Vibin' with Miami Trio Basic Vocab
It's a late-October Sunday evening as the working folk are spinning their laundry and staying dialed in to the latest episode of Entourage. Cue the show's end credits, and filling the room is a familiar groove that has kicked off many a soulful South Beach jump-off. The track being heard in countless living rooms across the country is "Come Get with It," by the Miami trio Basic Vocab.
"The HBO music director came across the song through MySpace," recalls one of the group's MCs, Mental Growth (MG). "He went and bought our album [General Dynamic] off the player and a year later hit us up and was like, 'Yo, we want to use this song on Entourage.'" Those few minutes on premium cable led to a barrage of stuffed inboxes and MySpace hits for the group, which is rounded out by second MC JL Sorrell and producer Tony Galvin.
With that push, the trio has stayed focused on releasing its as-yet-untitled sophomore LP by this summer. They recently dropped the record's first single, the honey-flavored "There You Are," featuring Donwill of the Cincinnati group Tanya Morgan. The album also features a remix of "Come Get with It."
"We started recording tracks for a mixtape we were going to release, and as we were doing that, we realized we had enough music for an album," JL says. "So we started transforming some of the songs, and now that the single got picked up by HBO, that kind of revamped the interest and got the blood pumping again."
Basic Vocab's debut album, General Dynamic, was also well received when AVX Music Group released it in 2006. It garnered heavy spins on college radio across the nation and even by Gilles Peterson on the BBC. It drew positive reviews in magazines such as Vibe and Urb and features on websites such as OkayPlayer and MTV Germany. Provoking comparisons to the likes of Native Tongues, Black Star, and Slum Village, tracks such as "Our Day in the Sun" and "Likeness" provided the daily introspection and smoothed-out boom-bap. Heavier social commentary came on tracks such as "It's Alright," which looked into the life of a single mother, and "Fallen Ones," which explored problems in the Middle East.
The only thing new fans couldn't seem to grasp was a group like this coming out of the bottom of the map. "Almost every review I read was about us coming from Miami and us being different from the snap/crunk music sound that was out at the time," JL says. "When people heard us, they were like, 'Y'all from Miami? Y'all have hip-hop down there?' We were like, 'Yeah, we do!'"
While Basic Vocab is still relatively new, its backbone, Galvin, has been in the game for a while longer. As the man behind the mixing boards on anthems such as Trick Daddy's "Shut Up" and Trina's "Baddest Bitch," he has also contributed to T.I.'s latest record, crafted remixes for Mary J. Blige, and worked on many other big-name industry projects. Galvin, however, has an affinity for the Basic Vocab vibe. "Pre-Kanye, there wasn't much hip-hop in the mainstream, so we were like, let's come together as a group and put something out there," MG says. "Tony's bread and butter is doing tracks for T.I. and Trick, but he really loves to do the real hip-hop."
Coming up in the Bronx and Brooklyn, respectively, JL and MG saw hip-hop grow from its inception, making pause tapes of BDP and Grandmaster Flash off the radio, going to summertime park jams in the neighborhood, and from a young age, absorbing the b-boy ethos. After both moved south to the Kendall area, they began writing rhymes in middle school and first connected while rapping in a studio where Galvin worked.
"At the time, you had to find hip-hop in Miami. It was definitely here, but harder to find," JL recalls.
"As far as real hip-hop, there still is not a real stage out here to represent those artists," MG adds. "Mainstream brings the money, so it will still be at the smaller venues."
One of those smaller spots is Classic Sundays at Love Hate, where MG and Good Vibe Entertainment, alongside DJ Self Born, have held it down for more than a year. The vibe is music from the 1970s through 1990s, with recent live shows by Special Ed and Grandmaster Dee of Whodini. "The old-school vibe in that place does it. We don't do it for the money; we do it for the love to establish something," MG says.
Whether it's gigging at a local nightclub or putting out quality music with consistency, the Basic Vocab guys are trying to create something for their city that's bigger than just hip-hop.
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