LiFecrew is the embodiment of brother-hood; the eight-member squad controls your ears with hard-knocking lyrics to conceptual songwriting. Initially created as a producer duo four years ago, founding members Internal Quest and Craft Beatz expanded the crew into a super group of ill producers and emcees.
From D. Bridges, who brings the bad guy persona in every bar, Jody McCoy who brings personality to every rhyme, Syde Efx with his overall energy, Broadway Blake with his entrepreneurial outlook while maintaining his artistry and J. Wellz with his laid back versatility over any beat. Not to forget the trilogy of sound: Internal Quest, Craft Beatz and Chuck the Archduke who provide the soundtrack behind LiFecrew with “must-hear” vocals by Internal Quest.
It’s rare to see an active roster of emcees like LiFecrew that can maintain individualism as solo artists and be consistent within the crew. It’s not hard to tell why they are one of Vibes in The City’s “Featured Artists” this week.
I met up with LiFecew’s arsenal of artists at Jersey Sound Lab studios in the heart of Brick City. In between laughs and jokes, I had the opportunity to better understand the unbreakable bond among emcees and producers that make up the crew and also learned how Vibes in the City was started.
AAHH: LiFecrew is Vibes in the City, how did the idea of the weekly open mic come about?
Broadway Blake: It’s all under the same umbrella. It was an idea I came up years ago and I finally got the opportunity through a friend of mine at La Rouge Lounge in Newark. I went to this open mic in NYC and it was dope, and I always thought Newark had enough talent where we could put something together. I always studied the music scene. The industry is moving a way from being signed to majors. Since I started making music, I would study the Houston music scene… Oakland music scene. I would pick up The Source Magazine, like Webbie and Boosie moving 20,000 records and people up here didn’t know who they were until four years later. Jersey has a lot of talent, we don’t move like Webbie in that level but I can see a difference within the past year or two. It’s more unity in Jersey now.
D. Bridges: I can say this, since Vibes in the City started I’ve seen more Jersey artists support each other. I’ve seen more Jersey artists be more genuine in showing love to each other since Vibes.
Internal Quest: We are trying to build that culture. It ain’t no egos, we all in the same spot. Same open mic. You can’t really down anyone.
Jody McCoy: I think Vibes in the City definitely got rid of the “crabs in the bucket” mentality. I’ve talked to so many people that I know who weren’t artists and became artists because of Vibes. I once met a cat, at a chicken shake at 2am in the morning and then the next week I saw him at Vibes. And they rocked twice there.
Syde Efx: Or artists, who never performed in their life. They come to Vibes as an outlet.
Jody McCoy: Vibes in the City really put the spotlight on other open mics. Now, you see more platforms because of the success of Vibes.
Chuck the Archduke: It changed the perception of what open mics are. Because open mics get a bad rap. It’s the perfect place to find raw talent. And people that have to cultivate their own style. You’re coming to a place where you’re meeting other creators. Vibes is a source of networking.
Internal Quest: Some nights, Vibes is like a concert. We bring the same mentality from LiFecrew to Vibes. It’s a family. We take pictures with Vibes artists, feature them. Get artists in better situations by introducing them to people. It’s not about just getting on stage and that’s it.
Chuck the Archduke: And giving them a professional experience. So they know when they go somewhere else, what’s right and what’s not.
AAHH: Describe your sound and role in LiFecrew.
J. Wellz: I would say I’m versatile. I can get on any track whether it’s a turn-up track or something for the ladies.
Internal Quest: We just try to do a plethora of sounds. Anything that we do, we do with strong lyrical content. Craft Beatz is the GM of the group while I’m the point guard.
Jody McCoy: I focus more on lyricism. As long as I get my point across with concepts, it doesn’t matter what kind of track it is. I pride myself in bringing the fun to the group.
D. Bridges: We put together the best music we can possibly make. We make good music. We give you that lyrical substance and keep the sound that’s relevant to today without crossing over and doing other BS. I’m the asshole of the group and the muscle. I make sure that everybody is on point with what they gotta do.
Syde Efx: There’s a difference between being solo artist and a member of LiFecrew. Anytime I know I’m going to be on a track with LiFecrew, I know I have to bring out the best in everybody. It’s less about me, more about the team. I have to execute the concept of what LiFecrew is doing while recording. I’m the spark plug of the group. The 6th man, Jamal Crawford.
Broadway Blake: I do a little bit of everything. I’m the levelheaded one cuz everyone else in the group is crazy [laughs]. I’m the mediator.
Chuck the Archduke: I’m the x-factor of the group.
AAHH: What sets LiFecew apart from other groups?
Internal Quest: We don’t have too many internal problems. We’re all brothers, if we have a little spat, it ain’t really nothing. It doesn’t linger for no more than an hour [laughs].
