New York’s Oxymorrons, the collective that combines rap, hip-hop, rock, and metal all into one as their music holds no boundaries or rules. The group recently signed with 333 Wreckords, owned by Fever333’s Jason Aalon Butler, and unveiled their new single “Justice.” The song arrived just in time as we are currently facing a time of civil unrest where we had enough with police brutality and the racism that sadly continues. Enough is enough. Metal Insider caught up with the group, Ki, Deee, Matty Mayz, and Jafe Paulino to discuss their new single, signing with 333 Wreckords, and details on their upcoming album. The group also opened up to us about the injustice they’ve experienced over the years.
For those who are unfamiliar, can you talk about your overall style?
KI: Our sound is pretty much a mix up of genres where we fuse rock and hip hop and we blend those sounds. And yeah, that’s pretty much what it is.
Deee: Yeah, predominantly rock and hip hop, but we tend to blend genres and all sounds together. We operate by no genre boundaries really at all. It’s just that we lean more in that direction. It’s kind of more of a like, hey, feels good, sounds good, it is good. That’s how we go about it.
Can you talk about some of your heavier influences?
Matty: Oh, absolutely. Well, again, we tend to go more hip hop and rock oriented, but don’t get me wrong, there’s going to be some breakdowns. There’s going to be some much heavier riffs in the stuff that we decide to write. If that’s the day that we’re feeling, we’re going to put it in. But for us, I think a lot of influences from System of a Down, Slipknot, a lot of metal bands that were in the regular metal category. The people who were doing something different. People who were being influenced by their own different bands, and not just trying to be “metal,” in quotations.
KI: Yeah. Like Matt said, not to do something just straight metal, from nu metal stuff to when you get into like Underoath and stuff like that. It gets heavier in that space.
What approach do you guys have to be part of both the hip hop and rock world?
Deee: Historically just the essence tends to collide and match with each other, hip hop, rock, and punk. Just that rebelliousness of it all, the kind of DYI, do it yourself, underground, pull yourself up from the floor. Speak for, for the most part, a voiceless community. So we make noise and scream and do our thing.
Jafe: Yeah. Just elaborate on what you said. They both come from the same place, the same spirit with the same intentions. Just some of the instruments are a little different. It wasn’t even an effort to figure out how to blend rock and metal and rap. It’s part of our music history, especially as people of color and in this country, and it comes pretty naturally to us. It’s the music we love to make, we just put it all together.
What was it like a signing with 333 Records?
Deee: It was cool. Jason’s a really great dude. Initially it was just being fans of Fever333, and then connecting with Jason [Aalon Butler] through social media, Instagram to be exact. Then it was this year and a half long process of getting to know each other, understanding the influences, obviously. Jason is someone who shares our experiences out of every type of corporation or company, however you want to put it as that we worked with, J understood what it was like to be a person of color in the rock scene. Fighting that uphill battle in order to be a person creating genre-bending music that tends to not fit into any of the boxes that the industry tries to put you in. For that, meeting him and loving the sound and loving the person that he is, I guess it was somewhat easy just to connect and build a rapport because we are pretty much one of the same.
Jason’s been in one space for a while and we have been in one space for a little bit, and he completely understands us. That was the primary thing of signing was he completely understands us, and he allows us to be who we are. In fact, he even pushes us more to be who we are because operating in the industry for a little bit of time, you tend to start to, I guess, conform to certain things just to have success. Just to have a fighting chance to be in the moment and to do what you want to do. Jason is allowing us to give us a fighting chance, putting us in the limelight, putting us in this space as we are. We don’t have to code switch to be with Jason.
Let’s talk about your new single, “Justice.” What’s the meaning behind the song and how long did it take to write and get it out there?
Matty: I liked the little history of the song a little bit, so actually we wrote this pre-protests, pre-George Floyd. We actually wrote this record in, say, February, I would say while we were out in LA working. Pre-COVID. Yeah, we started it out in February. Honestly we got to our Airbnb super late one night, and we were talking about injustices and how basically fucked up the system is until about 6:00 in the morning. Again, we apologize to all the neighbors. But, we were really discussing the struggles that we’d gone through, and not only as a band, but as people and being a full POC band. We had gone into the studio the next day and we just like, this is what we want to write about. This is what we want to say. We wrote the record quickly, actually. It just all just fell into place.
Deee: Justice took us about four hours to complete. It was about a four hour session developing literally from scratch and no pre demos, no pre lyrics written. No nothing. We just walked in the room, shouting out to Matt Jones, he is the man and I love building out with him. We all did. We just built it. Now that I think about it, it was very simple. It was very easy because the emotions just poured out, like Matt said. We were talking about it before, and we’re a band that always experienced this thing. All we did was all of our emotions on paper and our instrument.
