By Lisa Morgan
If you are an obstacle standing between Josh Hall and Josh Fimbres and/or their music, you may or may not be asked to step the hell aside before they plow right past you. Co-captains of the award winning Hip-hop team, Thr3 Strykes, these emcees of power poetry supported by their own aggressive rocking style of rap rhythm, have risen to the top of their peer pool in-spite of what at times felt, like a “foot on their neck”. Based on what I have heard of their newest contributions, and those to come, any resistance they’ve ever faced has only made them stronger. The new music is powerful and skillfully performed and produced.
I first saw Thr3 Strykes, almost two years ago. I was at the Hood Bar and Pizza to see another band, one that included Josh Hall’s big brother, Steven. Steven Hall was a man who had earned my highest respects as a powerful rock drummer, a passionate performer and a really good human. “My little brother’s opening up for us,” Steven had told me excitedly. “He’s in a Hip-Hop group, believe it or not, and they’re really good!” I have to be honest. I hadn’t found myself drawn to Hip-hop in a long time. Like many other middle class, music connoisseurs my age, I enjoyed an occasional romp with the earlier purveyors of the genre. I appreciated the Brooklyn spiced punk/rap rebel themes of the Beastie Boys, got crazy whenever I heard Run-D.M.C.’s “It’s Tricky”, and threw my hands in the air for Cypress Hill. But since those early days, I hadn’t found much to relate to in the genre. So, needless to say, I wasn’t overly excited to wade through this new group as I waited for the headliner. I was in for a brilliant surprise.
This was my review:
“If you think about it, there really hasn’t been a group to emulate the energy, cross-genre appeal and success that has been owned by the Beastie Boys since their debut of Licensed to Ill in 1986. Thr3 Strykes, I believe, has the absolute capacity to fill that vacancy in today’s music scene with their personalized, contemporary flare. From the millisecond their feet touched the stage at the Hood Bar, the energy just about blew the doors off the building leading me to finally understand fully the phrase “Raising the Roof”. It was obvious that these artists live, breathe and bleed their art. There are three distinct, magnetic personalities pouring out their thug poetry with passion and precision, honoring some of their predecessors in the genre with great skill. My guess is MCA was looking down proudly on this younger collaboration. Thr3 Strykes has that ‘it’ factor that ultimately put the Beastie Boys into the Rock and Roll hall of fame, only the third group in the genre to be honored. That ‘It’ factor is a genuine like-ability of the individuals combined with a no holds barred pouring out of passion, skill and heart. They left it all on the floor. They owned the crowd. If they continue to do what they did that night at the Hood and stay healthy in mind, body and soul, in an industry that will bleed you out if you let it, the sky is the limit for Thr3 Strykes.”
This past May, Thr3 Strykes was awarded 2014’s Best Rap Group at the Coachella Valley Music Awards. I love it when I’m right. It didn’t come easy for them by any means. There were some difficult changes made in personnel that could have threatened the future of any other band. I remember feeling the need in my review to qualify their future success with staying “healthy in mind, body and soul in an industry that will bleed you out if you let it.” This was due to the fact that one of the three Strykes, Jesse Brown, had been kicked out of the venue at sound check. It was ultimately worked out, and they were able to perform. Unfortunately, it wouldn’t be the last problem surrounding this dynamic and talented, now former member of Thr3 Strykes. Things came to a head quite publicly during a show at Willie Boy’s Saloon. Fimbres and Brown began bumping heads on stage and finished it in the parking lot. Fimbres and Hall were very gentle in their explanation of having to let Brown, a long-time friend, go from the band.
CVW: What led up to the departure of Jesse Brown from the group?
Fimbres: “The number one thing for me was that I just got tired of being embarrassed. When it got to the point where studio A, B and C and venue 1, 2 and 3 were saying, ‘We can’t have you associated with us or play at our place,’ because of the behavior of one of our members, not only are you messing with my musical credibility, but you’re messing with my pocket book. I love the guy. I’ve known Jesse for 20 years. I wish we could just hang out and have a beer, but I can’t do music with him anymore.”
Hall: “He just wasn’t as professional as he should have been. Partying is cool, but when it’s time to be professional, he just wasn’t up to par with that. Jesse had just done too much. I think he always meant well, but just wasn’t in the right mind set. I’m the grounder of the band. If I think somebody’s getting out of line, I’ll tell them to chill out. He and Josh were more like twin brothers where they’d just bump heads all the time. Before that last show at Willie Boys, Jesse wasn’t out of control, but he wasn’t stable. He blew our intro and started bumping heads with Josh (Fimbres) on stage. It culminated in an altercation in the parking lot, and since Jesse wasn’t in the right frame of mind, he got the worst of it. That was just the last straw. We had talked to him before, and we made the executive decision that it would be easier to move forward with just the two of us. Jesse is a good guy. He’s a great guy. He just comes off the wrong way. But it has been better since he’s been gone. We don’t have to worry so much about what’s going to happen next with him. It’s an energy thing. Josh and I have been doing this for so long it’s like kinetic energy; it’s not forced.”
