In 2018, I dropped my last full-length project, “Tragic H3RO”. It was an album I was infinitely proud of, something where I felt I was finally starting to come into my own as an artist. From there, music life got pretty interesting. I made some connections with some really dope people and became a part of the FiveSe7en Collective. Me and my friends formed a band and started performing as H3RO and the Villains. I even moved to a new City, and am now a proud resident of Greenville, SC. All that being said, I had plenty of things I wanted to say for a new project, but couldn’t pinpoint the exact direction I wanted to go with it. After a false start with a Dragon Ball Z-inspired musical/album, I found my footing in the early developments of what became Between the Panels II, and could not be happier with the result of both patience and hard work from my team of people that were there to help me every step of the way and myself. So this hidden page is one BIG THANK YOU…and a means to give credit to those that helped make this thing possible. Get Ready.
Cover Art by: Jonathan Edwards @JohnnyStorm803
“This is the End. My Only Friend, the End”—The Doors
Let’s Start with the stoic, stone-faced killer here whom I’ve been working for an entire decade with. Uzi and I met in 2010-2011 when my dad brought me to a studio on rosewood called Lavish entertainment. Not long after finishing my first project with these guys, “The Edge Of The Unknown”, My friend Alex and I started to work more closely with Uzi on a joint project we were creating together under the moniker YouNJustUs. What was originally supposed to just be a question on why their was so much noise in a specific beat we had on the album ended up in us recorded with Uzi and Alex even becoming Uzi’s assistant. Thus, “Heroes Live in a Gray Area” was born.
It’s important that I take time to recognize that the world of the “Gray Area” was jointly imagined with another important part of this musical journey of mine, Alex “Lite” Gray. Who knew that working on that project all that time ago would still be something that is used as the center for my creative process almost a decade later? This project was released in 2012, and is what got me signed as a recording artist as part of Lavish Entertainment. With all these ideas bouncing left and right in my brain, I was excited to have a canvas to paint on and guys like these to help me reach for my dreams. It’s important to note that before we got to the point that I even felt I was worthy of that help, I put out an album that ultimately felt like I didn’t give my all, the first under the label which was “SuperH3RO”.
Don’t get me wrong: this 2013 project is one that I feel is critical to the story as well. I was able to work with Artists I can’t believe I was privileged to, from my own hometown hero Emcees in PrimeTime and Ben G, to vocals from a good friend RyattFienix, and even early production from the legendary Supah Mario, who now produces for Drake. The issue was that when I created this album, I realized that I made one critical error— I was making songs that I thought people wanted to hear, and didn’t stop to really understand the type of music I wanted to make. So the search for my identity as an artist ran for two years until I decided in 2015 to bring back our “Gray Area” theme, and told the Solo story of H3RO as it picked up from there. This was the Creation of “Between the Panels”.
I felt like I had finally found my calling when doing the music on this album. So much so, that I was calling it my debut “Album” as an underground artist and someone who put out 10+ Mixtapes. It was amazing that I was able to work with my friend Brian Means on all the artwork he did to paint the picture, and it was all spurred from a quote heard in the Rainn Wilson/Ellen Page Movie , Super . ANYWAY. I said all that to say there is a history to this theme that dates back very far, which explains why when you hear songs on the first track played over the radio, you initially hear a song from HLIAGA and the two from the Original Between the Panels . Tragic H3RO, while inspired by and telling the story of the same H3RO from BTP, is non canonical and therefore just funny that we chose put a song from it as the last song of the intro, though if copyright would’ve let me get away with the original idea (I posted the audio as the first thing on this page) we wouldn’t have had to get that creative with it. But it’s here now. And there’s no use crying over it. I’d still be tinkering with it today if I didn’t set myself a clear deadline.
