It’s certainly been a good ride for the Urban Sophisticates, the Greensboro-based hip-hop band that has been rhyming and jamming for more than a decade. Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end, and this weekend, the boys will be playing their last two shows.
Yes, Sophisticates fans, we know it’s sad. But these guys have other things that have been taking up most of their time lately. Specifically, founders/frontmen/brothers Benton and Aaron James are busy with their management company, Boyd Allen Music Group (named after their late father).
“Really, we just kind of grew into that role,” says Benton James, over the phone from Greensboro. “All the guys from the band got older and we all kind of started to do side projects as well as Urban. And, now, it’s just come to that point where I’m doing a lot of management pretty much full-time.”
The brothers started the company back in 2008, managing the Sophisticates and other North Carolina acts. Considering that Benton originally entered into the music biz by interning for the legendary Philadelphia International Records back in the brothers’ hometown, it’s not surprising he wants to work more behind the scenes.
“I started to learn a lot about the music industry, but kind of more on the ad man/A&R side,” he says about his Philadelphia International days. “And, then, when I moved here, I started to write songs for people here and there. And the band just kind of formed out of some relationships that I had through a Bible study I was attending regularly at UNC-G.”
James is moving to Hoboken to get closer to the industry, while Aaron will stay in Greensboro, serving as the “on-the-grounds logistics” for the company. “We’ve done some incredible things and it just seems like the logical next step is, you know, my brother gets married and I’m serious about a girl and all that stuff,” he says. “So, you know, we’re just kind of moving into a new direction.”
The Sophisticates will be performing a farewell show tonight in Greensboro. Saturday night, they will perform at the Pour House Music Hall in downtown Raleigh.
“Man, we’ve had some really wild shows at the Pour House,” says James. “Raleigh really embraced us early on in our career. Really, I wanted to add that because there is a big contingent of folks in Raleigh who, you know, deserve to get a kind of last show in their backyard, at the spot they remember and all those things. So, I’m kind of pumped to be doing one there as well… I actually met my girlfriend at the Pour House. And, so, it’s got a lot of sentimental value as well.”
In their 11 year-history, the eight-piece Sophisticates (11, if you throw in the horn section they’ll have for the final shows) have made a lot of notable accomplishments. Along with releasing four albums (which James says the Sophisticates will give away to those who attend their final shows – kind of a parting gift from the band), they’ve extensively toured. They’ve done shows in New York, Nashville, even at South by Southwest in Austin.
They’ve also gone overseas, playing spots in Guam, South Korea and Japan. “It was the culmination of a really cool month of touring,” says James. “I mean, a lot of us went to Japan for the first time and, you know, for some of us, the last time. And, so, it’s pretty cool when your music can take you that far around the world. It’s even cooler when someone on the other side can appreciate it.”
They also won the Southeast Disc Makers Independent Music World Series in 2006, winning $2,500 and $20,000 in prizes.
“That ended up being a big moment for us,” says James. “That kind of put us on the map on the underground scene.”
So don’t shed any tears for the Urban Sophisticates. They definitely had a good time together. Now they’re seeing what other opportunities are out there.
“We have accomplished a great many things,” says James. “We never got, like, ‘famous-famous’ or anything like that. But I’ve been super-pleased with where we’ve got with our music, and I definitely don’t regret a day. It was the most fun I ever had.”