*Editor’s note: In the original version of this article, Shamir Lee was from Fayetteville, and he is actually from Jacksonville, North Carolina. It has been updated in the online version.
The hip-hop collective CLR THRY was slated to make their big “Opening Day” with an event at the Crown on March 20. But like the opening day for baseball season, and nearly every other event across the country: COVID-19 has put it on delay.
The group is cemented around Shamir Lee, Stan-The Man, and Tony Price. They’ve been working together for a few years, with Opening Day in development since January—that is “until Coronavirus showed up,” Shamir Lee said, trying to keep upbeat. The show may be stopped in its tracks, but the trio is holding out until it’s healthy to hit the stage.
They’re not ready to drop the mic just yet. Despite the setback, “everybody has an overall great energy individually, and collectively,” Stan-The Man said.
They take note of the aesthetic science of color theory, which involves the way perception wraps around the physical, visual effects of similarity and contrast, and the messages that get communicated within color.
“On the surface, Tony, Stan, and I all come from different places, have differences in experiences make different sounding art, but we’re all connected through hip-hop music and culture,” Lee explained. “Through collaboration and working together, we’ve been able to mix our ‘colors’ artistically to create things we never could have on our own.”
It’s a musical manifestation of collective ideals brought to life. “The mission is to do that with other creatives and build a community within our community of creatives from all walks of life with the main goal being to blend our colors, and help each other reach places we can’t individually,” Lee noted, “it takes a village, why not make it one with many different sounds, looks, vibes, and beats-per-minutes?”
They aren’t the first to adapt a collective mantra into a musical persona. Shamir Lee points to personal inspiration from Native Tongues, the New York hip-hop collective composed by the likes of Jungle Brothers, De La Soul, A Tribe Called Quest, and Queen Latifah. “So much great music came from them all working together and forming a cultural unit that was needed in the late 1980s to early-90s,” he said.
CLR THRY formed from friendships between Lee and Price reignited via Matty Sheets’ open mic, while Stan-The Man got connected through Instagram. “We kicked it at a showcase and from there built a working relationship, and he became a part of our family,“ Lee explained.
The three originally come from different backgrounds: Lee from Jacksonville, Stan-The Man from Pittsburgh, and Price from New Orleans. It’s acknowledged their hometowns shaped them as people and artists, though they all enjoy calling the Triad home these days.
“North Carolina, in general, is a very eclectic place as far as music and culture,” Lee said. “Many of its large hubs are homes to people from all over the country and world,” he added with an embodiment of CLR THRY, “the blending of cultures here, or in Charlotte, or Raleigh, or any military town in North Carolina inspires the work I do.”
That work continues, even if the shows itself are on hiatus. “Anybody from North Carolina that is putting on for the state, I’m into, no need for names. They all know who they are, and they always got my support,” Lee added, “everyone is in it together.”
CLR THRY acknowledges unity and the benefit of multiple perspectives.
“Artists have a tendency to have tunnel vision when it comes to what they want to achieve artistically,” he explained. “Working as a collective helps to work out the collaborative muscles which are needed to better one’s artistry.”
Their motives stretch beyond the creative and into the altruistic.
“I want to use my talents and my friends’ talents as a way to bring people together, for fun, for charity, to share experiences and opinions. Culture is always the thing that sparks change—history shows us that,“ Lee said. For Stan-The Man, “it’s not just about me at the end of the day. My hope is that I can make it into the music business and help other artists.”
As social distancing takes the stage from performers, CLR THRY keeps a positive focus.
“There’s power in numbers,” Lee said. “It’s easy to defeat a lone wolf; it’s harder to defeat an army. If we can make an inclusive cultural army, we could all individually and collectively be unstoppable.”
“If everybody stays loyal, we’ll all live royal,” Stan-The Man said.
There’s no word of a makeup date yet, but CLR THRY will make its official debut when the dust settles.
In the meantime, they’ll be working in the studio and suggest being on the lookout for new releases.
Katei Cranford is a Triad music nerd who hosts the Tuesday Tour Report, a radio show on-hiatus until healthier days.