An Abstract Love Story
It’s not your imagination that things are definitely getting cooler these days in red-hot Phoenix. That exciting new neo-soul vibe you hear chilling out the desert is coming straight from the hearts of Vocalist Rich Reddy and Emcee Xtravagentways, whose love for everyone from Marvin Gaye to Outkast inspired their irresistible easy grooving duo Mello Mello.
Creating a unique sound they say you can be “grown and sexy to, or young, hip and still maturing” to enjoy, the duo on their debut album tells An Abstract Love Story destined to touch hearts and minds everywhere. They were each experiencing their own up and down issues with romantic relationships while they were writing and recording the album; this leads to some deep, refreshing honesty that everyone can relate to as they sing and rap along with the fresh beats and melodies. Fifteen of the sixteen tracks on An Abstract Love Story (which features 13 songs and three interludes) were produced by Raycean, one of the city’s hottest R&B/Hip-Hop producers whose sound blends the shape of Kanye West and the energy of Swizz Beatz.
Before Xtravagentways met Reddy, when the two were working in telemarketing for MCI in 2003, he was performing and recording with the popular five man local hip-hop group Phat Richard. A “military brat” born in Georgia, he moved to Arizona as a teenager and got his first turntable and mic while growing up in Sierra Vista. Xtravagentways was a big fan of D’Angelo, Erykah Badu and Musiq Soulchild and was looking to move in a more mellow direction, away from “the sky is falling” vibe of his band.
Reddy, a Long Beach, California native who grew up singing in church and moved to Phoenix in his teens, had been singing in a group called Blaq Kaddy when he and Xtravagant hooked up. The singer and his musical partner Bobkatt did some early recordings using Xtravagentways' Yamaha RS7000 drum machine; while nothing came of those sessions commercially, it was clear from the start that Reddy and Xtravagentways had an exciting musical chemistry and a mutual love for neo-soul that would grow into something bigger and more Mello Mello than they could have imagined.
“An Abstract Love Story completely reflects who we are simply by blending Xtravagant’s hip-hop with my R&B background,” says Reddy, who does all the vocal melodies and harmonies while his partner does the rapping. “We’re both very smooth, laid back individuals, grownups who have been through a lot relationship wise and have strong stories to tell.”
Xtravagentways adds, “What’s most comfortable and natural for us is describing how we feel towards a woman. With me, it’s about communicating in a different way and expressing myself without getting too mushy. We like to get inside a person’s mind and get them to see where we’re coming from. The way I deliver my rap parts is designed to make people think. On the surface, it seems easy to follow, but then it goes deeper. The cool thing about Mello Mello is that both musically and lyrically, we’re not limiting ourselves to one audience. Grown folks and kids alike can find joy in the conversation we’re having with them.”
Though Mello Mello is releasing An Abstract Love Story as a whole project—and to really go deep into the experience of their musical narrative, it must be listened to in its entirety—an obvious first single would be “I Just Wanna Love U,” which has a sexy, subliminal groove under the duo’s desire to do whatever it takes to make a woman know how they feel. They’re likewise direct and romantic on “Dedicate the Night,” the slow grooving ballad that came together the fastest of any on the collection. “Movin’ On,” which reminds the duo of “the evening sunset on a nice summer day, when you’re ready to go out and hit the clubs,” takes a different approach, with Xtravagantways doing more straight spoken word than rap. The dreamy “Angel,” “Come Home” and “Foxy L’il Thang” are pure spotlights for Reddy’s extraordinary vocal talents. The two-minute interlude “Bah-Dah-Dah” explores more exotic and improvisational territory with its jazzy feel with a touch of Miami meringue/salsa.
Before forming Mello Mello, both Reddy and Xtravagentways performed at some of Phoenix’s best-known venues. Reddy has sung at the Celebrity Theatre, The Venue in Scottsdale and The Marquee Theatre. Xtravagentways played everywhere with Phat Richard and also did a solo gig at the intimate Hollywood Alley in Tempe. As a duo, they have so far lit up crowds at Famous Sam’s, The Loft and Party’s. Now that An Abstract Love Story is out there, Mello Mello is ready to roll beyond the desert and groove people everywhere.
“We’re trying to create a spark and then an explosion of neo-soul music here, and then take it to the bigger cities as more people get to know us,” says Reddy. “We don’t care about being superduperstars, but we’d love to be known for making music that feels good and has integrity. We want people everywhere around the world to hear Mello Mello and appreciate the results of the love and craft that goes into what we do. My favorite part of this is when that first note that comes out of my mouth captivates every woman in the audience. I want the guys to use it to play to their woman, but I want to have the eyes of every woman on me.”
In line with his colorful stage name, Xtravagentways wants to take the whole experience to the extreme. “For us, making this music is who we are and it’s so much fun. If we’re able to have the freedom to do it all the time, the experience would only get better. I love performing and interacting with the crowd. Some artists stay in one place but we’re all about exploding in people’s faces. The music we make as Mello Mello is personal but we enjoy getting it up in someone’s face and making them feel what we feel.”
© 2007 Mello Mello