If ever there was a group that served as a walking advertisement for hip hop being a youth movement - it's New Boyz. Overlooking the crafty veterans that have hung on to their spots, hip hop has and always will be about what's new and shiny. Blending R&B smoothness with an energetic hip hop flavour, the California-bred duo burst, or in this case danced, their way onto the scene in 2009. Benefitting from the explosion of viral marketing they made an almost immediate impact with their debut single, You're A Jerk. Inspired by the krumping and hyphy movements from the Bay Area, New Boyz introduced the jerkin' to the world. That's a dance by the way, get your mind out the gutter. The pin-up heartthrob image that the likes of LL Cool J were once bemoaned for has become the norm in 2011 and the group, consisting of Earl 'Ben J' Benjamin and Dominic 'Legacy' Thomas, are in prime position. Born just one day apart, the musical brothers were seemingly prepared from childhood for their future career.
"Our parents played a lot of different music growing up," the energetic Ben J says about their musical upbringing. "Legacy's mum loved to dance and my mum just listened to a lot of reggae and hip hop." Inspired by their artistically-inclined parents they both embraced hip hop before finally meeting at school. "We both always wrote and rapped as younger kids. We were both in a large rap group and decided to branch off and do our own. Our mums wouldn't let us hang, because the guys were much older." For once protective mums had a point and thus New Boyz was born. All the encouragement in the world however couldn't prepare them for the onslaught of screaming girls and popularity that would ensue. "It's crazy," Ben exclaims simply. "[It's] still hard to believe because it all happened so fast but we stay very humble thanks to our families," he says, proving that he is well adjusted and ready to deliver an award acceptance speech. It could be argued that exposure to success from an early age may help an artist as a person. "It all depends on the person and how they are raised," Ben contends. "It's an experience that is case by case, but we love all the attention." After two hit albums and three platinum singles, including Back Seat which cracked the ARIA singles chart, the 20-year-old rappers aren't done yet. "We still have a lot we want to accomplish but the success is the best feeling in the world."
The Boyz clearly have a lot of love for Australia, making their second visit Down Under in 2011. "We are excited to be back, it's our second visit. Our first time was in April [for Supafest] with Snoop [Dogg], Bow Wow, Game, Busta Rhymes, Ciara, Keri Hilson and a host of world famous artist." This time around they'll be among the headliners as they rock the Jumpoff U18 music festival in Melbourne and Sydney with fellow rising stars Alexis Jordan, Iyaz and Mann, along with Nick Cannon's new group 4Count and more. Representing for the local scene the festival will also have an Aussie stage featuring dance group/boy-band Justice Crew and heavyweights Mantra, M-Phazes and the soon-to-retire Reason. Watch out for that lovable Jumpoff Bear to make an appearance or two as well. Now in its second year Jumpoff has fast become the hot ticket for teens looking for their hip hop and R&B fix. The older heads aren't being left out though, as New Boyz and their fellow headliners will be performing at SummerJam, an overage version of the festival. One of their other favourite foreign lands to travel is good ol' Amsterdam. "Definitely, one of our best travel experiences," he says, somewhat with a smirk, understandably.
Along with youth, hip hop has always been about image, whether that image is of a loose cannon or a street-smart hustler. Image is everything after all, if advertising has taught us anything. The former high school football player agrees that visual presentation has contributed in part to the success of New Boyz. "It's very important. The first thing people look at is your fashion because people are always looking to [see something] different." Purists may look down on their airbrushed appearance and tight jeans but New Boyz and collaborators like The Bangz are part of a new movement, combining 80s minimalism with updated slang. When it comes to cooking up those super dope anthems, from the electro touch of Backseat to the grittier Tough Kids, Ben says there are "no special ingredients" used. "[It's] just us in the lab vibing off each other and the beats in the studio, so we guess it just happens." Obviously with two cooks in the kitchen there's bound to be some friction. "[There's] always a disagreement, however I'm pretty flexible and we have usually come to an agreement at the end. We just want it to be a hit. Always," Ben says adamantly. Looking beyond the music game New Boyz are working on some film and TV projects with manager Nick Cannon. As far as the success they've reached up to this point Ben says they wouldn't have imagined it. "We were just making music because we love what we do. [We] never thought we would be traveling worldwide doing shows in front of thousands of fans."
New Boyz [USA] play Summerjam alongside Alexis Jordan [USA], IYAZ [BVI] and more at Neverland on Saturday December 10.