Ah, Boulder. The rest of the country thinks you're a bunch of old
hippies, but I know better. Anyone who's been there recently understands
that those hippies had kids, got jobs and started working for the
man. And their kids? Yeah, they don't give a shit about the '60s.
Witness: 3Oh!3. They're not just from the University of Colorado,
they're Boulder born and bred. You can still find the unwashed masses
of trustafarians wandering the CU campus, still in pursuit of a lost
era, but 3Oh!3? They're taunting and laughing at them.
Boulder's still a weird place, out of kilter with the rest of the
state; it's just that the weirdness has morphed.
Now, if anyone told you that it was possible to mix gangsta rap,
hip-hop, crunk, electronica, rock and emo, and have it played by guys
who like to dress up like their favorite Dungeons and Dragons
characters, would you have believed it? Yeah, me neither. The most
notable thing isn't that they do it, but that they make it work. I
interviewed Nat and Sean a couple of years ago for a
friend's project that never materialized, but I got a pretty good
sense of where these guys are coming from. They genuinely love the
genres of music that, at first glance, they appear to be lampooning,
but despite the fact that their smartassed sense of humor comes through
in spades, I can sense the underlying seriousness toward their craft
below the surface of their cavalier attitude. 3Oh!3 are more than
the class clowns, and geek shtick; they are shrewd and smart, with
cleverly offensive lyrics that should make you aghast, but which you
can't resist laughing at, coupled with beats you can't resist dancing
to, and all drenched in more bravado than the most ice-encrusted gang-banger
on Death Row Records (or whatever's replaced it).
After watching 3Oh!3 in concert two and a half years ago, I wasn't
really sure what would happen to them. They seemed like such an
oddity, I imagined that getting any sort of an executive to take
a chance on them was slim, but to watch the crowd respond to their
music and act was to know that they had "it", and that
it was just a matter of time before somebody figured that out. Then,
I saw them plastered all over MySpace and realized that they had
finally arrived. Shortly after, this CD was waiting for me (actually,
I grabbed it in the melee) at the home office. But the real litmus
test? Being in line at the mess hall in NORAD (yeah bitches, a mile
underground) and hearing "Choke Chain" blasting out of
a little boom box owned by the prep staff. My co-workers' eyes got
about as big as dinner plates, like the 3Oh!3 had just reached out
of the box and slapped them across the face. I said "Hey, I
know these guys!" And they looked at me like I just stepped
off of an alien spacecraft. Which might be true.
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