For two people known for their involvement in helping to shape the Denton rock music community, starting a hip-hop project could be seen as a bit unusual. But because of influences that expand beyond the rock sphere, Ashley Cromeens of Record Hop and Craig Welch of Brutal Juice nonetheless started The Neeks in May of last year as an outlet for a different kind of musical expression. Also: They figured it'd be fun.
"It's pretty much low-key and we have a lot of fun and drink a lot of beer," Cromeens says.
After starting as an idea to help fill time for the dance show a friend was putting on, though, The Neeks started to grow more serious as time went on.
"I was just going to do a few songs and dance to them," Cromeens says. "I asked Craig to do it with me because he's big on drum-and-bass and hip-hop and stuff."
But after that first show, which was entirely freestyled, the pair set out to write some actual songs. What they ended up with is a project that has loftier ambitions than just goofing off in someone's backyard.
"Yeah it's fun," Cromeens says. "But we actually want to do shows and record an album."
Having recently recruited a DJ and, potentially, a permanent third member who has worked on electronic music projects with Welch in the past in Grant Ring, The Neeks have added another beatmaker to their cast, and have given both Welch and Cromeens more freedom for their onstage antics.
"We're big Paul Wall fans," Cromeens says. "But we rap about our dogs, our friends, getting drunk—things we're familiar with. It's very peaceful. It's not hardcore rap style."
The group played their first real show on January 8 at Pastime Tavern in Dallas, opening up for Dim Locator and Shiny Around the Edges.
"Compared to their first show, they're now a fully formed, full-on project," says Shiny's Michael Seman. "They're great at trading rhymes. The beats are all there. They totally work the room."
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The band has six official songs at the moment, mostly in the form of hip-hop but also delving into more jungle- and drum-and-bass-influenced tracks.
"Someone said we sound like Dr. Dre," Cromeens says. But the lyrical content between The Neeks and explicit hard rap are worlds apart. In general, The Neeks try to remain "clean for the teens," as Cromeens puts it.
But there are some exceptions.
"We have a couple curse words, but we don't like to talk about it," Cromeens says. "Sometimes it flows better if you just cuss."