This+is+not+a+rap+group.+EST+is+ME.


Images by EST member Tyler Moncrief
Article by Shiloh Slaughter

Upon first and second glances of the individuals forming the posse dubbed EST (an abbreviation of ‘established’), one may discover the complications of attempting to classify them under one genre of music, even one medium of art. Though members of the group have been seen rapping on White's Bar’s stage at one of DJ Snakes' Realness shows and jamming out at the Hamilton St. Pub as a band, music is only a small piece of EST's identity.

It is also difficult to classify their followers: a mass of sweaty bodies, two-stepping and snapping their fingers on the dance floor, not quite sure which foot to put forth when EST performs. Long skirts swayed and heads bobbed when Mike Pruitt, the group's producer, took up his drumsticks, Joe Diaz slayed guitar solos, and Damarkis "DJ" Carroll ruled the mic, as EST recently stunned from the stage at Saginaw's Hamilton Street Pub.

Across the confused crowd, Saginaw's familiar camera man, Jarod Oertel of the I Am Hip Hop Show captured the complexity. The stiff crowd soon fell into place, as their brows relaxed, their heads grooved and their feet boogied. DJ's hip-hop flow seamlessly blended with the band's rhythm, freeing each individual to dance as they pleased: There is no set of instructions on how to listen to EST. There are no rules on how to support EST. EST is me, EST is you, and we, in our own way, are established artists.

Their slogan, "EST is ME" may be a bit abstract at first. Pruitt emphasizes that they all want to do this as a career, to do what they are created to do. They are individual dream pursuers, and their individual stories are as unique and human as EST is as a group. Some members, like Tyler Moncrief, who designed the group's website estisme.com, used to stay in the house and dabble with graphic design until he became an entrepreneur, while Pruitt knew he wanted to do music at 8 years old. Other members, like Odell "OJ the King" Walker, insist that becoming a rapper "just happened." One thing they do have in common, however, is love for music, art, and individuality in EST and the Saginaw community.

Oertel's I Am Hip Hop Show interview with EST portrays their dynamic unity, which branches off into many identities. The members of EST stood tall, lined along the benches at the Saginaw River docks near the Red Eye Café, facing the evening horizon; a rainbow of sneakers along the asphalt. They took roll call, going down the line: the six original members are Damarkis "DJ" Carroll (musical artist/lyricist), Joshua Allen (fashion designer), Michael Pruitt (producer/musician), Tyler Moncrief (visual artist/graphic designer), OJ The King (musician and vocalist), and James "J-Will" Williams (musical artist/rapper).

EST was founded in 2008. They knew of each other, and soon bonded with each other's talents. EST had their first show at Club Envy, thanks to OJ the King. Shortly thereafter, they met up with Diaz and his guitar, and the band was formed. Since then, they have performed at Bay City's West Town and Prime Event Center, Grand Rapids' The Intersection, Rocky's, and Teasers, Club Rocks in Alma, Saginaw's Players Sports Bar and the YMCA Lock-in.

There are other extended members attached to EST as well, such as the poet Janell Heggings, visual artist D'Von Jones, photographer Leona Moore, musical artist and rapper Zook, Muscle Man Justin Shorter, and social gatherer Dionque Jackson. The list goes on: the posse, promoters, street team. Chances are, one of them introduced you to EST.

If you have a talent that nurtures EST, they welcome you into the family, and no one leaves EST. They know how to keep the peace among themselves, and share this love with the city of Saginaw and whatever community they happen to be a part of at the moment. Pruitt believes the people of Saginaw have something to say, and who better knows how to say it than the community? The local art scene is improving, and EST represents Saginaw's talent in any venue they perform at. The top four goals EST has in common as a group are to perform at bigger venues, to gain respect from Saginaw and give it, to exercise this respect through charity work, and to go somewhere. It just so happens Saginaw, MI is on the way there.

EST's next performance will be August 8th at 7p.m., at Saginaw's Lawn Chair Film Festival, at the corner of Ames and N. Hamilton.

© Shiloh Slaughter, 2010