Marijuana connoisseurs know that hybrid strains will elevate the consciousness even higher. While each original component is essential, the resulting combination becomes something unique. Similarly, new elemental wonders appear in the culture when creative artists combine seemingly disparate aesthetics and diverse life experiences with fearless determination and bold artistic courage.
SLAY SQUAD 111 is one such wonder, equal parts radical art collective and hardcore punk band. SLAY SQUAD is comprised of a tightly knit but ruggedly individualistic brotherhood of visionary provocateurs, rhyme-slingers, beatmakers, video producers, metalcore shredders, bare-knuckle fighters, and street philosophers, collectively demonstrating the power of self-made “Young Gods.” Located along historic Route 66, Rialto, California, blessed the world with socially conscious poet David Ray, Boyz n the Hood filmmaker John Singleton, and pioneering female rap group J.J. Fad, who earned a gold plaque on Eazy-E’s Ruthless Records.
SLAY SQUAD are spiritual successors to the vibrant, grimy, and culturally rich San Bernardino County, situated 56 miles east of Los Angeles, the area where the Hell’s Angels began after World War II, and cops first began wearing body cameras. The group came together as teenagers. They initially built a rock-solid foundation on mutual trust and respect, which organically blossomed via a multitude of shared interests, including hiphop, metal, photography, and skating.
Furiously prolific, SLAY SQUAD co-conspirators Brahim Gousse and Keilo Kei (vocals), Gordo (guitar), Stick (bass), Timmy (drums), and Cheeze (D.J.) are responsible for a plethora of mixtapes, singles, videos, and collaborations, all self-released for nearly a decade. “It started with friendship first,” explains Brahim, noting the relationships stretch back to high school. “It was just homies hanging out, partying and bullshit before it transformed into this monster.” SLAY SQUAD combines the vibrant energy, socially conscious urgency, and confident swagger found in the sound of a Roland TR-808, dubstep, techno, and old-school rap, together with the 4 Slay Squad unrelenting crunch of post-modern deathcore and throwback skate punk. The result is a fresh take on heavy music. It comes from a shared commitment toward making ambitious ideas into tangible realities. As Kei likes to put it, “My mental is my universe. If we can visualize it so clearly, there has to be a way.” Their self-described “ghetto metal” and Young God worldview built a buzz from the underground upward, with no handouts. Like the beginnings of Odd Future, Wu-Tang Clan, and Dischord Records, SLAY SQUAD holds true to the values of DIY, exercising strict creative control themselves.
“Every day, we are figuring out how we can push more and further connect the dots between hardcore and hip-hop,” Brahim explains. Unlike many groups, SLAY SQUAD is skilled in both genres. Gordo is a talented photographer and tech-savvy. Timmy keeps his finger on the pulse of emerging styles in heavy music. Brahim is intimately, meticulously involved in the visual side of SLAY SQUAD, together with his partners in the Gousse Nest visual production team. SLAY SQUAD’s members hustle, organize, and regularly strategize, debating creative decisions with spirited discussion to realize the best collective path forward. They resist complacency, never too comfortable for too long. “I think the greatest art is a reflection of real life,” Kei observes. “Life is the best teacher.
Mixing philosophies, experiences, musical genres, even strains in marijuana cultivation,” we can’t separate it from what came before, but we can’t deny that it’s changed by its coming together. Call it rapcore, trap death, ghetto metal… SLAY SQUAD defies easy categorization, and that fact is by design. “People connected with us early on because they see that we are true, we’re combining genres, and they want to see what happens,” says Brahim. “Now we have fans who truly get what we’re about. We’ve been in the lab, throwing darts at the dartboard. Now it’s time to give people the damn art.”