Vermont hip-hop group 99 Neighbors makes national push with new album


Hip-hop collective 99 Neighbors do almost everything together. The seven members began in 2018, creating a music workshop in the Burlington apartment of two of the group’s co-founders.

While writing songs for their first major album, which was released on September 24 on a division of Warner Records, the members of 99 Neighbors lived for a few months in a house in Island Pond, in the remote Northern Kingdom. eastern Vermont. They now live in the same house in Nashville.

All this solidarity does not mean that the members of the collective approach 99 Neighbors from the same angles. Their differences make the whole of the new album, “Wherever You’re Going I Hope It’s Great,” greater than the sum of its parts.

“Everyone comes from a different musical background,” Connor “Swank” Stankevich said in an online conversation between the Burlington Free Press and the seven band members. “We all bring our own story to every song or beat. “

“One of the turning points for us, me personally at least doing (the new album),” said Julian “Juju“ Segar-Reid, ”was surrendering to how chaotic everything could be, by playing it as a force instead of trying to control it too much.

Signed by the ex-manager of Chance the Rapper

Let’s meet the members of 99 Neighbors:

  • Sam Paulino, singer.
  • Hank “HANKNATIVE” Collins, singer.
  • Aidan Ostby, singer.
  • Connor “Swank” Stankevich, singer.
  • Caleb “Somba” Hoh, producer / engineer / composer / songwriter / videographer.
  • Julian “Juju” Segar-Reid, multi-instrumentalist / producer / engineer / composer.
  • Jared Fier, DJ / engineer / producer.

Proud is originally from Newton, Massachusetts, and came to Burlington to study at the University of Vermont. The other six members grew up in Vermont and attended high schools in South Burlington, Burlington or Rice. All seven are between 21 and 25 years old.

“Wherever You’re Going I Hope It’s Great” mixes the aggressiveness of hip hop with the melodies of pop and R&B as well as other sounds to which the band members have been exposed. Collins said he, Paulino and Ostby attended South Burlington High School and received a jazz influence from music teacher and famous Vermont saxophonist Dave Grippo.

The alternative hip-hop collective released an album in 2019, “Television,” which was recorded at Hoh’s apartment in Orchard Terrace. This album caught the attention of Pat Corcoran, the former manager of Chance the Rapper, who signed 99 Neighbors on his affiliate label Warner Records, Nice Work.

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Don’t try to be famous for Drake

There’s a big difference between recording a debut album in a Burlington apartment and a follow-up recording for a major label in studios in Chicago and Nashville (as well as songs 99 Neighbors worked on in Burlington and Island Pond) . The label gave the group an advance to fund the recording of the album, but with that comes the hope that the album will be successful and that the group can repay that advance.

“We’re a bunch of young people from Burlington and New England” with no business background, Collins said. “There was pressure from our side to make sure everything was up to this standard (big label) and we were constantly making progress.”

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Now, with a new album backed by Warner, 99 Neighbors looks set to take a big step forward. The band members don’t worry too much about their size.

“We’ve been through some really crazy years and we’re trying to take hold,” said Fier, adding that 99 Neighbors was not about being famous for Drake, but just happy and healthy. “99 has always been about bringing us together and creating the platform for all of us to thrive individually. “

The album title, Ostby said, gives a clue to the band’s attitude. “Wherever you go I hope it’s great” is about doing what you love to do and not so much about aiming for success.

“If we’ve learned anything in the last couple of years,” said Ostby, “we have no control over it.”

Higher Ground sold-out shows a ‘dream’

One of the songs on the new album, “Hometown Famous,” has a special sound of truth, especially since the 99 Neighbors concert Saturday at Higher Ground in South Burlington is sold out. Collins wrote the hook for “Hometown Famous” and the collective picked it up from there.

“It’s not supposed to come off as obvious – ‘We own this and we’re fucking you. “It’s more about the struggle we’ve had internally to get to the point where we feel so successful in the area,” Collins said, adding that it was not easy to gain respect at 19 or even 24 years old. “It has been a journey. “

Related: Higher Ground, Richard Thompson welcomes music fans again for first show since COVID shutdown

The song has a strong sense of irony, Paulino said. “It’s kind of playing with the dichotomy of being such a small place and being where we are today,” he said. “It sounds pretty grandiose, but it’s really an introspective song about struggling to be in a small town and wanting to do big things.”

A sold-out show at Higher Ground, say members of 99 Neighbors, is a huge thing.

“It’s a really big time for us,” Segar-Reid said. “This is the show we fundamentally dream of. “

If you are going to

WHAT: 99 Neighbors with seeyousoon and DJ Svpply

WHEN: 8:30 p.m. Saturday Sept. 25

OR: Higher Ground Ballroom, South Burlington

Information: Exhausted. www.highergroundmusic.com

Contact Brent Hallenbeck at [email protected] Follow Brent on Twitter at www.twitter.com/BrentHallenbeck.


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