By Nikki Hedrick
“Family is who you choose and who chooses you. This is my family,” says Marcus “Obliq” Leslie of The Strangers.
“It’s like having an umbrella corporation,” he explains of the difference between Strange Tang and the newer group The Strangers. “You have the major companies, and you have your other companies underneath. The Strangers is actually a combination of a bunch of solo acts. With the exception of Strange Tang, which would be me and Price, every single artist within The Strangers is a solo artist. Together, we make The Strangers. Strange Tang is part of The Strangers, but we are still our own separate entity.”
The idea of The Strangers came around organically as Obliq looked for new avenues to promote and produce artists under his Elevated Underground banner. “It takes money, it takes a team to accomplish really anything in this game. For us, we were already working with so many artists within Elevated Underground, which is the studio-slash-record-label that I own. We were already working with so many artists that were considered to be Elevated Underground artists, but we needed a way to put everybody out at the same time in an efficient way. Producing solo albums for each of the seven artists was just not cost effective at the time.”
The birth of The Strangers came in 2017, with the #IAMDJDEEZY compilation, although the name would make its first appearance later. “The name The Strangers didn’t exist then, we were just all solo artists that came together and made a compilation album. If you look on iTunes or anywhere, it’ll say various artists. It doesn’t say The Strangers. We became The Strangers as a result of the work that we did for the #IAMDJDEEZY project.”
On April 19, The Strangers will release their debut album Brotherhood Built This on the heels of the track (and accompanying music video) “Pay Attention.”
“I’m a strong believer in everybody has a purpose, and everybody has passion,” says Obliq. “For me, I think that you hear and see my purpose through what I’m passionate about. I’m passionate about music, but my purpose…I have always believed that my purpose is to teach and inspire. That’s what I try to do with the music. That’s what if you listen to old Strange Tang records, if you listen to the #IAMDJDEEZY album, if you listen to this new album—we’re not just on here making songs about us being better than you.
“What we’re trying to do is, we’re trying to tell you what we been through, we’re trying to tell you what we see about what’s happening now, and we’re trying to get people some type of foundation to move forward in the future.”
Obliq says the concept behind “Pay Attention” is Hollywood Mechee and himself writing verses to their younger selves. “If we were gonna talk to ourselves as children or young teenagers and young adults, what would we tell each other? To go back right now, with the wisdom and information that we have now, what would we tell our younger selves?”
The original plan for the video was to follow that concept, but it became a much larger message. “It actually was, as Bob Ross would call it, ‘a happy mistake’ because the kids that we had they couldn’t do it…and so when we got someone to shoot the video, it was last minute (finding) somebody.”
With the help of Yabui Entertainment, the concept was reworked. “The video ended up having a double meaning,” says Obliq. “The verses, we are talking to ourselves, but the message in the video is it takes a village to raise a child. You see a child doing something that we consider to be wrong if it’s our child, the first thing we want to do is jump down their throat. If it’s not your child, we try to ignore it.
“Well, neither one of those are necessarily the right thing to do, because what’s happening is the child has no understanding. The message of the video is if you see a child doing something wrong or misguided, take them under your wing and guide them because if they don’t know and you don’t teach them…you can tell them they’re doing something wrong all day, but if you’re not teaching them to do something right then there’s nowhere to go.”
The album doesn’t encompass a single style. “If anybody’s familiar with our music, they know that we don’t have a gimmick and we don’t have one style. If you listen to the #IAMDJDEEZY album, no song sounded the same. We’re a collective of six MCs and a DJ. Our music’s gonna sound different.
“The album, it’s a very wide spectrum of what we’re trying to get across to you, but for us, the reason we called it Brotherhood Built This is because we went through so much to get to this point. People don’t see what we go through behind closed doors. They don’t know about all the fights. They don’t know about us having to be there for each other when there’s a death in someone’s family or somebody’s going through relationship issues.
“We happen to be a real brotherhood, and being a brother doesn’t mean everything’s all good. Being a family doesn’t mean everything’s all happy and everything’s fun all the time. No, that means we fuss and we fight, we cry and we laugh, we joke and we play together. We’re a brotherhood.”
Through his various endeavors, Obliq and the members of The Strangers always are working towards new goals. “Every artist is working on solo music, so there’ll be a lot more singles coming out once we get the album out and we let it run its course for a little bit. Then after that, we’re gonna probably drop into single format ‘cause everybody’s working on new music.”
He is quick to show appreciation for those in the community that have supported both The Strangers and Strange Tang, including Nik Flagstar and Small Town Riot on 103.1 The Blaze, Q92 Hit Music Now, and 93BLX.
The album release party is set for April 19 at the Green Door Music Hall in Fort Walton Beach. For more info, visit www.strangerseu.com.
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