Members of Rebelious Records entertain in Hagerstown and beyond

September 16, 2011|By MEG H. PARTINGTON |
  • Rebelious Records members Jamie Lawrence, left, Andrew Shadrach, on ground; Matthew Miller, in sunglasses; and Dustin Shillingberg ham it up outside Next Dimensions in Hagerstown. Lawrence is holding the J-Law Burger, which can be found at Next Dimensions in Hagerstown, a favorite hangout for the Rebelious guys. It features a half-pound of ground beef, onion rings, french fries, Thousand Island dressing, coleslaw, cheese and pickles. Justin Hoffman, a supervisor at Next Dimensions, said the J-Law Burger is one of the best-selling items on the menu.
By Yvette May/Staff Photographer

A group of Rebels is helping bring Hagerstown to the world through its rapping, hip-hopping video projects.

Working under the name Rebelious Records, J-Law, Sweatshop, S.S. and Dirrty Phil aim to entertain Hagerstown audiences while sharing their love of music and video with YouTube and iTunes fans.

"Everybody likes to laugh and everybody likes music," said Jamie Lawrence, aka J-Law, 26. He bills himself as the business' general manager and promoter, but he also shoots and edits video, and provides vocals of the rapping variety to Rebelious' productions.

What exactly does the group provide?

"It's every aspect of entertainment," said Matthew Miller, aka Sweatshop, 26. He added the foursome's work brings laughter to an audience spanning from 15-year-olds to his mother.

For those gifted in spelling, there's an obvious misspelling here: Rebelious with only one "l." It's a nod to the alma mater of all but one member of the foursome. Lawrence, Miller and Andrew Shadrach, aka S.S., 26, are South Hagerstown High School graduates. Dirrty Phil, 24, whose real name is Dustin Shillingberg, graduated from Washington County Technical High School.

Lawrence started making CDs and CD covers in 1998. His music-making business was put on hold when he was 15, when his parents found a book containing his rap lyrics. They weren't pleased.

"They said I should be studying for the SAT, not rapping," Lawrence said.

Fast forward to 2007, when Rebelious Records was born.

Lawrence and Miller, who have been friends since the age of 5, lost touch after Miller went off to college and played in cover bands from 2004-08 on Royal Caribbean cruises. When he returned, Lawrence put his long-lost friend's computer and musical skills to use.

"Music always calls you back," Shillingberg said.

They started with one laptop and a $3 microphone, and their sound booth was fashioned out of an armoire.

Now they have a state-of-the-art computer and mixers.

"You just gotta invest in yourself," Shillingberg said.

They do the bulk of their mixing and recording in what Shillingberg calls "the dungeon," a studio in his home.

Rebelious Records has made 40 videos since April, mostly for regional artists, including Skies, Rebel, Big T and Mack.

They do some DJing and perform shows around Hagerstown, sometimes featuring Shillingberg as a rapper.

"I can't sing a tune in a bucket," Shillingberg said.

Unique and unscripted

Rebelious wants to provide videos and music that are upbeat, not down on life, Lawrence said. It strives to produce something that nobody else has thought to do.

Shillingberg said their work is not scripted, it's mostly ad-lib.

"Spur-of-the-moment videos are better than planned ones," Shillingberg said.

"There's always something rolling," Lawrence added.

The guys do spoofs of things like television shows, the recent wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton, and "Teach Me How to Dougie," a dance based on a series of moves described in a song by Cali Swag District.

Rebelious' version, "Keep it Thuggy" was Lawrence's way of poking fun at Caucasians trying to be "ghetto" by wearing doo-rags and pants halfway down their posteriors. He considers himself among those wannabes, pointing to his flat-billed black baseball cap, adding that he often is making fun of himself in videos and lyrics.

Sometimes the Rebelious team creates its own characters, complete with wigs and costumes.

"The rewarding thing is it's working," Shadrach said. "People are coming back" to their online postings, he said.

Lawrence occasionally gets a check from YouTube thanks to advertisements that are attached to some of Rebelious' videos.

Their videos on YouTube include one called "We Just Planking," during which people lie facedown on various props ranging from ladders to basketball nets.

Shillingberg's "Ding Dong Osama Song," about the death of Osama bin Laden, can be found on iTunes, though he uses the name Dustin Lee on that number.

Fun but serious

There's a lot of good-natured ribbing between the Hagerstown friends and a lot of quirky humor in their videos, but Rebelious Records is a serious business with big-time goals.

The number of hours spent working on the productions doesn't match the income, but the crew hopes its sleepless dedication will pay off someday.

"You don't know when something is going to come," Miller said about making it big in music and/or videos.

Through sites like Facebook and YouTube, they have an international audience, and Miller has worldwide connections thanks to his music career with Royal Caribbean. He also is part of the Matthew Miller Band, which recently recorded an album in Mechanicsburg, Pa., in the same studio that the Zac Brown Band has used.

The creative team acknowledges it couldn't survive without the support of loved ones, employers and fans, who, based on online views, range in age from 18 to 35.

The mother who nearly ended his business with the rap book discovery is one of Rebelious' biggest fans, though Gina Lawrence still wishes her son was making more money and had a college degree, J-Law said.

Jamie Lawrence added that his grandmothers, Hagerstown residents Loretta Rhyne and Manzella Jones, are his inspiration.

"My grandmothers have always been there," he said, adding that they were always nice no matter how bad he was in his younger days.

The Rebelious crew members also need each other.

"It's a pretty tight bond between us," Shadrach said.

Where did they get those names?

Jamie Lawrence uses a hip-hopped version of his name, J-Law, but he also goes by Fat White, his way of embracing online cracks about his race and weight.

Matthew Miller's Sweatshop moniker comes from the hours the guys spend locked in a room working on music and videos with no sleep. He also goes by Miller Time, from the beer commercials.

Andrew Shadrach's first name is Scott, so S.S. merely represents his initials.

Then there's Dirrty Phil. The mother of Dustin Shillingberg's best friend once mistakenly called him Phil instead of Dustin, and it stuck. Her boyfriend added the "Dirrty."

On the web

* Some Rebelious Records videos feature adult language and material.

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