Queens-bred band Oxymorrons—the brainchild of brothers Kami (K.I.) and Demi (Deee)—blend alternative rock and hip-hop with messages of liberation and individuality.
Their relentless work as a DIY act led to collaborations with respected artists and producers (Travie McCoy, Saba, Felix Snow), a tour with Astronautalis, airtime on ESPN for their song “Awesome” and some impressive brand partnerships (Microsoft, Dr. Martens, Taco Bell).
All impressive feats for a band that’s largely unknown to the masses. Now, they are preparing to release their debut EP (Beyoncé's stylist Ty Hunter hosted its release party), Complex But Basic, via Tommy Boy Ent. While the group prides themselves on their genre-defying sound, being different doesn’t come without challenges.
Below, Demi reflects on what it’s like when people enjoy your music but aren’t sure what to do with it because it doesn’t fit in a certain box. He talks about what it was like for him and his brother, whose early idols didn’t look anything like them. Rather than feel alienated, the brothers felt inspired to create something of their own.
This is their story and an exclusive first listen of Complex But Basic:
My brother, Kami, and I are two black kids from Jamaica, Queens, NY, who are getting to do what we love because of all the sweat and passion we put into making music that is known now as “white music.” If you check out rock ’n’ roll history, you'll see it wasn't always that way, but that's a story for another day.
We had no idea that black kids should live a certain way, dress a certain way and also listen to or make a certain type of music. Granted, there weren't a lot of faces that looked like ours in the magazines we read, but there were people like Zack de la Rocha and Pharrell [Williams] peppered in here and there.
We have always been outcasts, and we have learned to embrace it. Whether it was on the block listening to hip-hop then throwing Billy Joel or Queen in the mix, or at a skate park listening to N.E.R.D and Linkin Park with Lupe Fiasco and 50 Cent—worlds have always collided with us because we are who we are (and enjoy what we enjoy) unapologetically all of the time.
Coming from Queens, which is the most diverse of all five of the NYC boroughs, we felt it was a no-brainer to create something this musically diverse. I'm pretty sure it also didn't hurt that our parents and older brother exposed us to all musical genres. Because of some people's more narrow musical taste, we are finding that to be more unique than we thought.
Fast-forward many years and we have created a band we call the Oxymorrons: a collective comprised of five members from very different walks of life, bending and breaking all rules of genre. Being an Oxymorron has been both liberating and difficult. Like when your music is considered awesome, yet no one knows what to do with you.
When people hear your music and then meet you and say, “Oh shit, you guys are black!” or when you lose a festival opportunity because you're not “American enough” for the crowd, it is disappointing to people like us—people with expanded horizons. Or how about being “too hip-hop for rock and too rock for hip-hop”? These are just a few of the things we face daily trying to navigate through an industry that seems to want our sound to match our skin color and put us in box.
People have told us many times, “I don't like hip-hop, but you guys have made me want to give it a shot.” Also, “I don't like rock, but I'm gonna give it a chance because of what you guys do.” This is so amazing to us. We now consider ourselves the “gateway drug” to musical diversity.
We keep pushing because of the love we get from fans and people who let our music speak to them regardless of our ethnicity. To the growing number of genre-blind music fans, we salute you. We also salute the bands and groups that paved a road of hope and inspiration for bands like us. Bands like N.E.R.D, Rage Against The Machine, Alabama Shakes, Linkin Park, OutKast, Run-DMC, Living Colour, Phony Ppl, Gym Class Heroes and Bad Rabbits, among others.
Hope you all enjoy our EP, Complex But Basic. Open your ears and your hearts and allow yourself to have a diverse musical experience. We are honored and humbled to be able to provide it for you.
You can preorder 'Complex But Basic' here, and catch Oxymorrons at one of the dates below.
Upcoming tour dates W/ASTRONAUTALIS
Wed, Oct 26 – Austin, TX – Spider House **
Thurs, Oct 27 – Houston, TX – White Oak Music Hall **
Fri, Oct 28 – Fort Worth, TX – Shipping & Receiving **
Tue, Nov 1 – Colorado Springs, CO – The Black Sheep
Wed, Nov 2 – Laramie, WY – Gryphon Ballroom
Thu, Nov 3 – Denver, CO – The Marquis
Fri, Nov 4 – Salt Lake City, UT – Kilby Court
Sat, Nov 5 – Las Vegas, NV – The Bunkhouse
Sun, Nov 6 – Phoenix, AZ – Valley Bar
Tue, Nov 8 – San Diego, CA – The Casbah
Wed, Nov 9 – OC, CA – The Wayfarer
Thu, Nov 10 – Hermosa Beach, CA – Saint Rocke
Fri, Nov 11 – Los Angeles, CA – The Roxy
Sat, Nov 12 – San Francisco, CA – Thee Parkside
Sun, Nov 13 – Santa Cruz, CA – Atrium @ Catalyst
Tue, Nov 15 – Seattle, WA – Barboza
Wed, Nov 16 – Portland, OR – The Doug Fir Lounge
Thu, Nov 17 – Boise, ID – The Reef
Fri, Nov 18 – Bozeman, MT – Eagles Ballroom
** – w/o Astronautalis