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Scholito: The Crossover Kid.

July 20, 2016

ScholitoOnline01Text by Kevin Stairiker. Photos by Matt Deifer.

When you’re talking with Scholito, he has a way of making everything sound grand. At this point, he’s been a rapper for most of his life, so a penchant for wordy explanation comes with the territory. You can see him reliving memories in his head as he describes them out loud, just like a good rapper should.

“I get a call from our manager saying that he wanted to go for a ride, so I should get dressed,” says Scholito, laughing while thinking back to a night in 2001. “I’m extremely stubborn at times and that night I was wearing a red and grey velour Rocawear sweatsuit and I just put comfy slippers on. We go pick up my cousin and he takes us to a restaurant called Harry’s. It had a deck, people were playing cards. One guy had his hood up and it was Allen Iverson! I was stunned.”

He didn’t just get a call to meet The Answer though. Years of grinding got Scholito to this point.

“My cousin Locious and I had been performing as LNS at this open mic at a place called Club Flow on Columbus Boulevard,” explains Scholito. “Larry Larr, the host, stopped us from leaving the stage one night and told us and the crowd that A&R guys from Allen Iverson’s camp had been coming to the club to check people out for [Iverson’s] label.”

Scholito and his cousin were signed shortly afterward to the 76ers guard’s imprint, ABK Music Group, but didn’t meet with the man who was Scholito’s “all-time favorite” at first. After months of not meeting with A.I., Scholito remembers a fateful night that started with watching TV on the couch.

“I was watching commercials and the one with Iverson dribbling through the maze came on and I thought, ‘I could take him,’” he says as he relates the story of his first big break as though it just happened yesterday.

“He was always nice at music but he could have been varsity in basketball,” says S. Frank, Scholito’s producer and friend since their days at Swenson High School in Northeast Philly.

But any hoops dreams were not in Scholito’s immediate future. At least not on that night.

The smooth, card-playing A.I. asked the 16-year-old rappers if they were ready to make some money. And for the next few years, LNS were made in the shade. Opportunities  like opening up for a fresh-from-Destiny’s Child Beyoncé in Miami kept the cousins happy, but it wasn’t meant to last.

After a management disagreement and Iverson’s sudden disinterest in music managing, Scholito quit the group and fired his manager.

“I saw a lot of things, both good and bad,” says Scholito of his time under the tutelage of A.I.’s team. “Life is like chess because if you got two people playing, it’s hard for us to see everything. But when you have someone observing from the outside, they can see everything.”

Back at square one and still barely old enough to drink, Scholito decided an epic rebranding was in order. His first mixtape as a solo performer would be Insanity Plea, a concept album from the perspective of a mental patient. From there, Scholito wanted to rekindle a musical relationship with his high school friend S. Frank.

“I was working on this mixtape called Man in the Mirrors and I went over to Frank’s house on the same exact day he got this new beat-making machine,” says Scholito. “I told him I wanted two records for the album. He didn’t know how to use the machine yet.”

“FedEx had just brought the machine!” S. Frank says with a laugh. “But he just sat me down and was like, ‘Listen man, I know you got this. Let’s cook up some records.’ ‘Lito can convince you of anything. He could wake up tomorrow and decide to be a doctor or lawyer and then go and do it.”

With the working partnership settled, the duo soon started eyeing up a worthy collaborator. As it turns out, Scholito’s father knew Philadephia legend Freeway from back in the day. After sending tracks back and forth, the three became a tight group, releasing songs over popular beats in the form of a collaborative mixtape, Freemix.

“We wanted to infuse modern sounds with classic Philadelphia soul, something all cultures around the world can relate to,” Scholito says. “We made it 10 percent in Frank’s basement and 90 percent in my living room, so it is literally in-house.”

As Freeway continues to help the young duo, Scholito looks forward to what he considers his proper debut. Free Dell, a project that dropped in the spring and named for Scholito’s brother who has been in prison for almost 25 years, is a point of pride.

“On this album, not only am I speaking for my brother, but also for all the juvenile lifers that people forget about,” says Scholito.

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