Leave it to Denver, that beehive of hippie Jam activity, to birth a new spin on Hip Hop in the form of Flobots, a quintet that welds socially conscious rhymes to live instrumentation with a swinging Indie Rock ethic.
The sextet’s roots go back to 2004 when MCs Brer Rabbit and Jonny 5 hooked up with violist Mackenzie Roberts to provide musical support for voter registration events. The following year, guitarist Andy Guerrero steered the trio toward the use of a live band and left his gig as frontman for local Funk unit Bop Scizzum to throw in with the new group. With the addition of double-jointed rhythm section Jesse Walker and Jesse Ortiz (bass and drums, respectively), Flobots was a reality.
Flobots became a sensation in Denver by creating an atmosphere of social awareness around their live appearances and connecting with musically dissimilar groups by virtue of their common political views. This combination of social responsibility and musical bipartisanship put Flobots in front of a wide variety of audiences and they found ways to appeal to everyone. Their debut indie album, Fight With Tools, became a huge local hit (particularly the infectious hit “Handlebars”) and was so well done that when they signed with Universal Republic, the label re-released the album without a single alteration.
Sonically, Flobots rocks with Indie authority while busting out rhymes that sting and probe like Eminem, the Beastie Boys, G. Love and the Red Hot Chili Peppers, but with a deeper vein of social and political commentary (check out the powerful Funk/Soul biography of “Anne Braden”). Jonny 5 intones, “I can lead a nation with a microphone” on “Handlebars,” and he, Brer Rabbit and the band shout out their manifesto on Fight With Tools’ closer, “Rise”: “Rise together, we rise together.”
Sounds like the perfect anthem for an Obama administration.