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Tornup (left) and DJ Berto G have become a force for socially conscious hip-hop in North Texas.

Torry Evan Finley may be best known as bassist/frontman of the psychedelic sludge-metal band Spacebeach. The 22-year-old Fort Worthian also is a frequent presence at the Near Southside DIY space 1919 Hemphill, booking shows and volunteering at tons of events. But since around 2013, Finley’s alter-ego has been bringing lots of noise.

“I’d always been a major hip-hop head,” Finley said.

Finley is also known as Tornup, a socially conscious rapper whose rhymes are intricate and sophisticated. And, thankfully, free of ridiculous gangsta clichés.

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Though Tornup is relatively new, he dates back to high school, when future Spacebeach member Tanner Billings convinced Finley to give rap a go. Billings and brother Trent Billings were Tornup’s “original collaborators,” Finley said. But in 2000, Finley met Alberto Aguilar while both were working at Spiral Diner, the popular vegan restaurant on the Near Southside. Aguilar, a.k.a. DJ Berto G, who was making beats on his laptop, was “like an encyclopedia of rhythms, especially Southern hip-hop,” Finley said. “I played him some more experimental stuff while we chilled together.”

Two years ago, Berto G became Tornup’s official beatmaker, and the pair began performing and recording furiously together, with Tornup’s bedroom as their official studio. Last year, they released their first EP, Medicinal Fretwork, a spare, freeform effort with an impressively deft sense of musicality emanating from Berto G’s laptop and Tornup’s densely packed lyrics. His ferocious rhymes, delivered in deep, rich, laidback tones, sounded as inspired by Allen Ginsberg and the 19th century experimental poet Gerard Manley Hopkins as by Twista and Nas, Tornup’s two biggest pure rap influences.

On his new release, Impossible Dreams (Artistic Ambitions), he explores every corner of the lyrical map through a variety of subject matter, releasing floods of rhymes  addressing racism, hip-hop rivalries, and all of the unexpected sources of creativity from everyday life. Impossible Dreams was produced and mixed by Berto G, but the dreamy, poppy sonic bedrock was provided by DJ B’Swax, a friend of the Billings brothers.

“B’Swax moved to Tennessee last year, but before he left he gave me a flash drive and said, ‘Take whichever beats you want,’ ” Finley said. “The album’s subtitled Artistic Ambitions because it’s a celebration of creativity for its own sake, of all the different possibilities that are out there when a musician sits down to make a beat or write a rap.”

Finley loves grand ideas and concept albums, which is why, as Tornup, he and Berto G are planning to release one EP per quarter, each organized around a loose theme like the Fort Worth music community (Finley is a big believer in local/underground artists supporting one another) and social justice, inspired by the writings of Angela Davis as well as the national conflicts currently playing out between police departments and communities. Meanwhile, he’ll keep working with Spacebeach and another project, Markus Work. At some point next year, he said, he’d like to merge everyone in Tornup, Spacebeach, and Markus Work into a 10-member band that cross-pollinates jazz, metal, psychedelic, and, of course, hip-hop. Finley is nothing if not ambitious.

“This is just me trying to work with as many of my friends as possible on different projects,” Finley said with a chuckle. “I want to make the music a flagship for the community, a means to communicate as many voices as possible, especially voices that don’t often get heard.”

 

[box_info]Tornup and Berto G
Fri as part of DIY Dayz w/Party Static, Biographies, Mimisku, Dome Dwellers, Animal Spirit, New Science Projects, The Fluorescents, Jack Thunder & The Road Soda, Cheap Haircuts, I Am Clark Kent, The Wife and Kids, Julia Fulbright Music, Heavy Boots at Happi Haus, 1921 Hemphill, FW. Admission is one nonperishable food item. 682-233-5DIY.[/box_info]

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