“If you’ve been thirsting for some Hip Hop with production That feeds the soul, Lyrics that message the brain, then this is something you need to download and share with your folks. Ya’ll will not be disappointed”
— Maurice Garland
Birmingham, Alabama is known for many things, unfortunately, Hip Hop isn’t one of them. Shockingly, to be the largest city in Alabama, it’s the only one without a breakout rap star or “movement.” But that is sure to change with the emergence of B-ham based supergroup K.L.U.B. Monsta.
Made up of childhood friends turned rhyme partners Kel Ricks, Joshua, Air Talley and J. Dotta, K.L.U.B. Monsta is poised to not only put their city on the rap radar, but also carry on in the tradition of classic Southern Hip Hop and re-introduce listeners to the art of making rap music with substance.
“We rap about what we learned living here and we even rap about the history of the city,” says founding member Kel Ricks, mentioning that the K.L.U.B. part of their name is an acronym for Knowledge. Learned. Under. Birmingham. “Then with the ‘Monsta’ part you can say that the knowledge we’ve learned has created a monster.”
Originally known as Monsters, Inc the group was started in the early 2000’s by Kel Ricks and Air Talley who had just returned to Birmingham after moving to Denver to explore a solo opportunity. In 2007 they released their first project Perfect Procrastination with features from future full time member Joshua.
Seeing the potential roadblocks of having the same name as a Disney movie, the group decided to rebrand themselves as K.L.U.B. Monsta. Then, in 2009 they officially added Joshua and a new member, J. Dotta.
The new line-up dropped their first official offering, Southern Theory, on Thanksgiving Day 2010. Southern Theory gave listeners a glimpse into the mind of a monster as the group tapped into the struggle of the everyday man dealing with everything from relationships to local politics simply trying to make it.
“We’re really just young, regular guys that stumbled across music and want to make something a little different from what we hear every day,” says Joshua.
“We just wanted to get our name out there and give people a different outlook on Alabama rappers,” says Kel Ricks. “People think they know what they’re going to get. Even our name, they think we make club music. That’s why we wanted to show our depth and talent.”
As seen in their much publicized video single, “Waiting” each member has a unique style that still manages to speak on one accord. Kel Ricks is known as the “lyrical” member of the group citing everyone from Ma$e to Jay-Z as his influences. Considered the most “conscious” of the four, Joshua describes himself as the “Bill Cartwright” of the group, likening himself to the veteran center who acted as an anchor for the championship Chicago Bulls teams of the early 90’s. J. Dotta acts as the always improving catalyst that makes the rest of the group stay on point at all times. While Air Talley is referred to as the “laid back one” or “technician” of the group, often times creating the hooks for the songs.
After enjoying mild success and blog attention on the heels of Southern Theory, K.L.U.B. Monsta is hoping to capitalize with their upcoming project DJ Burn One-hosted Separate But Sequel. The title, partially inspired by the Jim Crow-era laws that helped define their Birmingham stomping grounds generations ago, also acts as a continuation of what they started with Southern Theory.
“We wanted to improve in the raps and showcase production of the core producers we’ve been working with locally,” offers Joshua.
“The first mixtape was an easy listen,” says Kel Ricks. “But with Separate But Sequel I think with more casual listeners will get a grasp of what we are about. Hardcore Hip Hop people will like it as well.”
With Alabama surging as a new force in Hip Hop and quality music never going out of style, it’s inevitable for K.L.U.B. Monsta to not only become a group to watch for, but become one of your favorites as well.