By Kelvin Cowans, Special to The New Tri-State Defender

The venue: An office owned by Coleman Thompson, the father of one of the three members of Friends That Rap – Thompson’s son Freshcobain, 23 (Oakhaven High 2011), B-Tree Rodgers, 23 (Oakhaven High School 2011) and Kash Giovanni, 22 (Bartlett High 2012).

The elder Thompson is adamant. Friends That Rap is on a hot trail to success in the music business, he says.

Yes, they come straight out of Memphis, where the rap legend legacy includes spending “Robin” time on street corners pushing dope before becoming “Batman” to America’s music crowd. Friends That Rap is different. Looking more like the 90s Rap Group “A Tribe called Quest,” one might not expect them to be as gritty as they are on the microphone.

With their mixtape “How To Build A Mixtape” on point, they’re grimy when they have to be, crunk when they want to be and street smart the whole time. Daddy Thompson says with patience and professionalism – now and later – Friends That Rap has the potential to be, well, as some folks down south would put it, “Bigger than Grandma Draws!”

Kelvin Cowans: How did you guys come together?

Freshcobain: We were already friends, so we simply decided to come together as a group. We put together a showcase that was so unsuccessful and we were like, “wow.” The downfall brought us together and we were like, “let’s try this thing again.” We feel like us being together is more powerful.

B-Tree: It was meant to happen that way. It brought us close together. Friends That Rap, it’s so simple.

KC: B-Tree, how long you been rapping?

B-Tree: I’ve been rapping since 10th grade. I was rapping before then but I wasn’t taking it serious. I was just a kid beating on the desk in high school and that’s where it all started.

KC: Kash Giovanni, when did you start?

Kash Giovanni: I was in the 10th grade as well. I started off making beats at first and then started rapping later. I was tight on my beats but there were things I needed to work on and I got a lot better. Like B-Tree I started taking it seriously.

KC: Freshcobain … when did you start rapping, when did you fall in love with hip-hop.

Freshcobain: Ha, I’ve always loved all kinds of music. Ironically, I started in the 10th grade as well. But long before then, I grew up in a house where I listened to artist like Prince and Michael Jackson. I played in the band at Wooddale Middle in sixth grade, bought my own trumpet and everything. I’ve been more of a songwriter at first but then became a rapper.

KC: Tell me about your mixtape … “How To Build A Mixtape.” How many songs do you have on it and what type of feedback are you getting about it?

KG: I’ll say this, we quit our jobs and moved out to Atlanta and we have won every competition that Atlanta has to offer. So we’ve received a lot of love.

B-Tree: Unfortunately, we’ve had to come back to Memphis for personal reasons but we did very well out there. It’s crazy because with Atlanta we really didn’t have a plan. We were actually headed to California. But we said what’s the next biggest and closest thing to us and it was Atlanta. Everyone knows how rich the music history is there, so we headed there. We got so much radio play there and a few radio interviews as well. Atlanta was a good look for Friends that Rap.

KC: You guys write your own songs?

KG: Yes sir!

KC: Which songs on the mixtape have the people been feeling?

KG: No. 8: “I don’t know her name.” It’s getting a lot of radio play. They love that song.

B-Tree: No. 5: “Secret Sauce.”

Freshcobain: No. 1: “California Dreaming.”

B-Tree: Yes, No. 1 is really special to me. I feel like it’s the realest verse I ever wrote. The song is all about following your dreams and that anything is possible. It’s about having everything you want because you worked for it.

KG: What’s real special about this mixtape is we want our mixtape to appeal to all cultures and races.

Freshcobain: In the end, we want to be taken seriously; we want to win Grammys. There is a bigger purpose behind our music and our lives. We want to stand out.

KC: Trust me, you stand out.

KG: It’s actually amazing to us how women are moved by songs that degrade them. However, we put our on spin on it when it comes to songs like, “I don’t know her name.” We just had fun with it, like being a bit sarcastic.

Freshcobain: We want to be different than all the other artists out of Memphis. You have to be different to stand out because a lot of people rap. They are waking up more and more every day like, “hey, I’m a rapper.” Truthfully, sometimes they get on quicker than someone who can really rap. They drop a stupid trap song and boom it’s a hit. Don’t get me wrong I like trap music, but it’s like the most stupid songs get the radio play and we don’t want to dumb down a generation to make a hit. We love our Memphis musicians but we want to be bigger than Yo Gotti and Young Dolph. We want to have charities and foundations that help people. I don’t want to just show off.

KC: Let’s say you guys make it. Minus the cars and houses and jewelry, what else do you guys want to do? Hey, and we don’t need no more chicken houses and cars on 24s. What y’all gone do man?

B-Tree: I want to do work with the humane society. I have a passion for that.

KG: Honestly, I just want a place to call home, a family to come home to. Just being with people that love me. I don’t need the flashy cars. I just want to be around positive energy.

Freshcobain: I want to be the face of a generation. I have a lot to say. I want to lead the second uprising. I want to be a part of the Black Panthers and work with the NAACP. I want to be famous. Our people are valuable and we can be the leading group of America.

(Kelvin Cowans can be reached at kelvincowans@hotmail.com.)