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Mike Wallace of Primary Element Hits Up Arts Fest

“Just everybody raps,” is a phrase I have heard often. What it basically means is that in this day and age with the internet, everybody with a camera and a microphone thinks they can go viral online by posting their own music.

With so many of these “rappers” it’s hard to pick out what is, and what isn’t worth listening too. The time spent listening to music is an investment, and we can’t possibly listen to every song.

Enter Primary Element, a young hip-hop group based out of Silver Spring, Maryland. Having the previous mindset, I was not ready for what I was going to experience. The group actually has something different from all these other kids: talent.

Sitting in front of Memorial Field in downtown State College, group founder Mike Wallace (@Mike_Wallz) is wearing what might as well be his trademarked red tank top that reads “Whaddup Playa.” He’s leaning against the chain-linked fence in his black snapback watching one of his friends make his music video. Primary Element started with him and the twins, Stanley and Stephen Spottswood, messing around during their music courses at Good Counsel High School.

Music has always been one of the most important aspects to them. “Everybody has different pieces that make them up, and for us, music is our primary element,” Wallace, a current Penn State football player, said.

After listening to them, this passion is distinctly noticeable. Primary’s first two mixtape come off as a little average, something cool, but nothing special. Ambition, their third tape, was very well produced, but lyrically, as Mike will admit, was nothing fantastic. They released their fourth tape this past fall, called Superheroes and Zombies, and it’s what I believed set them apart.

“When we got to Superheroes and Zombies we just grinded that out. We got to a level where we had already been on two tours and had done three albums, we were just on a level where we matured and really knew what we wanted,” Wallace said. It shows.

Their album is almost a return to a golden age of influential hip hop with plenty of nods to A Tribe Called Quest, and not to mention their love of being 90’s kids. There’s a lot of Jazz built into the instrumentals, partially because of the jazz training they have had, and it brings back a lot of nostalgia. Lyrically, it seemed as if they released the inner child in all of them, and they are not being anything they — well —  aren’t.

“We just rap about what’s applicable to us, like I’m gonna rap about Nikes, and wearing cool snapbacks, cause that’s what I do…and College rappers make music that’s for college kids. That’s a great market, and that’s fine, but I wanna rap about stuff I like and stuff that’s appealing to me. If you don’t like it, I’m sorry, but if you like the music, still listen,” Wallace said.

So with a sound that’s unique and a certain style that’s hard to find now-a-days, it’s fairly easy for them to get shows, such as this past Arts Fest. However, when 9 pm rolled around Thursday night, there was only Mike Wallace on stage with a full band. While he personally went on to do group stuff with the live band (something different from what I have seen in the past) he still killed it.

These solo performances are bound to happen though, with a group that spends most of the year apart, it seems as if it would be difficult to keep it together, but apparently it’s not. Stanley and Stephen, both of whom attend Capitol University in Columbus, Ohio for music production, have been keeping up with the group’s music career by sharing everything online.

“I wish they could be here cause we’re all just like a big family, and they would’ve loved the Coachella-like tent that Penn State puts up, but they have to do their thing too. It was fun though, cause their boys came down to play in the band, but it’s still not the same,” Wallace said.

When it comes down to it, they exceed in all aspects in terms of performance, production, and lyrics. They might have what it takes to make it to the next level, but for now, they’re just some cool kids doing some cool things.

About the Author

Matt Westlake

Toona '12. Main '14. Creamery for life.


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