Back to Uzi. This guy has tirelessly had to listen to my reworks, my re-records, my self doubt, my rants, along with dealing with my entire inability to keep my mask over my nose during the middle of a global pandemic—all that, and he STILL helped me make this possible. I love you for that, my guy. ❤️ I honestly feel like this album is equal parts him as it is me at this point, so he gets the spotlight here and it’s well deserved. Make sure you go to Orpheus Sounds it you want the same mix quality that I won’t accept less than, and then remember Cory Plaugh is the mastermind behind the…well, master. LETS BREAK THESE DOWN SONG BY SONG:
1. The End(tro)?
While most of those voices are me, a good friend of mine was willing to come record some audio of her voice for this intro which I DESPERATELY needed someone to play the role of the end of the world reporter. Turns out Candice Johnson was exactly what I needed ❤️. She has been the heartbeat of our local scene for a while now and we occasionally have some pretty deep convos on the state of hip hop in Columbia, something I wouldn’t trade for anything. She helped me decide to pick this intro, which keep in mind changed 3 times before I stuck with an idea—the original idea was going to be H3RO running out of the game show mentioned on the original BTP album. Thank you Candice for helping get the theme for the end started off right. 🙌🏾
2. Can I Get Away?
This song was part of that original batch that helped shape the direction of the project. When I brought Uzi the boom bap lyrics and the hook and showed him I wanted to sing to bring the emotion, he immediately knew what to do sound wise. It’s the first time I ever experimented with auto tune, and while it doesn’t pop up anywhere else on the project, I felt it was a very fitting beginning to the album. Shoutout to Dia Del Trus, a vocalist I had the pleasure of working with who helped to give some spice to many many songs on the project, along with a long time collaborator and brother of mine, Christou, who added some depth to the hook as well.
3. The H3RO we Deserve
Produced by 4Klassix. Uzi went to work making it feel big AF. The James Gordon line at the end of the Dark Knight, “He’s the hero Gotham deserves, but not the one it needs right now. So we’ll hunt him. Because he can take it. Because he’s not our hero. He’s a silent guardian. A watchful protector.” that’s me AF. 🤪
4. Sky is Falling Ft. Kate Vera
Working with Kate Vera was definitely one of my favorite moments on the project, and seeing how the song came to fruition was pretty dope. I told her I had a song I heard her on 3 years ago, and that was an early prototype of the song “The Sky is Falling”. When we finally got in the studio with it, I gave her autonomy and control over how the hook would come out—proving ONCE AGAIN I am a better rapper than a song-writer lol. But working with her to find out what fit the theme and how to best accent certain parts of the song just further showcased her talent and showed me how lucky I was to have her on the song.
Go check out one of her latest videos here:
5. My Soliloquy
So this song doesn’t feature anybody, but it definitely has a lot to do with my family and their impact on the album. Without getting into too many details, we’ve had a lot of great things happen and been battling all at the same time. My Dog passed in March 2021 that we had for 15 years, and it was a very emotional time for me. I don’t have any songs dedicated to his memory on this album, but my love for this guy was not matched and he’s been my inspiration in so many ways for years. My mom and my dad both loved him, even through their divorce, and my sister would always send me videos and pictures of him doing wiener dog things. I miss him. And he was an important member of my family, bringing to the point where I want to thank my family. My mom, my dad, my sister, and my dog kept me grounded while also allowing me the ability to be myself and create things I wanted to. I love you all for it. And I apologize that sometimes I seem distant, mostly because I’m out here trying to make a name for myself so I can make you all proud. 🥺 Sometimes my emotions were bright and hopeful, and songs like this were born. Other times, they were darker. Which carries into the next song…
6. Vicious Cycle
Shoutout again to my bro Christou for adding the ominous vocals, with Uzi making that executive decision after we recorded it and played it over and over saying “it’s missing something”. You certainly knew. To Dia and PATx for being there for me when this song was in its infancy, helping to create the chant (and Pat for screaming even though he didn’t want to lmaooo). This is the dark one. It’s about being stuck in a rut, stuck with depression, feeling like there’s no way out—both on a personal level and on a corporate America scale. My bro J57 told me after hearing the project that this one gave him chills, and that’s exactly what we were going for. 🔥