While the band’s lyrics and stage performance promote a serious party atmosphere, one of the reasons Hall is considered “the grounder” is that he’s been sober for over a decade. I asked him what it’s like for him to be sober in the middle of the party they create through their music and performance. “It’s all about the music,” Hall shared. “When I get on stage, I might as well be drunk. I used to party, and I know what it is to get into the party mode per say, but being sober is just fine with me. I don’t judge anybody. As long as it doesn’t infect what I’m doing in music, on stage or if I’m trying to go to bed, I don’t have a problem with it. I used to party like everyone else, and still partake in a little green. People at the shows probably think without a doubt that I’m wasted, but I’m not,” he laughs. “And it wasn’t like one day I woke up and said, ‘I’m going to be sober.’ I was in a car accident when I was younger. After that, something just wasn’t right with my body. I would party and get really sick. Something was wrong with how my body processed things. I had to take a step back. To this day, I can’t eat certain foods. I tried to party a few times, but finally, I just said, ‘This isn’t for me.'”
CVW: What was the best part of the past year for Thr3 Strykes?
Fimbres: It’s been a great 2014. After winning the Coachella Valley Music Award, Josh (Hall) and I looked at each other and said, ‘This is what we need to be doing’. I want to win another one of those awards, and I want to get them worldwide. Of course the shows are always great – the love we get from our audience is amazing. Post CVMA, things have really started cranking for us. We’re working with our producer/engineer, TariqBeats. He gets our vision, and we’ve never had that before. We were pretty much doing everything on our own. Better quality music and lyrics make me really happy with the direction we’re going in. Josh and I make a good team. I like to say that I’m the shampoo and he’s the conditioner. I put something out there and he’ll smooth it out. Those are the highlights for me.”
Hall: “All the love we’ve been getting from CV Weekly, the CV Music Award and the fans has been amazing. When we first started out, we weren’t liked by a lot of people because we were different. We just stuck with it, and created our own sound. Even guys who work with us today didn’t see us as something that would stick. But we stuck with it, created a fan base, and now they’re starting to take us more seriously. And that is really rewarding. To this day, I still have that instinct of being the underdog…that hungry feeling when you feel people are putting their foot in your shoulder, trying to hold you down. All that has helped us out when it comes to people trying to get over on us or not taking us seriously. We remember where we came from and then we remind them. But when we get the love, we are just incredibly grateful.”
I suggest that Thr3 Strykes ready themselves for the love to come in tidal waves guys. Based on what I’ve heard from the new album, and have seen in the new video for “Blood Sugar”, Thr3 Strykes has taken their song crafting to another level.
The band has released a song and video from their upcoming album, CMNCTN-BRKDWN. The video for the song, “Blood Sugar”, opens with an eerie little sound bite garden to match the scene in the video. Then the music drops into a straightforward rock beat. The imagery is straight-up inspired from a horror flick. Unlike the older Hip-hop predecessors who laid lyrics on top of more laid back R & B/funk infused beats, Thr3 Strykes displays some heavy desert rock roots that expose an absolute finesse in their rapid fire performance of prose. Well crafted, each line has you leaning in to catch the next. Easily enough, you can find yourself singing along to the hook: “Pay me in pastries, ’cause life ain’t sweet. Sugar coated fallacies 7 days a week. (Blood sugar) So watch what you eat. It’s a cruel world baby ain’t nothing what it seems, ’cause life’s no treat. Maybe it would be if I lived a fantasy.”
Then things get deep:
“Pay me in psychedelic mind trips, eye lids, epileptic episodes of violence, the line is divided, when sides are decided, then again pigs touching kids in their privates, church gon’ deny it, public gon’ buy it, candy coat disguise it, bag and enterprise it, a holy testimony so phony only lying, and peace sells but who made the deal and who’s buying, the weight of the world, times by pay from them pearls, make that cake baked with swirls, taste like sin laced with naw, and secrets are secrets, in the blood is where they keep it.”
“Step inside the 3rd dimension, close the door to your existence, envision a world where you were no longer existing, kill that’s the mission, kill that’s the mission, quit the bitchin’, we don’t need your opinion, and the blood will spill when it spills they’ll kill, a thousand blood suckers call it Capitol Hill.”
Not to take anything away from Blood Sugar, a great song and video in its own right, but I have to say that I believe the best is yet to come. The new songs and their fine-tuned, well produced sound are simply visionary. “Rare Earth” has a spiritual ring to it, begging the question, “How deep is your love”. It honestly depicts the delicate balance that lives between love and obsession. But my favorite so far is “Virus of the Year.” The full on rock beats and in your face, driving rock guitar anthems are reminiscent of Fatso Jetson’s “Magma”. Placed dynamically, powerfully and even melodically on top of this monster foundation of sound, are heavy hitting lyrics pumped out by two artists who, from this point forward, have earned their right to be taken very seriously.
The ideal target date for the release of the new 13 song record is February 28, 2015, when Thr3 Strykes is scheduled to play at the Whiskey A GoGo. I suggest you follow them to whatever venue they are playing and shower them with their due of love and respect and make yourself part of their success story. No matter what does or doesn’t happen for these artists in the music industry, these are the guys who will never forget where they came from and who gave them the encouragement to press on.
Follow Thr3 Strykes @ www.facebook.com/3STRYKES
Blood Sugar video: http://youtu.be/2Li9A3U1QkI