Oxymorrons have somehow created their own unique lane that the music industry has yet to see: the perfect blend of alternative rock and hip-hop. Beyond that, the Queens, New York-based band stands for something greater than just music, but actually pushing the narrative and standing for justice during these unprecedented times.
Furthermore, they don’t follow the typical guidelines when it comes to genre, which also comes to life in the diversity of races within the band members. Based in New York, the group consists of Dave on the lead vocals, Jafé on the guitar and vocals, KI on the vocals, and Matty Mayz on the drums. Dave states, “We blend genres and do what we want to do.”
Having established their own growing fanbase, the band recently conjoined on an impromptu release of their new single “Justice.” The record speaks volumes showcasing their frustration and rage towards systemic racism and police brutality, which was surprisingly recorded back in February months before the George Floyd incident. All proceeds are being donated to charities and nonprofits.
AllHipHop caught up with Dave and Jafé to discuss their New York influences, writing “Justice” before quarantine, journey to 333 Wreckords, goals, and more!
AllHipHop: How did you guys come together?
Dave: Initially, it was me and my brother KI, who’s not on the call now. There’s 3 vocalists and emcees, we interchange and do whatever. The tracks are composed of a lot of different vocals from us. We started off as a group with a DJ first, then we added our drummer Matty who’s still our drummer now, which is amazing. We had this concept and this idea, we grew up listening to everything. We’re huge fans of Billy Joel, N.E.R.D, Queen. On the hip-hop side, you got from Kanye to Jay Z to Big. Everything you could think of, we all blended it together and created this sound you hear now.
AllHipHop: How does New York influence your life and careers?
Dave: Do you hear how we rap? [laughs] We’re New Yorkers to the core!
Jafé: The blending of genres and the freedoms we give ourselves musically to explore new sounds, then bring them into the new sound we’re trying to create. It’s the epitome of New York, we have so many nations, cultures, foods, sounds here. I’ve lived in 3 out of the 4 boroughs in my life so I’ve seen, heard, tasted a lot of s##t.
Dave: Queens is the melting pot, the most diverse borough. You have every culture. I’ve lived in 3 different states myself: Boston, Atlanta, New York. Our Queens sound is worldwide, more than just a borough or New York sound. Even in the band, there’s two Haitian guys, a Dominican dude and a Venezuelan Jew. We’re a melting pot of everything.
Jafé: Our parents definitely raised us acknowledging our roots and our ancestors. I grew up around a lot of Afro-Carribean music, playing percussion. The undertones with the way I rhythmically play guitar is not as forward, but it’s in the DNA of our style.
Dave: Absolutely. Even when we’re writing songs, we’re tapping into that. Being Haitian, I grew up listening to Kompa music. I spent a year of my life listening to nothing but Reggae music, then you have the NYC hip-hop scene where you’re talking about your boom bap. The hard gritty New York rap. We’re also really alternative kids, listening to any band from Blink-182 to Underoath to My Chemical Romance. We’re listening to it all, we really blend every musical genre possible.
Jafé: Leftover Crack and Rancid. The punk scene in New York was a big part of my life too.
Dave: Even my brother, he’s a big K-pop fan. He loves K-pop! Everything is influencing what we do. For us, music is about phonics and how it touches people — between the word choice and the instrumentation of what you’re doing. That’s what we try to create anytime we create an Oxy song.
AllHipHop: Talk about the meaning behind the name Oxymorrons, I know it speaks for itself.
Jafé: Pretty much. [laughs]
Dave: That’s why we’re named that. It’s about blending things that don’t traditionally go together. When you blend them, it feels good and sounds good. It’s good, it’s no different than jumbo shrimp. [laughs] Oxymorrons fits exactly who we are.
AllHipHop: At what point did you guys realize this music thing could be a career?
Dave: Several. [laughs]
Jafé: Every one of us have a decade-long journey of pursuing music and putting yourself out there, putting your all into something you really believe in. I’ve been doing it actively with my own band since I was 15. My parents were musicians, I grew up playing in their groups from the age of 5 until 14. I don’t know how to do anything else, I’ve never considered not doing music. I’m glad it’s working out.
Dave: Same, my older brother was in a lot of different hip-hop groups. I grew up around Lost Boyz and Onyx, literally they grew up on my block. They’re my older brother’s best friends. Sticky Fingaz, dudes like would come to my house. Pretty Lou, I played with his goddaughter. Freaky Tah’s grandmother lived across the street from me. We’re around hip-hop our entire lives.
Jafé: That’s hip-hop royalty.
