Let it flow: Wealthy Relative and Sayth bring rap to the U

The Wisconsin natives flip back and forth between Eau Claire and the Twin Cities to balance rap and student life.

Jared Hemming

The artists behind Wealthy Relative and Sayth met in church class years ago.

Though a unique startup, the long-term rap collaboration has proven successful. Sayth, aka Eric Wells, and his friend Dan Forke, who raps as W­ealthy Relative, have been going strong for years, producing hypnotic beats and rhymes together.

“[Forke’s] dad was the pastor at the church that I went to confirmation at before I left/got kicked out,” Sayth said.

And though Wells lives in their native Eau Claire, they’ve made a presence at the University of Minnesota — where Forke studies graphic design. The gigs have helped the artists establish their solo acts in Minneapolis, culminating in a recent show at 7th Street Entry.

“In the Minneapolis music scene, there’s a cool community when you find it,” Forke said.

The duo made waves at the University’s 2014 Spring Jam where their experimental DIY beats resonated in the Battle of the Bands competition.

Finding inspiration from Eyedea, Odd Future and Radiohead, Sayth and Wealthy Relative play off of each other’s chill, syllabic flow and use self-produced sparse, hypnotic beats.

In the solo Sayth song “Rare Candy,” the rapper nods to his Generation Y upbringings by sampling Game Boy music.

“I was like, ‘This will be funny to sample this intro to Pokémon,’” Wells said.

Forke and Wells each create sample-heavy beats, a process Forke finds fitting for the work he creates.

“Everything revolves around sampling,” he said. “When you’re writing, you take little bits of inspiration and create them into a new composition.”

Both Forke and Wells have released EPs and singles, and though the pair doesn’t typically write as a duo, they share musical ideas and tour together.

“We’ve both influenced each other a lot,” Wells said.

The album was the culmination of a year’s worth of producing, writing raps and recording.

“I was totally pregnant with my album before it came out. I was ready,” Forke said.

Forke, who released his debut album “If You Let It” in November, said his class load makes music difficult to balance.

“I love college, but you know, I’m done with it,” Forke said.

For Wells, his schoolwork cut away too much music time. He left a scholarship to McNally-Smith College of Music’s hip-hop program a few classes shy of graduation.

“I wasn’t playing shows when I was there,” Wells said of his time at McNally. “The mindset in music school is, ‘I’ll make this happen when I leave music school.’”

After some time out of school, Wells joined Forke at the University last spring. The semester refreshed his full-time devotion to music.

“It’s really hard to tour when you’re in college and you actually have to go to classes,” Wells said.

Although Wells and Forke live in different cities, they frequently cite each other’s esoteric expression as a motivation for their friendship.

“He’s not afraid to be abstract in his music,” Wells said of Forke.

While both started rapping in early high school as a joke, Forke said he kept writing as a means of stress relief.

“As I kept doing it, [I] realized that it was a direct emotional outlet for me,” Forke said. “Especially writing younger as a teenager full of silly angst.”

On “If You Let it,” Forke moves past teenage frustration and tackles a heavier subject matter: bereavement.

Though the death of a friend looms large on the album, Forke said its title’s murky meaning plays into his preferred ambiguous style.

“Everything I write is a direct reference to something for me,” Forke said. “Someone listening can interpret it in a different way, and I think that’s beautiful.”

For Wells, who acts as Forke’s de facto manager, the album’s release pushed him to help Forke promote his art further.

“I’ve made him more business-minded,” Wells said. “Like, ‘Ask how much you’re going to get paid.’”

As a young artist living off of music and music business alone, Wells’ approach to spreading his and Forke’s art yields impressive feats.

“I don’t know what I’m doing — I’m 21,” Wells said. “We don’t have money behind us. Our promotion budget is zero dollars and the Internet.”

Despite this, Wells and Forke’s collaboration continues to grow.

“Everything we do works so well together,” Forke said. “The way we think and create and experience; it was just natural for us to always be working and performing together.”