By Natalya Jones
By County Grind
By Liz Tracy
By Chris Joseph
By Liz Tracy
By Matt Preira
By Jesse Scheckner
By Michael E. Miller
As if the name ¨Boca Raton¨ (variously translated as ¨Mouse´s Mouth¨ and ¨Thieves' Cove¨) isn´t awkward enough, just imagine being a hip-hop group named after a street in this upper-crust South Florida city and trying to eke out some street cred. That´s hard on its own, but when the actual street names in that burg are as silly as Bobolink Road and Whippet Way, the challenge is even greater. At that point, being hardcore is useless. You´re better off repping things you know, like having fun and enjoying the more comical side of hip-hop. Enter Brokensound Blvd, a four-man collective out of Broward County. Its members don´t live on the street they´re named after but they have a sound that mimics it almost perfectly.
¨I had a job interview on Broken Sound Boulevard,¨ remembers Bonus, one of three MCs in the group and its main producer. ¨I didn´t get the job, but I found the name for the group.¨ A great trade-off, seeing that since their inception in 2003, Brokensound Blvd has been making noise within the South Florida hip-hop scene with clever name in tow. Their music is often compared to that of mid-'90s rap groups such as De La Soul, Souls of Mischief, and A Tribe Called Quest. Equipped with three MCs (Limelight, age 22; Bonus, age 26; Lyve Kaos, age 20) and a DJ (DJ Trippin, age 21), Brokensound captures a slice of old-school hip-hop flavor with quintessential South Floridian vibes. With only one of the members a transplant (Kaos hails from Toronto), they create fun-loving hip-hop that suits a dingy nightclub as well as a sandy beach. Their debut album, Thirty Words to a Gallon (set for release this summer), is a grand representation that lyrical hip-hop is alive and well north of Miami-Dade County.
¨We are a rare breed,¨ Kaos says. ¨Like, we actually rhyme live versus lip-sync, and we write our own lyrics and can freestyle. As basic as that may sound, it´s hard to find real skills these days.¨
Like hip-hop vigilantes, Brokensound has been making the rounds throughout Broward and Palm Beach counties, assuring the public that skillful MCs still exist. Their live performances capture a joie de vivre, a fresh enthusiasm filled with the ¨Wave yo´ hands in the air, and wave 'em like you just don´t care¨ attitude.
¨We want our listeners to enjoy hip-hop,¨ Limelight explains. ¨We´re not about making folks feel upset and angry or sad and depressed at our shows. We want them to have a good time, dance, feel good that they paid ten bucks and [not] feel like they wasted their time coming out. We´re not about the whole angry hip-hop thing, about living the thug life. For us, hip-hop is about expression and having fun!¨
Fun might just be the perfect word to describe Brokensound Blvd. Limelight, the most outspoken member of the group, is a prankster type whose witty comebacks and demeanor could easily translate to standup comedy. ¨I guess I´m the most sarcastic out of everyone,¨ he says in a conference call, ¨but that´s probably because I´m the smartest.¨ The rest of the group couldn´t disagree more. As they bicker among themselves, there´s no question that these guys fight like brothers. In fact, Limelight and Bonus have known each other since grade school and even shared the same creative-writing class at J.P. Taravella High School in Coral Springs.
¨We knew each other from school but never knew [that the other] one rhymed,¨ Bonus says. ¨Back then, the radio station 99 Jamz had this MC freestyle battle challenge. It was when the movie 8 Mile came out and that whole battling thing was popular. People would just call up and battle each other live on the air. Guys like [Hollywood´s] Wrekonize and Jin tha MC were some of the champs on this battle, and so was I for a good couple of months when ¨ Limelight interrupts: ¨I came on and crushed you!¨ And the two start going at it.
It was this fateful radio MC battle that brought Bonus and Limelight together. They recruited another local MC, Wonder, who eventually dropped out to play full-time in a hardcore band. Trippin came in later as their DJ and a newly imported MC, Kaos, came into the fray. ¨We´re like Voltron,¨ Limelight says. ¨We´re good as individual parts, but when we all come together, we´re unstoppable!¨
Brokensound Blvd is your garage band next door. Their appearance is average-looking, no platinum chains and oversized white T's. In fact, the guys in Brokensound pride themselves on not looking like rappers. During the day, you can find Bonus behind an iMac doing graphic design, Limelight selling used air conditioners, and Kaos as a respectable loan officer. ¨The only person that´s living the hip-hop life 24/7 is Trippin,¨ Limelight says. ¨He´s actually found a job teaching kids how to DJ and actually makes a living off it. That´s when you made it!¨
As much as these three lyricists hope to make MCing part of their day jobs as well as their graveyard shifts, it´s hard to do hip-hop full-time nowadays, especially in Broward. Yet there´s hope for this budding group.