Local musicians take note: If you aren’t selling your music, you either don’t know your market or aren’t hustling hard enough. That’s a lesson I learned after spending an hour with Immortal Soldierz, a local rap duo who tour more than anyone else, have more video views than any local artist not named Leon Bridges, and have sold more merch out of backpacks and the trunks of cars than anyone not named Phil Knight. Immortal Soldierz’ street hustle has created a career that’s as enviable as it is successful. Making and selling music is the only job the Soldierz do, and they’ve been doing it for almost 20 years.
Immortal Soldierz were first profiled in the Weekly in 2013, interviewed at the time in their studio based in the North Fort Worth apartment of Hector “Renizance” Falcone. More recently, I caught up with him and his partner-in-rhyme Salvador “Scotty B” Vasilio at his Richland Hills apartment. His place is neat and tidy, the kind of crib your sweet little grandma might live in, rather than a huge dude with a shaved head, a bushy beard, and tattoos on his hands, arms, and neck.
Though his beard isn’t as thick as Scotty’s, Renizance’s long hair and athletic wear gives him the appearance of a stoner metal dude who is really into basketball. He was clad in sportswear of his own design (part of an apparel label he owns called G Class Clothing) and comfortably relaxed in Scotty B’s recliner. To put it bluntly, they are masters of self-promotion, a skill born from selling CDs in gas station parking lots. But even before that, they were both putting themselves out there as artists when they were teenagers in the 1990s via an inventive use of voicemails.
“You’d dial the first three numbers and make up the last four, and you’d come to a girl’s greeting, you leave her a little message, she’d hit you back on your voicemail,” Scotty said. “And a lot of rappers figured out they could battle over voicemails.
“You’d change your greeting to get to the next flow, going against the other dude,” he continued. “Because everyone else is calling in to hear it. And that’s how we met.”
Word of Renizance’s skills got to former Dallas Cowboys cornerback Kevin Smith, who quickly signed him to Puppy Dog records. Smith’s connections as a famous athlete got the teenaged Renizance tons of incredible opening gigs supporting many of the ’90s’ heaviest hit makers – Bone Thugs, UGK, Scarface, and Mystikal to name a few. But when Smith retired, he shuttered his label and the studio. Renizance was broke, lacking an outlet for his music, and with his first son on the way. So he got creative.
“I got a 10-pack of CD-Rs, burned ’em, and sold ’em at the 7-Eleven on Main Street, right across from the Jack In the Box,” he said.
He made $100 in 15 minutes.
“And with that profit, I bought me a 30-pack and did the same thing,” he said. “I stayed out there for a couple hours and made 300 bucks.”
Back then, Immortal Soldierz were a three-piece, including a rapper named DaVinci and another named Lil Ray.
“We pushed this one album, Without Warning, from 2000 to 2003… I had a street team of eight guys,” said Renizance.
Scotty B started out as a street team member.
“I was working for Fort Worth Water Department back then, and I was making more money on the weekends selling CDs than I was at my city job,” he said.
When DaVinci and Lil Ray parted ways with Renizance, Scotty B joined up in 2005. The two have been at it ever since. To say that they are prolific is like saying that lava is warm. Renizance said he counted their releases recently and figured out that their label, Unforgiven Records, has released 24 projects.
“There are 17 Immortal Soldierz releases, plus my solo album, and then, like, six other things for other artists, not to mention Scotty’s upcoming solo project, and another one I’m working on.” Renizance said.
The most recent release, The Collabo Sessions, which features guest spots from locals GT Garza, Twisted Insane, and Go Yayo, debuted in March. It’s already grabbing attention in the local rap scene. Renizance says that the owner of the Hookup, the hip hop apparel store inside La Gran Plaza, told him it outsold the Rick Ross album that came out the same week.
While Renizance and Scotty B are certainly pleased with their new jams’ success, they’re more thrilled about their upcoming Cinco de Mayo show at Tomcats West. As big as they are in Fort Worth, they hardly ever play here.
“We do a lot of out-of-town stuff more than in-town,” Scotty B said. “This May 5 show is going to be the first hometown show in five years.”
Immortal Soldierz: Unforgiven Live Homecoming Show, Fri w/ Luni Mofo, Jon Jon Jimenez, and Lil Sick at Tomcats West. 3137 Alta Mere, FW. $15. 817-570-9966