Unity and camaraderie amongst partners in the music industry can often be a slippery slope for some groups, causing most bands and crews to thrive for a short amount of time, only for them to fall apart once members decide to go separate routes.
However, Lincoln-based arts collective Dreamscape Media Group isn’t afraid of those problems.
Around 5 p.m. on a Sunday evening, six out of eight members of the collective gathered at Cosmic Eye Brewing. Meta, Eddie Branch, Big Mike, Abe the Griot, Kamakauzzy and Flannel Lewis sat side by side around a wooden picnic table, each with glasses of beer in front of them. Members Sleep Sinatra and Alex Durrant weren’t able to join in on the conversation due to prior commitments.
As the six creatives chatted about their days at work, they showed a brotherly connection, laughing and joking with each other.
“It’s a community,” Kamakauzzy said about the group. “We all help each other.”
While these Dreamscape members collaborate together on each others’ projects, they have room to work on their own individual vision.
Michael Reed, or Big Mike, who physically towers over most of the members, is the photographer/videographer of the group and documents everything they do. From live performances to music videos, he’s usually looking through his viewfinder, ready to capture the next postable moment. While Mike doesn’t record any music himself, he still earns his spot in the collective by using his media skills to promote the talent within the group.
“There’s so few people who are outside-the-box creative, so creative people gotta support other creative people,” Big Mike said.
Abe the Griot, 33, is the oldest of the members in Dreamscape. Although Abe holds a stone-faced persona, there is much more to the bearded man than just his self-aware, cynical raps.
Not only is he a poet, he provides the words of encouragement for members of the group. He spits words of wisdom to younger members, “steel sharpens steel,” when talking about how they improve each other’s work.
Meta recalled his beginning with music and how he reunited with member Sleep Sinatra a couple months back, after not seeing him since childhood.
Meta mindlessly posted a freestyle rap on Instagram while sick, and as soon as Sleep noticed, Meta was inducted into Dreamscape. While he has recently started to dabble in beat-making, he concedes that “it’s pretty spartan and terrible right now.” However, Meta is determined to make it work, as he wants to produce his own sounds to go with his overflowing verses.
Eddie Branch, a wide-eyed 22 year old, said he enjoys the reactions he gets from listeners, particularly when he performs tracks off his debut album “I Met A Woman and It’s Going Well,” which was released on Sept. 7, 2018.
Branch said he hopes his planned collaboration album with Lewis will help him continue to connect with his audience.
“I feel like I’ve met everybody I need to meet in my career right now,” Branch said.
Beat maker and producer of the group, Kamakauzzy — Auzzy for short — is another veteran member of Dreamscape who joined in 2016.
Proving an obvious abundance of production knowledge, Auzzy shared his vast list of musical influences that inspire his peculiar, alternative sound, such as DJ Shadow, Flying Lotus, Vektroid and Prince.
Aiming to eventually put together a six-track EP for each rapper of Dreamscape, Auzzy said he hopes each project will reflect who they are as artists.
“None of us want to ‘win’ by ourselves,” Flannel Lewis said. He explained that not just one member could “blow-up” and forget about the rest of them, they’re really just a team that sticks together.
But long before stardom is found, Lewis said he is still coming to terms with the fact that people from his small hometown will be analyzing everything he does, judging him for trying to be something they think he isn’t.
"Writing for me is sometimes trash, when I know 75 people who know exactly everything about me are going to listen and ask, ‘What is this?,’” Lewis said. “[P]eople think you’re trying to be something you’re not just for following your dreams.”
Abe chimed in, saying Lewis shouldn’t care what his hometown thinks. He reassured Lewis that he shouldn’t be afraid to do what he really wants, and that no one else knows what he “should” be doing.
This kind of camaraderie is what keeps Dreamscape so closely knit — their goals revolve around improving each other, rather than just chasing fame — a status the group agreed is a difficult one to achieve.
The collective highlighted that the lack of a solid and consistent hip-hop scene in Lincoln is what makes gaining popularity so difficult, referring to both artists and listeners.
Meta expressed how difficult getting recognized in the music industry can be, much less for people in the Midwest who aren’t near any musical landmarks.
But he said since the whole point of making music isn’t for the recognition, it’s simply because he wants to have tracks on his discography he wants to listen to.
The group as a whole appears to be more of a label built on friendship who make music with each other rather than a typical corporate label all about business and contracts.
“These guys, right here, they’re my biggest influence … these are the type of people that push me,” Lewis said. “Literally just the stuff they put out makes me want to work harder.”