This Thursday, May 18, ArtRat Gallery will host RAP AVE, a free musical showcase of eight performers from Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo presented by Grand Rapids’ 616 Records. The show runs from 7-9:30pm at 46 Division Ave. S in the heart of downtown Grand Rapids. 

Teyland performing at ArtRat Gallery/

Founded in 2018, 616 Records boasts a multidisciplinary team of performers, makers and engineers who create music and multimedia and provide creative services to Grand Rapids and beyond.

Recent performance highlights include an ArtPrize performance hosted by SiTE:LAB at Calder Plaza. In January, 616 Records CEO Teyland was featured in REVUE magazine’s list of “10 Bands to Watch in 2023.”

Ahead of Thursday’s show, ArtRat asked Teyland for the latest 411 on 616 Records and the inside line on RAP AVENUE.

In March, you put on a great showcase of 616 Records talent at ArtRat. How did you choose the artists who'll be performing this Thursday?

The list of artists curated for this Thursday is a mix of artists that I have been a fan of for a long time. I haven’t had the opportunity to watch them perform live, so I’m excited for them to be on the roster! Some of the artists from Kalamazoo that I was blessed to see perform in April will also be performing. I wanted to have a diverse roster of the best up-and-coming artists from a variety of genres. So we will have artists ranging from classic boom bap to alternative R&B performing this Thursday.

616 Records group photo: Teyland, Zay Phillz, Xander Taylor, Shane Edwards.

Talk a little about the mission of 616 Records. What role do you want the label and creative agency to play in the growth of Grand Rapids as an arts center? 

616 Records’ main mission is to expand the hip-hop and R&B scenes in Grand Rapids. We want to build up the Grand Rapids market until our city is recognized globally for its exceptional musical output in those genres.

This means that along with the art we create, we also have to be heavily involved in our community. We want to educate local artists of the business side of the music industry and provide them with services that they may not already have access to. This includes engineering, videography, production, marketing, design and brand management. We want to be a viable resource that helps elevate hip-hop and R&B in the city.

You and the rest of the team have had a slew of recent releases. Can you tell us about them? 

616 Records performing at ArtRat Gallery.

Our most recent release was my project Redux, released in February. This project was made as my reintroduction into music; it contains a collection of songs with a wide range of styles from lyrical conscious rap and storytelling in songs like “Don’t Be Like Me” and “Don’t Lie/Wonder” to hard-hitting trap songs like “Stick Up” and “SPL-Remix.” 

In 2022, we dropped The 616 EP, featuring a collection of sounds from each artist on the label. The EP spans multiple genres, from experimental hip-hop to pop and boom bap and a fusion of all three. In 2021, Shane Edwards released his project, Black Heart. Its dark and emotional subject matter follows heartbreak and the growth that comes with it. In 2020, we dropped Xander Taylor’s Jukebox, a rap EP with vintage ‘70’s-’90s style and a modern spin. Xander also has recently dropped singles with experimental new styles that show his versatility lyrically and sonically — From his introspective “Taday” with a soulful instrumental to the energetic, bouncy “YAON.”

Any summer plans you'd like to share? 

We’re planning on continuing to grow our artists’ exposure across the country while at the same time hosting events in the city that will allow us to continue on our path of growing the hip-hop and R&B communities and bringing people together.

Teyland performing at ArtRat Gallery.

What do you like about putting on shows in downtown GR? 

It allows us exposure to new audiences that otherwise wouldn’t be hip to the scenes we are a part of. Along with familiar faces, there are always people in the crowd who are shocked at the level of quality and dedication our local hip-hop and R&B artists have to offer.

What can the audience anticipate Thursday night? 

They can anticipate stellar performances from some of the best up-and-coming artists — not only from Grand Rapids but also Kalamazoo. We have been building bridges between our community and those in other major Michigan cities for a minute, and we are excited to continue collaborating and contributing not only to the progression of Grand Rapids music, but of Michigan music as a whole.