Dave: Exactly. I remember I was really young: when Russell Simmons signed Onyx, he drove through my block to do that. It’s been a crazy time with music and what’s influenced us, the experiences that came along. Even with my parents, my dad plays keyboard. My dad’s a musician. My mom’s not, my mom’s actually the educator. She balanced that scale out where “hey you’re going to be smart musicians, not the dumb ones.” They made us experience our culture, where our roots came from and being proud of that. Understanding that even with Oxy, rock music is black music. Not to ever forget that.
AllHipHop: What does it mean to release a song like “Justice” during this time? You actually recorded in February, before quarantine.
Jafé: Yeah, we wrote it in February. After George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery, a lot of people have been mobilized to hit the streets and use their art as our activism. We’ve felt this way, we’ve been angry about the issue for most of our lives. I’ve experienced police brutality within my own family. We’ve all been subjected to violence from them, to racial profiling to wrongful arrests, to being targeted for smoking weed. There’s a lot of performative activism and performative politics happening. They give us Black Lives murals, try do these things to shut us up and make us happy.
That’s their idea of justice, but we want the white racist mass shooter justice. The one who doesn’t get killed on site, the one that’s given a bulletproof vest and taken to Burger King so he can be put in jail and await trial. As opposed to people sleeping in their car and getting murdered, it’s f##king ridiculous. It makes it hard for highly intelligent colored people like ourselves to participate in the system. We have to bring ourselves to vote, really blindly believe that this 2-party system and this lesser of two evils is the best contribution we can make. It’s really upsetting to us.
We know better, we’re smarter than that s##t. They try to con us but at the same time, we’re obligated to participate because people have fought for these rights and not participating still hasn’t worked for any of us. I’m going to vote but I’m never happy about it. It’s a facade, it’s bulls##t. It’s giving us crumbs, it’s putting a bowtie on a steaming pile of s##t. We’re not getting to the root of the issue, that’s what this song is calling out. We don’t even know what justice is, we’ve never had it as people.
Dave: It’s a bandaid. The conventional form of justice, there’s nothing to gain. It literally makes no sense. It’s aesthetic justice going on, who cares about painting Black Lives Matter on the street? It’s a nice sentiment, it’s cool, but I’d rather you pass legislation.
Jafé: Change the law.
Dave: Not the sidewalk, I don’t care about the sidewalk. Thank you for the poster, awesome. Who cares?
Jafé: Do it afterwards, give us a law then paint the s##t everywhere. That’s a celebration.
Dave: That’s really what we want. Don’t do it for TV, don’t do it for the Gram, don’t do it for clout. Don’t do it because it’s in the moment, you need to lower the level of chaos going on, the chaos comes from lack of action. We want real action, let’s cut it out. Justice is about that, we’ve been screaming this sentiment forever. We’ve been touring, we toured Donald Trump’s election season. We’ve seen what this is all about. We get up and live in this skin everyday. This isn’t a moment for us, this is existence.
Jafé: We really live by existence is resistance. Our existence is resistance. We don’t always have to be so politically involved or loud. We’re the ones experiencing this with our bodies, psychologically, spiritually, emotionally.
AllHipHop: What was your decision to have proceeds go to charity?
Dave: We wanted to ensure that our efforts weren’t ever perceived as momentary clouting or opportunistic.
Jafé: We didn’t want to put something out to promote. We didn’t want to promote ourselves either. As many petitions that we signed, donations we’ve made, protests we’ve attended, we also participate politically with our art and music. We always have, since a teenager. This is our contribution. With every movement, music and art is a huge part. It helps mobilize people. We talked about it for a bit because we could also feel uncomfortable. Damn, we’re dropping a new song and trying to get everyone’s attention. Get people to stream it and share it.
Dave: We didn’t want it to be about us. The best way for it to not be about us is for us not to profit from it, like a lot of people do now. Yes you’re screaming Black Lives Matter, but because it’s PC now and everybody’s online. It’s PC right now, that’s what it is. Everybody is online, and they think they can do this. To show our solidarity with our people, it doesn’t matter how big this song gets. It’s not for the moment. It’s not now, it’s forever. Every proceed from this song no matter what it is, it’s going back to the people. Going back to what we believe in. It doesn’t need to benefit us in that way. We made that decision, thank you Jason and everyone at the label who agreed. They stuck by our decision, that’s amazing. We appreciate it and we want people to know that. Hey we’re here, this is our offering. It’s pure and it comes from the heart, not from anywhere else.
