The funky rap-and-jazz influenced group Yo Flaco has been through many changes. Fortunately, the one constant that has remained a staple of their development has been amazing music. The sound that owes much to the groundwork laid by Tribe Called Quest, The Roots and Guru’s Jazzmatazz, incorporating deep grooves, jazzy improve, and funky horns, is accessible, danceable, and infectious. Conjured up by various classic and jazz trained musicians and topped off with the rhymes of three innovative and conscientious rappers, the group has continued to please party-goers from D-Town to Colorado Springs and many points East and West of here.
The genesis of this funky ensemble has very humble beginnings. Guitarist Brandon Martin and keyboardist Matt Piazza had a chance meeting, but a shared vision: they wanted to create a live group that would incorporate all the sites and sounds of their training, yet be rooted in the hip hop that they loved. The two began a citywide search that eventually netted Berkeley grad, Wes Copelen (bass), and Seth Murphy (drums). They decided to take this sound one step further by adding the “Flaco Horns”, which consist of Saxophonist Ethan Raczka (who also doubles on Flute) and Tromponist Adam Bartczak (who can also play a mean Conch Shell!). Emcee’s Neil McIntyre, Nate Graham and Derris Miles were tapped to round out the group’s sound. This is the group that brought you Flaco’s fourth studio album The Skinny, and that fans of all ages currently enjoy.
The Flaco’s have shared stages with groups as varied as G. Love and Special Sauce, KRS One, Ozomotli, Pete Rock and Blackaliscious. They have traveled the country more than once and have even been invited to the American Music Awards; they were one of three finalists in the Best Unsigned Bands category that was created last year. With previous albums Skeptamistic and Goin’ At It–both selections of slick, introspective rhymes and innovative, groovy sounds–selling almost 10,000 copies, the group was confident and eager to complete the current, bigger and better record. The album features the talent of Ron Miles on two tracks: “Rent”, a reflective joint about friendships; and “Stinger’s Last Stand”. Other highlights that can be found on The Skinny, include the high energy call to individuality “Free”, and the more mellow, yet no less subtle ode to the art form they have so famously embraced, “Good Music”. The tracks “Rhyme & Reason” and “Write On” salute the culture of hip hop by paying homage to both the emcee and the graffiti artists, respectively.
Though the new album is good in its own right, it really is the live performance where these guys shine. Incorporating call and response tactics and shifting seamlessly between jazzy improvisation—both the musicians and the emcee’s are adept at thinking in the moment and going with a feeling—and pop music sensibilities, the group has entertained audiences since its inception. Give them a listen, and judge for yourself.
Editors Note: A version of this story has appeared in the December 2004 Urban Spectrum newspaper. D Tha Man is a freelance music scribe and champion of D-Town Hip Hop. He can be reached at email@example.com. Also, check local chop shops for a copy of D-Town Sounds: Da Newsletter 4 Hip Hop in The D-Town Area.
Haven’t had a chance to enjoy Yo Flaco!, now’s the time. They will continue touring the state in support of their latest record—making a stop at the Soiled Dove to help bring in the New Year! You can find more information at www.YoFlaco.com or contact their management at firstname.lastname@example.org.