In 1979, hip-hop transformed from an insular New York phenomenon into a burgeoning mainstream sensation with the release of Sugarhill Gang's "Rapper's Delight." The year marked a beginning for Columbus hip-hop crew The 3rd, too - most of them broke out of the womb the same year their genre of choice broke out of the ghetto.
Now, three decades later, The 3rd is witnessing another genesis with the release of their first proper LP, Nineteen Seventy Nine.
"To me, Nineteen Seventy Nine is just like our lives up to this point: A lot of pain, a lot of struggle, a lot of happiness," rapper Co City said. "The underlying theme is struggle - what you had to do to get to this point."
Since befriending each other at Monroe Traditional Middle School in the '90s, the group, comprising rappers Blaksmif, Co City, P.A. Flex and Shakes plus producer Rashad, has honed its craft and bounced around the Columbus hip-hop community. But it wasn't until last year's Club in My Car mixtape that they felt fully satisfied with their creations.
Rashad, a former R&B singer whose career as a teen star never quite took off, built a home studio with advance money from childhood record deals. There, the group buckled down and conceived the "super soul" sound that dominates Nineteen Seventy Nine.
"Even before the old-school hip-hop, I like to think that some of us were raised on the soul music, the '60s and '70 soul music," Rashad said. "It just so happened that we were born into the hip-hop music."
The sample-heavy production forms a nostalgic blur that recalls Reflection Eternal and the '90s heyday of backpack rap. It's a fitting sound for an album that has no shame about its aim to return to thoughtful, real-life reflections in an era where "conscious" has become a dirty word in hip-hop.
"What was special about hip-hop was honesty and dialogue," Rashad said. "That's what made us the CNN of the hood. Nowadays everybody's trying to make-believe."
The album dropped digitally last month, and Sunday's release party at Mozaik Lounge is the first chance to get a hard copy. The group plans to preview new tracks at the event and wouldn't rule out an impromptu performance, but the next chance to catch them on stage is Feb. 12 at Skully's opening for Cleveland breakout star Chip Tha Ripper.
They've also got a deluge of releases planned in the wake of Nineteen Seventy Nine, including a series of solo EPs called Offerings and a collaboration with The Roots' Truck North called Satellites, designed as a showcase for their lyrical dexterity.
"Nineteen Seventy Nine is our story. We're not trying to impress anybody lyrically," P.A. Flex explained. "(Satellites) is mainly to let people know that we're serious MCs."
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