At an age when some kids are selling lemonade or mowing lawns for spending money, Dylan Rottkov was writing his raps and performing them at The Big Easy, a nightclub in Portland at the time.

He was 12 when he first played there, and 150 or more teens and tweens packed in to see him. Now, at the age of 19, he’s already spent six or seven years focusing on the business of music. He’s written hundreds of songs, filmed online videos, sold T-shirts with his name on them and performed live, including at the Portland House of Music in June and at the Sunaana music festival on Thompson’s Point in Portland last March. He started selling his debut album “Raw Affiliation” online in September and is recording songs for a future project at The Halo, a recording studio in Windham.

With help from his manager – who was his basketball coach – as well as family members and others impressed by his talents and drive, Rottkov, of South Portland, is trying to make his youthful devotion to music translate into an adult career.

“I remember telling him, when he was 17, that he should go to college and could do music on the side,” said Walter Phillips of Portland, Rottkov’s manager. “Then he pulled out this binder with all the pros and cons of going right into music and gave me a 30-minute lecture. He was way more focused and committed at 17 than I ever was.”

Rottkov, who performs under the name Dylan Raw, is recording at The Halo with Darren Elder, who brings clients from all over the country to his studio. The Maine rapper Spose recorded an album in 24 hours at The Halo in October with a large supporting cast of musicians and producers.

Rottkov’s recordings at The Halo will also feature the work of other musicians and vocalists, though not all working at the Windham location. Rottkov and Phillips hope to use the recordings to shop Rottkov’s music and writing ability to recording labels.

Dylan Rottkov, shown in a recording booth at The Halo studio in Windham, started writing rhymes for hip-hop songs at the age of 8 for rap battles among kids at the Boys and Girls Club in South Portland. “That was the first time I really got into rap and realized I could write,” Rottkov said. Staff photo by Ben McCanna

“He has the ability to freestyle and to write well, and he’s a performer who really believes in himself,” said Elder. “And those things make a lot of things possible.”

Rottkov was named for a songwriter and a poet: Bob Dylan and Dylan Thomas. He seemed drawn to performing at a young age. His family moved from the New York City area to Maine when Rottkov was about 4. Soon after, the family was attending Family Fun Day at Fort Williams Park in Cape Elizabeth, where there was a talent show going on. When asked if he wanted to be in the show, the 4-year-old didn’t hesitate. He got up on stage – a flatbed truck, actually – and sang “All Star” by Smash Mouth, which he knew from the animated movie “Shrek.”

He was also fascinated by rap videos on TV, and from all the fancy cars and jewelry, he figured that “being a rapper must be the coolest thing.”

When he was 8, he got his first taste of what it would be like to actually write rhymes for hip-hop songs, rhymes that other people would want to listen to. He was a student at Dora L. Small Elementary School and attending a recreation program at the Boys and Girls Club on Broadway. One of the staff members organized rap battles among the kids, and Rottkov began writing rhymes with a purpose.

“I didn’t want to lose,” recalls Rottkov. “That was the first time I really got into rap and realized I could write.”

South Portland rapper Dylan Rottkov, aka Dylan Raw listens to a new track at The Halo Studio. Staff photo by Ben McCanna

He recorded his songs on his laptop computer and posted them online. At one point, his songs had enough listeners on that he was invited to perform at a showcase of hip-hop acts at The Big Easy in 2011.

“I remember going to that show, and it was surreal to see someone our age up on stage,” said Eli Canfield, 19, who has known Rottkov since fourth grade. “After that show, I knew he’d pursue music. I think he’s one of the best lyricists I’ve ever heard.”

Rottkov’s parents were concerned when he first started writing rap songs. They asked him to omit words disrespectful to women or others. But they weren’t surprised when profanities eventually appeared in his lyrics, his father said.

Rottkov writes about girls, world events, life in Greater Portland – the full spectrum of things a 19-year-old might see and experience. His lyrics include snippets from the language of rap – words he probably didn’t learn in English vocabulary lessons – as well as occasional profanities.

South Portland rapper Dylan Rottkov, aka Dylan Raw, center, listens to a new track at The Halo Studio with writer/producer and studio head Darren Elder, left, and Rottkov’s management team Walter Phillips and Mike Barris. Staff photo by Ben McCanna

The lyrics to “Life in the Burbs,” from his “Raw Affiliation” release, are an example: “Life in the burbs, homie I’m fly as a bird/Where did they gather the nerve?/I’m sittin’ right in the passenger/Shawty gon whip me to work/She just address me as sir.”

His song “Loco” features a New York-based rapper, Emilio Rojas. It can be broadly interpreted as being about dealing with challenges head-on and includes the lines: “When the hate don’t make you crumble you gon’ hear ’em telling lies/But the controversy brewing always make me alive.”

Rottkov played football, baseball and basketball in high school while also creating music and putting it online. He’s written hundreds of songs, some of which are on SoundCloud for free, others for sale on iTunes and Spotify. He has organized shows including other performers as well.

“He’s a solid draw when he’s played here, and he’s got a lot of passion,” said Ken Bell, who runs the Portland House of Music.

Rottkov met Phillips while playing for an AAU (Amateur Athletic Union) basketball team that Phillips coached. A little more than a year ago, he launched Raw Affiliation, a company to promote his music, with Phillips as his manager. Rottkov sells his music and merchandise on the website

Dylan Rottkov recordings at The Halo will also feature the work of other musicians and vocalists, though not all working at the Windham location. Staff photo by Ben McCanna

So far the money needed for recording and filming videos has come mostly from Rottkov, who works as a telemarketer and has made money from selling songs. Phillips has helped a little as well, he said.

Rottkov has also been in Los Angeles recently, recording with Alan Walker, a producer he met through a friend of Phillips from Maine. Walker is a Norwegian record producer and deejay best known for the 2015 song “Faded,” which reached No. 4 on the U.S. dance song chart and was a top 20 hit all over Europe and in other countries, as well. Rottkov’s not sure yet when the songs he’s recording with Walker might be released.

Phillips, who had no experience in music before he met Rottkov, has started a music management company called Deck Life Management and is hoping to promote other artists in addition to Rottkov.

Rottkov’s family is supportive, and his father does some publicity work by reaching out to local media on his son’s behalf. His parents say they have become convinced he has the talent and persistence to seriously pursue music as a career.

“We knew he was bright, but he didn’t do well in the traditional school setting. We’ve seen what a great writer he is and how enthusiastic he is about this,” said his father, Richard Rottkov, who teaches writing at Southern Maine Community College and also works at South Portland High School as an ed tech. “But he has his eyes wide open, too. He knows how few people really make it.”

Ray Routhier can be contacted at 791-6454 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: @RayRouthier

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