"We try and make our music for anyone who can appreciate it, for people from all walks of life," said Zalamar 'Zeedub' Davis one of the two MCs fronting Tempe full-band hip-hop group The Stakes.
The Stakes' music blends the smooth tones of jazz with the heavier guitars of funk, the lyrical stylings of hip-hop and a distinctly contemporary R&B-type singer to make a uniquely Phoenix style of hip-hop that is as eclectic as the people making it.
This is a two-and-a-half year-old hip-hop group that early in their tenure making music was playing three-hour long sets at MIll Avenue's Caffe Boa. The talented funk and jazz musicians laid down intricate musical highways for Zeedub and his co-frontman Lord Kash to lyrically drive down full speed with socially conscious lyrics and above average wordplay.
The upscale Mill Avenue crowd weren't the only people feeling The Stakes, either. The jazz fanatics at The Nash in downtown Phoenix have also been quite accepting of The Stakes' brand of heavily jazz influenced hip-hop. In fact, according to Zeedub, many of his band members are regulars at the club, and when he is fortunate enough to catch one of them playing straight jazz he will still be obliged to jump on the microphone to lay down a few bars.
The band takes their name from classic hip-hoppers De La Soul's fourth album, The Stakes Is High. The band believes stakes are currently pretty high in the proverbial battle for the soul of music.
"In this time when radio is playing the same generic stuff ,a lot of the clubs are pretty much just trying to go with DJs, and you go down Mill Avenue and it's all dubstep and pop music and rap music turned into electric pop music. We just feel like the stakes at the moment is pretty high. We are basically trying to setup a change, to get some kind of trend where people are looking for musicians and bands and hip hop acts that fit the bill," says Zeedub. "We want to be a hip-hop band that can play any crowd."
They really mean "any" crowd too, as The Stakes have tried their hand at every format from multiple appearances at The Blunt Club and The Nash, to their First Friday and a Saturday residency at Bar Smith, to Bud's Glass Joint, all the way to an appearance at an "early Fallout Boy-type" battle of the bands at Nile Theater.
But even in such a fish out of water scenario The Stakes made their sound adapt to the more rock oriented crowd by allowing lead guitarist Caleb Veazey to really shine. Hip-hop and punk go hand in hand anyway, as music of the streets.
Though their sound may be widely accepted according to Zeedub no one shows them love like the Phoenix hip-hop scene. " There is always a bunch of love at our hip hop spots because we provide a break from a DJ and an MC. It's different we got the band and me and Kash try to go full on in at every show."
The Stakes are releasing their debut E.P. The Stakes Music Vol. 1 at Last Exit Live Friday night and they are releasing the first single and video from the album "can't get you out of my head" right now in this story.
"With The Stakes we try to keep a message in it. It could be black power or equality or talking about a specific subject but there is always going to be some kind of awareness in our music," says Zeedub. "We all want music to be our economic backing, we want this to be our 9-5. But we also want to make music that we to make and that we feel has a powerful influence on people."
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