By Michelle London-Bell, Managing Editor
While driving through the streets of Houston’s historic Third Ward, there is an air or sentiment ever-present — a sense of pride, community and a common thread that unifies…This sentiment can be felt walking down the Tiger Walk at TSU, rolling by SHAPE Community Center and driving down Emancipation Avenue. Like, we are one. This feeling of unity conjures a feeling of nostalgia for many — and is one of the main reasons why Rodeo Joe, Big Game James and Killa Swami organically came together to form Rosewood Thievz. “We started making music together back in college at the University of Missouri. After college we reunited on Rosewood throwing these gigantic house parties and performing our music,” says Rodeo Joe.
From there, the Texas-grown trio gained a following and moved these jam sessions into the studio, while leveraging the underground music scene and social media to increase exposure. For those unfamiliar with their music, it is indeed an ‘organic’ blend of rhythm and blues, jazz, funk and hip hop. Think Southern-fried soul with hip hop -- like OutKast mixed with a tinge of A Tribe Called Quest, plus a dash of playfulness found with The Pharcyde or Skee-Lo. Rosewood Thievz has found a niche in influsing all of their childhood influences, 70s/80s/90s nostalgia, as well as the underlying desire for unity - into their songs. Case in point -- “Freedom” is a cut that is part of a compilation in honor of Juneteenth called Two and ½ years, featuring award-winning artists like Jason Moran, Robert Hodge and Robert Glasper. “Everyone loves 'Freedom.’ We wrote the song in about 15 or 20 minutes -- and [it became] the lead single on the album [compilation]. It does indeed speak of the Black experience...if you listen to the first verse, James speaks from the perspective of a slave and [seeks] to understand his freedom and how [he fits into society].” This underlying theme of finding a sense of community in today’s society is woven into the intricate fabric of their artistic works, which is why their mantra is groove over division-- where music is a means to unify the people, authentically.
And the public seems to enjoy their unique brand of social commentary, which is light and eclectic in its appeal. With the hit "Grown Moves," it poses somewhat of a bridge between their harsh and heavy comparison of the daily grind to modern-day slavery in "Freedom" to the lighthearted take on adulting in "One Love." "Grown Moves" conjures sentiments reminiscent of Goodie Mob’s "Get Up, Get Out and Get Something" or TI’s "Motivation" -- where listeners are challenged to make grown moves in order to define their own destiny. “It’s like taking [matters] in your own hands -- you gotta get it on your own,” says Big Game James.
It makes perfect sense that expected references to hustling, getting money and ‘making it’ would appear occasionally across their music, with major influences like Texas’ own Screwed Up Click’s (S.U.C.) Lil’ Keke, Fat Pat, and Big Hawk growing up. But don’t get it twisted -- just as UGK, OutKast and Slim Thug pay homage through their samples to artists who paved the way in the funk genre like Parliament and Sly and the Family Stone, Rosewood Thievz also credits The Crusaders, Joe Sample and even Prince for their earlier influences. “Truly a hodge-podge of a lot of things -- including house music -- are influential.”
With such a myriad of diverse and eclectic inspiration, it’s no wonder that Rosewood Thievz live and die by peace and harmony through music. “Groove over division -- that’s the only way to bring people together -- and that’s all we want to do.”