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Hip hop duo G-Side will make their return to Austin during SXSW. The group was well-received when they performed at last year’s Fun Fun Fun Fest. (Photo courtesy of G-Side)

Following their 2007 debut, Sumthin 2 Hate, G-Side, a duo consisting of members Stephen “ST 2 Lettaz” Harris and Yung “David Williams” Clova, are hoping to bring something new and refreshing to hip-hop. Their production is eclectic: Some songs are filled with laid-back, spellbinding chord progressions, while others ooze with Dirty South energy and abrasiveness. Harris and Clova compliment each other well with their contrasting delivery. Harris is more lyrical, while Clova maintains a more mainstream, relaxed flow, resulting in a near-flawless union between the two.

The two rappers spoke with The Daily Texan about how they originally met, their latest release, iSLAND, and performing at festivals such as Fun Fun Fun Fest and the Pitchfork Music Festival.

The Daily Texan: You guys are originally from Hunstville, Ala., and you often touch upon your experiences in your songs. Was hip-hop at first an escape from those bad experiences, or was it always a goal to become a group?

Stephen Harris: It definitely started as just a thing, and then when I saw Master P and what he did with it, I felt I could [do] that or something similar. I wanted to make something for my people.

Yung Clova: I was pretty much the same way, man. At first, I wasn’t really focused on the music until I graduated, and that’s when I really got focused on music. I’m trying to do something positive: I’ve got little brothers and sisters, so I’m just trying to lead by example.

DT: How did you two meet each other at the Boys and Girls Club of Athens?

Clova: It was probably basketball. [Lettaz’s] team would always kick my team’s ass.

DT: You both provide a little friendly competition for each other although you both have different styles of rhyming. Do you feel that contributes a lot to your growth as rappers?

Harris: There would be times when [Clova] would kill me, and I would have to go back and write a new verse. There’s definitely competition, but it helps in making the music better.

DT: How was working with producer Block Beattaz on your latest release, iSLAND?

Harris: We’ve basically been working with Block Beattaz exclusively. I think on this one we had a little bit more fun. Sometimes the albums come across as being too serious, or us being bitter at the industry. This time I think we just tried to have fun with it. We know our fans are going to stick with us, and we’re just trying to give them a high quality product.

DT: How do you feel you guys have improved since your earlier releases?

Clova: I’ve really been trying to just step it up. I’m trying to get more lyrical. You don’t just want to say anything on the mic you know?

Harris: I’ve been trying to step my hook game up, just doing them myself instead of always depending on other people.

DT: You all performed at Fun Fun Fun Fest and the Pitchfork Music Festival this past year, and now you’re performing at South By Southwest. Do you see these festivals as a challenge, considering the diverse selection of artists they offer?

Harris: That’s kind of our lane; we’re not so urban. We get love from Pitchfork and stuff like that. So it’s not that we choose the festivals, but that these festivals chose us.

Clova: I think it has a lot to do with the beats too. We might take a Madonna sample, put some 808s in there and slow it down a little bit, and it’ll be the same song that everybody listens to, but we do it in our own way.

Blanton Museum of Art employee Candice Thaler jogs past the Oakwood Cemetery Tuesday evening. City officials are discussing the creation of a new “cemetery master plan” to revise city maintenance procedures.

Photo Credit: Mary Kang | Daily Texan Staff

While several Austin residents worry about cemetery maintenance because of safety hazards for visitors, others are worried about how substandard upkeep could affect those honored in the parks.

The five Austin city cemeteries contain the remains of historic figures, including several individuals significant to the history of UT. Confederate officer and UT Board of Regents member George Washington Littlefield is buried in the Oakwood Cemetery, and former UT football player and baseball legend Bibb Falk lays at rest in the Austin Memorial Park Cemetery.

Austin historian August Harris said he has met with city council members to discuss concerns of cemetery maintenance and management. Harris said preserving landscape, plots and structures located on cemetery land is important for educating generations to come.

“These are the folks that founded, built and created the Austin we enjoy today,” Harris said. “They’re the ones that had the vision that made Austin possible, and each one is crucial.”

Harris and other citizens have brought forth concerns to city officials about lack of watering, tree care and individual plot upkeep on cemetery grounds.

Gilbert Hernandez, Parks and Recreation contract manager, said the city has drafted a cemetery master plan which will analyze cemetery needs, identify costs of maintenance and lay out a time line for implementation of points within the plan. Hernandez said city officials began drafting the cemetery master plan prior to hearing from concerned citizens but that public comment will be taken into consideration while further developing the plan.

Emeritus professor David Gracy, great-great nephew of Littlefield, said the Littlefield plot is the only plot at Oakwood with graves lined north-to-south. Gracy said placement of the Littlefield plots symbolizes his relatives’ commitment to the South and support for states’ rights. Gracy said he is currently studying Littlefield’s legacy and believes UT could have been much different without the Civil War veteran’s commitment to the campus.

Before his death in 1920, Littlefield established a trust fund that would fuel the construction of the famous Littlefield Fountain located in front of the tower on University Avenue. He also wrote a check purchasing $225,000 worth of first-edition Shakespeare writings for the University and established a fund for southern history. Volumes from both collections still exist at UT today, Gracy said.

