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‘No Love in The City’: An Interview With Vars City

“We don’t look at any outside acts for inspiration. We inspire each other to get better, and we wanted to…

“We don’t look at any outside acts for inspiration. We inspire each other to get better, and we wanted to make music with each other since we were real friends.” -Donni Fresco

Recently, I had a chance to chat with South Jersey Hip-Hop and R&B group Vars City about their latest music, recent tour, and overall dynamism of the clique. Vars City is a collective of three talented men who came together through friendship, for the common love of music. Donni Fresco, Von Bruce, and Don Wonder united their different backgrounds and became a powerhouse on a mission. From making major moves like performing in Hot 97’s Who’s Next? Showcase, to being featured on, the guys are now rocking shows on their very own tour across the east coast. Hailing from a place where there’s constantly No Love in The City, Vars City has proved that when it comes to their success, there are no limitations that will keep them from it. With all the madness going on with shows and promotion, I was able to get some of their busy time to chat.

Check out my interview with the guys of Vars City below.

'No Love in The City': An Interview With Vars City

Vars City? Interesting name, where did it come from?

Don WonderThe name Vars City actually came from our original name, Vars Academy. We eventually started to feel like we were outgrowing that name and we had started saying Vars City in a song and it sounded dope so it stuck

Where is Vars City hailing from?

Don WonderWe’re from Jersey. Specifically, the 609, South Jersey region.

How did you guys come together?

Von Bruce- We went to high school together and lived on the same street so it was only right that we made music together too.

In today’s music, no one really has one sound any more. What would you guys describe your “sound” to be like?

Donni Fresco We’d describe our sound as a mixture of Hip-hop and R&B. It has a melodic feel to it that’s really easy to vibe to.

I saw that you guys were on the Hot 97 WHO’s NEXT? Showcase. How did Vars City get to be a part of that?

Don Wonder That came from Scottie Beam hearing our music and rocking with it. We sent a few songs to her for her “Scottie Feedback” series. At the time she had Naomi Zeichner & Lakin Imani from The Fader & Mikey Fresh from Vibe & Miss Info with her as guests.

Donni Fresco They all cosigned and really rocked with the music and then she said she was thinking about having us for the show. We really ain’t think anything of it until she reached out to us.

Von Bruce Yea it was a really dope experience, that we’re glad we were a part of.

You have big names watching your moves like Hot 97, Revolt…what did it mean for you guys to have Revolt curate an audio premier for you on their website?

 Von BruceIt kind of validates all the hard work we put in but it lets us know that we still have some ways to go.

'No Love in The City': An Interview With Vars City

 You guys have just dropped your debut project, ‘No Love in The City.’ Does that title stem from a deeper feeling about where you are from?

Donni FrescoYeah it does. It comes from feeling like no one from your area is really behind you, at all. So you just gotta block them out, focus on yourself, family and close friends.

How do you guys handle negativity from people who may not necessarily like your music, or are hating on your success?

Von BruceWe’re not really thinking about that. Everybody has their own opinions. We’re just focused on making what we think is the best music possible.

Being a group of unique individuals, how does each member maintain their individuality, while representing the group as a whole?

Von Bruce- The goal is always to push that Vars City brand first, but we’re all unique individuals who bring a different and distinct vibe to the group.

Don Wonder– And I think us as individuals have no problem with letting one person shine, because it’ll only end up making the group better in the long run.

We haven’t seen too many male groups lately in the music industry. Who are you guys’ inspirations? What made you want to be a group?

Donni FrescoWe don’t look at any outside acts for inspiration. We inspire each other to get better, and we wanted to make music with each other since we were real friends.

I saw that you guys have recently started a tour to promote ‘No Love in The City’ How was the first show in Philly? Where to next?

Von Bruce– The Philly show was dope. It was the first time we got to perform a lot of those songs and it was dope seeing the crowd have such great energy. We have another show in Philly on the July 2nd.

What is next for Vars City?

Von BruceMore visuals, more music. Just expect a lot of content coming soon.

Lastly, If you guys could drop any gems for our viewers at AAHipHop, what would it be?

Donni FrescoNLITC Available everywhere. Go get that!



