In 1939, legendary jazz vocalist Billie Holiday transformed a poem written by a Jewish school teacher from the Bronx into the harrowing anthem of the anti-lynching movement in the South (Watch Video). Nearly 70 years later, three MCs from Waco, Texas have adopted the title of that song into the name of their hip-hop trio, and are paying homage to Ms. Holiday and the legacy of the black struggle in America with their new-school brand of musical commentary.
Symbolyc One (S1), Myth and My-One (pronounced “my own”) are The Strange Fruit Project.
“We wanted to use our music to uplift and bring something positive,” says Myth, “Music is a powerful tool that can be used to help people overcome negative energy. That name represents what we want to get across.”
Defying all stereotypes of today’s southern rap music scene, SFP laces their music with soulful and uplifting lyrics layered over jazz- and blues-tinged hip hop beats. Heavily influenced by classic soul artists like Marvin Gaye and Curtis Mayfield, their music acknowledges a deep respect for artists who stand up for what they believe in. And this is precisely what they’re striving to do.
“I think there’s a lack of creativity right now, a lack of substance,” says S1, who also produces the majority of the group's tracks, “There’s a lack of leaders also. You get lot of people just trying to duplicate something that’s already been done. Trying to deliver certain subjects or concepts that everyone else is going with right now.”
This may be why most of the music we hear on the radio sounds like a remix of the song that just played before it. And being from Texas, SFP recognizes that the grills and the bling may have their place in the music industry, it’s just not natural for them to express themselves in that way.
“We’re not saying there’s anything wrong with that,” says S1. “That stuff has it’s place, but that’s all there is right now. All the industry is really showcasing. All the audience is consuming.”
”A lot of people try to paint hip hop in a negative [way],” says Myth. “People don’t realize that there’s a whole ‘nother aspect to hip hop, and that’s what we represent. And this side isn’t really being showcased, it’s just one-sided right now.”
The group is currently in the studio working on their fourth full-length project. Their latest studio release from Om Records, titled, The Healing, was released in 2006. The inspiration for the album was a combination of spiritual awakening and observation of the state of pop culture.
“We wanted to put an album out to motivate people to overcome whatever obstacles they’re going through,” says S1, “Everybody’s dealing with some type of sickness. And we wanted to bring some refreshing music to hip hop, and to the industry as a whole, and show them that there is something out there that is healing. Something other than “Drop It Like It’s Hot,” you know?”
The album is jam packed with spiritually and socially conscious tracks that wrestle with issues like truth, love and the everyday experiences of life. Songs like “God Is,” “Liberation” and “Get Live” (the second single featuring hip hop soulstress Erykah Badu) declare the need for a new way of seeing ourselves in relation to each other and our creator: “Surprising how we be callin’ His name when there’s a problem/but whenever God will solve them/ instead of praisin’ His name we tend to hide Him in the back of our lives.”
“We’re not perfect, we’re not saying that,” says Myth, “We make mistakes too, but we try to learn from them. That’s how you grow.”
It’s not often that you hear lyrics like “God is beautiful” and “walking with Christ” in secular hip hop music. But it’s not lip service. A diverse group of fans quickly catapulted the group’s success and continue to flock to live performances around the world.
“It’s amazing sometimes. It’s very interesting,” says Myth, “When we went overseas to the UK we got to really see how diverse the fans are. It’s good to see, it’s part of what keeps us motivated.”
During their Spring 2007 tour, the group released a compilation of one-off projects titled “The Lost Documents,” hoping to keep the fans quenched until the release of their next full-length.
And with every record they make, the group keeps their listeners in mind. They want to affect people. They want to affect change, honoring the past while creating music that will positively influence the future.
“I would hope our music could help to change the way we interact with each other,” says Myth, “Stop being so disrespectful. Stop calling women [names] and all that. Sometimes it seems like we’re so negative. We need to show more love to one another, and not just in our communities, but all over the world.”
“I would like to see more people lean and depend on God,” says S1, “Just giving their lives to Christ and letting Him be the overseer of their lives. That’s my main purpose in everything I do.”
SFP Official Website
SFP on Myspace