You can rage against the proverbial machine, or you can do your best to make things right.
Approachable Minorities are an Ypsi-based hip-hop trio concentrating on enhancement rather than aggression; beat-pulsed mantras and restorative raps that channel the energy and emotions of outrage into something healing, something that can help forge a bond between disparate social and ethnic groups, and reach a new understanding. That doesn’t mean the picture’s they paint will always be pretty, but the aspiration is to start the conversations, rather than just change the subject again.
Hip-hop with the power of positivity… with OGspunkySmith (aka Drew Denton), Lewy Seifer (aka TJ Greggs) and DJ OnDemand (aka Marcus Mckinney).
This week, the trio release their new video for Bodies. You can stream their first album, Afro American, here.
They deliver impassioned, empathic, and contemplative lyricism of a more conscious hip-hop that renders sobering social commentary, a propel it with the sleek, funkily-grooved ebullience of party-rap. This is fun mind expansion; a way to stay woke but also take some weight off your shoulders. The lyrics sink in and enable discussions after the show, but in the heat of it, you can also just dance… The idea is to unify.
“I’m mainly bothered by the fact that about 5 years ago, sh*t wasn’t this bad,” said Denton. “I’m mixed race, white & black, and I know people well on both sides and I can tell you for a fact that we are NO different from one another. Seriously. Social media has exacerbated the situation; when people can just talk sh*t all day online and feel no consequences….? Deadly things can brew.”
“I’m concerned that ti’s going to get worse for a while before it gets better,” said McKinney. “I’m addressing the issues by not letting them be buried in a sea of memes and irrelevant news stories. People have become too used to shoving all the issues aside and going about life. Look where that’s gotten us. What gives me hope is that I know there’s less hate than there is positivity and unity this time around. Anger is just louder so we see it more.”
Afro-American, which features cameos from other talents like MotorCityMello and Primo Beats, spans a smooth symphony of rap, soul, and funk, with groove-focused beats sampling a dark and sometimes icy patchwork of trip-hop synths and supplementing a steady percussive conveyor belt upon which these dual emcees can trade off their forthright and contemplative bars. The hook of “Dead Bodies” gets stuck in your head for days, but then the words, the subject, the message, can seep in…
“I’ve met many of the local police around Washtenaw county, on the count that my mother ran the apartments of the ghetto where we lived,” said Greggs. “I’ve met many wonderful people who have been in law enforcement, but as an adult I’ve experienced more negative interactions with them. I want to have trust in the people who are supposed to protect me, but based off of what I’ve experienced…? That’s hard to come by! So, all I see is that we are only putting out a message that our ancestors have been fighting for generations.”
This trio’s been around the Ypsi/Arbor scene for several years, but they’ve attained a fresh and vitalized new momentum as Approachable Minorities. “I love this scene so much,” said McKinney. “While there may not be as much unity as we would hope between artists and crews, there’s still mutual respect for each and everyone. Everyone’s just trying to come up in their own words. When any two forces are joined, though? Oh man!”
“Yeah, the area’s a melting pot,” said Greggs. “We all want to feel accepted around our peers, and this is where we live comfortably and feel safe to be ourselves. Most people try to avoid being judgmental to others, and that’s what I love about our community. No matter where you came from or what you’ve done, there’s always someone you can relate to.”
Meanwhile, Denton and McKinney are both getting to work on some solo recordings, but they’ll still be continuing to develop and perform as Approachable Minorities. Greggs is working on a mixtape, but says that as far as Approachable Minorities go…? “…the sky’s the limit.” They’ll also continue producing great shows through Northern Threat Entertainment, so stay tuned.