As artists Third3ye challenge the boundaries of contemporary hip hop through experimentation and shared messages of philosophy, spiritual enlightenment and the pursuit of higher consciousness in their music. Auckland MCs Angelo King and Bronson Price, aka MeloDownz, are the core of a flexible conscious unit, with DJ Ill Baz adding his energy with a live band and sophomore album both currently in development. Abraham Kunin plays a dual role here as a producer and interviewer.
Third3ye, the combined musical and philosophical manifesto of MC’s MeloDownz (aka Placid Vertigo, aka Bronson Price), and Angelo King (aka The Lion and The Lotus), have been steadily percolating in earbuds and collective consciousness since the drop of their 2012 EP ‘Earth Raps’.
In the years following the crew gained national profile, culminating in the release of their 2014 LP ‘On3ness’. Produced exclusively by YGB teammate Ben Jamin’, and constituting the majority of their live set, this 808-laden, indigo-tinged collection was refreshingly la mode, both beat-wise and flow-wise. It resonated with local heads, cementing a loyal following, and securing a run of festival slots.
Since then however, little has been heard of Third3ye. Singles have popped up here and there, and the duo have certainly remained a force on the scene, but question marks surrounded the future of the group, especially with solo projects emerging from both parties.
Knowing both through working with them as Third3ye, as solo artists and shared live bills, part of this article is derived from observations over the past few years. Circumstance dictated intriguing juxtaposed interview conditions, with MeloDownz (Bronson) replying from a beach in Vanuatu, and Angelo King on the phone, as he waited for a tow truck on Lincoln Rd.
Contrary to the lazy stereotype of championing neo-hippie ideology through an infinite shroud of weed smoke and nag champa, both are astute and engaging conversationalists, each with their own unique idiosyncrasies. Collective world views aside, Angelo and Melo are kind of yin and yang personalities. With this in mind, you get the impression things don’t happen without the appropriate energies aligning to inspire them.
Asked about the current down-cycle for the group, both immediately address the work they’ve put in touring, and their own (and each other’s) solo output. If it seems like they’ve been quiet on the Third3ye front, they’ve been far from latent, playing numerous shows around the country
Angelo: “Since oneness was released, we’ve put a primary focus on gigging. Trying to get that sword sharp, as the live element is maybe the most important. We’ve really gotten into a good groove with our performances, and amongst hip hop circles, we’re kind of known as a live act. We put a lot of energy and emotion into it, and that comes from practice practice, practice, practice.”
There is a clear sense of unity and intention from both around what was needed to facilitate the evolution of Third3ye, and to keep their personal creative output healthy and flowing.
Angelo: “The whole idea is that we kind of break away, re-inspire ourselves with different energies. So that when we come back to this next album we’re each bringing more to the puzzle.”
MeloDownz: “It may seem like Third3ye have gone incognito, but we intentionally chose to turn our focus inwards to nourish the seed, before branching out for the people. We’ve had a few songs marinating in the kitchen for a while now, and are currently in the studio creating.”
While I reckon their On3ness’ sound was on the crest of a wave, at least locally, I still wanted to play devil’s advocate and allude to the East Coast-esque psychedelic trap bandwagon, if, for nothing else, to silence naysayers. This naturally progressed into where they heard themselves going.
MeloDownz: “With us it was more of an organic process and come up you could say. I mean when Angelo and I first linked up it wasn’t like, ‘Yo my G, let’s make our music conscious and indigo for the masses.’ It just so happened we had a like-minded perspective and resonated with each other’s energies. We built our foundation off of spiritual concepts our parents handed down to us, philosophies we questioned or challenged, everyday life things and an effort to encourage our listeners.”
Angelo: “There is this indigoism that’s going on in the world, but we’re not trying to be like that. Not trying to be The Underachievers or representing that. We’re just representing ourselves and speaking on the things that matter to us you know, and they come out the way they come out. And at any given time that might be different. This new Third3ye album is going to be completely different to ‘On3ness’. First and foremost, we’re working with different producers. Second, we’re older, and third, we’re just at a different place in our lives and inspired by different things.”
The new album certainly branches away from a previously ubiquitous Third3ye sound. While not abandoning the 808 kick or hi-hat, those elements have been ingested into a wider palette of instrumentation, invoking surprising aspects of funk and even pop.
MeloDownz: “I think hip hop itself is evolving into all types of sub-genres and vibrations. If someone was to rap over house that could be hip hop. With the internet and people being so experimental these days, there are just so many different representations and perspectives sprouting from the genre, it’s a beautiful thing in my eyes.”
The content has become more urgent and more direct on the upcoming album. A series of life-changing events for each have accelerated their personal growth, and helped distill their artistic voices.
MeloDownz: “You can expect a more mature, encouraging and emotional sound. I’ve been more deliberately simplistic with my songwriting on this record, to reach more than just a hip hop demographic.”
Angelo: “With this project we’re more aware of what gets people going, but at the same time we give less f^%#s about people putting their arms in the air and doing the trap dance. I feel like we’ve earned the listeners’ ear now, so we trust people will come in with open minds and open hearts.”
Beyond their musical offerings, both King and Price work as healers in the physical realm. King as a chiropractor, and Price as a youth mentor and massage therapist. This makes for interesting discussion with regard to Albert Ayler’s adage of music being the healing force of the universe. Not only do their other passions offer constant inspiration, they also prove the boys ‘walk the walk’ and bring multiple links to a chain of positive action and reaction.
MeloDownz: “Working with troubled youth and young people, I can relate to a lot of where they are coming from, so I thought it would only be right to use music as a way to reach those in need, and introduce them to other ways of expressing themselves and inspire rather than getting in trouble.”
“Massage is similar to music believe it or not. It is all energies, vibrations and frequencies permitting good intention, the quality of touch is very important and has been practised in mine and many cultures for centuries. I believe it’s a gift passed down from my ancestors.”
Angelo: “For all intents and purposes we both feel energy whether it’s music or not. I think health in its bare essence comes down to a vibrational frequency. I’ve always felt like that’s the way music actually influences us. I think the sound of the music or the sound of the voice that’s speaking to you can enable your cellular tissues to vibrate in a way that is beneficial. I feel like I’m a musical practitioner just like I’m a chiropractic practitioner. We want to be delivering healing messages to people and help them enhance certain feelings.”
An ethos of sincere, vulnerable work, with an empowering vibration has crystallised over a year behind the scenes in the lab. This clarified approach is timely. Hip hop and its endless exponents have rarely felt as vibrant in NZ as right now. Between YGB, SWIDT, The Grow Room, One Roof, and many more burgeoning cliques, vital connections are being made nationally and internationally. Both the classic and the avant garde are thriving. A global audience has never been closer, and we have never had more to offer. In this fertile climate, Third3ye are resolute about making bold and lasting statements with their sophomore album.
MeloDownz: “Since the last record, there have been a lot of things happening around the world, so it came naturally when we addressed these issues. It’s more of a rebellion then anything. We really want to voice what we’re thinking because I know a lot of people out there can relate, but are too scared to talk openly about it. Music is the easiest way to express these thoughts.
“Angelo and I low-key knew this record would be more revolutionary than our past works. Driven by the feelings and emotions our people have been going through, it is the least we can do. In saying that, it’s not all negative, we try and spread as much light and love as possible.”