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Local Hip-Hop Turns it Up

M34N STR33T of Omaha
By Kyle Eustice
Picture Credit Nickolai Hammar
When the Omaha hip-hop trio M34N STR33T took the MAHA stage on August 16, there was a sense there was nowhere else they’d rather be. Led by the always-energetic emcee Brent “Conchance” Gomez, producer Adam “Haunted Gauntlet” Haug and Brian “DJ Really Real” Crow, the group had generated excitement before they even walked on the stage. Armed with picket signs saying things like “R34d a book,” “Pizza is the truth,” and “RIP Jay Adams,” the crowd was clearly enjoying the spectacle M34N STR33T was able to conjure up. Armed with vintage, doo-wop-inspired beats and Conchance’s smooth lyrical delivery, the set clearly cemented their relevance in the Omaha hip-hop community. Although it’s small, with M34N STR33T repping the 402, there’s a chance Omaha can get on the map for something other than indie rock. Haug took some time to talk beats and mainstream radio.

Shout Weekly (Kyle Eustice): How did you decide on the name and how did this project come to fruition?
Adam Haug: The name M34N STR33T started off conceptually as a play on the mathematical golden mean/ratio, which I was studying heavily in college. It has historically been used as an aesthetic tool for beauty in art and design which is my major at UNO. Coming from the middle of the map and from the middle of our city aka Midtown Omaha the word “Mean” started to have a lot of simultaneous “meanings”. It meant the average, the middle ground where all things clashed together which reflects our collaged, time bending style of production/beats. It is also a reference to Malcom X’s who is from Omaha’s quote “by any means necessary” so originally we almost chose the name “the means”. The numbers 34 and 33 represent many things for me personally…the digits to my phone number and my age during the release of the music. The album was all recorded DIY on 33rd and 34th street and the street that connects the two here in Midtown which also is the home to Mutual of Omaha, the largest building in Midtown’s skyline and a symbol of power and wealth amongst many other things corporate in a the most diverse part of the city of Omaha, period. The poorest and the richest live here, a true melting pot of race, age, and belief systems. The numbers in the spelling is what is called Leet (or “1337” or leet speak which is a reference to the internet and our generation that grew up with technology, hacking and online gaming (did we mention we have a video game?), we are primarily electronic band so it is fitting. Oh, there is also a great film called Mean Streets by Scorsese that has a killer oldies soundtrack, we sample a ton of music from the 50’s/60’s as well as the movie, because it has many parallels to our own lives.

There’s a lot of energy injected into your set. What do you think makes a great live set?
It’s important that me and the band are completely into our sound onstage and feeling the music first and foremost. The live aspect came after writing the majority of the album so we are figuring it out as we go, like how to rock a festival vs. a grimy basement. We like to play loud and slump as heavy as any metal or rock band would at a live venue. We prefer the energy we get from intimate crowds and smaller venues and if they slump we slump harder-sometimes people are there to observe-that’s why we provide lighting and projected art/videos and props to stimulate the crowd- which is something I learned from bands like the Album Leaf, Sigur Ros, and the Faint attending shows growing up. We have a lot of energy built up and on stage is definitely where we release a lot of that tension and ultimately our message and the work we have assembled in album form put into a live format. We want to represent the album but not in a robotic way- our live set is heavier and has a lot more passion than we were able to caption on record- and a lot of extra doo dads get thrown in to keep the whole things feeling organic and not static because there is so much improv that goes down. We want to be a group that is actively participating in the beats/sounds, and not just hitting play and letting the machines do all the work.

What’s your beat making process like and what subjects are you most passionate about?
I listen and dig through as much old music as possible, most typically it starts with a great sample that has the essence I am trying to attach to the groups style and aesthetic–when starting M34N STR33T and going back to college I found myself with an oldies obsession. The throwback music had this ghostly soul that seemed lost in time and was missing in the mainstream– I wanted to revive it and bring it back in a new way and in part this is where my producer name Haunted Gauntlet comes from–its a gauntlet of ghost tracks in which Conny Franko is passing through, ducking and weaving and bopping to. This is nothing new in the genre of hip hop, sampling is key to our sound and if it isn’t a sample that start’s off a track it is usually a breakbeat or groove that set’s the tone. M34N STR33T is the first music project I allowed myself to sample, owning my music completely used to be important, it is not anymore, and I grew up. I have been writing and composing all original music instrumentally since I was a teenager and I use my songwriting and knowledge of music theory to help add to the samples and connect the pieces together like a collage. I add bass, and synth and even sample my old demos and bands for i.e.. Mac and Trees is a sample of my 6 piece instrumental band Oh Possum from Des Moines. I am a horror and film lover so lots of samples from movies get used, especially the dialogue. I am also passionate about pushing art and design and human consciousness as an obligation for our species- hence the Terence McKenna sample on “Withdrawal from Pot” of MUTANTS OF OMAHA.

Who are you digging these days in terms of hip-hop? What do you think of mainstream radio?
My favorites right now are Joey Bada$$, Action Bronson, Ratking, Earl Sweatshirt, MF Doom, and King Krule, to name a few. There is a whole section of hip-hop I just avoid completely, namely music that is entirely ego/material based or degrading of women or that alienates or segregates humans; anything artful will get my attention. With that said, I won’t be mad if someone puts on a Too $hort record, if the timing is right; could be nostalgia, and also, you just can’t take everything so seriously. To each their own. I can’t stand mainstream radio here in Omaha, but admittedly everyone in the band likes Lorde and pop music from time to time. It varies a lot though. There are some local radio shows that are doing it right, Wax Museum ft. Mr.1960, Freak Factory and HN Radio.

Do you have any emcees you look up to and why?
If I was going to rap vs. sing I would pull a lot of influence from MF Doom. I like the mystery, the mask, and the artful word play/delivery. I see visuals when I hear him.

Are you focused on M34N STR33T more these days rather than a solo career?
M34N STR33T is the focus, I needed a break from years writing about myself and exposing intimate details of my life on stage in that kind of emotional way. I write and compose daily as my expression/outlet–whether it’s an acoustic guitar or my beat pads, it’s all the same creatively—but when I am making M34N STR33T I have an idea for what Conny is going to sound good on versus myself—I am enjoying being the art director and letting him be the actor in this movie.

What do you hope to do with this project?
I want the entire world to hear this album front to back at least one time and know that we are out here. I do not want it to be landlocked in the Midwest, I want to challenge what people think is possible out here DIY without a label, being independent and active in the music community locally, touring, and online. There is a lot going on in Omaha no one knows about and we represent this part of the country as we tell its story from our perspective. We have purposefully made it accessible to as many humans as we can for free without watering it down and losing its integrity as an art project. I also want to challenge the way artists interact with copyright law- and want to be part of the new frontier that explores new possibilities of combination and influences to make for new things that are beautiful and exciting and completely uninhibited by the restrictions keeping us from evolving creatively and artistically.

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