Status-FLO (Fruitful Live Organic) is a musical collective made up of people who have years of schooling and have dedicated their lives to their art. Many Reno locals probably know at least one of the members. Each has other bands and independent projects, but when it’s time for the group to come together in rehearsals, each member’s songs flow as if they were composed by all of them. On stage, it’s difficult to recognize that the group isn’t a band, but a collective that works with a musical director who brings all the individual pieces together in an approach with a solid identity.
At a club near the Truckee River, the patio and the tables were full of people. DJ Joe “William” Wise took the audience’s temperature and testing different musical combinations, like a doctor. The audience members greeted each other with waves, fleeting hugs or nods of the head accompanied by smiles, showing that everyone knew each other. Status-FLO has a steady fan base that helps them “combat the forces of bad music,” says Tony Walker, the collective’s co-founder.
The stage was ready, and the musicians settled in. Walker, a.k.a. Locus, introduced the show; Joel “JBird” Cowell sat behind the keys in a black suit; Dominic “Sick Nick” Cowell illuminated his bass, as he was dressed in white; Mark Sexton checked his guitar; Dan Weiss looked over his drum set; and Tsuyoshi “Yosh” Curtis, one of the MCs, stepped aside for the gifted vocalist Lacy “La Red” Redhead. The staging was powerful, letting different styles rotate through it: hip-hop, soul, jazz, rhythm and blues, and a little bit of funk. Raised hands and swaying necks of all races were moving around. Each song was a unique and intense piece, and the audience was pleased with what they’d come to see.
Status-FLO will present What the Dilla: A Tribute to James Yancey on Sunday, May 29, at Se7en Tea House in the West Street Market. The show will be a tribute to the music of Yancey, a.k.a. J Dilla, an influential hip-hop producer. It will partly be a fundraiser so the group can travel and perform in Brooklyn at the Fort Green Fest with musicians such as Erykah Badu.
Over coffee on a recent Sunday morning, Wise, also a producer and writer, set down his coffee mug far away from his white Mac, the DJ’s instrument and loyal companion. “Nobody can take the art from us,” he said thoughtfully. Sitting by his side, Walker explained that there’s a dichotomy in Reno, while the people show their enthusiasm for the collective’s work, the venues don’t pay much and prefer to save money instead of paying for quality: “Bands like the Sol’Jibe, they hardly play in Reno because people here don’t pay, and in order to survive, you have to sell your art.”
That’s one of the many battles the collective’s members express through their lyrics.
“Lyrics are the main stuff to create, to talk about struggles, culture, society, and, most of all, ourselves,” says Wise.
According to Wise and Walker, the main point in popular music, and especially hip-hop, has been lost.
“On the radio, a lot of the music is sung by people who don’t compose,” says Walker. “They forget about integrity because someone wrote the music for them, but they lose the point. There is a pride behind writing.”
Aside from raising money to bring Status-FLO to New York, they will also donate 5 percent each to the Holland Project and to the J Dilla Foundation.
“Why do we deserve this?” asks Walker. “Because we need to build our names, because we put our lives into this, this is all that we do: music with substance.”