The Valley Isle is not exactly teeming with hip-hop acts, but Assault Squad Riderz has managed to get itself on the map. Consisting of Burn Bangatrax, Moet and 81-J, A.S.R. has been around for over a decade. They play somewhat regularly on-island and host Inferno Fridays at Lulu’s in Kihei. Tracks from their latest release, From the Rock 2 the Block, reveal a sound that embraces window-rattling bass and flashy synth as well as sweet R&B and island melodies. We caught up with producer Burn Bangatrax to get the lowdown on how to grow hip-hop on Maui.
When and how did you guys start getting together to make music?
It was freshmen year when we all got together at King Kekaulike High School. We didn’t see each other for about a year from intermediate school and during that year of being away we all were doing hip-hop on our own. Then we all reunited in high school and decided to put together a hip-hop group.
What inspired your name?
Assault Squad Riderz was inspired not as a physical trade to scare people, but more like a metaphor. It was like assault, meaning we’re attacking the music scene, attacking the break dancing scene and so on. And we needed a name that best described us as being strong and to push forward instead of being pushed around.
What drew each of you to this particular kind of music?
It would have to be the four elements of hip-hop, which are an M.C, break dancing, graffiti arts and a D.J. With these elements we feel that we could express a lot more as artists.
Break dancing? Sweet! Will there be break dancing at your next show?
If there’s enough room. But most of the time stages here that we perform on are small. But hopefully we can [incorporate] break dancing in the near future, ‘cause it’s part of our act and it brings more excitement to the event.
How long have you been gigging on Maui, and how often do you play out?
About 5 years. We often play about one to three times a month at places like night clubs, bars, car shows, store grand openings. We even got to play twice at Maui Theater [Ulalena].
How would you describe your sound?
We would like to say that we have our own sound—it’s a mix between Mainland feel with an island and R&B twist to it.
How are tracks put together? Is there much live instrumentation or sampling?
Mostly with keyboards and guitar. Nothing much live yet because of room capacity. But it’s all original with no sampling.
How do you go about writing songs? Do you start with lyrics, melody, a beat or what?
First we all come together in the studio and decide what type of vibe we’d like to work on—if it’s a party song, a laid-back song or even a story. Then the producer feeds off that vibe and comes up with the beat, then we get a vibe from the beat and decide what we would like to talk about and soon, when we’re all on the same page, we start writing the hook, record that and we each start writing a verse. And we record that last.
Where can people find your CD?
It’s available on Maui at Borders, Omni, Request Music and Urban City Clothing. It’s also online at www.cdbaby.com/assaultsquadriderz or people can download it at www.itunes.com/assaultsquadriderz MTW