band crush: pony ppl

the best new band to come out of bed-stuy.

by ray siegel

Somewhere in the Bed-Stuy there's a house called Casa de la Phony where the Brooklyn-based nine-piece band that is Phony Ppl reside and are starting their own mini music revolution. Not all nine members technically live at the casa--it belongs to DJ Jazzy Jay whose son Maff Yuu, is a founding member of Phony PPL--but "it's where it all goes down and they've all got clothes there," Maff Yuu explained. Remember these faces (well, the ones that aren't covered by a gasmask) because this band is on the verge of taking off. They've already opened for and performed with an array of major artists spanning across multiple genres including Erykah Badu, Roots, Theophilus London, Miguel, and The Internet, which is pretty impressive for a group of 19-21 year-olds that met in high school. They joke that they met on the Internet. "E-harmony?" I asked. "No, Blackpeoplemeet.com." How does a band go from high school performances to opening for The Roots? In the case of Pony Ppl, it's how much they play, but more so how much they care about making music. Their music is a soulful mix of part hip-hop, part R&B, that's influenced by jazz, and heavily influenced by the '70s, '80s, and '90s (Jazzy Jay made sure of that). Since that classification is too long and somewhat broad, the group took to giving their brand of music a name of its own--that name being Brooklyn Soul.

One of the band's leads, Elbee Thrie, explained how all nine members respectively invented their own genre. "Brooklyn Soul is actually a genre that we came up with ourselves. We were playing music for awhile. We turned off the instruments and started talking about where the music came from. The word soul is very important. Soul is the most influential word of our genre. We've been doing this for so long that it's natural to us. I would hate to keep going through the rest of our lives and not knowing what to say when people ask what kind of music we make. This is our experience, who we are--our music is our souls," Elbie Thrie says, "It's influenced by the people that we know, the people that we are, the accents we have, the people that live across the street, the architecture, the color schemes of the city, the slang, and how we dress.

As you travel throughout Brooklyn, you'll find different cultures. Our Brooklyn culture is nine very different individuals. Phony PPL is like a new culture." Phony Ppl may have created their own genre and their own culture, but their music pays homage to the generations of artists that came before them. "Don't only be influenced 100% by what is happening now because you need to understand the past before you can understand the future," Maff Yuu explained. "Before you can create the future," Sheriff PJ corrected. "Excuse me, create the future," says Maff Yuu, "We take from everyone: Europe, Africa--you can be from anywhere and we'll listen to it and have it relate to what we do." What sets them apart isn't only the band's unique sound--they're smart enough to distance themselves from everything that's wrong about the way new artists emerge today.

"The magnifying glass is in the wrong area. And that's what people are gravitating towards," says Sheriff PJ. Aja adds, "Being a musician is more accessible now due to technology. And now it's all about the visuals. I think that Phony Ppl brings back that music element that's not just about the way things look. If it was my choice, no one would even have to see us. I want the music to speak for itself." "We bring a different outlook to music. It's that old-school instrumental sound in a world that's very digital. It's Brooklyn soul." If you're still not exactly sure what Brooklyn Soul is, watch their new video for "I Wish I Was a Chair"or since the band's would say, "it's not all about the visuals" you can listen to all of their music right here. But if you really want to get a good visual, just use your imagination like the band does to make music everyday. Picture them sitting in their Bed-Stuy basement making beats, being fly, and looking fly. "It's about the music, but you gotta be fly. We're from Brooklyn and people from Brooklyn is not, not fly." Or better yet, watch them live at Brooklyn Bowl on February 21st.