Look to the Star
Eau Claire hip-hop artist $tarbound releases album
After talking to $tarbound, it’s hard not to be a little hopeful for the Eau Claire hip-hop scene. With the release of Supernova XII, his new, high-energy, electronic-infused rap album, he plans to take his music to the top and bring vibrant hip-hop to Eau Claire.
Ricardo Collins was born in Chicago, though he spent most of his life in Minneapolis before moving to Eau Claire a year ago. While he had been writing music for years and toured in the Midwest alongside big-name acts like Tyga, Waka Flaka Flame, Trey Songz, and Kid Ink, it was not until last year that he found a deeper reason for his musical calling: carrying on his father’s legacy.
Collins’ father, Ricardo Collins Sr., was in and out of his son’s life while he was growing up, but near the end of 2011 the two decided to get in touch while Collins Sr. was living out in L.A. and doing music production under the name $tarbound. After having some time to reconnect and develop a new relationship, Collins received a phone call and was told his father had gone into a fatal diabetic coma. The call came just days after Collins had recorded a song entitled “Man in the Mirror,” in which he confronted the conflicting emotions that reuniting with his father brought on: He saw this as more than coincidence.
Learning of his father’s passing brought on a profound experience, one that drove 21-year-old Collins to take on his father’s artist name, $tarbound. “Him passing is sticking with me through the rest of my life,” Collins said. “I’m $tarbound now, I’m him pretty much. The music I’m doing and the name that I’ve chosen is the name that he had. And the name I was given when I was born is the name that he had. Even though he wasn’t there that much during his life, he’s gonna be here forever.”
The urge to continue what his father worked for is the driving force behind the album, and $tarbound refers to this symbolic passing of the torch as “The Tale of Supernova XII,” a supernova being the explosion of light that results from a dying star.
It’s fitting, then, that Supernova XII is such a bright and hopeful album. The project has a cohesive, electronic feel to it, many of the tracks sounding as if they’d be at home at a larger venue feeding off of a lively crowd. Between the high octane instrumentals, $tarbound’s relentless energy and occasional Auto-Tune vocal effects, Supernova XII at times carries an otherworldly feeling, though it is grounded by Collins’ lyrical presence.
And from the first line of the album he makes that presence known (as well as his opinion of the verdict in the much-publicized George Zimmerman trial). While Collins states that he isn’t out to be overtly political, he strives to speak his mind and give listeners only what he believes. Other themes in the album include falling in and maintaining love, breaking through in the music industry, and making money. While the genre is no stranger to songs about the pursuit of riches, $tarbound makes it clear that this isn’t just a cash grab. “I just wanna see my family living great/ I wanna see the dollars but rather make a change,” he says in the track “Drowning.”
Further down the line, Collins wants to use star power and financial gain to contribute to philanthropic efforts as well as motivational speaking for children: “I want to be that person to tell kids ‘you’re star-bound.’ ”
The idea of speaking about his life in hopes showing kids who have gone through similar situations a different path leads $tarbound to one of the album’s standout tracks. Titled simply “&=” but also referred to as “Forever Ain’t Enough,” the outro track starts out with a brief a capella spoken word piece: “Black kid growing up without his real father/ is a story heard too often/ he swears he didn’t care that his father wasn’t there/ until he seen his father lying cold in a coffin.”
In the song he speaks about humans outliving the 2012 Mayan prophecy, the importance of a support system that kept him out of trouble growing up in Minneapolis’ north side, and the belief in his own potential to take his music to new heights. One thing is certain about $tarbound: He believes in himself and would like nothing more than to share that feeling with anyone willing to listen. It’s this confident energy that runs through the entirety of Supernova XII, and it makes you believe that he truly is star-bound.