Megan Tillman is soft-spoken and slight in stature; her rhymes are anything but.
Together with former St. Edwards classmate Chris Beale as disk jockey and producer, she makes up Megz Kelli and Dougie Do. The duo hopes to bring new sounds and new fans to the often overlooked Austin hip-hop scene.
The pair met up last year for St. Edwards’ event Hip Hop on the Hilltop through a mutual friend, and have been making music together ever since.
“It was awkward at first, things were kind of in shambles,” Beale said. “We had a bunch of people that wanted to go different directions, but after that first performance we knew we needed to come together.”
After their well-received Hip Hop on the Hilltop performance, Tillman and Beale decided to take the next step and start recording together.
“After that we did Creature Creative, our first mixtape,” Tillman said. “That was the first time I had an opportunity to work directly with a producer and have my own music, so I was excited to get into that. Once we released the mixtape, we got a fairly decent response and decided to keep going with it.”
Since then, the two have worked to refine and evolve their sound. Their second mixtape, Shoestring Theory, was more focused but still largely experimental for them.
“Once we released Shoestring Theory, things got better, but of course it was still a learning experience. It was still kind of all over the place and we’re still learning from it,” Tillman said.
Their backgrounds have helped to shape the unique fusion of sounds that they tout today. Their combination of jazz, hip-hop and neo-soul elements is a product of different musical upbringings. Beale’s music often carries a jazz influence, in part from his background with his early musical training and the music he frequently listens to.
“I started playing saxophone in sixth grade in band but I got kind of bored of it in high school and wanted to do more,” Beale said. “So a friend showed me how to make my own beats and that’s how I started off.”
Tillman brings her own lyrical flair through a history of writing and performing hip-hop.
“I’ve been doing music since I was about seven because my dad was really into music so growing up I was exposed to it,” Tillman said. “I started doing a little rap group with my church and I just kept going with it and eventually started writing my own rhymes.”
As the duo gains recognition, they are working on their third project, experimenting with new sounds and solidifying the direction they want to take as a group.
“Now we’re trying to find our voice and really figure out who we want to be,” Tillman said. “We actually talked about it last night and we decided that is something we need to establish. What is our sound going to be, what are people going to expect from us? That’s what we’re trying to focus on right now.”
Beale said that they hope to have the third mixtape out in time to submit it for South By Southwest. In the meantime, Megz Kelli and Dougie Do are working on gaining attention in a market heavily saturated by indie, rock and country acts.
“Now we’re trying to perform live more, we’ve been doing a lot of shows at the 512 Bar downtown, where a lot of people just end up there by chance and see us,” Beale said. “We’re excited to be doing Local Live because hopefully we’ll be able to reach a new audience. The hip-hop scene isn’t as big here and that’s been a challenge but hopefully we can bring our music to new listeners.”
Tillman said that she hopes the group’s complex sound will appeal to a broad range of tastes.
“We want to have the lyrical substance, the hip-hop roots, and a bit of the shock factor too,” she said. “We’re trying to avoid confining ourselves and our sound to this little box.”
For students who would like to join the audience for the Megz Kelli and Dougie Do on Sunday, doors open at 9:30 p.m.. The interview and performance will be from 10pm-11pm. It's free; just show up!
Printed on Friday, November 30, 2012 as: Duo joins Austin's hip-hop crowd