Like a phoenix from the ashes, struggles can be transformed into a road map of dedication. The hope and heart for local hip-hop artist, Ekoh, continues to to swell as he takes on the Las Vegas music scene focusing on two things: music with a message and strengthening the communi
Driving down Zzyzx Road on his way from California to Las Vegas, Jeff Thompson — a local hip-hop artist known as Ekoh — took a moment to enjoy the ride and reflect on where he’s been and where he’s going.
It’s no secret that Thompson has already gone through struggles and hardships that many people will never face. Growing up, Thompson was like every other kid until around the age of 12 when he found himself experimenting with drugs that led him to a dangerous addiction.
“It’s not a pretty thing, addiction. At one point I was living out of my car and stealing from my little brother to get a quick fix. An Oxycontin addiction … progressed to a daily heroin addiction faster than I could notice and try to stop,” Thompson said.
However, at the age of 18, Thompson realized that was not the life he wanted to live and decided to check into rehab where made a full recovery, reflected by his five years of sobriety.
After Thompson turned his life around, he decide to follow his heart and pursue his passion for music, leading to the formation of hip-hop duo Ekoh and Mikey P. with his friend Mike Portaro.
The pair began to thrive in the hip-hop community due to their determination to make meaningful music that did not focus on drugs, violence and gangs.
Local hip-hop artist Ekoh performs his powerfully persuasive lyrics for friends and fans at the Las Vegas Country Saloon.[/caption] “I had a fan come up to me one day and said our music was unlike any other in hip-hop [and] that it had heart. It’s heart hop. And that name has just stuck to this day and it’s what the fans call it,” Thompson said.
The duo was successful, with Ekoh and Mikey P. booking plenty of shows until March 30, 2011 when Portaro was shot and killed by Brandon J. Hill while selling show tickets. It was a grueling four months before Hill was convicted for the murder of Portaro, a crime that struck the entire community.
“This won’t bring back my best friend, but at least we can get some closure knowing the murderer [has been] caught and convicted,” Thompson said.
Losing a loved one can be a defining moment in life. Thompson said that he could have easily relapsed back into his addiction, but instead put trust and faith in his own inner strength and honor his late friend. Now Thompson can only see the future.
“This new EP that I’m releasing is completely different than anything I’ve ever done. I’m not sure how the hip-hop community will feel, but it’s 100 percent me,” Thompson said. “I’m absolutely proud of each and every song. It’s the best piece of work I’ve ever completed in my life.”
The musician worked many long and sleepless nights to assure that his upcoming music video would become a reality, used both locally and nationally to help bullied students.
After six months, the school board joined Thompson at Green Valley High School to shoot the video for “Falling Together” on March 1. The video was shot by videographer Jacob Stark and features special guests T.J. Lavin, a pro BMX rider who also serves as MTV host of The Challenge, and Kit Cope, a world champion Muay Thai kickboxer.
“I really wanted this video to be a video that is made for students by students. We worked with them one-on-one and collaborated ideas and I’m super excited to see the finished product. I want to raise awareness and get the students excited by the community involvement,” Thompson said. “I want to raise money for anti-bully programs and school programs to continue student education and awareness of these critical issues. We’ll raise money by selling copies of the song with all proceeds going to an anti-bully/youth organization of our choice.”
The artist continued by noting that he aims to “bring students together for a common positive impact on our community and show students the impact of words through music, and to just build a model in our schools that can be replicated elsewhere.”
Thompson has already seen huge success throughout 2013, but there’s still a long list of things this he’s aiming to achieve. He has at least one concert a week, a music video to shoot, and several other projects in the works.
The biggest project for Thompson besides this anti-bullying campaign is what the entire past year has lead up to: the release of his album, entitled Zzyzx Road.
Thompson was fortunate and talented enough to gain the support of famed Hollywood producer Courtney Ballard, who has worked with Patrick Stump, Amber Riley, Joel and Benji Madden, Ed Sheeran and Escape the Fate.
“I will forever be indebted to this man for everything he has done. He is an absolute genius and an amazing man. It’s an honor to be working with him,” Thompson said.
As the release date for Zzyzx Road approaches, Thompson is gaining major attention from local media outlets, such as UNLV’s radio station KUNV who is launching Zzyzx Road with a huge on-air release party. There have also been talks recently of the artist making a guest appearance on Fox 5’s The Morning Blend.
“I’m just so humbled and grateful. It’s gotten to the point that I don’t even need to try and beg to get a show. People and venues are just approaching me,” Thompson said. “I’m opening up for Tech N9ne March 28 and headlining the Monster stage at Extreme Thing on [March 30]. That’s amazing.”
Along with the two shows mentioned, Thompson is also performing at the Beauty Bar with DJ Abilities and Sadistik on March 5, the House of Blues Crossroads with Cash Colligan & Zaza on March 15, and also at the Mont Bleu Resort in Lake Tahoe with Sage Francis on March 22.
With dedication, passion and a heart like Thompson’s, it is no wonder how much he inspires friends and others, which will hopefully allow for the “heart-hop” movement to reach larger audiences.