Amber Corrine or call me AC, (its fine) lol. YouTube personality| videographer-singer-writer-photographer. I like to dabble in all kinds of media. I am a two-time college grad and I run my own beauty&lifestyle website
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Rising Malaysian Star Zamaera Is Poised For Greatness

Z chats Malaysian Hip Hop culture, her new project, and much more.

Photo credit: Kanya Iwana

23-year-old Malaysian MC Zamaera has been slowly bubbling onto many radars as of late. After appearing on a viral installment of Yo! MTV Rap Asia’s Rap Cypher, knocking out her first festival appearance, and dropping a buzzing new single titled “Z vs Z” ahead of the upcoming EP of the same name, she is primed and ready to take things to the next level.

Hip Hop in Malaysia has grown exponentially throughout 30 plus years,” she explains to AAHH, indulging our ignorance of the regional scene. “I didn’t live through the early stages of this groundbreaking period in the Malaysian music industry, but one characteristic of Hip Hop is its continuous evolution in sound, style, and swagger.

“It doesn’t matter if you jump on the Hip Hop bandwagon in the 80s or 2000s; if you have something to say — visually, lyrically or sonically — you’re a part of the culture,” she adds.

As Z explains, Malaysian society’s reaction towards Hip Hop has been somewhat of a gradual appreciation. She fell in love with the culture in her late teens. “Love, heartbreak and all the sweet sins of adolescence brought me to Hip Hop; and now I’m in it for life.”

She’s accomplished a lot — considering her debut video dropped just over a year and a half ago. This year, she was blessed with the opportunity to journey to the US to develop and focus her craft, and her career. It was here that Z vs. Z was born.

“It was a very reflective period for me,” she notes of the experience. “I did all of the creative work while I was there. I worked with the amazing producer Floyd “Timeless” Thomas, writing the lyrics. I also teamed up with the ever so talented creative director — Kanya Iwana — and the most brilliant ALL FEMALE TEAM, Savannah Chonis, Francesca Martin, Nawel Abdelaziz, and Shaina Santos for the album artwork.

“The experience was humbling, overwhelming and stimulating,” she adds. I was given a chance by Lakefront Records, which resulted in the recording of this EP in the United States [specifically, Chicago]. It was overwhelming because I was in a foreign place, where EVERYONE is trying to make it. Stimulating, because of the work ethic that I managed to experience. The entertainment industry is no joke, and that motivated me to do more for myself as an artist.”

The new EP, as she explains, is the essence of her as an artist, stemming from reflection and acceptance — two things she describes as dominant themes in her writing. “It took about two months for the idea to be translated into the entire project,” she reveals.

During her recent appearance at the Good Vibes Festival in Selangor, Malaysia, she had a chance to debut her two-month labor of love in front of a receptive audience — an experience she doesn’t take for granted.

“That was a day of many firsts. The first time I performed at a festival, first time I used in-ear monitors, first time performing with dancers, first time I played the entire EP LIVE,” she exclaims proudly. “I’ve learned to let go of the things I don’t have control over — but all in all, it was an adventure of a lifetime.”

With a dizzying 2018 thus far — and an even more jarring 2019 ahead — Zamaera’s current mood is focusing on her mind, body, and soul. With an endorsement deal with Nike Malaysia, her project, and (if it all pans out the right way) a tour, you can hardly blame her for cherishing a little downtime.

“Follow me on my social media,” she says as our interview draws to a close, “because I will be announcing something extremely exciting very soon.”

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This Week’s ‘On The Cusp’ Playlist

On The Cusp is a living playlist dedicated to showcasing the buzzing new music on our radar — as curated…

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This week’s cover artist is Chris Allen.

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World Premiere: Koncept Takes To The Night Streets Of Seoul In “Fuck You Music” Visual

The song is about anyone that ever told you that you couldn’t do something or that you couldn’t accomplish your dreams,” Koncept explains.

AAHH proudly presents the second of five new visuals by Brown Bag All-Stars alum Koncept, who we’ve been rocking with for a minute now. Set amid the futuristic looking night lights of Seoul, South Korea, the song, “Fuck You Music” — which appears on the Sony Asia release 14 Hours Ahead as “You Music” — is a middle finger to anyone who ever tried to hold you back.