KI: It was very simple to make when you grew up dealing with situations like this forever. I remember dealing with stuff like this being in my single digit ages. Like at five, I remember seeing stuff or dealing with that stuff. Floyd and all this stuff is not new to us. These are regular daily things, which is fucked up in a sense, but it is what it is, and we put it down on sound.
Listening to the song now, with the time we’re in now, it’s hard to believe you wrote this before COVID, the protests, and George Floyd’s death. And the timing to release “Justice” couldn’t have been more perfect.
KI: Yeah. It just so happened that the world was ready to fight back with it. We joined in on what it’s going to be. Come to be ourselves by making sure that the proceeds go back to the people and everyone else who wants to make sure we add our two cents as well.
Jafe: Yeah. Because since it was pro everything, it’s more so just literally who we are. When you get to hear more from us, you’ll feel less like, oh my God, it was perfect. Yes, the universe aligned and it all came, but that’s just what it is. These things aren’t new. I guess this volcano has been bubbling. The eruption was bound to come, and this is the eruption, but we’ve always been playing music, touring, making songs on this volcano.
Deee: Yeah, very well said.
I know that this next question that you can speak for hours about, but in a shorter context, can you guys share some of your personal experience you’ve had with injustice?
Jafe: Well, my family was heavily involved in protests and revolutionary mentality and community galvanizing as a kid. I first remember police brutality against Amadou Diallo when I was nine years old and protesting for that. I then had my uncle who was a black man, with dreadlocks from the Dominican Republic and an immigrant was murdered by four white police officers while having an epileptic seizure at work. He worked with undocumented people who were trying to tell them he was having a seizure. But the police claimed that he was endangering them and the people around him, and they murdered him. Same way they murdered George Floyd.
A few years later, myself, after a night of drinking with some of my friends in Soho, I lived in the South Bronx and I was doing the responsible thing of taking a cab home. The cab wouldn’t drive me to where I live in the South Bronx because there’s a lot of segregation in the city itself. South Bronx is not a place cab drivers want to take people to, historically speaking, and still to this day. Anyways, I refused to get out of the cab when the cab wouldn’t take me home, he called the police and two white police officers continued to drag me and kick me and beat me. Then they left me on the sidewalk and I was forced to walk home across the bridge by myself.
That’s just a couple of examples. Now, there’s obviously a lot. That’s just, I think what I’ve gone through emotionally and with my body. There’s also institutionalized racism. Trying to get jobs. My name on paper is crazy. It sounds like a Saudi Arabian Prince, but like Jafar’s son. I’ve experienced a lot of xenophobia and Islamophobia just because of the way I look. I look Middle Eastern, but I’m Dominican, but I’m from New York.
I’ve been searched by Homeland Security and taken off multiple plane rides. When I was flying to New Orleans to actually volunteer my time after Katrina, I was searched multiple times, cavity searched one time, and just because of the way I look. It’s crazy. These are stories I can tell you and laugh about now. There’s so much more pain that so many more people are going through. I can say this because luckily we have the outlet of music.
Deee: Yeah, there’s so much worse and there’s so many other things that go on. Then even on a granular, a really small level, day to day, little things. For instance, with Dave and getting on a train in New York City. I will be stopped and said I hopped the train and they’ll be like, “Oh wait, you got to wait, we gotta figure it out.” I’m like, “Wait a minute.” Their exact words were from their line of sight, I hopped the train and tried to skip a fare. I was like, “Wait a minute. I did not try this to skip a fare.”
This happened to me multiple times. Thank God I have a background in law and I had some internships and some good situations where I was able to take some legal action. But that’s not the case for everyone else. Everyone else just takes the abuse and has to go home and the whole notion of hey, let’s file a report. Those little reports don’t get seen. Straight up, those reports don’t get seen, and I know this personally. At the end of the day, it’s on so many levels and Matty could probably share something of his own also, and K.
Matty: Yeah. I don’t know. For me personally, honestly I would thank my parents. I grew up pretty sheltered. My parents tried to shield me from everything, so the moment I got to college, I got hit with like a one, two punch of what it meant to be brown in New York City, let alone brown anywhere. I think for me, I’ve been stopped and frisked at least nine times when I went to college at NYU. I’ve been searched and accosted while I looked suspicious from walking home from the library during the finals, Bible already in a backpack while I was literally walking into the library. I was with friends. There were multiple instances where I was praying and I was pulled over and cuffed to the side while two white officers said that I looked like someone who had committed a robbery in the area. I could tell stories for days, but it’s just something that’s heartbreaking. It fucks with your day to day. I mean, a reason why we’re writing this music and why we wrote this record is because this is just a day to day struggle for us. It has nothing to do with the current protests, or what’s actually happening. This has been going on forever.
