Experimental band finds niche in Richmond

Photo courtesy of Drew Hazelgrove

Walter Chidozie Anyanwu, Contributing Writer

Earlier this year at his home on Parkwood Avenue, Matt Lee — also known as Stretch Beats — decided to blend his creative talents with fellow artists and friends to set up an art collective.

With members from different walks of life, Parkwood Ave. boasts a mix of dissimilar musicians and visual artists. Having an in-house visual arts unit makes it unnecessary to outsource for things like video direction and production.

Their goal is to disrupt the monotony of the creative industry by building a multi-faceted platform comprised of fine art, music and everything in between. But currently, their work is centered mostly around music.

“We want to bring our own sound, our own flavor, our own style to the game,” said Josh Harris, known to the collective as Scoob. “We want to try a different route and I guess that’s what we mean when we talk about disruption.”

With production from Lee, vocal input from Harris and Drew Hazelgrove, and the versatile rap stylings of John Cassell (J-Cass) and Kevin Maxwell (KaeSar), Parkwood Ave. have put together a debut album in the months since it formed.

The eponymous Parkwood Ave. debuted on streaming services in September and picked up a steady but scant following. However, with listeners from the Richmond area and other parts of Virginia, it is not too premature to expect that Parkwood Ave. will be carving out a niche for themselves in Richmond.

Their versatility is extremely pronounced, with songs ranging from the delicate and dramatic sounding “Let Me Live” to the more raw and pulsating “Thirsty Thursday.” Each song is almost a dynamic opposite to the next, making the project sound less like an album and more like a bold-spirited mixtape.

“It’s crazy to think about where we were and where we’ve gotten to,” Harris said. “It might not mean that much to anyone right now because they don’t realize how much we’ve progressed. We make each other better by challenging ourselves.”

In November, the collective released the bouncy single “Spooky Season,” which features Drew, J-Cass and KaeSar. “Spooky Season” is another obvious departure from the mainstream rap styles sweeping the country, reminiscent of groups such as Brockhampton and Flatbush Zombies, which Cassell said they hear a lot.

He added that it might be because those groups, much like theirs, have an authenticity that makes them stand out — but Parkwood Ave. isn’t trying to emulate anyone.

“I think that we’re kind of a reflection of Richmond,” Cassell said. “The grunginess, the hipster-ish vibe that Richmond has, I think we’re an accurate representation of that. A lot of the underground hip-hop scene here has pockets like either a trap section or a backpacking section. We’re a [melting pot] of all of that. With the visual aspect and the music, I think it’s on track to being something big.”

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