wo years ago, when I first heard whispers from my more in-tune friends in the Cincinnati music scene that there was a new Hip Hop group called Those Guys making noise in the area, the discussion wasn’t about a song they put out, a mixtape they were about to drop or their electrifying live performances.
It was about their tagline: “Good Hip Hop Music.”
The first thought that came to my 21-year-old musically pretentious mind was, “Who in the hell do these bold, asshole nobodies think they are making a statement like that?”
Then, a couple months later, I heard Those Guys’ Greater Than Vol. 2 mixtape and quickly realized two things — I was the asshole nobody for doubting the members’ abilities and the boldness and bravado that “Good Hip Hop Music” carries wasn’t coming from an egotistical standpoint, but a belief and self confidence that the music they were producing was, in fact, good.
What Those Guys’ tagline doesn’t tell you is that this “Good Hip Hop Music” mentality was established long before the group had any concrete footing.
When Joe “Jova” Milburn decided to drop out of nursing school after one quarter in 2010, he called his Monroe High School friend and eventual Those Guys partner Jordan “J. Al” Allen, who was homeless and living from couch to couch at the time, to tell him about their new career path.
“He called me and he was like, ‘Yo, we’re gonna make music, I just quit school,’ and I was like, ‘No, you didn’t,’ ” Allen says. “Then I went over to his house the next day and he was supposed to be at school and I was like, ‘You really did quit! Oh my God!
“He quit school before we were even good.”
This small fact, however, didn’t stop Milburn from pursuing his dreams of making music.
“I knew what we were. I knew what (Allen) was and what I was going to be … I had total faith,” Milburn says.
Allen, on the other hand, wasn’t on the same wavelength about this newly chosen profession.
“I was scared!” he says. “You got to remember, at the time, I was homeless. He was talking about how we’re gonna be rappers and I was like, ‘Man, I don’t even know where I’m gonna live.’ ”
Even though his partner wasn’t totally on-board, Milburn’s determination and faith never wavered as he became a student of the Hip Hop game, looking up to artists ranging from Kid Cudi to The Clipse and trying to expand his knowledge of not only lyrical artistry, but beat-making as well.
“(Neptunes’ producer/artist) Pharrell was doing beats with Malice and Pusha T and I was like, ‘This is how this is supposed to be done,’ ” Milburn says. “I knew Jordan could rap and, at the time, we didn’t really have that Pharrell aspect. I wasn’t that great at beats — and I’m still not — and we had no idea how to do a hook, so I just started studying that.”
While Milburn was studying at the Pharrell school of Hip Hop and hit-making, he and Allen were thinking about methods to build an audience and develop their live performance.
“In our free time we would watch other local rappers. The common theme was ‘Why don’t people enjoy Rap shows?’ and it’s because they are just standing on stage, staring back at us, rapping about nonsense,” Allen says.
Then Milburn went to a festival in Memphis and found his answer to the general lull of Hip Hop shows run by backtracks and DJs.
“I saw Snoop and his band was off the chain. Not to take anything away from Snoop because it’s Snoop … but they had a band and I wanted a band,” he says.
From there, Milburn recruited lead guitarist Jake “Money” Morton and bassist Aaron Spears. As for drummers, Those Guys have gone through more than Spinal Tap.
But even without a steady percussionist, the addition of Rock players Morton and Spears gave Those Guys’ live performances an edge and intensity that most Hip Hop shows lack, setting them apart from the rest of the Cincinnati Rap scene and expanding their audience to also include more “alternative” crowds, outside of the genre.
After years of self-promotion and shows, Those Guys’ hard work finally began to pay off last year when they dropped their explosive (pun intended) video for their track “You Ain’t Know.”
“You Ain’t Know” follows the typical “Rap video” checklist by having two dudes spit in front of a car with their posse in full effect in the background. Except, you know, the aforementioned posse is dismantling the vehicle … and it ends in the car being blown to pieces. Think Nelly’s “Country Grammar” video, but with baseball bats, Molotov cocktails and better rhymes.
With the clip’s unique visual element and a growing internet presence, people really began to pay Those Guys the attention they deserved. The accolades began rolling in, including a 2013 Cincinnati Entertainment Awards nomination for best Hip Hop artist and scoring the No. 1 slot on HotNewHipHop.com’s HeatSeeker chart.
“Before (the video for) ‘You Ain’t Know,’ our only outlet was our Twitter and Facebook pages,” Milburn says. “Now it’s like, ‘Oh my gosh, all these people fuck with us.’
“Redman retweeted us and, on (HotNewHipHop.com), Big Sean and 2 Chainz co-signed us. It’s great to have those outlets now. It’s also gratifying to know that Redman likes it, 2 Chainz and Big Sean. It makes you feel like you’re going in the right direction.”
Even with their newfound success, Those Guys’ feet haven’t left the proverbial pedal. They’ve already recorded a new album, titled For Good Reason, which they hope will be released in March and a video for the new track “Soul Food” is due to come out in February. Although both release dates are tentative at this time, one thing is certain — 2013 is already looking like it will be a great year for “Good Hip Hop Music.”
For THOSE GUYS videos, show dates and free downloads, visit yupthoseguys.com.