Relevant: Koncept Talks Korea & Premieres New Video For “Never Again”

The song is about anyone that ever told you that you couldn’t do something or that you couldn’t accomplish your dreams … [that] you can’t go after what you believe in. This is a big fuck you,” he explains.

“I was working really hard on things and I was sort of in a place where I had no choice but to wait for something to happen … I was in a funk,” he said of the song’s creative inception.

Currently in the Los Angeles putting the finishing touches on his new album, Koncept shares that he is planning to come out strong after the final three visuals in this latest run are released; his roll-out includes an Asian tour with Scoop DeVille that kicks off in November with stops in Korea, Japan, Thailand, and Vietnam. Intriguingly, he also describes plans for a collaborative project with the “Poetic Justice” producer.

Check out Koncept’s “Fuck You Music” video, above.

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Mark Steele “It’s Been A Minute” Album Is Almost Here

Preparing for his It’s Been a Minute album, Mark Steele, in great spirits, opened up in our interview about change…

Preparing for his It’s Been a Minute album, Mark Steele, in great spirits, opened up in our interview about change leading to new beginnings in his life. “I’m at a crossroad right now. I feel this energy of something manifesting,” Steele tells Above Average Hip-Hop. “I’ve never felt this close. It’s such a dynamic too, I still go through everyday struggles just like the next person.” With change appearing in the MC’s life, he is more in tuned with who he is, where he is headed without forgetting where it all started. Durham, North Carolina.

Steele was born and raised in Durham where he grew up fast witnessing a lot. “We’re kind of like a melting pot. We get influenced by everybody because a lot of people come down here for an easier way of living,” Steele notes. “I think I’m a great representation of what Durham is: multilayered.” Steele embraces sounds from New York, Philly, Atlanta, and DMV area. With hip-hop adapting to each new generation, it’s a blessing to hear real lyrics every chance you get. Steele also influenced by hip-hop’s “golden age,” the 90s rap era, where “everything lyrical” is major to him. “I’m fearless with creating records and not really caring what’s popular a lot. I’m bringing lyrics,” notes Steele. “I’m one of those rare people, a trendsetter.”

The MC started rapping in a duo group called Mic & Rep with his friend in high school. During his college years at North Carolina Central University, he met record producer and executive, 9th wonder, who later on becomes his mentor. From that point, his solo career began.

“My music has substance, it’s conceptual.” Whether it’s good or bad I can create some type of art from it, I know that I’m good.”

Best known for his ESPN Sports Center anthem “Greatness,” Steele has been working none stop to become a leader of hip-hop’s new generation. Coming off his Before A Minute mixtape hosted by DJ Wade Banner serves as a prelude to Steele’s forthcoming album It’s Been A Minute. “This is the best thing I ever done in life, I can’t wait to give it to the people,” notes Steele. The rapper doesn’t have to wait much longer, this Friday (Oct.12) we’ll be able to hear his anticipated project where he shows vulnerability and honesty. “A lot of hidden messages in the album. You’re going to have to dissect it a couple of times. It’ll be from how the record was structure, topics, lyrics, and transitions,” he says.

With limited features on the new album, Steele managed to get No Malice. Steele tells me they share mutual producers and it was “the grace of God” to get No Malice on his album. With everything leading up, he’s happy where he is and excited for what’s to come. He shows the definition of hard work and where it can lead you, but importantly how he takes one step at of time.

“Have you ever been so stressed and so blessed in the same breath? That’s exactly where I’m at right now. It’s an interesting period and I’m just enjoying the moment.”

Towards the end of our conversation, Steele shares his last words. “For anyone that’s trying to pursue anything. Doctor, lawyer, artist, etc. The biggest keys: keeping god first, putting in the work, and lastly, don’t give up.”

Mark Steele is also co-headlining his It’s Been a Minute album release concert at Drom in New York City alongside No Malice on Friday, October 12th. Purchase your tickets here:

Get familiar with Mark Steele. Check out his latest music video for “Grace of God” featuring No Malice.


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