Deee: Yeah, it’s our lives. I remember, this one always sticks with me because it shows how they view black people. They have a 100% view on this. Me and my friend were sitting down. We had our laptop open and we were playing some of our music. Cops come by and they ask what are we doing here? Literally, I’m just like, “We’re at a park, I’m sitting down. Pardon my French, but I’m going to say exactly what the cops said. Basically what he said, “Shouldn’t you be in the house drinking Hennessy with the bitches?” I can go out and get big and start screaming, but that doesn’t help anything. So me, I got kind of a little cocky with my words and I said, “Sir, I don’t want my Hennessy.”
Then he proceeded to go, “Oh, what music are you playing?” I said, “I’m just playing some of the music that I create.” Then he said, “Play it.” I played it for him and he’s like, “Oh, but it’s not gangsta.” I’m like, “Sir, when did I ever say I was a gangsta?” Then he started to realize that pretty much he was being a dickhead. I gave him my identity, he checked everything. I was clean. I never got in trouble. That was like the first ticket I ever got because he just made up something just to give me a ticket.
That just showed me so much like man, you just saw a black dude. If I show you the photo of the way I looked that day, I Looked like this sweet nerd guy, big glasses. I looked like a fleece nerd, and I had my skateboard. I was just chilling. If you saw that and he instantly saw a gangster, no, you saw my skin color and you just said, “You’re a black guy and you’re doing this, and you’re doing that,” no matter what the situation was. That always stuck with me because no matter what or how you change or how you speak or whatever it is, they always viewed you first as sorry, a nigger.
KI: That’s real.
Deee: And that’s the short form.
Matty: And we’re the lucky ones because these same stories have been told and ended in murder too often as well.
Deee: Yeah, we’re alive and we also have voices that people will listen to.
Thank you guys so much for opening up even the short version of it. I really appreciate it. Hopefully, people will wake up and there will be a change to the system. Now speaking of your album, is there anything that you want to let your fans know?
Deee: It’s going to be a lot of heat. One of the things that we pride ourselves in as Oxymorrons overall in general, is to do what we do where we’re having a good time no matter what. Even in our past music, no matter what you’re listening to, there’s messages all over our music. We take very, very tough, complex topics and put an entertaining spin on them. Sometimes they’re very direct, like with Justice, and then at other times, they’re mixed with a bunch of our experiences and you’re dancing to a record that may be talking about injustice or may be talking about a breakup, and still sounds fun. That’s one of the things that we do, so you’re always going to get what you get from the Oxies, it’s just going to be extremely elevated and it’s going to be extremely dope, to say the least.
Matty: It’s not only going to sound like Justice either. It’s not going to sound like a Rage Against the Machine album necessarily
Deee: No, it will not.
Matty: It will be influenced by, but it’ll sound like NERD. There’ll be hints of KoRn. There’ll be hints like old Sum 41 and Blink. There’ll be Kanye and Little Wayne, man. There’s no limit. No rules.
Deee: We’re diverse, you’re going to get everything in a nutshell. The name of it is called Gateway Drug, because we consider ourselves that based upon our experience of people who don’t tend to lean in our culture as far as rap, will hear us and see us and be like rockers and be like, “Damn, I’m going to give rap more of a chance.” And rappers, people who love hip hop or, or people who love more urbanized, for lack of better term, because we’re erasing that word, will give other forms of music a chance. When you hear our album, you’ll say, “Hey,” maybe you’ll give these other genres a chance and not pigeonhole into one thing. Because people are extremely complex. People are extremely diverse. Like my brother KI always says, he goes like, “We don’t eat one type of food, so why should we only listen to one type of music?”
KI: We need a balanced diet. Oxymorrons is a balanced diet of music in 2020.
It’s like when you eat broccoli, if broccoli’s the only food that you eat and know about in this world, you’re missing out on a lot of different courses.
KI: Yeah, exactly. I would feel very sad for you if all you ate was broccoli.
It’s the first food that popped in my mind.
KI: We might call another album Balanced Diet, so just hold up. Oh, so we’re not using Mohawks and Do-rags?
Jafe: Mohawks and Do-rags, another good one.
Is there anything else that you want to say or add to your fans?
Jafe: Stay vigilant, stay angry, be smart. Do your research, do the work, and make sure you’re being a positive light in this world.
Deee: And most of all, love each other.
Jafe: Wear a mask.
Deee: Yeah, wear that mask and do your thing, man. Drink water.
KI: Stay hydrated.
Deee: Yeah. Ride a bike.