The two guys in Fort Worth’s Immortal Soldierz still make their living the old-fashioned way. Rappers Salvador “Scotty Boy” Vasilio and Hector “Renizance” Falcone call their business model The Hustle: They swagger up to strangers in parking lots — especially folks who look like they might like rap music — and strike up a conversation, trying to sell CDs.
“I could be going to the grocery store to get some milk for the kids,” said Scotty Boy, a father of four, “and if I see somebody who looks like they like rap, I’m going to hit them up.”
Bold and antiquated as it may seem, the strategy has helped Scotty Boy and Renizance sell thousands of CDs over the past decade or so, dating back to the group’s first record, a five-song eponymous EP compiled around 2000 and featuring material from around 1997.
The pair’s precise rapid-fire rhymes and crisp, expensive-sounding beats also probably helped move some product. The two rappers in their early 30s make their livings off music, and a couple of years ago they co-founded a label. Unforgiven Records’ roster includes Immortal Soldierz and three other artists. Over the years, Renizance and Scotty Boy have collaborated on tracks with Screwston heavyweights Lil’ Flip and Slim Thug and also have shared the mic with two guys from Three 6 Mafia: Koopsta Knicca and Lord Infamous.
Renizance and Scotty Boy are prolific. In 2012 alone, they dropped four albums, including 810.G.Musik, a two-volume collaboration with legendary Fort Worth rappers 6Two and Twisted Black. That puts the tally at a dozen full-length CDs in about as many years. Scotty Boy and Renizance also regularly perform across the city and state.
Music videos have also been vital to the group’s popularity. One of Immortal Soldierz’ most recent vids is also one of their best. “Whats Hannin” –– uploaded last April but already viewed more than 100,000 times –– features the two rappers plus frequent collaborator Sanchez, another Fort Worth artist, creeping along urban streets in an ice cream truck, their suspicious demeanor suggesting drugs. Police raid the van only to find boxes of CDs.
The concept occurred to the guys a few years ago, right after they’d been pulled over by a Fort Worth police officer near a gas station where they’d been slinging discs. The rappers said the cop, eyeing their tattoos and shaved heads, asked to search the vehicle. He found nothing but hundreds of freshly shrink-wrapped CDs.
Immortal Soldierz’ headquarters is Renizance’s home studio in his North Fort Worth apartment, where the guys pump out beats that sound much more finely produced than what you would expect from a home operation. Think: splashy Swishahouse pulse with hooky West Coast-style refrains interspersed with Twista-style speed-spitting.
Renizance’s workstation includes a desktop computer wired to a microphone and a CD-burning tower that mints Unforgiven albums 11 at a time. A shrink-wrapper for the jewel boxes sits on the floor nearby. The setup keeps the label’s manufacturing needs almost entirely in-house.
Renizance, who co-founded the group in the mid-1990s, now says he never would have guessed back then that today he’d be operating his own mini music empire from an apartment. Fifteen years ago, other people handled most of that background business for him and his original bandmate, DaVinci, who left for personal reasons about six years later. Not long after getting together, the two long-time friends signed on with Puppy Dog Records, an independent label owned by then-Dallas Cowboys cornerback Kevin Smith. Puppy Dog booked shows and handled business. Immortal Soldierz played shows all over Texas, opening for acts as critically acclaimed as Scarface and Naughty by Nature and as popular as Three 6 Mafia, Mystikal, and Southpark Mexicans. All that Smith asked of Immortal Soldierz was that they promote themselves when possible and perform when asked. In 2000 Smith retired and shuttered the label.
“Up until that point, when you’ve got a manager and a label guy booking your shows, you kind of get spoiled,” Renizance said. “My intention was, I never wanted to start a label. Back then, I didn’t produce, but the stuff that life throws at you, either you’re going to adapt or you’re going to fucking die. Survival of the fittest. When the label shut down, I had to do some soul searching. I was like, ‘You know what? I can start my own label.’ ”
Proceeds from early CD sales went directly back into production and getting the label off the ground.
DaVinci slowly withdrew from rapping around the time Renizance was plunging deeper into it. After buckling down to finish Dollarz and Cents, around 2005, Renizance took on as a bandmate long-time friend Michael “Young Mess” Meddellin, who would stick around only until about 2008. Scotty Boy, a friend of Renizance’s from high school who until that point had worked only on the group’s street team, also officially joined the group around 2005.
An Immortal Soldierz following began to grow locally, at first mostly among Hispanics, said Jonathan Jimenez, whose social circle at Fossil Ridge High School discovered Immortal Soldierz before his graduation in 2005.
“I remember the first time I met them,” said Jimenez, 25, now a rapper on Unforgiven who goes by Jon Jon. “It was at a gas station. I was star-struck because I was a fan in high school.”
Jon Jon believes 2008’s Welcome to tha Gas Chamber hoisted Immortal Soldierz from the status of a somewhat obscure local act to a regional force.
CD sales tend to come easier today, Renizance said, now that there’s a reliable fan base in place. “It’s a lot more effortless to get rid of CDs,” Scotty Boy added with a chuckle. “Now people come to me looking to buy them.”
In addition to the four albums that Unforgiven released in 2012, the most recent being December’s Digital Dope 2, Immortal Soldierz and their crew continue to perform around town, at a clip of about a show a month. They’ve also booked gigs in Austin and Oklahoma City.
The Soldierz are everywhere, including The Cloud. Amazon, iTunes, CD Baby, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter –– you name it, Immortal Soldierz are there. Despite their online presence, Renizance and Scotty Boy agreed, the money continues to come primarily from The Hustle.
But aren’t CDs out of style?
“Hell, no,” Renizance said. “You know who says that? Artists who can’t sell CDs.”