Kodean IX doesn’t know where he would be without music, but he knows it wouldn’t be good.
He has been in and out of jail, family barbecues were full of rival (albeit peaceful) gang members, and one of his cousins was in Greeley’s chapter (if you will) of the infamous 18th Street gang.
This was true until 2018, when he stayed a week with a grieving Keen OGT, who lost his sister to suicide. The two were rapping to help quell the pain they felt, and they began to call themselves OGT, or One Great Team. They began buying onto shows, with nothing to lose, and decided to bring their own show to the Moxi Theater. They paid an artist who ended up skipping town and decided to fill the spot with their own act. They sold nearly 200 tickets, and the Moxi’s owner, Ely Corliss, recruited him to fill more shows. Corliss gave Kodean a chance, he says, and he hasn’t forgotten it.
“I’d still be in a different life,” Kodean told BandWagon. “He gave me a chance to show what I could do.”
He now works to give that chance to others. He has a team, still named OGT, with Keen, now a producer, his manager Omar Conteras and four artists: Sardonyx, JMG Garcia, Chely and Toni V (who has tens of thousands of followers on several social channels) with connections to even bigger acts.
But it’s not as altruistic, or as big, as it may sound. It’s a part-time business. He works as a welder for High Plains Steel Services and takes on jobs with NoCo Metal as well. He is 30 with three kids, including two with his common-law wife and a 12-year-old who is “exactly like him, which is good and bad.” But OGT represents a way out of the life he once knew, either financially, romantically or perhaps just spiritually.
Kodean has an OGT show on Saturday, June 25, at the Moxi featuring headliner CNG, a Mexican American West Coast rapper who rose to fame in 2017 with his track “Not My President” and who’s video for “Lost Soldier” just earned 3 million views. Kodean aims to have OGT present major artists like CNG at least once a month. He aims to have OGT perform just as often too, having just begun playing at Chippers Lanes with plans to play Fort Collins in August.
When Kodean was 9, he rapped about the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles over Karaoke music he downloaded via Limewire, and when he was 14, he rapped at a middle school talent show. He kept rapping and gang-banging until that cousin from the 18th Street Gang had a talk with him.
“He asked me why I was gang-banging,” Kodean recalled, “and I said, ‘Because I grew up here.’ He told me to do something better. Break the legacy. And I did.”
Kodean, just like Greeley itself, is in a much better place now. He still raps about those times, but he wants to do what he calls “clean” music as well: He just did a bit for New Belgium Brewing’s Voodoo Ranger. “I hope they at least give us a free beer or something,” he said and laughed.
He is one of Greeley’s veterans and mentors now, along with a friend, Steelo Bass, even though they are both just 30. They are old enough to remember selling physical copies of CDs on the street. They made decent money doing that, but that was replaced by streaming, which basically doesn’t pay anything. Bass himself works two jobs, as a grill cook and a warehouse equipment operator. That leaves him little time for music, but he still stays up late working on it, which means he’s tired all the time.
“I do the best I can,” Bass said. “It’s overwhelming at times, but I feel pretty good about my product.” He’s proud to be a part of Greeley’s rap scene, a scene where Kodean is a big presence.
“He’s taken on the role of everybody’s bookie,” Bass said. “He’s the guy you are looking for. He’s doing really well now. He has a solid team.”
The team includes veterans such as Toni V and newcomers such as Chely (video below), a self-titled female barber by day, who has built a following through her hair clients. People approach Kodean now for spots in his shows, rather than the other way around. He tries to give as many an opportunity as possible, but they have to meet his standards. He pays them and doesn’t charge for a spot in a show — he said he’s the only one who doesn’t — but he expects them to sweat.
“We work together and pitch-in together,” Kodean said. “I’m just trying to make it a bit easier. When I was growing up, it wasn’t friendly. Now it doesn’t have to be that way.”
Bass said Kodean’s hard work has paid off and that his lineup is one to be reckoned with on the hip hop scene.“They’ve grown so much in the past two years,” Bass said. “It’s impressive to see where they are now.”
BandWagon and OGT present CNG at the Moxi Theater in Downtown Greeley on Saturday, June 25. OGT will perform as well as Chely, Sacramento, Parkside Plugz and many more. Tickets at BandWagMag.com – CLICK HERE