Localized: Better Taste Bureau
If hip-hop in Salt Lake is something you’ve never experienced, look no further than April’s Localized, sponsored by Uinta Brewing Co., KRCL 90.9 FM and Spilt Ink SLC. This month’s lineup is solid through and through, starting with Swell Merchants and the Dine Krew, who will lay some groovy tracks down to get you hyped for Better Taste Bureau. You might just find yourself jumping up and down to their fresh flow. As always, $5 gets you in, so load up the van and get down to Urban Lounge, Saturday, April 18 at 10 p.m.
Take a look at this clean-cut trio, then listen to one of their tracks and allow yourself a double take. Don’t let their sweaters and charming smiles fool you into thinking they’re a folk-pop Imagine Dragons band. In truth, these guys are the sole proprietors of a business that they’ve savvily built out of crafting beats and rhymes. What began as a creative endeavor for kicks as teenagers is now something right on the cusp of successful hobby and potential career. Though their energy and smarts are actively pushing them forward, they make entrepreneurship look easy as bumping along to a Mos Def song on a hot summer day—and it seems unlikely that they’ll do anything less than keep it up.
Having been together for about five years, Better Taste Bureau has achieved an impressive list of accomplishments, from winning awards to filling up enormous rooms full of fans. In 2013, after deciding on a name change— they were formerly known as Hurris & Gig—BTB won U92’s Homegrown Hip-Hop contest, which allowed them to headline at U92’s Summer Jam and open for Tygo and A$AP Rocky, among others. They have continued to sell out local shows and have released music videos to complement their studio albums, featuring other local artists such as Luna Lune and Solarsuit. Opportunities continued to flow as their lyrics and beats did—they won City Weekly’s “Rap Group of the Year,” played alongside Grieves and, perhaps most incredibly, were asked to open for De La Soul as part of SLC’s Twilight Concert Series. As they stood in the wings next to some of the most well-recognized and respected musicians in the genre, they knew they had a good thing going. Rapper Ben Harris sums it up nicely: “We’re blessed,” he says.
Better Taste Bureau make hip-hop that has trap qualities without being too heavy to access. Mason Brewer’s background as an indie/electronic producer bleeds through to the tracks, giving them a unique quality that is controlled and clean. Many of their songs seem to invite audience participation, such as “Rise,” which asks everyone to stand up, as the title suggests. The members of Better Taste Bureau all generally enjoy the same artists and collectively draw inspiration from Childish Gambino, Lupe Fiasco and Kendrick Lamar, though their individual tastes and preferences make the process of collaborating more dynamic. For example, Shaun Bussard digs on musical scores, which helps when the crew needs to enrich a track with dramatic effect, while Brewer maintains that you can’t go wrong with Phantogram. Harris isn’t afraid to say, “Today, in the car, I listened to some oldies on KRCL and X96, and then the new Taylor Swift album.”
While the group may have had plenty of good fortune thrown their way, what sets them apart is the momentum they put toward their music—in addition to genuine talent, of course. Bussard says, “Besides the Church and skiing, what is the culture here? It takes people who actually care about the city to build it up, and though it’s difficult to rewrite the rulebook, it’s fun and it’s exciting.” By pushing themselves to make a certifiable name for Better Taste Bureau, they are, in turn, making a name for hip-hop in their hometown. Brewer says, “No one thinks about Salt Lake hip-hop and not for no reason. People look outward of Utah for inspiration.” Harris says, “We’re chipping away at barriers, and it’s motivating.”
In the title track from their latest release, Outliers, they chant, “Where you from? / Don’t know that place / Heard it one too many times.” Better Taste Bureau hopes that if they continue to play alongside legends and locals alike, they’ll gain enough of a fanbase to fill up a venue in any state—where they’ll proudly announce that they are from an underrated place called Salt Lake City. Despite having played for crowds of thousands, they keep in mind quality over quantity. Harris says, “Playing Kilby are some of our favorite shows because you have 100 people who really care.”
Keeping up with their past success, Better Taste Bureau have a lineup of shows on the books for the coming spring, including opening for satirical rapper Lil Dicky at The Complex. It’s likely they’ll be releasing new music and videos soon.