rap Album are Vokab Kompany (for Small Viktories, their first full-length since 2016), iD the Poet (Work Epic 3), and Erick Lamont Fentress, aka Bloodstone the Street Preacher, for The Chosen One. Bloodstone earned the same nomination last year for his Gameface EP, as well as being up for SDMAs in 2005 and 2013.

Nominees favored to win Best Hip-Hop Song include Crhymes (“Tha Outro/Beat Boxin’” feat. Foxx & Harry Webb), Keymon (“Y’all Madd”), and Sloat Dixon (“Sloat Style”).

Conspicuously absent from either hip-hop category is the Elephants in the Room, a jazz-hip-hop mashup with Edgar Alminar (of the KneeHighs, 2007 SDMA winners for Best Hip-Hop Album) and Parker Edison of Parker & the Numberman, who won Best Hip-Hop Album at the 2012 SDMAs. Edison’s collaborative jazz/hip-hop project Parker Meridien won multiple SDMAs in 2019 and 2020, so it’s very odd that nobody is talking about The Elephants in the Room. They even have a signature lager beer in collaboration with Amplified Ale Works.

Also missing from hip-hop honors is Riston Diggs and his sophomore full-length The Second Coming, which dropped in September. Spring Valley hip-hop MC Michael May, aka Meidai, released two well-received and oft-streamed albums last year, Rashad and Project L.S.D. Guests on the latter include the late Ryan Bowers, who was wounded by police during a suicide attempt and later did kill himself.

Unseen in any category is synth-pop trio Glass Spells. Many thought their video and single for their track “Mirrors” should probably have earned a nod for Best Pop Song or Best Video. At least one of the same two categories could have included Christopher Sluka’s self-named four-piece psychedelic-goth rock band. A politically-themed Sluka single called “Vampire’s Ball” came with a video featuring footage shot at protest gatherings around San Diego, mixed with band performance footage.

And how could the Best Video category not include the most memorable and disturbing clip of last year, Satanic Planet’s apocalyptic “999”? You’d think the presence of longtime local heroes like Justin Pearson (the Locust, Dead Cross, Swing Kids, Retox, owner of Three One G Records) would have guaranteed inclusion.

The absence of Hawaiian-bred reggae band Iration may be attributable to members living in both Santa Barbara and northern San Diego, though their album Coastin’ contained enough local-centric references and guests and earned enough local radio play that it should have qualified.

Missing from Best Folk/Acoustic Song is “Alone Together,” by indie-folk band the Spiritual Motels. The video featured clips from their friends, fans, and families coping in their homes with pandemic life. The 2020 San Diego Music Awards nominees wrote and recorded the track on their phones in different houses, via an app called BandLab.

And no love at all for one-time Best New Artist nominee Belladon and their ambitious double-EP Dreaming/Dreading? Not even for the single “Modern Monets,” tracked and mixed by Ben Moore at local Singing Serpent studio? Can a pedigree be any more trophy adjacent?

Some room should have been found for Cocoon Tunes, the debut album by Butterflies, the newest project from Pea Hicks (of Tit Wrench) and Kenseth Thibideau, who toured with Pinback and co-founded Goblin Cock with local hero Rob Crow. The album, which includes contributions from Marie Haddad and Chris Prescott and features no less than 21 original tracks and a cover of “White Lily” by Laurie Anderson, could even have been a contender for Album of the Year.

San Diego Music Awards

Perhaps the biggest surprise was the lack of any nods for Hey, Chels, who released their debut full-length Everything Goes in May, followed by a music video for “You’ve Got You Now.” Founded by members of New Way On, Squarecrow, Londons Falling, Western Settings, Caskitt, and the Newports, their MIA status is one of the year’s biggest head scratchers.

The San Diego Music Awards ceremony takes place August 24 at Humphreys on Shelter Island.

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Black Hesher’s “Drag Me 2 Hell” video appeared before he died.
Black Hesher’s “Drag Me 2 Hell” video appeared before he died.

The San Diego Music Awards nominations were made public at the beginning of May, with qualifying material required to be released between January 1 and December 31, 2020 in order to be eligible for trophy consideration.

Among the seven nominees for Best Hip-Hop or Rap Album is Saints and Sirens by Black Hesher, aka Van Bates, who died less than two weeks before the announcement. “This is something that was very important to Van and he deserves to own this category,” says Bates’ Cult Muzic co-founder Jason Nichols, aka J. Andrews, who worked with him on several projects, including the San Diablo Allstars.