7. Lil Y.A.D.Y. [You Ain’t Dead Yet] ft. PATx
I still remember rapping this song to PATx one night in front of Tapps, telling him I wanted him on this song. Telling him the theme of me playing the role of two rappers, representing hip hop today, and him coming back as basically the lawyer to try and get the Rapper acquitted for his trials, on some 69 sh**. That kid is pure creative, and one of the most brilliant minds I’ve ever met (Don’t tell him I said that, his head is big enough). From the song to the first music video release of the album, 2020 might’ve been a challenging year but it absolutely gave me one of my favorite releases ever when this one launched. So grateful to everyone who helped with the video shoot, and to PATx for letting me stew on the song and coming back again and again to add more and more layers. I think it turned out pretty well. Also, show my brother some love on his releases as well:
8. Play The Ocarina Ft. XV & Katera
I’m sure you’re wondering at this point where this Zelda theme comes to a head, right? This labor of love here has SOOOOO many stories around it, from me messaging XV because I was trying to buy the beat to THIS SONG from him, and him actually getting back to me 💀 . I was SHOCKED. I probably ran around my room screaming. This song was rewritten, redone, and ultimately removed from the album and THEN CAME XV TO RESURRECT IT FROM THE ASHES. I need y’all to understand—Zero Heroes was a mixtape of his I heard back in 2011 that made me almost want to quit rapping. He was and still is a lethal MC. Had J Cole production on it, a Kendrick feature, Pusha T, and Patrick stump from Fall out Boy. AND HE RAPPED ABOUT NERDY SH** like me. Even rapped over a beat that Sampled kingdom hearts “My Sanctuary”. Back then, I almost wanted to cry because I felt the entire theme I was molding? It’s been done before. I’m not original, I’m a copycat, and I’m not on his level. I wish someone could’ve told rookie Rapper H3RO back then that one day I’d share a song with him. ❤️ I’m sure this is a story I will tell more in the future, but I had to make sure I brought my A game to match wits on his level. I also had help from a great many Columbia SC vocalists, but the lead is one of my favorite collaborators, Katera. She brought the smooth soul vocals needed to counter my nerd core flow, and ultimately this resulted in one of my clear standout favorites from the project and that I’ve ever been able to create period. Listen to my friends as well when you get a chance.
9. You Vs. Me Vs. Them
Surprise! It’s not You Vs. Me Vs. Them. It’s Just Us. Or JustUs, YouNJustUs. Clever right? So ends the tale of why I even created this story to begin with. This fool was supposed to release his album after I released between the panels in 2015 so we could rejoin on a reunion YouNJustUs album…it’s not out of the cards, but I just figured y’all needed to know that with Alex now brought back into the timeline, the story can technically* resolve. Will it though? We’ll see. What I do know is, this guy has been in my corner since 2009. He was with me when we met Uzi. I’ve roomed with him for half a decade, if not more, and that brotherly bond has only blossomed. You’ve made me a better hook writer, and a MASTER debater 😂 because you NEVER fail to argue your point, but through it all I wouldn’t change our experiences for anything in the world bro❤️…and if not for you pushing me at times where I didn’t really want to be pushed, I don’t think I would’ve grown musically enough to be where I am today. I’m grateful for that and that you still provide me with that honest feedback that can sometimes be tough for me to take but is always heard. Glad we got this one done and can’t wait for you to release your album coming up soon. Check out his video here:
10. OK, Sayonara ft. Christou
Is this the end of H3RO 😏? This finale to the story side of the album presents none other than Christou again, who might I add is quite possibly my most frequent collaborator that I’ve had the pleasure of working with. This man is a Legend, and has been helping me understand the concept of steel sharpening steel for half a decade now—in fact, being introduced to Christou was one of the greatest things to come out of my label relationships and a big change in my sound overall. Christou has been like a big brother to me ever since, putting me on game and helping me to better understand the hidden songwriting abilities I have. I like to say I write 99.99% of my bars and even hooks, but mostly because I don’t trust the feel that others bring—Christou is that .01% and the only person I trust more than myself with it. He’s that good. And he deserves nothing but your respect and attention as he continues to build his empire and be a King 👑. Check out my bro’s work below.
