They Hate Change Are Elevating Their Scene
Beyond the more notorious Floridian artists, there are plenty of underground scenes bubbling across the state. They Hate Change are a producer/rapper duo from the Tampa tri-state area (Tampa, St. Petersburg and Clearwater) in South Pinellas County to be exact - and exact they are. It’s not rare for artists to rep their region, but Andre and Vonne are as local as they come, “When you’re from a small scene, everything that you do and every beat that you consume mostly comes from everywhere else.”
This confluence of cultures combined with a DIY attitude and a robust work ethic is what makes They Hate Change so captivating, “There is no industry, there’s nothing else to be had...Mostly everybody’s operating in the space of what can you figure out and which angle they can come from to make it happen.” With local influences like Jam Pony Express and Tampa Tony, to UK artists such as Novelist and D Double E, They Hate Change have a tunnel vision when working on their own music, while absorbing broad references, “We’re influenced by this, why wouldn’t we touch on that?”
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Having met over a decade ago at age 14, both living in the same apartment complex, the duo endearingly finish each other’s thoughts and insert supportive ad libs. Vonne explains how their partnership is like “two sides of the same coin”, “It just works when you have substantial chemistry with someone. He’s from Rochester, NY, and I'm from deep Florida. You come from different angles, that’s a huge benefit for sure.” But these ‘angles’ have moulded over time so no matter the route, the end point is the same, “It’s kind of like a predestination paradox. Whether I do the track with this angle or Dre does the track with his angle, it’s going to end up the same.”
Both are self-identified “producers first”, mixing and mastering everything themselves in Vonne’s apartment, aside from their upcoming EP, which Andre describes as their “baby going off to school.” In keeping with their intuitive creative process, the duo have been prolific with releases, “We’ll jot down some quick notes, or put down a few bars... We’re not about to have 27 demos.” Vonne emphasises the order of beats first, lyrics second, “If we spent an hour on that, and it’s not hot, it’s not about to get hot in the 15th version, it’s not about to get hotter in the 16th hour. Let’s just move on, pick another joint.”
“Progressive Floridian” is how Vonne describes their sound, with this expressed in a previous interview as, “Always trying to find a balance between ignored and engaged music.” When listening to their latest single ‘Stunt Cams’, this makes sense. A multi-layered, high energy track that hooks you in for an intense two minutes 39 seconds, it embodies the statement wholeheartedly, “You don’t really notice that there’s a lot going on unless you’re trying to hear.”
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Directed by Xandra Robyn, the one-shot video captures the pair’s celebration ritual, “‘Let’s just go to the Vietnamese spot, get some food, flick up in the parking lot with our photographer Kenny Bobbyy.” The reaction has been validating for the pair, “It’s proving a theory that we’ve had for a minute which is if you hear the song, we got you.”
The team have very recently signed to Godmode, and are in good company with label mates JPEGMAFIA and Channel Tres. What seems like a fluke, an A&R (now THC’s manager) reached out on the back of a loosie named ‘Secret’, released digitally from an otherwise physical only drop of a Covid-cancelled tour CD.
Signing to Godmode is an affirmation that what they’re doing makes sense, it’s not a signal to make changes. “We have a certain way of operating that we feel is very straightforward, and we feel like a lot of industry shit is very not straightforward.”
They are resolute in this stance, implicitly stating they have been ahead of the times, “It definitely feels like a turning point in that now more people have access. There’s been no formula change really besides making demos.” This one change was a necessity in locking the deal, as usually the pair would perfect songs during live sets with only beats recorded.
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With their latest EP 666 Central Ave. out today, there is a deep respect being paid referencing the former address of St. Petersburg, FL institution, Daddy Kool Records. “Daddy Kool was the first thing there 20 years ago when the strip was dead. They planted all the seeds for the scene, and of course, all the musicians go there and shop for music. It’s also the first place where any of our projects were sold physically.”
However, due to ongoing gentrification, the rent tripled and the store was forced elsewhere. As per their core philosophy, They Hate Change make music for their scene, from their scene, “We wanted to pay homage to this location, and people in the scene know it doesn’t make sense to anyone else, but everyone here can know 666 Central Ave.”
The five-track EP was made throughout April at the height of lockdown, but is purposefully not “protest or coronavirus music”. As the highly unusual circumstances dictated, it was mostly created separately (“If it wasn’t for lockdown, we would have done it in a few weeks”).
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A month later and Black Lives Matter was growing stronger every day. Like their musical philosophy, Andre and Vonne’s perspective on how to react is refreshingly unencumbered by outside pressure. “For us, it was just to get more info. The neighbourhood that I grew up in in Tampa is basically a police occupation since I was a kid...One of my best friends I grew up with got killed by police in 2014. There was no protest, there were no marches, there was no anything, this is the cycle.” Lyrics referencing this struggle have always been peppered throughout their work, as Andre adds, “It’s not like a momentary thing, we live in this, this is our life.”
Looking ahead, They Hate Change have one aim, “Whatever we did last, we have to top that.” This dedication to their art and their collective scene is a rare type of loyalty. As their name suggests, ‘they’ are opposed to change and this is exactly what they want to reverse.
”We’ll feel successful even if people don’t pay homage to us, for being the catalyst for that. We put our hat in the ring, we got on a big label and did our thing completely, so we took that type of risk.” Being the down to earth people that they are, Andre and Vonne have no plans of leaving their state, their town, or their home studio. “We could be in every publication, but we were still in the bedroom, old sampler, old mic, running it how we run it.”
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They Hate Change’s latest EP '666 Central Ave' is out today on Godmode.
Words: Nicola Davies
Photo Credit: Kenny Bobby + Daniel Diasgranados
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