In the words of the late Stephen Sondheim, “Opportunity is not a lengthy visitor.” This notion is not lost on Devin Martel. From an outside perspective, the Quad-City rapper more commonly known as Big Man G seizes every opportunity laid in front of him. Behind the curtain, however, Devin takes meticulous steps in a conscious effort to level up.
Hours after returning home, post-graduating from Western Illinois University, Devin was in the studio. Four years of writing, scheming new possibilities, recording in his campus home, and empire building was long enough for the East Moline native.
“I knew when I graduated and got home there needed to be something I could do to set myself apart,” Martel said. “I felt like it had to do with making these videos. I just needed to find a way to improve upon the format and do something interesting that I felt like had never been done before.”
The talents flowing in and out of East$ide Sounds that day led to a cosmic chance of meeting Kleriya Soe (another QC-based artist) and a need for collaboration with FVNTVNV (a.k.a. Brian Fanning). The talented trio quickly turned into something much bigger than just a couple of artists recording together.
“We weren’t able to get into the studio one day, and he (Devin) was like ‘Let’s just do it in the car right now. I have this idea, and I need to get it out.'” Fanning said. “So he recorded the first one, and we realized we could do more of them.”
At this exact moment, on Apr. 12, 2021, the Car Chronicles, a series of videos highlighting original beats and bars straight out of the QC, was born.
“The first day we hung out, I think we made four or five,” Fanning said. “It was easy for us to do. It started as this frustration of not being able to create that day, and we just kind of stumbled upon this medium of art, and we were like, ‘Fuck it. Let’s run with this.'”
Growing Within The Project
The start of the Car Chronicles project didn’t produce a set of rules and regulations for the creators, nor did they set a goal of how many videos would exist within the series. While some may see the similarities between a 52 weeks project and the Car Chronicles, the rate and quantity ( 100 recordings in just over seven months) of the videos eventually released truly set this project apart.
Once the actual pursuit of the series was in motion, the only parameters implemented were original verses written by Martel, original beats majority created by Fanning with guest appearances by Lskii WTC and OSVMA, and homegrown locales shot by Soe.
“For the first 50 or 60 episodes, we were doing 32 bar verses, and it’s all original content,” Martel said. “That pace that we were creating them at, the original content and the inclusion, visually, of the area… it’s not like we’re just in a studio doing this. We were at different locations every single time. I’ve never seen anything like that.”
The rate at which the trio could write, create and shoot boosted their energy behind the project. A handful of videos turned into 100, and scenery just outside of a vehicle turned into classic Quad-City locations like Modern Woodman Park, alongside the iconic murals of downtown Rock Island, Hero Street, and seized opportunities to shoot in a pedicab or in front of the Weiner mobile.
“It was a learning process to figure out how to advance,” Soe said. “The quality is so much better than the first one. It was cool to be a part of the process and the change and to just be there from the beginning.”
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Highlighting the QC
Martel notes the relationship between the title “Car Chronicles” and the frequency in which we see rappers sharing content from within the confines of a vehicle. In “Car Chronicles 034” calls an ode to artists Poodieville, Torrian Ball, and Xavy Rusan, who all cultivated a portion of their careers right here in the Quad Cities.
“We wanted people to see that we are in the Quad Cities, and say ‘Hey, you can do this, too.'” Fanning said. “Rising tides raise all ships. The bigger another artist gets around here, the bigger we’re all going to get.”
The visual landscape of the project boasts more than just a handful of “nice lookouts.” It’s a moment to honor the community and places that have fueled and encouraged their passion.
Opening the Doors for More Opportunity
Car Chronicles serves as more than just a creative endeavor for Martel and Fanning. It has helped build their catalogs of content outside of their comfort zones.
“This has totally pushed me further to be as genre-bending as I can be,” Fanning said. “It really just opened the doors for me not to make the same cookie-cutter shit that I was for years. Not to say that it was bad, but I was kind of making the same sound for a while, and it gave me a lot of confidence to really push my limits and just start experimenting more.”
Since the fruition of Car Chronicles, each artist has been working to build off their handmade momentum. It led to public performances at the Alternating Currents festival in Davenport, a highlight during the first post-lockdown Underground Xperience, and other pop-up opportunities.
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