As with most rap artists, the Durham-based men who make up the hip-hop duo Wreck-N-Crew knew at a young age that rap would be their calling. “It’s really all I knew growing up,” says Trie Cartier, sitting outside a downtown Raleigh watering hole with his dreadlocked partner, Fresh Sutton.
Cartier (aka Montrice Goodwin) and Sutton (aka Brandon Sutton), both 26, began gravitating toward each other during their teen years. “We used to battle each other in high school,” remembers Sutton. “So we’ve always been involved with each other, like, musically.”
Sutton recalls it was his future bandmate who inspired him to get more involved with hip-hop. “I was always moved by a lot of rap music, but I didn’t start off listening to rap music as early as he did,” says Sutton. “Really, I heard Trie Cartier rapping, and that really moved me.”
The pair didn’t officially join forces until 2009, naming themselves after “The Wrecking Crew,” the main characters from the movie “Juice,” a favorite of theirs. They dropped two releases, “Alcohol & Music” and “The Program,” the following year.
“We just wanted to get the music right, first of all,” says Cartier, who usually writes and produces the music with Sutton. “As far as the production and lyrics, we wanted to show the growth from the first project to the next project.”
When they weren’t in the lab composing music, they were going around to open-mic nights in the Triangle and refining their live-performance skills.
“I think when we first started,” recalls Cartier, “we weren’t that good.”
Eventually, the boys found their groove.
“I feel like once we really got comfortable onstage, it was more so like us, you know, just – we really just vibe out,” says Sutton.
“However the music moves you, that’s what we portray onstage, and I guess it really did take all them open mics to realize that and to, like, perfect our craft onstage.”
Even though they’ve gotten a rep for being reliable live MCs, ready to hit the stage and rock a house at a moment’s notice, they continue to work on their techniques.
“We record shows,” says Cartier. “We see what we do, younowhamsayin. It’s like looking at game footage. Like, when the school plays the game and they go back and look at the footage. That’s how we do with performances.”
As with most of the rappers around these parts, Cartier and Sutton are aspiring to get recognition outside of their region. But considering that they view themselves as a work in progress, they’re not eager to break out just yet.
“We will get to that level when we feel like it’s time,” says Sutton. “But I feel like we’re just improving ourselves right now. I feel like we’re almost there.”
Besides, they’re still having a good time collaborating with their own.
“I respect a lot of locals here, man,” says Sutton, referring to MCs like Thee Tom Hardy and Joshua Gunn, who’ve done guest spots on Wreck-N-Crew tracks.
“Everyone here is pretty much dope. It’s really just the location we’re in that’s really, like, hindering a lot of people from really becoming that name.”
For the time being, Wreck-N-Crew is continuing to release more mixtapes online (like the upcoming “Victoria Starks,” scheduled to drop in a couple of weeks) and do more shows (like the King F.A.M.E. show at Casbah this Wednesday).
And they hope to build an audience that’ll appreciate the musical and lyrical complexity they bring whenever and wherever they perform.
“I mean, I’ve seen a lot of things,” says Cartier. “So I try to touch on a little bit of everything.”