The Fly Ones: In this together
A couple of weeks ago, I emailed New London-based rapper Andrew Camacho to inquire if he and his fellow MC, Poe Swayzie, would like to sit for an interview about The Fly Ones, their burgeoning multimedia hip-hop collective.
Camacho, whose stage name is his surname, replied in the affirmative, but asked if all nine members in the Fly Ones could participate.
"(It's) so that we don't have people thinking it's just (us) that make up the group," Camacho wrote.
Nine people? I said no. You can't talk to nine people at once. I mean, do you ever see ESPN interview the Mets' starting lineup all at the same time?
But after my hour-long talk with Swayzie and Camacho at Bean & Leaf, it's clear that collaboration is the Fly Ones' creative lifeblood.
In addition to Camacho and Poe Swayzie, Fly Ones members include singer Jaszmine Viciousz, performers Streetcode Danj, DJ Milky Beatz, DJ Louie Rock, DJ Figz, DJ Lazy, and videographer Real.
Also, you can throw the Fly Ones-affliated design company Flawless Visuals into the mix.
According to Swayzie - Kighl Dozier on his birth certificate - all or most of the Fly Ones gather a couple of times a week at his house on Montauk Ave. and end up where most parties do: the kitchen.
There they talk about whatever their next project is, whether it's a new song or a video.
The energetic Swayzie, 28, who provides a contrast to the more taciturn 21-year-old Camacho, said the group tends to work quickly, especially with a new song.
"It takes us nothing to make a song," Swayzie said. "We have a chemistry and know each other's musical powers."
Swayzie said the group prefers to tackle one project at time, so if working on a video is the order of the day, they'll throw ideas around the kitchen.
"It's a flow," Camacho added.
Both of them root their preference for collaboration in the origins of rap, where streetcorner MCs would improvise rhymes and feed off each other.
Swayzie said that the Fly Ones' rehearsals often consist of each MC taking a turn.
"We'll throw lines back and forth and try to do our best 16 bars," he said. "It's just become a live performance; all you need is someone to hear you."
Camacho added that he often builds off Swayzie's lines, but tends to draw inspiration from his own life.
"You're talking about your day, it can get emotional," Camacho said.
Swayzie also said it's important to give your partner a line or a theme they can continue.
"It's like in basketball when you're going for an ally-oop," he said. "You're looking for that perfect pass."
And from there, Swayzie said, it's hours of practice.
"You know how basketball players will shoot 1,000 free throws?" Swayzie said. "We'll go my place and practice syntax and vocabulary."
Thus far, the Fly Ones' output, available on their website, tends toward synth-heavy hip-hop dance tracks, the "miracle melodic drug," as Swayzie calls it.
And their latest, "Breakdown," blends hip-hop with dubstep, the wildly popular UK-based dance genre.
But the group is reaching beyond its own hip-hop borders and is looking forward to collaborating with New London acts as varied as the poppy Herff Jones and country swing artist Daphne Lee Martin.
Toward the end of our conversation, Camacho told me that one of his career ambitions is to always know his hometown's music scene has his back.
And he means all of it, collectively.
Stephen Chupaska is a writer who lives in downtown New London. Email him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @schupaska.
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