11. PARTY HARD ft. Cypher T
And here I am, chilling with my DJ and brother, DJ Matty Matt and my Expert Menaces Cohort, Cypher T. He also starred in a movie that I played a bit part in (I played myself 😌) in my good friend Nick Clay’s movie, “PARTY HARD”. I love all of these talented guys to death, and they’ve been supporting me for years, tearing up shows from Columbia to Charleston and Nick recording our shenanigans all the way back to Between the Panels angst track, No Rules. Watch the movie to see Ty Live! (Also peep the music video Nick let me get dressed up in to show I have class sometimes) (((we got some more videos in the vault coming soon too 👀)))
Yeah yeah yeah. I’m a hopeless romantic, I know. But shoutout to Kaitlin Dia for starring in this music video and being a super forgiving scene partner as I awkwardly slipped fell and through things at her. 💀. Mind over Matter Films made majority of my videos, including this one. So this one goes out to William Huang. When he’s not hunting for graphics cards, he’s a monster behind the camera. 👹 He’s also a good friend of mine who’s helped make me who I am. So thank you. Until I die, my success is your success friend.
13. Runaway [Last SuperH3RO Theme Song] Ft. Death Ray Robin
And last but certainly not least, the final song, featuring one of my new favorite artist, and Uzi’s as well. Death Ray Robin brought me gummy bears to our first studio session together…having no idea that’s literally my favorite candy and CLEARLY MAKING TOO GOOD OF A FIRST IMPRESSION. I’ve watched her tear up shows with one of my mentors, FatRat Da Czar, and knew she had an amazing voice before we did work, but was ecstatic that we were able to create this song, and get some backing vocals for a few others as well. She is a captivating performer and working with Uzi now, I have zero doubts she will shoot for the stars and land among them with the talent she brings to the table. Go check out my friend performing live hand get one of her cool stickers. 🤩
And that, my friends, is my breakdown song by song. The producers will be revealed at a later date. 👀 but if you read this far, I want to thank you as well. This project was made with love and reflects so much of my mind state for the past few years that I have developed an unhealthy attachment to many of these songs. They are my gift to you. Please, take care of the vibes they bring you. And express yourself. Music is my outlet, has been and always will be—even IF this is the last full length project you hear from me. Take care of your mental health. Check in on your friends, make sure they are good. Be kind to strangers. And wear a mask. 😉 I’d like to come perform this for y’all in the future, no matter what city you are from. Please tell your friends about me, and help me make this dream a reality. You guys are my H3ROs. ❤️
final thank yous. My Artist for the Album Cover, Jonathan Edwards, killed it. Nailed the theme and mixed some Akira and his own personal twang. Been a fan of his for years, love how everything happens when it needs to.
My artist previously, whom I love for giving life to H3RO for 10 years. ❤️ Brian Means, you are the man. For that.
To my fellow Artists & friends that had a direct impact on me creating this album, thank you. 💪🏾
MIDI Marc, Lilly Larson 💖Twan Blow, Markos Hurtt, Max Canino, Jonathan and Rebekah Boatright, Connor Holiday, Jacob Burnett, Stephen Farina, Anna Huynh, Nicole Moore for putting up with my constant whining ❤️😂, my Cousin Jordan for all his support, my cousin Drew, and my big bro FatRat Da Czar.
shoutout to Orpheus Sounds and Frankie Diggs for taking a chance on a kid like me, and helping me make some lifelong allies and friends in this fight.
lastly, shoutout to my new music family, J57 of the FiveSe7en Collective. Shoutout to Jamo Gang, El Gant, Ras Kass, and my brother from another mother, Jam Young. ✊🏽 Meeting y’all honestly changed my music life more than you all know. Thankful to FatRat for lining up that faithful evening.
Rest In Peace Hershey 🐶💔
And to everyone who has supported me, friends, family—Thank you. ❤️