A&E » Arts

Love Tha Liks



Who: Tha Liks

Where: Garfinkel’s

When: Sunday, March 3

Tha Liks has survived name changes and hip hop trends over 10 years in the industry.

"Tash (T), E-Swift, and myself wanted to start a group out of our crew when we were young and wild like a bunch of college kids!" laughs James Robinson, known as ‘J-Ro’.

"My mom was always really supportive of what I did. As an only child I’m naturally patient. I used to play a lot of sports, but music always gave me something to do, something to entertain me," he says.

"So long as I wasn’t getting into too much trouble, that was OK with her," he adds with a mischievous tone.

During the early days, subtlety was not the band’s aim.

Merchandise promoted with their debut disc, 21 and Over , included barf bags and breathalysers. Formerly called The Alkaholics, before some Southern states and colleges banned their sound, Tha Liks began as the Everyday Street Poets (ESP).

Consistency has remained the main goal.

With the "wild one," Tash, and E-Swift, "the computer whiz we call Inspector Gadget," Tha Liks have maintained their audience.

"Instead of going platinum with one hit and then disappearing, we wanted to keep it at a steady level, and keep the music around," notes J-Ro.

Their fourth album, the X.O.Experience, was released with Loud Records, NYC last June.

"We want to keep building a fan base and stick around, and I think that’s what we’ve done," he adds.

With college fans raving over radio singles We Get Funky and Pass the Joint, Tha Liks developed a "tour band" following.

"Some compare us to the Grateful Dead, in that we see the same people at the same shows, touring for so much of the year," says J-Ro.

The 2002 lineup is 42 dates in four months, their longest tour so far.

The band also has two tracks on the "Wu-Chronicles" from the Wu-Tang Clan, and were the first rap group to the play the Vancouver Vans Warped Tour in 1995.

"It’s a trip now to see guys like Sugar Ray open for us, and we open for bands like Fishbone," says J-Ro.

The band has toured with Snoop Dog and guests, and has taken their sound to Japan, Oz, and Europe.

Their second album, Coast II Coast , put an umbrella over the hip hop and rap audiences that were beginning to grow apart.

"The whole east coast, west coast thing hadn’t started at the time when we were creating music. Guys like (MC) Hammer were just beginning and gangsta rap hadn’t even started," says J-Ro.

This L.A.-NYC divide, different worlds parodied in comedy fare like Annie Hall (Woody Allen, 1977), later spilled into a heavier sound. Gangsta rap, where east versus west coast became two huge forces, at times overstepped the lighter vein of hip hop, that was often accompanied by breakbeats and dance.

In 1997 the band explored more party sounds on Likwidation , their third album.

With MC work and hip hop music, J-Ro’s professional emphasis is on voice.

"I’m interested in doing more radio," he says.

J-Ro used to break as Baby Fresh with the Krush Crew, and hosting a sports segment called Likwit Sports on KKBT’s Tha Joint program.

He recently worked on a tribute album to Roger Troutman. Guests on the album included the former Tupak Shakur and Dr.Dre.

The X.O. Experience featured guests the Neptunes producing on the single Best You Can, while My Dear is "their love song."

"Our success is in our longevity, which has always been the goal," says J-Ro. "If you work towards a goal, whatever that may be, that’s all that matters."