[Interview] Styles of Beyond: Uncrowned Kings
It’s an old and played out saying, but I’ll say it once more, “if skills sold truth be told…” The famous line from Jay-Z has become a true one-liner about skills vs. sales in Hip Hop music and culture. My tastes in music have always leaned towards the skills side, and the underdogs. Many of the emcees that I think are straight up the nicest, you’ve probably never heard of. Don’t get me wrong, I love mainstream Hip Hop too, but my shit is my shit. I understand now how things work, and am able to see why a group or artist does or doesn’t blow up. The Jay-Z line isn’t just about underground emcees spitting hard bars, it also speaks to how hard it is to really blow up, how it takes skills, style, the right connections, and the right moves. None of the most successful emcees, even the super dope ones like Jay-Z, reached success through mic skills alone.
One crew that is admittedly hampered by that last part of the equation is Styles of Beyond, the Cali crew made up of emcees Ryu and Tak, along with producer Vin Skully and DJ Cheapshot. Their debut album, 2000 Fold, hit me in gut during a visit to Dr. Wax more in 1998, and they’ve been one of my favorite groups since. I played the hell out of that album, put them at the top of my best emcee list and waited for Styles of Beyond to blow. The thing is, it just didn’t happen. Stuck in a bad label deal with the Dust Brothers, SOB was silent for a few years until they returned in 2003 with a new LP, Megadef, which was carried by the underground anthem, “Mr. Brown”. Following that LP’s release, Styles of Beyond went to work with Mike Shinoda on his Fort Minor project and inked another deal with his Machine Shop imprint on Warner Bros. They were poised for the breakout success they deserved.
But it just wasn’t meant to be, and after more delays and holdups, Styles of Beyond left Warner Bros. with nothing to show for their efforts but a shelved album just ready for a release, and diehard fans bugging the shit out of them about when it would come out. Well, the wait is over as Styles of Beyond will release their 3rd LP, Reseda Beach, on October 23rd.
Ahead of the LP, I caught up with Ryu and Tak for a candid interview about their new album, their diehard fans, label issues, and much more. Peep the interview on the next page, and get familiar with one of the best groups you may have never heard of.