Stephon Burns is a Westover High School graduate and an old school type hip-hop artist.
ALBANY — Stephon Burns’s brand of old-school hip-hop may have been relegated to the underground among Southwest Georgia music fans, but the unassuming thirtysomething MC is something of a legend in ... Romania?
Thanks to MySpace and Burns’s No. 1 supporter, Bonta “Mad Kid” Alexander, the artist’s four self-produced albums and various other mixtapes have gone over in a big way in the land of vampires.
“Mad Kid found me on MySpace and reached out to me,” Burns, who is currently working in retail while he produces his music, said of his unique claim to fame. “He’s done everything he could to get me out over there, and he’s told me all the kids are playing my music in Romania. They’re calling me a legend over there.
“I certainly wouldn’t mind getting to play there at some point.”
Until that time, Burns and his “Rap Team” collective — which includes Mad Kid, Charles “TO” Colbert, Jacob “KJP” Peters, “Toom Hitleh” and “Ziggy” — will concentrate on the hundreds of songs they’ve produced that populate the urban mixtape of the region’s hip-hop underground. Since he got a relatively late start at the music game, in 1999 when he was in his late 20s, Burns has self-released four proper albums and dozens of mixtapes.
Along with 2005’s “I’m Here,” 2006’s “Money and Violence,” 2007’s “That Albany Boy” and 2010’s “Certified Stud,” Burns has collected dozens of songs onto mixtapes that have circulated among underground fans, the ones who don’t get their street preaching from the likes of Rhianna and Chris Brown. One of his songs, in fact, is included on a compilation that includes such rap/hip-hop luminaries as Dr. Dre, 50 Cent, Eminem, Kanye West, Jay-Z and others.
“I don’t go much for the rap that focuses on material things,” Burns, a Westover High School graduate, said. “I’m into that old-school rap of artists like Dr. Dre and Nas. They’re the ones who inspired me to start making music.”
Burns promises that his next album, due out in April and titled “Cold-Blooded Assassin,” will be his best work yet.
“I’ve put a lot of hard work into it,” he said. “I did little things when I was younger, but it took a while for things to really click for me. Now that they have, all of that hard work is starting to pay off.”
One of Burns’s songs (“Ghetto World”) has been featured in the independently produced film “Karma,” and his father, Melton Luster, managed to get a copy of one of Burns’s mixtapes to rapper 50 Cent.
“My father’s friend told him 50 Cent loved the CD, so something might come of that,” Burns said. “I don’t do music for the mainstream, but I wouldn’t mind if some of my music made it to the mainstream. It might be nice to see what that’s like. ... But I’m not going to change who I am.”
Downloads of Burns’s music are available at MySpace/Stephon Burns, at reverb nation and on YouTube, while his music can be heard on IM Radio, which plays in 75 countries, and I(heart)Radio.
While Burns and his crew have spent more than a decade toiling in the relative obscurity of the music underground, they’re not dissuaded. Their work, after all, is a labor of love.
“I’ll keep doing what I do,” Burns said. “It’s not necessarily about what someone else calls successful; it’s what we get from this. I think anyone who creates art, though, wants to make a lasting mark.”
And if fickle American music fans don’t get on board? Well, there’s always Romania.