Easy Lee (Charles Peters) and Tre (Treson Scipio) are MOJOE, a duo that has often described itself as The Roots meet OutKast over dinner with Marvin Gaye at DAngelos house. Thats a party that anyone in their right mind would want to attend, a free-form jam with only the tastiest beats, rhymes, and harmonies, not to mention words and emotions that truly echo the barometer of urban life. MOJOE channels that spirit with Classic.Ghetto.Soul., a timeless showcase of its sumptuous blend of worldwise poetry, sweet soul melodies and harmonies, reverent blues and jazz, and Dirty South hip-hop.
MOJOE has a couple of different meanings, explains Easy Lee, who was born in New Orleans but moved to San Antonio, where he attended high school with Tre. More than the average joe is what it stands for, but it also means that weve got something spiritual and magical, he says. It means that the best of what we can do is the foot we put forward. And theres, Got My Mojo Workin, an old blues term and song. So it alludes to the fact that we blend old school sensibilities with a new school style.
We also hope to bring some light to the fact that San Antonio has a rich blues history and not just a Tejano history, San Antonio native, Tre adds, citing by way of example the many recordings that legendary blues artist Robert Johnson cut in his home town.
Years before they made music together, Easy Lee and Tre shared a foundation of loving music, riding around while listening to the classics of soul and blues as well as the raw hip-hop that was bubbling up from the block. It was a space where the likes of Curtis Mayfield or Frankie Beverly and Maze could get down and get funky with the struggle rap of street poets like Geto Boys and UGK or the uplifting beats of De La Soul and A Tribe Called Quest. Not yet full-fledged performers at the time, the friends nonetheless developed the open-minded musical outlook that they express now back then.
We are inspired by a lot of older music because back then they werent typecast in as many boxes, says Tre. That inspires us to try and follow in their footsteps.
Throughout Classic.Ghetto.Soul., there are touches of pain (The Blues), infatuation (Yesterday), and lust (Voodoo Coochie). True Jewels, a jazzy ode to the screwed & chopped hip-hop culture invented by the late DJ Screw, contains what might be MOJOEs most faithful motto: While you shine, I'll grind. In other words, theres much more of an inner drive to work hard and refine the art than to achieve fleeting pop stardom. And in A Cool Poem, Easy Lee illuminates the foundations of rap with the spoken word style he first honed on the open-mic poetry scene. Originally released locally in 2003 and co-produced by Roger Blevins of the acclaimed Austin-based funk band Mingo Fishtrap, the newly remastered version of Classic.Ghetto.Soul. is essentially the same which is astonishing considering how fresh and different it still sounds (some songs were recorded as early as 2001). Made in makeshift recording spots (from closets and bathrooms to bedroom studios), it is a testament to the non-essential nature of expensive studios and equipment when the music is grounded in the soul.
But its performing in front of audiences that is a particularly good catalyst for the improvisation and boundary pushing that the group is really known for. MOJOE comes alive on stage with assistance from the inimitable Mojoe Family Band, a dedicated bunch with some colorful monikers: Funky Genius, Cooley High, D-Maddness, The Carter, and Nookie Coltrane. The group has steadily built a reputation for its performances throughout the South and continued to be a local favorite: Readers of newspaper The San Antonio Current have voted MOJOE as the Best Hip-Hop Group for four years running.
Its in these shows and through Classic.Ghetto.Soul. that people can truly see and understand that for MOJOE, music is not so much a business, but a craft to be honed for the preservation of soul for all ages.