Photo by John Hicks, hicksfilm.com
Mira Costa High School

New LA Collective SESHOLLOWATERBOYZ are redefining success in the rap industry

In LA, there’s a new super group rising out of the underground. Selling out the House of Blues on weeknights and getting millions of hits online, SESHOLLOWATERBOYZ are the current kings of LA’s underground rap scene, quickly poised to reach widespread success. The group is populated by rappers Bones, Xavier Wulf, Chris Travis and Eddy Baker, independently releasing their music under their own imprints.

The seed for the group began back in the days of Raider Klan, a super-group managed by SpaceGhostPurrp. Raider Klan was a lo-fi collective that took heavily influence from 90s’ rap and groups like Three 6 Mafia. It was here that Xavier began to collaborate with fellow members Chris and Eddy. As the group disbanded, the trio reformed along with rapper Bones to form their own collective.

Stylistically, the Klan days of their careers contrast heavily from where they are now. Bones began rapping under the moniker ‘Th@ Kid,’ producing raps influenced by old west-coast gangster rap. After several releases between 2012-13, he changed his name and aesthetic, blending aggressive flows with dark and ethereal beats. Xavier, formerly known as Ethelwulf, began as a lo-fi rapper influenced by Memphis Phonk along with Chris. Following the disbandment of Raider Klan, Xavier ditched the Memphis influence and began making hard-hitting cloud rap.

Although SESHOLLOWATERBOYZ is their shared moniker, each member occupies their own imprint for more creative expression. Bones and his arsenal of producers populate Team SESH, while Xavier occupies the ‘Hollow Squad’. A fan of premium water brands, Chris preaches WaterBoyz while Eddy Baker frontlines HealthyBoyz with fellow rapper Chilly Sosa.

There are no comparisons that can be drawn from the group, as their styles are always constantly changing. Bones alternates between aggressive flows, singing, and hazy spoken-word raps that heavily change. Xavier and Chris have some of the most aggressive music of the group, applying angry vocalization to keep up with the booming production. They can never be tied to any one sub-genre of rap as each tape they release has new experimentation in their formula.

A unifying theme of the artists is the incorporation of culture references in their music, varying by their niche.  Xavier is highly affectionate to anime culture, integrating references to shows like ‘DragonBall Z’ in his songs. A recurring theme in Bones’ tapes is old internet and technology references, such as in his songs Dial-Up, Wi-Fi, and HDMI. Chris Travis commonly raps about Fiji Water, and Eddy Baker prominently flaunts his love for Backwoods Cigars.

A massive component of their craft is the dedicated producers from all over the world, some never even meeting them in person. Hnrk, Drip-133 and Greaf are three of Team Sesh’s common producers. Greaf, an Australian producer, creates atmospheric compositions, heavily utilizing instrumental samples such as acoustic guitars. Him and Bones also release work under the name surrenderdorothy, featuring Bones’ singing skills opposed to rap. From Germany and Michigan, Hrnk and Drip frequently collaborate on poignant electronic beats that utilize samples from multitudes of artists and sources such as Crystal Castles.

In the last two years, the group has been massively expanding thanks to a successful marketing campaign through the internet. The group is managed by Bones’ older brother, Elliot O’Connor. A portion of their viral status can be thanked to streaming/social media site Soundcloud, where users can listen to and reshare music amongst their peers. They proudly embrace their independent status, releasing all their work for free and mocking labels in their lyrics.  Their primary source of income comes from selling their own merchandise on their websites.

All four members have a dedicated work ethic, as Bones has dropped 29 releases under the moniker and Th@ Kid since 2012, while Xavier has 11 including his Ethel days under his belt. Chris Travis has released 17 mixtapes whilst Eddy is close behind him with 15. The constant barrage of releases keeps fans satisfied with a consistent flow of quality tracks.

In 2015, Bones released an EP in January followed by the massive, album-quality release Powder in March. Similarly to Bones, Baker released an EP in the beginning of the year before releasing his full-length mixtape. So far, Chris Travis has only released one tape in February, but has another slated for May 27. Xavier Wulf released his tape, Tundra Boy Season One, in March followed by a collaborative instrumental tape of his productions.

Following their successful summer tour, the band booked a Wednesday night at the House of Blues in December, selling out the whole building to the surprise of the venue and industry insiders. It didn’t take long for them to return to the venue, performing another Wednesday night to a completely sold-out crowd. It seems they are barely starting to reach the height of their success, with members’ songs beginning to reach over a million plays on Soundcloud. It’s a long way to come from playing 200-capacity warehouses in 2013.

Their rise to success can be comparable to Odd Future’s in the early 2010’s, dominating LA’s underground scene with wild warehouse shows as well as a massive teenage fan base. Although similar in success, the two groups couldn’t be any more distanced in their styles of music. Members of SHWB heavily reiterate that they heavily dislike the current age of rap, along with the generic artists who populate the industry.

Their success is not only impressive, but it could mean large implications for the future of the music industry. With giants like Lil Wayne and Waka Flocka Flame crying out against their labels for holding back their work, it seems that contracts are leaving artists trapped opposed to being the precursor to a successful career. These artists are getting millions of views and touring nationwide with no supporting outside forces or label support. As long as they remain independent, they retain full creative control over their art and image. Their own self-management gained them millions of views, something that would’ve seemed impossible last decade. The success of the Seshollowaterboyz garners the question, are labels even necessary anymore?