Brite Winter 2016 Artist Spotlight: Common Ave

By Rachel Hunt

Get your hands up! Put your hand ups!”

Three young men in baseball caps and hoodies clutch microphones, shouting out, pacing back and forth on stage at The Grog Shop, rallying the audience to do something on the floor besides stare into cellphone screens or stand with arms crossed defensively in front of their chests. Phrazes, the primary producer of the bunch, controls the samples and beats via his MacBook while Jordan M. and Stoke, both MCs and producers themselves, take turns jumping into the crowd, spurring them to move.

“Sometimes our stage performances intimidate people. I’ve witnessed it,” laughs Jordan M. “It’s like some people, when they come to shows are just too cool to have fun; dance and get into the vibe of the music. That makes our job as artists a little harder. We have that feeling that you like our music; you’re bobbing your head but we really want you to feel it.”

Hip-hop and rap are assertive art forms. It takes real confidence to control a crowd the way that Common Ave have so early on in their career. The beats and lyrics that they’ve crafted together since junior high school have matured beyond the six-year time span that they’ve been creating as a three-piece. All of that experimentation over time recently culminated in the form of their first full-length release, Aurora Borealis.

“We pretty much kept everything under wraps until we had it finished,” Jordan M. remembers back to the album’s release in September of 2014. “It took, I’d say, a year to finish but it was something very exciting for all three of us. […] Songs like ‘Something For Now’ or ‘Feels Real Good’ were out before, but we did ‘em up, made them sound really good for the album. With everything else, we were just creating song by song and seeing which ones fit best.”

It’s mind-blowing, listening to “Feels Real Good”, produced by King Jordan M. and Stoke II that the track was made by three guys who were barely 21 when it came out. The lyrical content, as well as the production value, are equally deceiving of their age and the DIY nature in which they made it. In the track, they throw back to their early start together and how they’ve grown up since. “There’s no set way that we feel when we write a verse. I don’t try to over think what I do lyrically, so that way the content becomes more raw.”

Since Aurora Borealis they’ve released a few singles on Soundcloud including “Live From the Gund Arena” and “Oracle” from this past summer. Both tracks up-the-ante with a less laid back and more hostile round of verses than found on the previous release. They take on contemporary allusions one by one with a fierce flow set to vocal samples that establish a theme before tearing it down in a way reminiscent of Kendrick.

Even if Common Ave has to jolt their audience to attention at the start of a set, it doesn’t take them long to hold their interest. “For the most part, the crowd also appreciates what we do. They’re really starting to see the passion that we have,” Jordan M. says. Common Ave have recently opened for big names in the hip-hop world like Curren$y, Hopsin, or Big Krit, and while as locals who attest to not totally fitting into the Cleveland rap scene, they have most definitely still made an impression on concert-goers across The Land.

“If you like energy and truth, if you like being yourself, you’ll like Common Ave. If you are 100% yourself and not ashamed of it, you’ll enjoy a Common Ave set,” reassures Jordan M. for those feeling timid about watching them at Brite Winter. “As a music lover, I would love to see all genres of music come together. There’s no reason one festival can’t do it.”

As for what to do during the cold Cleveland winter until the big day? “Netflix and chill,” advises Jordan M.

But that’s Common Ave for you, keeping it 100%.