Music industry renaissance man Matt Sonzala noticed something particularly problematic about the new crop of Texas rappers. Unlike their predecessors, who hit the road relentlessly to develop their fanbase throughout the Lone Star State, the new generation of rappers didn’t travel outside of their hometown much.
So in 2011 Sonzala came up with the idea for what would eventually become Red Bull Skooled, a seven-day tour that hit six Texas cities and concluded last week. The tour paired Texas trailblazers Paul Wall, Chingo Bling, Cold Cris, Michael “5000” Watts and Bun B (as well as Texas transplants Mannie Fresh and PR guru Nancy Byron) with up-and coming Texas acts (A.Dd+ from Dallas, The Niceguys from Houston, Kydd from Austin, Worldwide from San Antonio and DJ Sober from Dallas).
“They’re all cutting-edge artists from Texas,” the Austin-based Sonzala says of the Red Bull Skooled acts. “They all have a good chance to make it and they’re all on a good path.”
That path became much more enlightened thanks to the knowledge shared by the legends at each stop of the tour. Sonzala hand-picked all of the acts on the tour and he had a particular thing he wanted each legend to “Skool” the younger artists on. For instance, he wanted Paul Wall to explain the significance of side hustles, Chingo Bling to detail the importance of marketing and branding, Cold Cris to address the ability to adapt to new opportunities, Nancy Byron to explain the importance of the media, Michael “5000” Watts to document how he hit the road to make himself matter and Bun B to serve as a sounding board for the rules of the game.
Bun B, who joined the tour in San Antonio and Corpus Christi, was impressed by the professionalism and desire to learn by each of the emerging acts. “These dudes, they’re taking this whole opportunity, this whole tour that they’re on very seriously,” he says. “They’re very appreciative of the opportunity and they really want to learn things. If I’m a person that’s able to teach them, I’m more than happy to teach them. They’re great guys with great spirit, great energy. It’s a really good thing to be a part of, man.”
Indeed, the “Skooled” artists seemed to benefit almost immediately from the lessons imparted by their industry forefathers.
“Worldwide, every single mentor session we had, he was sitting right next to the people,” says Scuba Gooding Sr., the Red Bull Skooled tour manager. “He was soaking it up. He dropped CDs at every spot we went to. He was a one-man street team. He was killing it at every show and giving out CDs. He’s really been soaking up the lessons on the road and it was really dope to actually see that happen.”
“Every time you see a person that’s in a position to help you, don’t run up on them with your mixtape."
Worldwide also learned some valuable lessons on how to interact with people. “Nancy, Paul and Chingo, they all stressed the building of relationships,” the San Antonio rapper says. “Every time you see a person that’s in a position to help you, don’t run up on them with your mixtape. Let them get to know who you are and build that rapport with them instead of making it seem like you’re trying to use them up.”
As the person who created and coordinated the tour, Sonzala believes the success of Red Bull Skooled shows the potential for similar outings with emerging acts from other regions of the country and the world.
“I want to see this grow,” he says. “I think it was really beneficial for the artists we had. The whole point is to teach these guys that you build out from home. You get your home base and you keep expanding from there.”