“BRIGADE is about the street soldier. We’re the ones battling everyday to survive. You’re always going to have your Generals and Lieutenants but it’s us - the Soldiers, that are on the front line,” says Sonni Blak, one of the three MCs that make up Philly’s own BRIGADE. Formed in late ‘99, Sonni Blak along with Eyse da SupaStar and Rambo are heating up the streets of Philly. The group has been friends for as long as they can remember. Sonni Blak recalls, “We all went to school together, growing up in Southwest Philly. Where we come from, it ain’t no bullshit- it’s about survival and hustling. The only positive thing we had is our music and it kept us together. Without it, who knows what kind of lives we’d be living or if we’d be living at all.”
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BRIGADE categorizes their music as street but with mass appeal. Rambo stresses, “The streets, more than anything, have influenced our sound. The lyrics may not be for everyone, but the hooks and harmonies can’t be denied. Eyse adds, “We knew we had something when the basketball courts and clubs were bangin’ our joints. Then when Power 99, (Philadelphia’s leading Urban station) started playing our shit, it was on!” With hard-hitting lyrics filled with anthemic hooks and melodic beats- BRIGADE has the respect from the street with the next target being crossover radio.
Each member brings a different element to the table. Sonni Blak’s thugged out attitude mixed with his powerful vocal shines on tracks like the “Takeover” and “Ready for NAAM.” Rambo is the crazy one of the group. He adds his own left-of-center energy to the clique putting raw vocals on “They Hot” and on the future radio hit, “Thugs.” Finally, Eyse, the wanna be athlete, comes up with the beats and hooks while delivering his own Philly flow to make everyone notice. “The thing is, we all know each other so well that we know each other’s move before we do it,” says Eyse.
When asked who influenced the group, an immediate list starts rattling off their tongues. Citing Rakim, Run DMC, LL Cool J, Tribe and the Wu Tang Clan – it’s obvious BRIGADE is into the street legends. Sonni adds, “Wu was like the first clique to show the Squad type Family. This is what we’re doing but with Philly flavor.” The natives noticed.
“Our mix tapes were selling like hot cakes. It seemed like we were on the charts,” recalls Rambo. “We sold ten thousand copies throughout the city - most of them on the corner of 58th street! Rival groups felt the pressure.” Eyse jumps in to add, “One of our joints was on the radio for 5 months! It became the theme song for the mix show at Power 99 but since we didn’t have a major label behind us, it just flamed out.” It didn’t discourage us though; we just kept on movin’, making beats, rhyming and getting the performance tight. We’re bringing a whole new sound – a whole new visual, and that’s whassup!
BRIGADE has a major advantage over the rest of the up and coming rap groups – the live performance. Eyse explains, “We have spent years performing on the streets, battling other MCs. If you can’t beat the guys on the corner, you lose face – that’s something we won’t let happen.” This fierce competition has provoked a high energy, in-your-face delivery mixed with choreographed acrobatics. “No one can touch us on the corner or on the stage, that’s our battleground.”
It was their seasoned performance that garnered the attention of Tuff Break Entertainment’s Chairman, Evan Forster. The group laughs remembering the day when they floored the executive walking down 58th Street. After a thirty-minute impromptu performance on the corner, Evan saw the vision and brought the demo back to California to the Family run label he shares with brothers Jonnie and Darren. Evan recalls, “I saw these three guys delivering a performance that was better than any group I’ve ever seen.” Tuff Break’s CEO, Jonnie Forster adds, “After hearing their demo, all the Brothers were hyped. We flew to New York to meet and after seeing them perform one song; it was over! Done deal.” Evan adds, “They are so street but know exactly what it takes to get to the next level. MTV and cross-over radio are going to be all over these guys.”
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