Written by Sherin Nassar
Photography by Ogechi Ogbuaku
Lo Village is upfront in that they want to do things on their own terms: own their art and their vision. You get that from their music but you also get it in the details: like the fact that they produce all of their music through their own record label, Rebel Music Collective because they’re “not trying to get swindled.” They stand in stark contrast to the new artists going viral on Tik Tok who are looking for that type of mainstream success that sends you to the top of Billboard’s Hot 100 Chart, but sometimes lacks the maturity, clear vision and identity.
“We are not willing to set our hair on fire so it’s hard to get attention when people are willing to do that,” said Kane, the trio’s emcee and producer. But the band has garnered some attention. Issa Rae featured the groups’ Lil Mama on Insecure’s Season 4 Soundtrack, which happens to be Ama the lead singer’s favorite show and a highlight in the singer’s career. The song has surpassed 2.5 million streams on Spotify. Lo Village doesn’t want it to end there. Their drive to be a recognizable sound and name speaks to their full vision of what Lo Village can do and where they want to be in the music game.
The music of talented Maryland-based music trio, made up of siblings Kane and Ama and childhood best friend Charles Tyler, centers on three themes: 1) talent, 2) evolution and 3) authenticity. When you work through Lo Village’s earlier music, you get the sense that they are finding their groove. Their talent was evident when they released their 8-track “Last Summer,” (2016) featuring the bop “Lately” and “For the birds” (2017). They hit the scene heavy, showcasing their ability to fuse neo-soul and hip hop and producing a sound that fit in a niche of their own. With a kaleidoscope of talents and influences on display, they produce their own cohesive beat that reflects the chemistry of the group and their ability to flex their songwriting ability with catchy hooks.
As they’ve grown, you then get stand-alone wonders like “Show and Tell” that hit different nodes from their earlier work: it’s more vulnerable with each artist weaving their personal lows into their verses. It’s not until you hit “It Takes a Village” and “Lost in America” that evolution and authenticity comes to the surface. It’s no longer about talent and displaying the range of what they can do, but about feeling settled in who they are and rising to the moments that call them. In “It Takes a Village,” a homage to their Trinidadian and Ghanian roots, we get a more revved up, concentrated R&B soul.
The feature “NERD” gives a heavy serving of funk but honors those willing to chase after their dreams. It’s a testament to the labor of love the group has funneled into their art and how chasing a dream is heavy, vulnerable, and leaves one exposed, swatting away societal and parental expectations.
“My friend’s a doctor and no matter what I’m doing, my mom is asking about my friend and what he’s doing as a doctor. She says good job, sometimes….” Kane said during the interview, but Ama swiped in quickly to hype up her mom’s support. “He’s downplaying it. She’s very supportive. One time I went to the store and the woman ringing me out said, ‘your mom came here. She was showing us your music.’”
Talking about their parents brought up a lot of emotions and playful banter for siblings Kane and Ama. Kane interjected to say “that didn’t happen” while Ama shrugged off his remarks, insisting that their mom was showing off their music around town and playing a supportive role in the sibling’s music career.
Charles laughed, saying “My parents were on top of me about making music but now my mom loves it. She comes out to our Maryland shows, dancing and singing the lyrics all wrong. But she embraces it.”
If you flip too quickly through Lo Village’s Spotify music, you might think it’s just “silly boy music,” as Kane calls it, but it’s “Lost in America” that shows you there are things the group won’t compromise on and that includes rising to an occasion. Released in the wake of George Floyd’s death and nationwide mass protests, the short but strong and cohesive EP delivers on heart pouring melodies and soul speaking lyrics. “Lost in America” hits home for what it means to be Black in America. Opting for simpler production and a more natural sound, the trio lays bare the anger, hurt and frustration their own experiences have garnered.
“We had a different idea and project but as events transpired, we knew we couldn’t put it out then. It was time to be intentional and say ‘no, this is what it’s about’ and if we lost any fans and audience, then that’s what would’ve happened. We were making this album and drawing our lines in the sand about what we’re about.”
Lo Village makes clear they’re not going to pretend to be something they’re not or do backflips to get you to look their way. The music speaks for itself and until people catch the wave, they’ll be grinding and making a name for themselves in the music industry.
“Once people listen, they like what they hear and they keep coming back. We know that but the consistent issue is getting people to take that first listen. But like Kane said earlier, we’re not willing to set our hair on fire and people are going on the extreme for a little clout. We’re never going to do that, never thought about it and never going to think about it,” said Charles.
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Sherin Nassar has Egyptian roots, was raised in Philly but somehow a 2 year stint in London claims her heart. She loves Korean fried chicken, making google food maps, building out @book.sh3lf and curating her monthly Spotify playlists. @sherinnassar