Halfro: The Next Generation of Live-Band Philly Hip-Hop
Comparing Halfro to its most obvious progenitor would be way too simple. A band with keys, bass, drums, and an emcee? Pulling out covers amidst originals with seamless transition? A groove-laden party at every show? And they’re from Philly?
As you might expect, the comparison is not lost on the young quartet, originally founded as Chocolate Milk (both names originating from their having two white and two black members). “The Roots have always been my favorite artist – I have the tattoo to prove it,” says Luke, the group’s bassist. “I heard them when I was a close-minded, pain-in-the-ass thirteen-year-old who only liked metal. Hearing how they could form hip-hop using live instruments blew my mind. That’s all I’ve wanted to do since,”
Fortunately for Luke and his bandmates, Halfro doesn’t need to do a lot of justifying. The raucous energy of their sets speaks for itself.
Humbly originating with high school jam sessions between keyboardist Andrew (aka Bach), drummer Justin, and singer/emcee Dave (aka Mutt), Halfro’s flight was more of a mile-relay than a sprint. “In high school, I had a little recording “studio” in my bedroom at my mom’s house in Harrisburg. My friends and I would sit up there ALL THE TIME and make funny raps and beats and all that,” says Andrew. “Dave and Justin were involved in all this stuff, and the three of us started taking it more seriously as time passed. When the three of us shipped off to Temple University, we met Luke and started forming the sound we have now.”
Those early days have translated into a constant grind to play shows, connect, and be seen. They have steadily worked towards bigger and bigger venues throughout the mid-Atlantic, and that momentum shows few signs of slowing down.
“When we first started, it was just the drunk people at house parties. Then, we were able to play better venues and we had some people come, but for the most part we played for the bartenders.” says Justin of the band’s early days.
“Since we’ve started playing shows, I believe that our audience has grown and we have developed genuine friendships from fans that consistently come out and show love. A lot of times people just go by the popularity or buzz of the artists they follow, and less about their actual craft or live show,” adds Dave.
Their sound is a fresh take on something familiar, but their influences run the gamut, making their way into this explosive foursome in idiosyncratic ways. “Luke and I both really dig metal – well, more “hardcore” I guess, but not the scream stuff – but that comes out more in our energy at shows,” says Andrew.
About a week ago, The Key ran a story about folk-comedy trio Wilbur that mentioned a “Friendsgiving” show in which Wilbur brought the house down alongside a few acts of various genres, including Halfro. The term “Friendsgiving” only begins to do justice to that sentiment. Halfro’s presence in that line-up only solidified that vibe, getting a room packed with people to get down in patchwork-perfect synchronicity and feel the band’s everlasting pulse through every muscle fibre.
“It’s just dope to me when I see rappers rapping their asses off on stage with a band who is both killing it musically and having a damn good time. I want people to get that feeling when they see us play,” explains Andrew
Live hip-hop, particularly when manifest in full-band setup, has the power to bring every type of person together. Self-righteous rockists who disregard the turntable/sampler/drum machine template of most contemporary popular music will consistently get behind a hip-hop group with obvious proficiency. Poptimists on the other side of the spectrum won’t justifiably hate on an act whose talent and comprehensive understanding of the pop landscape shines through with every note. People looking to party will always know a good time when they see it. Ultimately, Halfro has nothing to worry about. In a city known worldwide for awe-inspiring live hip-hop and soul, the torch that they carry will always shine bright.
Halfro will be playing with local emcees Bey and Verbatum Jones at MilkBoy on Saturday, February 15 at 8:30 PM. Click here to purchase tickets.