Thursday, June 26, 2008

Flobots

By: Michael Cho

The Colorado music scene, as I remember it growing up, was never really anything to talk about.  Every once in a while we would have an act here an there pop up on the national scene, but nothing really significant or memorable.  Highlights in the history of Denver music are: Glenn Miller, Judy Collins, The Apples in Stereo, Five iron Frenzy, India.Arie, Bill Frisell, Dianne Reeves, DeVotchKa, Big Head Todd and the Monsters, Pinhead Circus, String Cheese Incident and of course, John Denver.  Lowlights of the Denver music scene are: Vanilla Fudge, Winger, The Fray (not really that bad actually), and OneRepublic.  Mostly Denver is known for (Insert Band Name Here) Live at Red Rocks, and loving Phish and The Dave Matthews Band.

Noticeably absent from Colorado’s musical accomplishments is hip-hop.  The most legitimate hip-hop thing in Colorado was Lonnie Lynn, a former ABA player who is a youth counselor, and father of Chicago rapper, Common, and to a lesser extent, Kobe Bryant got busted having sex with a white teenage girl.  Growing up in Denver in the 90’s, we had no hip-hop identity, we aligned ourselves with West Coast gangsta rap.  But we never developed any funk groove based rhymes, and pretty much just stuck to gangstas.

However, in 2001, a Denver hip-hop group called The Flobots, released an excellent album called Onomatopoeia.  A follow up album did not appear until 2005, with a revamped line up, and an album titled, Flobots Present… Platypus.  After opening up for another local band gone good, The Fray.  But then they kind of disappeared for another a couple years, releasing a single here and there until they released Fight With Tools in late 2007 locally.

On May 25th, 2008 Flobots reissued Fight With Tools on a major label.  The breakout single ”Handlebars” peaked at #3 on the Billboard Modern rock charts.

Wait, they are hip-hop, but they are on the modern rock charts?  Are they like Linkin Park?  Uh...no.  Although, I will admit that Jonny 5, the lead emcee, sounds kind of like Mike Shinoda at times.  Flobots sounds like… like…

Flobots sounds like Denver.  Predominantly white, indie, up and coming, politically active, fresh and clean.  There are little bits and pieces of Colorado and Denver music history infused into their tracks and sound.  The Flobots are an instrumental hip-hop group, some big band and jazz horns, a little bluegrass string action, and clean, pure, unadulterated hip hop, free of depression or false bravado.  Yes, I am prepared to defend them against all Rage Against the Dave Matthews Machine jokes.  There is a definite political slant to the lyrics, in the vein of Zak De La Rocha and Chuck D.  However, the politically charged lyrics are preachy or negative. 

The first track, Mayday!!! is an excellent introduction to the Flobots’ vibe.  Subsequent tracks, Same Thing, Stand Up, Combat and The Rhythm Method demonstrate that Flobots, although wonderful on an album, are probably best experienced live.  My favorite track on the album is Rise, followed by We Are Winning.  2 live emcees, a classically trained viola player and a trumpet.  That’s how we save hip hop in the Mile High City.

So I salute my fellow denizens of the Queen City of the Plains.  Conscious lyrics, rocking beats, agile flow, and an instrumental canvas which brings it all together and smooths it out.

Change is coming to America, straight out of Denver this summer and the flobots are providing the soundtrack.

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