A new Allstars track called “No Good” dropped April 30. “We were only gonna put a teaser up of the new EP, but decided to leak a whole song.” Nichols calls the upcoming 3 Piece Combo EP “Almost a final gift of sorts, Van recorded some stuff that absolutely needs to be heard.”

Shortly before he died, a Black Hesher video debuted for “Drag Me 2 Hell.” In an online post, Bates discussed “Battling addiction, depression, and my demons.... So here it is everyone, a piece of my soul.” Bates’ final performance as Black Hesher was a benefit to raise mental health awareness.

Other frontrunners among the seven nominees for Best Hip-Hop or Rap Album are Vokab Kompany (for Small Viktories, their first full-length since 2016), iD the Poet (Work Epic 3), and Erick Lamont Fentress, aka Bloodstone the Street Preacher, for The Chosen One. Bloodstone earned the same nomination last year for his Gameface EP, as well as being up for SDMAs in 2005 and 2013.

Nominees favored to win Best Hip-Hop Song include Crhymes (“Tha Outro/Beat Boxin’” feat. Foxx & Harry Webb), Keymon (“Y’all Madd”), and Sloat Dixon (“Sloat Style”).

Conspicuously absent from either hip-hop category is the Elephants in the Room, a jazz-hip-hop mashup with Edgar Alminar (of the KneeHighs, 2007 SDMA winners for Best Hip-Hop Album) and Parker Edison of Parker & the Numberman, who won Best Hip-Hop Album at the 2012 SDMAs. Edison’s collaborative jazz/hip-hop project Parker Meridien won multiple SDMAs in 2019 and 2020, so it’s very odd that nobody is talking about The Elephants in the Room. They even have a signature lager beer in collaboration with Amplified Ale Works.

Also missing from hip-hop honors is Riston Diggs and his sophomore full-length The Second Coming, which dropped in September. Spring Valley hip-hop MC Michael May, aka Meidai, released two well-received and oft-streamed albums last year, Rashad and Project L.S.D. Guests on the latter include the late Ryan Bowers, who was wounded by police during a suicide attempt and later did kill himself.

Unseen in any category is synth-pop trio Glass Spells. Many thought their video and single for their track “Mirrors” should probably have earned a nod for Best Pop Song or Best Video. At least one of the same two categories could have included Christopher Sluka’s self-named four-piece psychedelic-goth rock band. A politically-themed Sluka single called “Vampire’s Ball” came with a video featuring footage shot at protest gatherings around San Diego, mixed with band performance footage.

And how could the Best Video category not include the most memorable and disturbing clip of last year, Satanic Planet’s apocalyptic “999”? You’d think the presence of longtime local heroes like Justin Pearson (the Locust, Dead Cross, Swing Kids, Retox, owner of Three One G Records) would have guaranteed inclusion.

The absence of Hawaiian-bred reggae band Iration may be attributable to members living in both Santa Barbara and northern San Diego, though their album Coastin’ contained enough local-centric references and guests and earned enough local radio play that it should have qualified.

Missing from Best Folk/Acoustic Song is “Alone Together,” by indie-folk band the Spiritual Motels. The video featured clips from their friends, fans, and families coping in their homes with pandemic life. The 2020 San Diego Music Awards nominees wrote and recorded the track on their phones in different houses, via an app called BandLab.

And no love at all for one-time Best New Artist nominee Belladon and their ambitious double-EP Dreaming/Dreading? Not even for the single “Modern Monets,” tracked and mixed by Ben Moore at local Singing Serpent studio? Can a pedigree be any more trophy adjacent?

Some room should have been found for Cocoon Tunes, the debut album by Butterflies, the newest project from Pea Hicks (of Tit Wrench) and Kenseth Thibideau, who toured with Pinback and co-founded Goblin Cock with local hero Rob Crow. The album, which includes contributions from Marie Haddad and Chris Prescott and features no less than 21 original tracks and a cover of “White Lily” by Laurie Anderson, could even have been a contender for Album of the Year.

San Diego Music Awards

Perhaps the biggest surprise was the lack of any nods for Hey, Chels, who released their debut full-length Everything Goes in May, followed by a music video for “You’ve Got You Now.” Founded by members of New Way On, Squarecrow, Londons Falling, Western Settings, Caskitt, and the Newports, their MIA status is one of the year’s biggest head scratchers.

The San Diego Music Awards ceremony takes place August 24 at Humphreys on Shelter Island.

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