Hip hop artist Webby visits Iowa City tonight


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Connecticut-born hip-hop artist Chris Webby, 23, has been rapping for more than half his life. For 12 years, he has worked hard to develop his remarkable rapping and freestyling skills.

Webby will show off his freestyle flow in a concert produced by MTV "Spring Break "host Sunnie Dae and DJ Legacy at 6 p.m. today in the IMU Main Lounge. Admission is $15.

Webby said his Connecticut hometown is not necessarily known for hip-hop culture. His father was a musician and a helpful influence, but, Webby said, he would not have come so far without years of practice.

"I've always been surrounded by music," he said. "When it came down to making it rhyme, it wasn't the hardest thing in the world to do."

He handed out his first mix tape to his friends in high school after making copies at a local Kinko's. Today, he has six mix tapes out, including his most recent, Webster's Laboratory and Best in the Burbs.

Matthew Adler, who handles Webby's touring and sponsorships, quickly took to Webby's talent.

"Right around the same time he released a mix tape called The Underclassmen, I immediately recognized that I was a fan after hearing the first track, 'Hands Up,' " Adler said. "I could recognize that he was still developing but saw the amount of potential there."

The use of social media and websites have helped the new artist promote his music to a wide range of audiences, including Datpiff.com, a hip-hop site from which Webby's mix tapes can be downloaded. He said the website has crashed twice when fans downloaded his music.

He has 135,000 Facebook fans, Webby said, and 55,000 Twitter followers, with more than 20 million YouTube hits.

"Having these numbers makes it easier to get in the game," he said.

As with most up-and-coming artists, the gig does not mean huge financial gains. He has been touring with six others and said that while the money might be tight, they are having the time of their lives.

When describing how he promotes himself as a hip-hop/rap artist, Webby said it is organic.

" 'Organic' is definitely the word I would use," he said. "Everything is falling into place."

Recently, he said, he has made some big strides. Hearing his voice on local radio, appearing on MTV2 Sucker Free Sunday hip-hop countdown, and being featured in hip-hop magazine XXL have showcased his talent.

"Some of the recent milestones we have made are bucket-list things," Webby said.

Adler said Webby's talent is displayed in his live performances and ability to freestyle. Webby can often improvise for five-minutes straight, leaving audiences awestruck.

Fans agree that his freestyle is something to hear. UI student Connor McMahon, a big fan of Webby's style, said he would compare it with Eminem's, who was voted the "Best Rapper Alive" by Vibe magazine.

"His music is not like all the other white rappers," McMahon said. "He always tells a story in his songs and can make certain parts of words rhyme with others."

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