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  • Written by: Kevin Ryan

This Beat-maker Leads Denton's Fresh Hip-hop Scene

Photography by: Savannah Robertson

Rain plashes against the studio window as Mikey LaCroix looks out at the town square:

“I didn’t move to Denton to find myself,” he says. “I chose Denton because there’s a lot of inspiration.”

LaCroix performs, records and produces as Kind Beats, which he describes as “cuddle-funk,” a combination of soul, jazz, and funk laid over hip-hop beats, designed to swell with good feelings. Today, he’s hosting “Sunday Brunch,” his weekly radio show for a local station. People stroll by, hunkered. The rain falls for a bit, then wheezes into mist, then stops altogether, then pours down once again. A blank fog presses against the studio’s window, peering in at the red letters of “ON AIR”.

LaCroix leans back on the heels of his polished leather boots (brown), a blue t-shirt slung into jeans, a perfect-white hat with the letters “KB” in pink. He speaks in long, windless bursts, interwoven phrases, leaping from one idea to the next with the dexterity of a veteran East Coast rapper. “As far as jazz goes, as far as rock goes, as far as country goes, there’s so many kids and older people in this town playing music that you have a very eclectic bunch who are constantly out and about.” He turns the microphone on: “Thank you for tuning in, we’re happy to have you with us on ‘Sunday Brunch’. I’ll be playing some chill music today. We’ll call this episode The Feels.”

Outside, a rainy Sunday broods. Cold March breezes whip at the town. It’s noon, but the sun is nowhere, smothered by dark clouds. He mutes the microphone. Part of his job as DJ is reading the audience, reading their feel, and it’s a challenge to find music that is universal.

“I want to play those songs that you can play for anybody and they’ll like it, and enjoy it.’”

He wants his show to epitomize happiness.

“It’s about an experience for people, kind of like, let’s say every day, you left the house and some DJ was in the corner playing the track you wanted to hear, he’s setting you up for that, ‘Yeah, I’m walking out and I’m feeling it.’ That’s the job of a DJ: to provide an atmosphere, to provide a feeling.”

LaCroix nods as he tinkers with the soundboard’s buttons, readying for his hour-long set. The APC40 is synched to AbletonLive on his laptop. Pauses. Then smiles a little crosswise as he mentions that The Denton Arts & Music Award were held last night. “I was nominated for a DAM Award,” he says, “but I had to play at NYLO in Dallas.”

Photography by: Savannah Robertson

Toward the end of his set, a woman stumbled up to him, waving a jar full of margarita as she demanded that he play “The Wobble” by VIC, a song that repeats the word “wobble” 70 times. “I’ve already played ‘The Wobble’ twice,” he told her. “This is the last ten minutes of my set, people are starting to clear out. People are leaving. I’m trying to vibe what’s going on for everybody.”

She jabbed back with her oversized cocktail—$2,000-worth of equipment in her spill zone—then frowned in confusion: “Are you sure you’re a DJ? You don’t dress like a DJ. Like, you don’t even look like a DJ.” He stared back at her, half-amused by the irony of it all: Only an hour earlier, he’d been awarded the DAM Award for Best DJ, but he wasn’t able to accept it in person because he had a DJ gig.

LaCroix quits talking abruptly to focus on perfecting the sound levels, the camera tilt.

“What you have here in Denton is history,” he says. “And we might not even pay attention to the nostalgia that these buildings create. But if all these were these stucco buildings, it wouldn’t have the same feel. We wouldn’t have the same vibe.”

He nods into the pulse of the song as he twists knobs and pecks at buttons. The song glides along behind him as he talks. “I think a lot of times we forget that architecture can really affect the way that we feel in an area. Architecture and surroundings can create a lot of the way we feel,” he says. “So this town—or this city or whatever you want to call it—for me, literally created Kind Beats.”

He stares down at the flashing pads, glimpsing over occasionally to look at my eyes, quickly, the way actors do when they pretend to drive: “I make this music because I like the way that I feel to be here—especially in the summer: people are out and about, they’re laughing, there’s families, people having a good time, they’re remembering why it’s fun to be alive. And you’re surrounded by that all the time.”

A few weeks later, I mention LaCroix to Jarrod Gideon, the sound engineer at Andy’s Bar & Grill, and he says, “You mean Kind Beats?” From his seat in the nooked porch, clouded by cigarette smoke, Gideon faces out at the pale sunlight. “I look at what he does more from the producer aspect more than the beat.”

Which is interesting, because Gideon is a drummer, although he plays various instruments with three bands: The Faps, a punk band; Sergio y Compadres, a reggae/hip-hop collective; and Sleezus and the Latter Day Taints, a thrash metal band. “Kind Beats is good at picking up the right sound that’s supposed to go with the other sound.” An azure breeze topples past the beige-bricked house on the East side of town. A kick drum pedal gathers moss by the trashcan in the driveway.

Photography by: Savannah Robertson

“A lot of times when I hear other people’s beats, it seems like they don’t have a good grasp on how the mix needs to be and how things are going to interact with each other, sonically.”

It’s 1:00 a.m., at Andy’s Bar & Grill, Saturday, mid-February, the album release party of the new Kind Beats album: Music to Cuddle To: Vol. II and everyone is spellbound, transfixed by Kind Beats as he hunches over the flashing green and pink and yellow pads of an APC40-MK2, his hands like feverish propellers dicing through fog. His head bobs to the melody, to the beat.

Beside him, Andrew Waldie prods at the coils of a saxophone.

The music is loud. The perfume of beer hangs like a mist, and Kind Beats starts rapping, a surge of percussive language.:

“Too long—singin' songs, sittin' back, so here we go . . . Shout out to Andy’s, for hosting me a show, shout-out to the people for payin’ five bucks, you know. I hope you like the flow, and I hope you like the beats, and people up in here they call me Kind Beats.”

He nods, he nods, he smiles, he nods—a red shock of hair scattered through his hat. He steps back, then paces forward, leans into pulsating light, his fingers leaping from pad to pad just as the horn blast cascades into a snare hit. A sweeping, intermittent sound.

A laidback celebration.


Instagram: @kindbeats


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