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Rap: Hip-hop group embraces rock influence

Hip-hop group embraces rock influence
The mainstream hip-hop genre has lost its creativity - for the most part, at least. Too often, hip hop artists base their music and lyrics solely on material worth, superficial issues and the like. Too often do listeners hear 50 Cent singing about putting "Lamborghini doors on my Escalade." Yet one thriving group combines insightful and intelligent lyrics, while mixing hip-hop and rock elements.

From the streets of upstate New York, Gym Class Heroes is on their way to take hip-hop music in a new direction. Gym Class Heroes is a four-piece band that incorporates several different genres, including hip-hop and indie rock. Heroes has shared the stage with a spectrum of bands - reggae, hip-hop and metal bands, which has opened its horizon to a new level of experimentation and implementation.

Their recent debut album, "The Papercut Chronicles," is full of realistic and powerful lyrics that cover anything from drug addiction and abuse on "Pillmatic" to a love ballad on "Cupid's Chokehold."

Rather than having the same old tired looped drum machines and synthesized samples, Heroes incorporates a calmer sound dominated by smooth guitars, tranquil bass lines and personal lyrics.

"I think there's more freedom," said Travis McCoy about playing hip-hop music with a live band. McCoy said that current hip-hop artists can loop whatever they want, but he finds more excitement playing hip-hop with a live band. "You're working as a unit (with) more individuals coming together to make something beautiful. It's more exciting, more fun, and there's more energy."

Only a handful of bands have successfully fused hip-hop and rock together, including Run DMC and Rage Against the Machine. Heroes, however, shares a noticeable comparison with hip-hop group The Roots, who also plays hip-hop music with a live band.

The standout track "Taxi Driver" serves as the primary example of the rock/hip-hop synthesis. On it, McCoy raps about a girl while simultaneously naming several prominent indie and rock bands. Before she left / she made a Dashboard Confessional and spilled her guts in Cursive / But what's worse is I can still see her Bright Eyes like Sunny Day Real Estate.


 The expanding school of hip-hoppers who rock rhymes over lively instrumentation should welcome these new classmates. The crew from upstate New York have not only made us envious with their skill on the dodgeball court, they've also garnered our respect playing energetic human-generated beats, dousing them with stimulating wordplay.

Inventive. Gym Class Heroes´ music incorporates several different genres, including hip-hop and indie rock. By doing hip-hop accompanied by a live band, the members said it gives the music more freedom and excitement.

McCoy said that this song almost failed to be completed and recorded. After writing a few lines and showing it to his band mates, McCoy continued his tribute song. As a result, McCoy said that he did not get a song; it was more of a thought. McCoy said that many people see it as a novelty song or a gimmick, however, attempting to reach the rock crowds.

Heroes' music is influenced by several artists and events.

"We listen to all kinds of (music)," McCoy said. "I'm just into anybody that's into something, someone with substance," also noting his fondness to the lyrics of Tim Kasher, lead singer of indie band Cursive.

McCoy said that the death of his cousin also inspired him to include "So Long Friend" on the album. He said that such a topic is hard to write about, but that expressing it could serve as therapy for others who are facing similar circumstances.

"I don't try to think too far ahead," McCoy said about the future of Gym Class Heroes, but he is anxious to continue touring, create more inventive music, and see if the live hip hop band trend will catch on.
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