Back in the fall, I was a presenting host in the city’s PHL Live music competition, and it led me one October night to Hard Rock Cafe where the finalists World Music category were set to take the stage. Admittedly, I wasn’t sure how this was going to go: “world music” is a broad term that can include anything from African highlife to Indian raga, eastern European klezmer to Jamacian reggae. I was nervous that my frame of musical reference (centered largely around Western pop/rock) was too narrow to do a good job at this gig.
Thankfully, my fears were for nothing. All the artists on the bill blew me away in one way or another, and though The Underwater Sounds (who we’ve been longtime fans of here at The Key) took home top honors, for me the standout set came from a new Latin hip-hop group called Agudos Clef. Based out of Trenton, this six-piece brought an unbelievable energy to the room – driving beats, a fierce delivery, undeniable charisma. They played an explosive 20-minute set that left me immediately wanting more, so in the days that followed, I tracked down their Bandcamp single “Monotonia” and invited them to our studio to record.
At its core, Agudos Clef (“treble clef”) is made up of MCs Josue Lora and Nota G backed by DJ ItsJustAhmad. They’re captivating to watch even when they’re just performing as two rappers with a guy on the ones and twos. Just the other week I caught them at The Sound Hole, an arty DIY space in West Philly, and though they were largely unfamiliar to the crowd, they got their attention and held tight. “I know you probably can’t understand what we’re saying,” Nota G told the room at one point. “But hopefully you can connect with the feeling.” The room answered with a round of cheers; clearly they were connecting.
For their Key Session, though, Agudos Clef performed a set more akin to what I saw at PHL Live: a backing band to flesh out the beats and rhymes with vibrant arrangements. Mariano Medina played cajon and percussion; Jimmy on Jets added keyboard textures, while Angel Rivera delivered bumping basslines. The songs are lively as well as emotional: Lora explains that the song “911,” named for the emergency hotline as easily as the national disaster, is a meditation on the fleetingness of existence; one minute you’re alive and happy, the next minute everything can completely change.
Agudos Clef is getting ready to release its debut mixtape Teoria Evolucionaria (“theory of evolution”); in the meantime, you can get a taste of its music in this week’s Key Studio Session. Download mp3s of their performance on our Soundcloud page, or stream the set below.
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