Palermo Stone's R.A.R.E. take on hip-hop | Music | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Palermo Stone's R.A.R.E. take on hip-hop

The one-time Mac Miller hype man just released his third solo album — but his work with kids is just as important to him

It's about touching lives: Palermo Stone
It's about touching lives: Palermo Stone

In 2009, Palermo Stone was touring the country — as Mac Miller's hype man. A couple years later, Miller had made the big time, but Stone had already settled into working on a solo career. 

"I felt like it was the right time in his career for me to move away," Stone says, recalling the conversation he had with Miller about moving on. "It was a pursuit to have something for myself."

Sure, if he'd stayed on board, Stone would be rolling in cash now — but then he wouldn't be heading up his own company, R.A.R.E. Nation, and he wouldn't have his third solo record, R.A.R.E., available now. And he wouldn't be touching lives back at Woodland Hills High School, of which he's a 2008 alum, the way he is now.

Stone's new album includes an insert with work from several local artists, some of whom are current Woodland Hills students. "When I first started with music," he explains, "I was a senior in high school. And when you say you're going to do something against the grain ... " He trails off, then changes gears: "I had a great education there, that led me to what I'm doing as an entrepreneur, so I wanted to give back." 

Giving back means helping out those students interested in music and visual arts, via gallery shows, concerts and eventually, Stone hopes, a scholarship in his name for a performing-arts student from the district. That's what R.A.R.E. Nation is about, on top of being an artist-management company.

For now, Stone is supporting R.A.R.E., the album. (It stands for "Revitalizing Art, Reinventing Emotion.") It came out Fri., Dec. 21, and features 15 tracks, many produced by Stone's collaborator Jazz Logic, a U.K. producer who makes beats with live instrumentation rather than samples. Other producers include Hitt of MCM Studios and Big Jerm of ID Labs. 

If R.A.R.E. sells, Palermo Stone will be happy — but his main focus isn't on his own success. 

"The attention and quote-unquote fame is cool," he says, "but the things that are gonna last are the things that are gonna touch people's lives."