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Deep 6 Division duo releases bruising debut album 

Pulling no punches

It was in the early morning hours of a recording session at Mike Astrea's house in Plaza Midwood one night last winter that he and Rapper Shane watched a man and woman argue in the streets about how much the man was obligated to pay for the woman's abortion.

The fight almost came to blows before the arguing parties spotted the duo sitting on the porch smoking between takes for their new album. Shane and Astrea were uneasy about the potential that they'd have to step in if the man became violent, but the couple walked off down the street when they realized they were being watched.

Incidents like this seemed to keep happening as the two musicians, who have teamed up to create Deep 6 Division, recorded their first album together.

"That's one incidence, but there were several really random occurrences at like the wee hours of the night," Shane says. "We'd go back in and be like, man, I don't know it just felt weird."

With these odd happenings acting as inspiration, Deep 6 created a self-titled album that serves as an ode to Plaza Midwood — with songs like the short-but-aggressive "Posse on Central" shouting out its main thoroughfare — creating a time stamp depicting a 'hood in transition.

"I think a lot of people treat [Plaza Midwood] like Disneyland right now, where they come on the weekends and they come to check out all the freaks at the cool bars, but it's still a neighborhood that is very much in a growth period and expanding," Astrea says. "You have this huge influx of people from other areas moving in, so everyone is still feeling each other out and things are still coming into place. I think five to 10 years ago a lot of these people wouldn't delve into this neighborhood. It just has an interesting perspective."

Mike Astrea (left) and Rapper Shane of Deep 6 Division. - JUSTIN DRISCOLL
  • Justin Driscoll
  • Mike Astrea (left) and Rapper Shane of Deep 6 Division.

Astrea does the production work for Deep 6 Division, as he does with his other outfit Astrea Corp, in which he produces and his wife Carly Astrea sings. Shane raps on the Deep 6 project, but Astrea's production work is so boisterous that it serves as a personality in and of itself. It contrasts his work with Astrea Corp, which has a more soulful, trippy feeling.

"[Astrea Corp is] a very personal process. That's a more meditative thing for us ... That's very much a different mood, a different vibe," Astrea says. "With [Deep 6 Division], I get a chance to be a lot more aggressive and approach the production from a different angle than I can in the Astrea Corp continuum because it's just a softer thing. It's A and B, day and night kind of thing. But I really enjoy it. It gives me an outlet for doing the more aggressive bass stuff that I can't do on a daily basis."

He lists groups like Public Enemy and EPMD as inspirations for his work with Deep 6, but with a modernized twist. Bass-heavy beats and disruptive editing in songs like the menacing opener "Bridge Burner" make for an unapologetically combative feel throughout the album that is sure to hype up the most sedated of listeners.

As for Shane, he commands attention with a confident presence that hasn't always been present in past work. He's more deliberate with his verses than ever before, and the result comes through in the work as he stakes his claim to each track.

Shane says he was aware of this progression as he recorded the album, and he believes it comes from the passion he feels for the new partnership.

That's the reason Shane felt it was necessary to rebrand this project, as opposed to releasing it as a Rapper Shane solo album that was produced by Astrea.

"The sound and what I want to do continuing forward, is with him and what he does musically," Shane says. "The sound I wanted, I couldn't find it and I found it and it was like, 'Oh shit, this is what I've been wanting to do,' and so it deserves to be its own thing."

Refresh Records, which has been firing out quality local music all summer from local acts like Scowl Brow, Junior Astronomers and Ancient Cities, will release the Deep 6 Division vinyl, with 100 limited purple editions going on sale at the record release party at The Station in Plaza Midwood on Dec. 15 and on the Refresh website the following day.

Shane says he's appreciative of Refresh Records, not only for putting him on vinyl for the first time in his career, but for all that they do in a local music scene that he and Astrea, who moved here from Florida less than two years ago, are both fully committed about.

"I don't think a lot of light is shined on the underground out here," Astrea says. "I hate calling it the local scene because there's a lot of bands and acts and groups that could hang nationally just as well as any of the big acts that come into town."

For Shane, it's a matter of getting the word out.

"I just don't think a lot of people know what's happening. It's important, we need more people and publications like [Creative Loafing] that have a broad reach," he says. "We need it to be out there more, we need more attention on it. I think it's a lot of musicians out here supporting each other, and that's awesome, but we need more people."

The group did their best to showcase some local talent — including acts with crossover appeal — on the new album. Features include Mike's wife Carly Astrea and Junior Astronomers frontman Terrence Richard. They even brought in former Pullman Strike guitarist Wes Hamilton in to play his pedal steel guitar on the track "Frequencies."

For Shane, who helped found the Charlotte-based Permanent Vacation crew and has also released work as a collaborative called Dap City with his buddies in RBTS WIN, it's all about spreading the love.

"I want [Deep 6] to be like a group project, I don't want it to be like centered around me. We have the release party coming up and that will have special guests DJing at it, with all the people who have got cuts on the record, you never know who will play," Shane says.

"I want it to be like him and I are the primary foundation of it but I don't want it to be just a me thing, I want it to be an us thing. That can be ambiguous as to who gets involved at certain times, it's a little more loose. Obviously, we're the foundation of it, but I don't want it to be centered around me. I don't want that, because it's not a just a rap album."

Maybe it is, maybe it isn't, but it's definitely an album that will refuse to be ignored.

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