By Kat Bein
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It was then when DMG crossed paths with Drop, a 28-year-old hip-hop beatmaker, best known locally for producing Pitbull's notorious 2006 anti-Fidel Castro single, "Ya Se Acabó" ("It's Now Over"). Drop rented his studio to the boys, but when their money ran out, he offered them a slot on his nascent indie label, Up Side Down Entertainment provided that they would cultivate their sound.
"He told us, 'You guys have talent, but you need to find yourselves in your music,'" Q recalls. With the help of Drop, the group's direction started to change. Gone was the 50 Cent-inspired hustler posturing. The new sound blended Seventies soul music harmonies with hip-hop beats. The group even found ways to incorporate its Latin heritage into some of the new tracks, such as "What If," a ballad replete with Latin horns and gentle Spanish guitars.
The revitalized quartet started writing lyrics and harmonies that reflected the members' real musical tastes not what was hot on MTV. Phenom brought his love for Seventies-era Stevie Wonder and vintage Fania records, while Eqwote showed his appreciation for his childhood favorites, the Beatles. To lay down the intrumental tracks, Phenom and Drop sought the help of multi-instrumentalist and producer Leo Delao.
The members of DMG also began writing more upbeat lyrics. Their song "Never Change" became the model for this new, sunnier vibe. The propulsive chorus sounds like a long-lost classic from the legendary R&B label Stax Records that is, until the boys start rapping. Call it hip-pop. The song opens with a delicious four-way harmony, in which the boys pledge to keep making music, despite the doubters who tell them to "stop wasting your time chasing those dreams."
Q says the song was meant to help them maintain their focus: "A lot of people tell you that there's no future in music. I don't blame them, but they have to understand that sometimes you got to make sacrifices, and we have a dream, and we want to push it, and that's what the song is about."
DMG's look was the last step in their evolution. Kalli, who loves electronic music, sports a faux-hawk and rocks a retro skinny white tie with his laceless Vans sneakers. Q is the complete opposite with his relaxed, long surfer-style mane and loose-fitting jeans. In concert the band performs simple, synchronized dance steps. Which sort of begs the question: Is DMG a boy band? And if so, is that a bad thing?
"There's a stigma that boy bands are a cookie-cutter creation," Phenom says. "But we're not the type of act that fits that stereotype; we write our own music."
Even with their catchy melodies, the four boys are well aware that the music business is a hard industry to crack. "Every local person that makes it is an inspiration to us, from Pretty Ricky to Pitbull to Gloria Estefan," Q says. "We are told that Miami is a tough city to make it in the music business. I guess we're gonna find out."
Either way with or without support from a major label the group's manager, Orlando Leiba, and Drop plan on releasing DMG's debut by the beginning of next year. For Phenom, that moment can't come soon enough. He's utterly confident the band will be hitting the road in the near future. "I'm looking forward to interacting with all our fans that we made through Myspace," he says. "It would be great to finally meet them face to face."