D. Bridges: It ain’t no egos. There’s no one man above the crew.
Internal Quest: We care about each other outside of the music so it’s not forced. I want to work with people that are consistent, period. I want the people that work the hardest. That’s the most important.
AAHH: Coming into an already established group, was it hard to decide whether it was beneficial to join?
Chuck the Archduke: I had my own things going on. But…
Broadway Blake: You’re Johnny Gill of the group. [laughs]
Chuck the Archduke: I don’t even know what that means yet. I gotta watch the rest of the movie (BET New Edition Story). [laughs]. I like working with people, who are working. I knew Jody for some time and I was telling him, “I got these beats!” and he was like, “word, let me hear it! *Jody voice [laughs]
Internal Quest: I had to recruit Chuck, real talk. I felt like I was scouting him because Chuck was doing too many things.
AAHH: How do you balance the different sounds to make sure all artists are heard?
Broadway Blake: Who’s ever around is how we record. Even if the beat sounds crazy and I listen to it and think, “Oh, this sounds better with Wellz on it, or Quest…” I’ll just fall back. If somebody else fits the record better, then that’s how it goes. It gotta make sense.
Internal Quest: If some of us are at Chuck’s studio or if some are at JSL then we record. It’s random. We plan about 20% of our songs and rest is spontaneous.
AAHH: As a group, is it hard to express individualism while creating one sound?
D. Bridges: We usually get a point across with no issues.
Internal Quest: Syde Efx is the only member of the group that never had solo music out before joining the group.
Syde Efx: These guys helped me become a better artist. It’s all high-level lyrics, and now I’m used to it. You don’t want to get out done while in the group. It’s competition but they’re my friends too.
AAHH: What’s the name of the new project? When is it dropping?
LiFecrew: It’s Crewluminati! It’s an EP, a collection a songs that we’ve recorded over the years. “Act Up” is the lead single, it’s a fun record.
Internal Quest: We came up with “Act Up” on our way to a show in Massachusetts. We were freestyling after the show and we came up with the concept.
Broadway Blake: The EP will be dropping April or May. It’s done.
AAHH: How do you embrace mainstream Hip-Hop while staying independent?
Broadway Blake: I don’t listen to it, I listen to a lot of local artists in Jersey, about 95%. But I keep up with Kendrick, J. Cole, Chance the Rapper, Dave East.
D. Bridges: I’m stuck in between 1996 and 2002. [laughs]
Chuck the Archduke: I more so like the production of new music than what’s being said in the lyrics.
AAHH: What will the next year look like for the group?
Chuck the Archduke: I want to see us… almost 5 spots from the closer, at a major music festival. Not the tiny print. It has to be 14-point font, bold. [laughs]
Jody McCoy: We had a good start to the year. I love the underground work that we do. We need to be seen doing this and that… going places. Not necessarily performing but venture out so people can see us. This is home, as far as music goes. I never wanted to be an solo artist. Group music is the greatest shit in the world. We got crazy chemistry, that’s the concept I wanted (as a group). We’re so versatile, we got street rap, conscious, that left shit. Group work is my main focus.
Internal Quest: What happens with LiFecrew is that we do our solo things and still come back to be active.
D. Bridges: Like last week, we went to a total of 3 events in one night. Even if it’s not all 7 or 8 of us. It’s about being seen.
AAHH: I noticed there are several artists that come from out of town just to perform. How does that make you feel?
Broadway Blake: It was part of the plan. We’ve been having artists from out of town for the best few weeks. The main thing is not stopping. I didn’t know it was going to be crazy fast. It’s a fulltime job. We had an artist come from Brazil.. shoutout Juliana Galdeano!
Syde Efx: It’s getting so diverse with different genres too.
D. Bridges: I’ve been doing this for 16 years and I’ve never seen an open mic, in Jersey, consistently run a year straight, without shutting down for a month or two.
Broadway Blake: The long term goals for Vibes is Made In America… Coachella. I’m making so many connections. It’s more than just having a nice open mic. To me, Vibes has done more for me than any song I’ve ever put out so far. Vibes in the City Festival 2018!
It’s refreshing to see a collective group like LiFecrew make dope music and still be genuine while promoting other artists with Vibes in The City. This was one of the funniest interviews I had in a long time, I could’ve asked so much more but check out LiFecrew this Wednesday at Vibes in the City at La Rouge Lounge in Newark, NJ. Get more details at VibesNJ.com.
Listen to more:
Internal Quest: https://soundcloud.com/internalquest
Broadway Blake: https://soundcloud.com/broadwayblake
D. Bridges: https://undersurveillance.bandcamp.com/
Syde Efx: https://soundcloud.com/syde_efx
Chuck the Archduke: www.FlowMob.Bandcamp.com