This article first appeared in The Alt on September 5, 2018.
Photos by David Cohn
There’s a growing crew of hip hop artists set on swallowing the Capital Region whole. They can pack out Jupiter Hall in Albany and Upstate Concert Hall in Clifton Park with the snap of a finger, or more accurately, the send of a tweet. Their fans know all the words to their songs, they know their very first rap names, they travel hours to see the group perform. In a recent gig across the country to Los Angeles, they unloaded a couple hundred of tickets before they even got off the plane. I recently sat with the group to find out how they’ve gotten so far and where they plan to go. They’re silent only for a beat.
“The goal is world domination,” says founding member Harrison Errico AKA MostlyEverything. “To be the biggest.”
Entréband came together when Errico and Justin McGuinness (Mac Moon) were only in eighth grade. They linked up with Harrison McQueeney (Souly Had) in high school and started meeting up on weekends to make music together. McGuinness’ grandparents had saved money for him to get a laptop for college, so he took a deep breath, pooled his cash with Errico and dropped it all on recording gear at Drome Sound. They lugged it up to his attic and started experimenting, putting bits and pieces out into the world. Soon they were making “internet friends” like Dahm from Arizona or JVOTI from Texas who wanted to join in. For the past five years, Dahm has traveled to Albany twice a year, recording and collaborating with the home base crew.
By the time they wrapped high school, their creative flow had begun to spill out through whatever outlet they had on hand. The boys had essentially mastered the music marketing game, putting out regular video content on Twitter where their fanbase had skyrocketed. They jumped in on trending hashtag challenges and posted clips of Souly singing bits of well known covers (like Chance the Rapper’s “Same Drugs”) or freestyling at a party.
— souly (@soulyhad) June 29, 2017
“Anywhere we went, I would just bust out my camera and do a clip,” says McGuinness. “When [Souly] did the “#sogonechallenge on Twitter, it was gone from there.”
The challenge, which had consisted of artists and celebrities freestyling their own verse over Monica’s 2003 hit “So Gone” instrumentals had grabbed their attention at just the right time.
“That shit had 7,000 retweets and 20,000 favorites,” McQueeney says, shaking his head. “I dropped it at the perfect time when the hashtag was still buzzin’ so I got up in the trending page. I was the first one that came up there for like 6 hours, my phone wouldn’t stop buzzing. I was like, ‘Mom! Mom! You gotta look at this! I think i’m going viral!’”
— souly (@soulyhad) August 10, 2016
If Entréband is the rollicking hurricane flooding clubs around the region, Souly Had is the eye of their storm. The young hip-pop artist was recently profiled in the Times Union for his staggering success on Spotify, which had added the artist to their own playlists like “Mellow Bars” and “Low-Key.”
The group even uses Souly’s single releases like markers on a timeline. He dropped “omw” when he went viral and reached 10,000 followers on Twitter with the silky smooth earworm “Déja Vu.”
The numbers are only continuing to climb. On Spotify he brings in 280,537 monthly listeners. Hits like “Crush” and “All The Time” have over 2 million listens and it’s opened up some significant doors for him and the group. Producing giant Darkchild (behind hits like “Say My Name” by Destiny’s Child or Beyoncé and Lady Gaga’s “Telephone”) reached out to work with him and he frequently collaborates with local producer Purpdogg, whose credits include Drake, Soulja Boy and Migos.
When asked what could have brought on this much success in so little time, Souly says it’s his relatability that draws the mass of listeners. With a bit of rapping and a bit of singing, he’s been able to pull from very different fanbases.
“I think both things put together made it super dope and super relatable because I write off of straight personal experiences,” he says. “I think I started picking up because I was rapping about what people experience in real life instead of just rapping about how I’m the best rapper in the world.”
In a lot of ways, he is the personification of the group’s creative goals. Consisting of 10 separate artists–including the recent additions of Tom C Bumpz and the Capital Region’s own DJ Siroc–with their own interests and technical abilities, they can pretty much do it all. There are in-house producers, beat makers, singers, rappers, branding managers and graphic designers.
Soon, Entréband will set off on their own northeastern fall tour. They have also been putting together their first collaborative album, slowly but surely.
“When people ask us what kind of music we make, we never know what to say,” McGuinness says. “We tell people R&B and rap but I think people gravitate towards it because you can get any side you’re looking for. Any emotion you’re trying to pull will be somewhere in the catalogue.”
“Everybody’s got the same goals but we’re all doing different things,” Tom C adds. The beatmaker, who produced MostlyEverything’s new tape Long Distance as well as some of Souly’s upcoming album, met the group while opening for their set at his SUNY Oneonta campus. “I had never seen artists like that. It was so different. It was like a movement, more than a show.”
“It’s just a big creative circle, you know what I mean?,” McGuinness says. “Obviously at the roots, it started really personal with all of us being friends making music but then it grew into just like minded individuals who can collaborate to make one product. It just became something bigger than we had anticipated.”
They have fans contacting them from Africa and Europe. At their summer show in LA, they met people who had driven or flown 6 hours or more to come see them play. One couple has been following the crew to shows for the past four years.
“People we telling us, ‘We’ve been listening to you guys since we were 16,” and we’re like ‘How old are you? …Oh wait, dude. We were 16 too,’” McQueeney laughs.
Inevitably, the group has been compared to the California hip hop boy band Brockhampton for their group dynamic. Fans on Twitter have been asking for them to team up for an epic coast-to-coast tour. While McGuinness says they respect the group, Entréband is different. It’s about community support for each individual artist’s solo endeavors.
“It’s not like Souly Had and the Entrebandits,” Errico laughs. “Every single person on the roster is a real savage in their own way. It’s a team. That’s why I feel like it all works well. Within the next three years, I think people are gonna figure that out for themselves… but it’s early.”