In his will, Littlefield left his Whitis Avenue house to the University, along with money for a freshman women’s dorm and additional funding which Gracy said may have made the greatest impact on UT. Gracy said at the time of Littlefield’s death, regents were considering relocating the college campus, but after they discovered half a million dollars granted to UT under stipulation that the campus not be moved from its original location, officials changed their minds.

“A group called Save Austin’s Cemeteries asked me a year ago to give a talk on Littlefield at his plot,” Gracy said. “Oakwood is under the city, and the city takes as good care of it as anything.”

Although Gracy said he feels the Littlefield plot is in good condition, other graves have suffered because of vandalism and the drought. While the monuments on the Littlefield plot stand undisturbed, other headstones have been chopped or smashed into pieces.

“It hasn’t been a chronic problem, but there have been isolated events of vandalism,” Hernandez said. “It’s sacred ground, and you really have to wonder why someone would damage a memorial.”

Hernandez said those found responsible for vandalizing graves are subject to criminal punishment. Although the majority of the grass at Oakwood Cemetery is brown, Hernandez said the master plan calls for implementation of drought-tolerant turf.

“We have irrigation systems,” Hernandez added. “The ones at Oakwood are a lot older, and when you take that along with the severe drought we’ve had into consideration, we can’t water as much as we want.”

The city has not yet determined a time frame for the implementation of the master plan, Hernandez said.

Printed on Wednesday, September 14, 2011 as: Cemetery maintenance worries Austin citizens.

Sophmore Lexi Harris has had a huge impact on the Longhorns this season, starting in every game thus far, whie contributing to two goals this year.

Photo Credit: Danielle Villasana | Daily Texan Staff

From the stands, Lexi Harris looks just like every other player on the Longhorn’s bench. She’s quick, makes good decisions on the field and loves to win. But this sophomore midfielder from Plano will surprise you.

Up close and personal, Harris likes a challenge and lives for the physical and mental toughness that soccer brings to the table.

“The sport requires so much from you physically and mentally,” Harris said. “No matter how good you become, the sport never ceases to push you to your limits.”

In high school, Harris racked up a long list of accolades. From the Texas stage, Harris helped to lead Plano West High School to a 5A State Championship in 2007.

In 2008, she was an Under-17 Women’s World Cup Finalist before going on to become a member of the United States Under-20 Women’s National Team. 

Texas head coach Chris Petrucelli recruited Harris heavily in high school. Top Drawer Soccer labeled her as the No. 1 recruit in Texas and No. 2 recruit nationally in 2010.

She didn’t stop once she got to college. As a freshman, Harris started in 18 of 21 games for the Longhorns and was named to the Big 12 All-Newcomer Team. So far this season, Harris has started all four games at midfielder and has accounted for two Texas scores.

Her motivation to work hard and to win is what sets her apart. Harris is the first of her family to go to college and credits soccer with providing her the opportunities she has at Texas.

“It just opens up everything for me,” Harris said. “I never had goals or anything like that. I am able to dream now. Soccer is my gateway to going where I want to go.”

Harris wants to finish college as an exercise science major before going to grad school to become a physical therapist. After that? Not even she knows.  

With polls opening on Election Day at 7 a.m., Democrats and Republicans have spent the past several days dueling over allegations of voter intimidation in heavily minority precincts in Harris and Travis counties.

The Travis County Republican Party charged that Travis County sent out an urgent call for staffers last weekend because of a shortage because they hadn’t contacted potential Republican poll-workers. Travis County Democrats retaliated, charging that Travis County Republicans had dispatched poll workers to predominately minority precincts to intimidate.

“The Travis County Republican Party held a training [session] where they told people to go to precincts that are in East and Southeast Travis County,” said Andy Brown, chairman of the Travis County Democratic Party. “We are asking them why they are only sending people to the high-minority precincts. It appears they’re only targeting those precincts.”

Brown said that during the Republican training, one of the GOP volunteers asked jokingly if he could wear camouflage and bring a baseball bat to the poll he was watching. Travis County Republican Party chairwoman Rosemary Edwards told the volunteer that he could not bring those items.

“If that is the mentality of the volunteers that are going to be watching the poll, they should pull the program down,” Brown said.

The Travis County Republican Party is sending poll watchers to minority-dominated precincts in Travis County because of voting irregularities during the past few elections, said David Nalle, spokesman for the party. He said many of the complaints were because non-English speakers had trouble casting ballots.

“It’s not widespread,” Nalle said. “Travis County doesn’t have a lot of problems. Our elections are pretty well-run.”

In Harris County, Democrats charge that Republicans are using predominately white poll watchers trained by King Street Patriots, a tea party group, to intimidate minority voters in heavily Democratic precincts.

“The Department of Justice has been called in, and they will be monitoring polling locations on Election Day,” said Anthony Gutierrez, deputy executive director of the Texas Democratic Party. “All of the people who are familiar with this would testify that this is far beyond anything we’ve ever seen before.”

Gutierrez said the poll workers trained by the King Street Patriots had been overstepping their bounds, talking to voters and peering over voters’ shoulders as they cast votes.
Republicans counter that Democratic poll workers have been roughing up King Street Patriot poll watchers.

“There is no factual basis for the complaint. Poll watchers just observe,” said Kelly Shackelford, president and CEO of the Liberty Institute, which provides legal representation for the Patriots.