By Garren Shipley -- firstname.lastname@example.org
STRASBURG -- Shenandoah County is known for many things, but excellent rap and hip-hop aren't among them.
That could well change on Friday, as "Live from tha DMV" comes to the Strasburg Theater.
The show features an impressive number of rising artists with Shenandoah County roots.
Headliners David Frye, aka Young Black, Bey Smith, aka LB, and Justin Wells, aka Jus (Da Best), said Monday that the Strasburg show is part of a dream in the making.
"We've been doing this since we were kids, we went to school together, hung out together," said Frye. Over the years, fun became a passion.
"We needed a good launching pad to get us to the next spot."
All three still have day jobs to keep things moving while they pursue their musical ambitions.
"I know that the job I clock into isn't my passion, isn't what I want to do for the rest of my life," Frye said. "So I've got to put in almost 100 more percent when I get off work to make sure that doesn't happen."
All three keep their eyes focused on the big picture.
"You're going to use your spare time to do what you love to do. At the same time, we've got to eat, we've got to pay bills until this comes through the way we want it to, nothing else changes," Smith said.
For all the dreams of future success, much of the music comes from a past pain.
In "I've Been Here B4," from his under-construction album Frye-Day, Frye lays bare the results of bad decisions, personal tragedy and wisdom won the hard way.
The track is a gut-wrenching trip through hard years, back to a front porch in the Shenandoah Valley, where he takes stock of his situation.
"I had moved away and I came back," Frye said. He put pen to paper while sitting on his grandparent's porch in Toms Brook.
"I was like, man, I've been here before. I've seen this before. This time, I'm going to do it different," he said.
None of the three are strangers to the braggadocio that comes standard with modern hip-hop, but for every track about getting money and fame there's another with a story to tell.
"The key is to make relatable music. Not all about 'I've got these rims, I've got this ice,' the relatable music is how you help this person who might be below you," Frye said.
"We all go through things," added Smith. "I lost my little brother when I was 16, and we always did music together. When I lost him, that was one thing that kept me in touch with him, was doing what we loved to do."
Soulful source material is just part of the equation that makes the group work. The chemistry among the three core performers is undeniable, as evidenced by an impromptu concert on Monday night.
Standing on King Street, Frye and Smith dropped rhymes along with Wells, who had some pre-mixed beats in the CD player of his sport utility vehicle.
In an instant, the beats over a sampled track were flowing freely and fluidly, as each fed off the other's energy. Sessions like that are how the group goes from idea to finished track.
"I get an idea for the song, throw it to them and then we just make it happen," Wells said.
"Live from tha DMV" starts at 9 p.m. at the Strasburg Theater and will feature hip-hop, go-go and reggae acts. Tickets are $8 at the door. The show includes mature lyrics and no one under 18 will be admitted. For more information, call the theater at 465-1777.