The streets may raise a man; they may haunt him; but they will never define him. Whoever doubts the strength lurking in America’s underworld should look towards up-and-coming rap-duo, The HoodStarz, whose fortitude, drive and eagerness serves as ample proof that a way out really does exist. The group, which will release their fourth album independently this October, consists of two childhood friends from the Bay area, who formed a musical alliance after years of roaming neighborhood corners. They pushed themselves through school, and eventually, after studying hip hop cohorts who were making a name for themselves in the game, began their creative work.
“We’ve been together since knee-high,” says Band-Aide, one half of the group. “We got into a little of the bad stuff, but were always inspired by other rappers in the ‘hood who were making a lot of noise. We followed them around and eventually did our thing.”
The HoodStarz have released three albums in the past, enabling themselves to establish a distinct following in the business. Along with touring and musical collaborations, the rappers circulated several music videos online and through major outlets like MTV, which brought their visibility to a larger platform. In 2009 however, Band-Aide was arrested following a police raid in the South Bay, and the duo hit a breakpoint. The investigation led to the detainment of 42 people in 14 cities, including Band-Aide, all of whom were accused of various criminal activities associated with a gang known as “The Taliban.”
“We (The HoodStarz) have been missing for awhile cause I got caught up in all that,” he comments. “Some people got let off, some people are doing time, some people are still pleading… I got out of it, but you know, I don’t like to talk about it much. I’d rather focus on what’s positive.”
Positive being a new album out, appropriately titled Controversy, that’s already generating buzz online. The 17-track record features guest appearances by such signature rap talents as David Banner, E-40, Gucci Mane and Big Rich.
“We went on the road with E-40 and we started meeting a lot of people,” explains Band-Aide. “This album is built from our relationships with other artists and producers.”
The guys describe Controversy as “street,” meaning heavier production than a mixtape, but with a “no holds barred” approach to promotion and design. Every song is original. Every song meant to be emblazoned in the minds of listeners. Every song made with its own theme and ideal, from street life to clubbing, narcissism and greed.
“We were in the middle of a situation over the past year so there are a few songs which address that,” comments Band-Aide. “But then there are others just about sippin’ Patron at the club, there are some about people yappin’, you know talkin’ when they don’t need to be talkin.’”
They’ve built a life from hardship, and continue to use positive energy to keep them moving in an upward direction. “The hardest part of keeping out of the streets is temptation,” says Scoot Dogg. “You have to find a way to do something else.”
Adds Band-Aide, “For me, it’s having so many friends who I grew up with that are still in that situation. They haven’t been able to tour and see the world and they don’t understand why you can’t go back to the block. They think you’re acting too good to be there, but they don’t understand the risk. I’ve got too much to lose.”
The HoodStarz claim poverty is the number one cause of dysfunction in urban “ghettos,” and feel the creation of jobs is the only route to a better life. For them, of course, it was through music. Their latest record contains elements of gangsta rap, hyphy, and even pop music, as the duo doesn’t want to limit themselves to one genre. Their musical penchants are equally diverse, mentioning artists like B.o.B, Miles Davis and Green Day as some of their favorites. When asked about teen phenom, Justin Bieber, the guys say they dig it.
“We like everything. We want to push our music as far as possible, till we can’t any longer,” says Scoot Dogg, “And then we want to do other things. Artist development, movies. We want to do a lot.”
With their latest work, they plan to remind listeners of who The HoodStarz are as a group. After that, there’s no telling. Though the over-saturation of mixtapes and free multimedia may prove a difficult terrain to navigate, the duo looks to their predecessors for constant motivation. After all, what brought them out of the grime could also lead to higher peaks.
“If I could meet anyone, it’d have to be someone like Master P, Jay-Z or Puffdaddy,” says Band-Aide. “Somebody who began their own company and runs with it.”
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– Courtney Garcia