Jafé: Unfortunately I don’t think this country will be at complete peace during our lifetimes. That’s why we wanted the proceeds to go towards injustices forever. There’s still trans issues, indigenous issues, immigrant issues. We can always keep supporting people, ongoing with the times.
Dave: Exactly. Long after we’re gone if people still listen to this song, we’re still contributing to the fight.
AllHipHop: How’d you find your way to 333 Wreckords?
Dave: We’ve been in a lot of different situations. From offers from majors to working with legacy labels like Tommy Boy which is amazing. That was really cool but we realized independence is really important to us. Realistically, we DM’ed Jason. We’re fans of FEVER. We talked, we chatted. Over time, it morphed into this. It took a year for us to get here. It didn’t happen overnight. We both calculated things. We flew out to LA, worked together. Went to New York for shows. We took our time. It made sense to be the best decision not only for label and reach, but we align as people. Jason has the same personal sentiments we do, he understands us on a granular level. He understands our struggles as people, not as musicians. It bleeds into us being musicians and our lives align. If we didn’t release a song, we’d still have everything in common with Jason. It was a very easy decision, Wrecks made the most sense.
Jafé: Everything Jason does is people over profit, same thing with his label and this collective. It’s the people involved in it, over them owning masters or telling us what to do, what to wear, who to record with. That’s all we’re looking for: freedom. It’s a smarter business move for us. It promotes longevity and hopefully capital for generations to come. We’re not trapped to a label the way so many artists are.
Dave: Historically, the industry’s been horrible to artists, especially minority artists. We’ve been taken advantage of. We pour into an industry that’s never equally poured back into us, ever. To be in a situation where we can contribute to the future of music for our people, let’s do it.
Jafé: We feel super safe and supported. That’s a dream. We didn’t get a fancy advance check, but we’re free and we have resources. There’s no price tag on that.
Dave: It’s happening and we enjoy it. It’s better than we could imagine.
AllHipHop: You’ve toured with some of the greats: Lupe Fiasco, Common, Gym Class Heroes, Waka Flocka, Ludacris, Rihanna, Salt N Pepa. What was the highlight?
Dave: Lupe’s on my top 5 list of rappers of all-time. He’s one of the baddest rappers breathing! If he wasn’t breathing, which I hope never happens but will at some point because we’re human, he’s still top 5. Meeting him was incredible, he’s everything that you see in real life. So is Common. Common has an energy that when you walk into a room, he lights it up as if he’s an angel. Common is supernatural. What’s awesome about meeting him the first time, he never forgets who you are.
I read his book then years later after our first initial meeting, we’re on Sway. Sway’s the homie, an early Oxy supporter. Common was the next guest on Sway. We had to cross paths, I tried to explain where we met. He said “nah, what’s up Oxymorrons.” He remembered us and really embraced us. He’s an awesome dude. We’ve been fortunate. We toured with Gym Class Heroes. Travie, Matt, Disashi, those guys are the homies. I still text Travie. Even this year at Warped, he came to our dressing room and hung out with us. We know these guys, not just music. We’ve been fortunate enough to be in a space where we’ve met really good artists who are legacies and have done incredible work. They’re also really good, incredible people.
AllHipHop: What goals do you have for yourselves at this point of your career?
Dave: Really, to explode in the way that all artists explode. Those 300K people concerts you have in your room forever, you want to live that out. For us it’s about getting a message out: being unapologetically yourself. Being the voice of the voiceless, having people of color understand where their musical legacies come from. Fighting back for the spaces that are historically ours, that’ve been white-washed over time. Obviously, we want to be successful.
Jafé: The Oxymorrons community we already have: people who support us, share our music, come to our shows, they’re loving people. We have all walks of life around us. Everyone feels safe, they enjoy themselves. We also don’t take s##t from anyone and expose truths at all costs. We want that community to get bigger and more global because at the root of it all, it’s love. We want to spread that love, let people know what’s really happening out there. What real rock and roll sounds like, it sounds black.
Dave: It sounds really black, it’s awesome. That’s not to discredit any contributions to rock and roll music that white people have made. Collectively as humans, we’ve been able to do this and our contributions shouldn’t be minimized. We challenge everything at all costs, even our own people to be accepting. We cannot be in a situation where we’re fighting oppression, then oppressing others who look like us but may be different like trans lives. That’s important, we cannot separate that. To be black is to be black and that’s the experience, no matter what it is. We should support everything no matter what we’re doing. Oxymorrons’ space is a safe space for all. We don’t discriminate at all. If you’re here and you’re a good person, we love you. Point blank period.
Jafe: Obscure, xtasential youth, that’s what OXY stands for. That’s a welcoming to everybody.