Imagine spending some time with award winning song writers, artists, and personalities in the cultural pulse of Atlanta, and walking away from the "encounter" with your hopes restored. That is what happened to me when I met up with the duo Rock City in Atlanta's Lil' 5 points. We shopped for music at Moods Music, and finished the evening with dinner at STIR Caribbean restaurant. I had the privilege of getting to know the brothers that make up Rock City, Theron "Da Spokesman" Thomas and Timothy "Don't Talk Much" Thomas, as artists and as people. I was blown away with their talent, their story, their energy, and passion for their work as artists.
It all began in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands where Rock City has been performing since the age of 5 and 6. Their talent at that time was in essence the lifeline for their family. Their winning performances at numerous local talent competitions provided income that would pay the bills and support their family. They even recalled a time when they had to walk miles to perform at a show just so that they could get the money to turn the lights back on in their home.
It is no secret the Rock City is proud of where they are from; you feel the passion when you talk to them, and you hear it in their music. Promoting the exceptional beauty of their home is also another way for them to continue being the lifeline for the country that has been supporting their career for so long. "This is how my people eat in St. Thomas. Tourism is how people eat. The more people that visit our island, the better our economy is. People don't visit one year, the island doesn't move the way is supposed to and the crime rate goes up. Growing up, I knew when people were not visiting St. Thomas, because 3 or 4 of my friends died that year...because there was nothing to eat."
Recently, Rock City parted ways with Akon's Konvict music label after 5 years, allowing them to independently release their debut Free At Last on their own label Rebelution Records and unleashing a wave of creativity. When I asked them what is one of the biggest lessons the two of them have learned so far from their career, Da Spokesman stated; "The more you can do on your own, the better off you will be. Independence in anything in life is important...the more progress you will see.." and Don't Talk Much added "..and the more leverage you will have...because you have proven that what you are doing works".
The Rock City sound is diverse. It's original. It's like a mixture of the styles of Will.I.Am, Sean Paul, Flo Rida, and Steel Pulse. They're authentic. They want to be seen more as artists than as song writers. Although they love to write, their heart is in performing and being respected as the artists they have always been.
Artists that have influenced them include Bob Marley, The Fugees and Steel Pulse, who have always been their favorite group. If you've ever heard their music, it's not difficult to see why. Don't Talk Much recalled how listening to steel pulse makes them feel; "It takes me back to when we were kids and we were still in the projects, my dad always played their records in the house. Even though we were poor and struggling, we were still very happy because we were so close as a family. We didn't have the things that money could buy, but we had each other. So listening to Steel Pulse now...it mirrors me back to those days. I think one of the members of [the group] The Clipse said it in one of his songs, 'Who knew I was happier when I was piss poor..?' Those childhood memories are so good".
Their song writing credits include Rihanna's Man Down, Pussy Cat Doll's When I Grow Up, Macy Gray's Help Me, Justin Bieber's Run Away Love. The list goes on and on and on. One could never take the fact away that they are phenomenal writers and remarkable performers.
At a time where many artists are "manufactured" and "produced", Rock City gave me somewhat of a relief to know that there is still some authenticity and true artists left in the industry. It speaks volumes of their talent and their drive that this duo was with a record label for 5 years and did not release an album, but was still able to use their success to take care of their family here and abroad. Da Spokes Man, a clothes loving, outgoing, energetic artist and Don't Talk Much the picky, shoe loving one, who doesn't talk too much until it's time to perform. Together, they are the Rock City duo: A creative movement, and a clarion sound.