The Texas Hill Country city of San Marcos sits on the banks of the San Marcos River, less than an hour’s drive away from Austin to its north and San Antonio to the south. Among the fastest growing cities of its size in the country and home of Texas State University, San Marcos maintains a laid-back, college town attitude and fosters creative communities that thrive independently of its two neighboring metropolises.
PNTHN, a 13-member hip-hop collective consisting of the musical team of eight rappers, DJs and producers, as well as other members who handle business, graphic design and visuals, came together in San Marcos and is currently enjoying a steady rise to national attention.
From its beginnings in the Texas State dormitories, the group has gone on to perform at SXSW in both 2018 and 2019 and to tour as opening act for both Vince Staples and Rakim. PNTHN also landed a coveted slot at the 2019 Austin City Limits Festival on the heels of the September release of Death Dimension, its debut full-length album, and will begin its first headlining tour in February. Yet despite all of the attention, which will also see the group return for SXSW 2020, PNTHN continues to follow its collective DIY philosophy.
The story began in 2014 when rappers Twohorizonra and Kenny Casanova met at Texas State. The two began casually freestyling together and soon connected with DC4Prez, a fellow student and aspiring MC. What began as friends hanging out making up raps evolved into Twohorizonra obtaining a microphone with an eye on recording what he and his friends were doing.
“Everybody is definitely inspired by everybody else, and that’s the reason why we all came together.” – Kenny Casanova
Next, while working at the Adidas store at the San Marcos Outlet Mall, Twohorizonra connected with Otto, a DJ/producer, and fellow rapper Tony Tone. Tone then introduced him to Por Vida, a producer/beatmaker Tone had met previously in the freshman dorms. “I was just like ‘He raps. He makes beats. I rap. Let’s all become friends,’ ” remembers Tone.
Or as Por Vida explains, “A simpler version of the story would be: Everyone went to San Marcos to go to school, and school sucks when all you have is music on your mind, and over the years you just meet people. And the people in PNTHN were the first ones I met who had the same interests … It just naturally started happening.”
After recording, when the time came to perform live, the PNTHN crew quickly found out that it preferred to adopt a hands-on, true DIY approach. “There were shows that we got onto that weren’t that fun,” says Casanova about some of the group’s early shows. “So we decided that we wanted to make our own shows and make them unique, so we did an antique shop and a yoga studio and just put them together in the way that we would want to have fun.”
“It was just like everyone coming together to help make the vision better,” adds Twohorizonra. The core group next added additional members including rapper/producer Gulfwey, as well as the visual creatives who became collaborators and eventually PNTHN members by just showing up at shows with cameras and then sharing footage and images with the group. “Everybody is definitely inspired by everybody else, and that’s the reason why we all came together,” declares Casanova. “It’s just inspiring to just be here and make do with what we got, and we’re all here trying to make ourselves better because the stuff we’re making is cool.”
The next step was to break out of San Marcos, which—like many other underground hip-hop artists—PNTHN did by leveraging SoundCloud and other streaming services. But it also relied on a word-of-mouth reputation built up among its early fanbase, as well as the networking lessons learned from the local scene. “We just kept meeting people who would be able to help us out,” says Tone. “And eventually we were able to do our type of show, but in Austin, and then it just kept expanding from there.”
After a busy 2019 and a promising start to 2020, PNTHN looks to make continued career progress, but not at the cost of losing its collective creative vision. “There’s 13 people in this group, so there’s 13 artists,” explains Gulfwey. “We’re the entire team already with limitless creative output. The only thing that we would really need at this point from outside people would be funding and support.”
“I want to be an example for a bunch of other people who want to do the same thing,” says Twohorizonra. “I wanted music to be my career, but I didn’t really see it as possible until I tried, so I think that if everyone really tried to do what they want to do, they’ll get to where they want to go.”
Catch PNTHN live at the 2020 SXSW Music Festival – register to attend today. Explore more 2020 Hip-Hop / Rap Artists and then dive into the full lineup of Showcasing Artists taking the stage this March.
PNTHN – Photo courtesy of artist