Monday, August 19, 2013

Rocky Diamonds and Fly Henderson

I first learned of Rocky Diamonds on MySpace six years ago, where I attempted to look up a musician and instead came across a 14-year-old rapper from Minneapolis, who then went by the name of Young Rocky. He sampled a few songs, including a cover of Van Morrison's "Crazy Love" that sounded clean, well-produced, and fit for radio play. Sure, the lyrics were redundant and echoed every cliche of it's time, but that didn't stop Hot 97 from playing other songs that did the same thing--lyrics that compare a couple to Romeo & Juliet or Bonnie & Clyde or lyrics that rhyme, because it's the same bloody word. I wasn't impressed by the lyrics of Young Rocky at all. It was the clean production, catchy hook, and the way he delivered his prose as if he had been in that studio all his life. Also, the kid was 14! I was intrigued.

Curious about his progress, I reconnected with him years later through facebook and twitter. Now known as Rocky Diamonds, he had developed tremendously as a lyricist and acquired a sizable fan base in the Midwest. In fact, he stepped boldly away from any cheap, clean hip hop sound that carried his weight before, and focused on harder beats which shifted his voice to the forefront and made his lyrics the center of attention.

Through Rocky, I learned of other talented musicians including his friend, Fly Henderson. Fly had a steep learning curve in his lyricism and described his life in a metaphoric way that opened my eyes in wonder. His openly addressed his history of child abuse, but was determined to keep all of his music and lifestyle in a positive light.

Rocky and Fly were close friends, who shared the same birth name, Marc(k)us Henderson. As well as recording songs together, they were building their brand, a committed fan base, and making music videos of their work (produced by 18-year-old Ben Hughes), while awaiting a bigger opportunity.

Despite neglectful tweets of typical teenage boys with girls, money and weed on their minds, Rocky and Fly had won my attention, and I was on the edge of my seat in full anticipation of their heightened success. There was a movement happening in Minnesota. A shift. People began to notice these kids and recognize them alongside bigger mainstream artists. "It's only a matter of time," one would often see in YouTube comments.

I wasn't alone in my amazement of their talent, though living in New York City, where no one had heard of these guys, it seemed that way. My exclamation of "the Minnesota rap scene" would get returned by laughter until I could quiet the amused with music links. I felt like I was alongside them, anxiously awaiting a major label signing, so their music could be more easily shared.

Then without warning, on July 21, 2012, Fly Henderson drowned in a lake, while on vacation. Fans in Minnesota were devastated. And yet, after being in the middle of this shock and surprise, I looked up from my computer to the reality of my New York City surroundings and realized that somehow, the rest of the music world managed to keep on moving.

Although there is a stark realization that no one will ever see what Fly Henderson could have become, with his music and videos, he has left behind a legacy, where people are still free to discover his songs and learn of his light.

Through all this, Rocky Diamonds has taken a vow to continue to finish the dream that they have both sought after since childhood. The song below serves as a tribute to his friend, Fly Henderson. The Minnesota rap scene lives on.

  Fly Henderson - Forever from Sway Heavy on Vimeo.