Animate Objects groove their way to the dirty Dale

By Gus Bode

Right out of the windy city, Chicago natives Animate Objects will play their smooth, soul-filled hip-hop and jazz beats at Thursday’s sunset concert.

The members of Animate Objects conjure up a head-bobbing groove that’s hard to ignore. The group flawlessly combines two relatively different styles of music to create a powerhouse of sound. The songs are layered and deep the hip-hop beats are weaved with jazz, soul and rhythmic vocals.

The very fact that this hip-hop group plays its own instruments gives it a leg up on others. If that isn’t enough to separate them from the norm, their lyrics have a clever poetic flow and none of the crass, demeaning jabs that are typical of some hip-hop and rap artists.

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Frontman and MC Squair Blaq formed the group in 2003 in Champaign for a battle of the bands competition.

Bassist Prashant Vallury said Blaq is also the mastermind behind the group’s name.

“To separate us from the norm of MC/DJ combos that oftentimes lack any sort of visual appeal, (Blaq) branded us Animate Objects because we are a unitary whole comprised of wholly animate parts hopefully more visually appealing than your standard hip-hop show,” Vallury said.

The group won the battle and has continued down the road of success since. They won the Best Hip-Hop Song category in the 2008 Independent Music awards for their hit single “El Dorado.” They have also been featured in Billboard magazine and other major publications.

Vallury said the award helped motivate them to move forward.

“It is easy to lose focus and direction when it seems like your work can’t find an audience, but when your efforts are validated by your peers, it gives you a feeling that you may be on the right track after all,” Vallury said.

The group has been heavily influenced by artists such as J Dilla, Flying Lotus, A Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul, the Roots, Curtis Mayfield, Marvin Gaye, the Beach Boys, The Rolling Stones and the Beatles.

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Vallury said although it is hard to be away from family and friends while on tour, it’s a sacrifice that comes with the job.

“It’s a wonderful feeling to wake up in new surroundings and get paid to do what you love,” Vallury said. “We relish the opportunity to share our work with folks that may not be too familiar with us.”

The group is made up of six members. Aquil and Squair Blaq provide main vocals, Steve Dobias is the string man on guitar, Prashant Vallury slaps the bass, Charlie Coffeen plays the ivory keys, and Justin Boyd on the drums.

Animate Objects has gone through a few member changes over the years, but old, new and former members remain close and continue to help each other out in their music careers.

“Our original keyboard player is going to be mixing and mastering three new singles for us,” Vallury said. :Our original drummer and DJ have contributed remixes to newer projects, and there is always something going on musically between all of us.”

The closeness between previous and current members is what gives the group an edge in the hip-hop world, Vallury said.

“We are constantly entertained by tales of the band in its previous incarnations, which seems to inform our decision making (for better or worse) based on those prior experiences,” he said.

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