Rowdee Black Giants: Breaking Conventions

When you hear the name Rowdee Black Giants, you might start thinking about some testosterone infused heavy metal version of Living Colour, a group of big black guys screaming and destroying musical equipment. Actually, The R-B-Geez, as they are called by their fans, don’t destroy their equipment and they aren’t even a bunch of Black guys. Initially, the R-B-Geez are an odd looking collective of emcees and rock/funk instrumentalists, but when they begin playing, all thoughts of their odd appearance are absorbed by the dopeness of their music.

With percussions and horns that are undeniably Hip-Hop, and attitudes that yield the improvisation of jazz and the edge of rock, the group is an unseen force in music. Sounding like neither Linkin Park nor The Roots, the R-B-Geez musical fusion manages to avoid mimicry, but instead exemplifies originality and innovation. They have been creating a buzz in their home town of Philadelphia as well as cities like New York, so Alternatives caught up with some members of the group to chat about their history and their future.

AHHA: Who are the Rowdee Black Giants about?

Mutation of Greatness (M.O.G.) (emcee): The R-B-Geez are exactly what the name says, the Rowdee Black Giants. Our name has nothing to do with color or anything like that, it’s a statement saying that if everybody is doing one thing in the game, we are going to do what everybody else isn’t doing. The whole vibe is just all different types of cultures, all different types of people, putting that together in a pot and giving you this musical gumbo. That’s why we got cats from Ireland, cats with Hungarian backgrounds, we got emcees straight from the hood, and we got cats with college educations. We want to show people that we got all these different types of people making this wonderful music.

Da Average Man Earnin’ (D.A.M.E.) (emcee): Everything right now is at a stand still. We got a lot of groups, a lot of radio stations, a lot of mass media pumping the same sex and violence and we are here to destroy all of that. We are on the same path as Public Enemy back when Chuck D said he wanted to be the Black CNN.

Ed Docktor (bass player): As an instrumentalist, the R-B-Geez really give me a wide open range of expressing myself all different ways. I have a more rock background but this group allows me to groove more. I can really have fun with the music, stay in the pocket or make it melodic.

AHHA: What’s the symbol represent? The chicken, the shovel, the mic, all of that seems very calculated, break it down.

M.O.G.: This group has been in existence since about 1988. It was formed by two Emcees who are the elder statesmen of the group, Rowdee (Darryl Evans) and Black (Derrick Ward). Me and D.A.M.E., we were the young boys of the group, we were just trying to get our feet wet. After a ten year hiatus, me and D.A.M.E. picked the group back up and we kept the name to express our loyalty to the family. A Black Giant is a special breed of gamecock used by Tyson and Purdue to mate with their chickens to build real strong, powerful birds. If you want a bird to kick some ass, get a Jersey Black Giant. So that’s why we took that name, the gamecock just represents that aggressive ass bird that’s used to build stronger minds and build people up and make them the best that they can possibly be. The mic and the shovel represent our waking people up—just like roosters do—to dig what we saying. So that the whole breakdown of what the mascot represents, it shows loyalty and our purpose. We’ve been brought together to build stronger people to build stronger minds and to expand cultures.

AHHA: What’s a Rowdee Black Giants live show like?

Ed Docktor: You can tell that we’re having a lot of fun on stage, we communicate a lot on stage. Even songs we play in set come across different because we all have some many different backgrounds. We have musicians from Ireland, they bring an Irish sound, I’m more of a rock and blues guy and we all just blend it together. We try very hard to make every song different cause we all are a bunch of song writers whether with a mic, a bass or drums. We try to give the crowd a good time and I think we do.

M.O.G.: It’s that gumbo sound. It’s blues, funk, rock, jazz, it’s so many different styles of music. And when you combine them with a Hip-Hop bass line, you can jazz the guitars out, you can rock the guitars out, you can funk them out, it’s just totally refreshing.

D.A.M.E.: So many different genres that we break them all.

AHHA: Through music, society has been able to see people of all different backgrounds and cultures collaborate and fellowship. Why does it seem that society is so slow to yield that same positive fellowship?

Ed Docktor: Because most of society isn’t interested in dealing with our differences. Music is just such a great forum to bring all kinds of people together cause you really see how much you really have in common with each other. When you play music with someone, you have that bond with them and all the little differences don’t matter at all. I think it’s great that all kinds of people can get together and create something beautiful.

AHHA: What’s going to make 2004 a successful year for the R-B-Geez?

Rowdee: It’s time. It’s something that has been in the works for so long and it’s survived so many different mutations in line ups, that I think we’ve finally got the right mix now. Everybody’s head is pointed in the right direction and it’s time for the world to experience the Geez. We want to feel the buzz, we want to walk the streets and know that the music community knows who the Geez are.

AHHA: What’s happening next for the group?

M.O.G.: Shows. We’ve got lots of shows lined up. We’re going to release a mixtape for the streets to get the hood cats understanding what we doing. We’re going to be rapping over original production and we’re going to be jacking beats to rap over. Then right after we drop that we going to drop a soundtrack to a book written by this author from Philly. Hopefully after that, we can get a tour. We’d like to go overseas and play and then perhaps we can get some distribution.

AHHA: What website can cats go to?

Ed Docktor:

The Rowdee Black Giants are: Da Average Man Earnin’ (D.A.M.E.) (Emcee), The Mutation of Greatness (M.O.G.) (Emcee), Patrick Whelan (Guitar, Dobro, Harmonica), Matt Hannon (Drums), Ed Docktor (Bass), Donal McCarthy (Guitar, Engineering and Production), Rowdee & Black (Founders/Emcees)