The Story behind Tubby & Friends
Words / James "Tubby" Storlie
"A man's friendships are one of the best measures of his worth."
— Charles Darwin
On February 6, 2016, I held a hip-hop event in my hometown of Fairbanks. It was the first event I'd thrown in a few years—I can't recall exactly how long it had been, but it was longer than it should have been. I decided to invite a bunch of local acts, people I had developed relationships with over the years, as well as local acts that I had become a fan of. I couldn't come up with anything super catchy, so I decided to just call it "Tubby & Friends." It was simple; it was clean. And I felt like the word "Friends" gave it a peaceful, comforting vibe, which the local rap community definitely needed.
Over the last several years the Alaska hip-hop community has truly blossomed. The amount of talent, ambition, vision and creativity has multiplied tenfold since 1998, back when I dove into this local rap scene head first, with no direction or idea of what the fuck I was doing. Not to mention, there was no one to really look at and study other than a couple of guys just getting their feet wet. It's been truly crazy for me—being in the position I'm in and being fortunate enough to watch this thing grow from it's infancy—to see how far we've come.
So, I did this show back in February of 2016 and, needless to say, it was a great success. We did it at this popular lounge/hippie bar in Fairbanks called The Marlin, which is known for having bands play there regularly. According to the manager at that time, this show was the second biggest night they've ever had in their history, which meant a lot to me because I'm aware of the bands that have played there, many of which are great bands who are known to bring a packed house. I also brought a wide range of different hip-hop acts. From the hipsters to the backpack emcees to the hood, street rappers. I was initially curious as to how they would all mesh and coexist at the same venue all performing back-to-back. They meshed perfectly. Everyone got along wonderfully and everyone brought their A game. I knew then I was onto something.
We did another "Tubby & Friends" event in Denali Park in June, at the Salmon Bake. The Salmon Bake is a notorious Alaskan hotspot when it comes to partying in the summer. Packed house, great time, not a single negative incident. Then we did an outdoor show at The Boatel a month later, in Fairbanks. Packed house, no incidents. Then another one, back at The Marlin, a couple months after that. Same thing. Another dope showcase with zero incidents and nothing but happy patrons, staff and performers. Multiple successful events, events that consisted of multiple performers with personalities, eccentricities and egos. My job is to entertain everyone while doing my best to keep all of these strong personalities happy and at ease.
It's not always easy. I have to thank guys like Duckman, Darius, Alaska Redd, Bishop Slice, Starbuks, Muldoon Manny, Ben Swann, Tayy Tarantino, Alaska Boi, Rico G The Mayor, Josh Boots, Keezy, Fleetwood Malone, Lee Jones, Tony Taylor, King Coo, DJs Polo, Gre and Tico for their professionalism and willingness to make this work. It couldn't have happened without everyone on board and for that I'm grateful.
A friend of mine, DJ Purp of Demolition DJs, is always brutally honest with me. He's a person whose insight and opinion, when it comes to hip-hop and my brand, I value. He doesn't pull any punches. "This Tubby & Friends thing will be a part of your legacy," he told me. And that stuck with me. I knew I had to keep this thing going and help build and cultivate the scene and culture I've spent the majority of my life obsessing over. It just makes sense.
We just did our first T&F show of the year, with Showdown Productions, less than two weeks ago at Williwaw—an Anchorage venue I've performed at before and was eager to throw an event at. I was extremely pleased at the overall outcome. There was a nice crowd, great sets by all the performers and no negative incidents. I fully intend to keep that consistency as we go into this year's showcase season.
Each T&F show has a positive, welcoming, upbeat vibe. And each show is different. I switch up the line-up at each show. This year each show will have a different headlining act. We already have specific venues booked with headlining themes, such as a July 8 show in Denali Park that will be headlined by Tayy Tarantino and Bad Agenda, as well as a Sky Division headlined event in Anchorage. I'll announce the upcoming event along with the complete statewide tour schedule in the weeks to come.
I've been rapping a long time. I'm sure I'll be making music forever, but I don't know how much longer I'll actually be performing rap songs live. One thing I do know, though, is that I will always love this local rap shit. I got nothing but love for all the people in it (even you, Snarley). I'll always want my hand in it and I'll always want to contribute to it. Tubby & Friends is my latest and could very well end up being, biggest contribution yet.