The Indie City’s Hip-Hop Godfather
In a hipster-hued rock 'n' roll town, one enigmatic musician raps his way to the top, and provides a path for Austin's next generation of talent.
Photos by Anna Maria Hernandez
It’s a Wednesday night in Austin, Texas, and Bavu Blakes is in a familiar place. He’s back in the studio with close friends, but there’s no track to cut tonight. In fact, it’s been over a year since he’s last recorded. Known as the de facto mayor of Austin’s hip-hop underground, Blakes has worked with Grammy-winning artists like Gary Clark Jr. But now he spends most of his time teaching, whether it’s his daily seventh-grade English classes or the youth hip-hop workshops he leads every week.
Blakes and Greezo Veli, a sound engineer and rapper whose deep-set eyes are almost hidden under a fitted Texas Rangers cap, sit and swap stories about their humble beginnings in Austin’s underground music scene. Veli isn’t shy about the influence Blakes has had on his career. “There’s nobody like him. He was a teacher before he was a rapper. Now he’s embraced it,” Veli asserts.
Blakes can’t help but guffaw, adding: “I told him to say that.”
“Musically I’m a gateway drug,”…