The article about A-List which was recently featured in Columbus Alive!
JOE MAIORANA PHOTO
By Chris DeVille
A-List doesn't really fit with any of the usual preconceptions about hip-hop.
Actually, they don't really fit in, period.
The duo doesn't roll with a crew. They look nothing like stereotypical rappers. And they definitely have a sound of their own — sometimes clumsy, sometimes affecting and sometimes downright fun.
"We kind of just do our own thing," said Chad Weed, whose musical partnership with Brian Earley dates back to their days in Newark funk band Amorphia.
Performing as cWeeD and Tha Hafrican, 23-year-olds Weed and Earley have been rocking Columbus stages for about two years. After a show this Saturday at Scarlet and Grey Cafe, they will play a couple of their highest-profile gigs yet — opening for up-and-coming DC rapper Wale at Skully's and appearing at the jam-band-friendly Cabin Fever Jam in Thornville.
The men of A-List are psyched for the opportunity to win over such a wide range of fans, especially because without any group affiliations, they lack a built-in audience.
"We convert people at every show," Weed said.
The duo pleases crowds as much by enthusiasm as by talent.
"Every show we do, people are the most involved in our show. They just can't help it," Earley said. "Sometimes I move around so much I'm like, 'Oh, I better settle down or I might throw up.'"
Last year A-List released debut Ghost & tha Darkness, a jam-packed, often confounding collection of songs produced and rapped exclusively by the duo. The record combined homemade, synthesized beats with verses that span from drunken flirtations to sober ruminations on race relations.
Now they're in the lab again, and the material that has emerged so far is better. Weed and Earley have developed a rapping style as personalized as their lyrics. They employ sharper, smarter words, even when they deal with ultimately silly subject matters, such as the beverage-preference anthem "Dank Juice."
The goofy side of their lyrics still sometimes slips from playful into juvenile, but all in all the clunkers are becoming fewer and fewer. Now it's a matter of perfecting that balance between the serious political content and the party tracks without sounding like they're flailing wildly from one style to another.
The pair's chemistry is improving as well. They've started to trade off lines within verses, coming off like a rough draft of A Tribe Called Quest on "Smooth," the best of the new tracks. The song's keyboard-heavy, DJ Shadow-at-midnight production works well for these rappers.
In fact, A-List's production skills have seen perhaps the biggest boost on this new material. Weed and Earley have a lot of good ideas, and many of them are executed intriguingly. One problem: The beats remain a bit flimsy, lacking the booming low end that would add authority to the rest of the track. Remix?
The evidence suggests that as long as A-List keeps making music, they'll keep getting better. And they don't look to be stopping anytime soon.