Whatever you do, don’t ever call Inflowential a Kooley High spinoff band.
Even though two members of this five-piece hip-hop jam band – rappers Charlie Smarts and Tab-One – are members of the acclaimed Raleigh hip-hop collective, Inflowential actually started way before Kooley High showed up.
“They’re not really connected in any way other than I think we enjoy the same music and two of the guys are in both bands,” says bassist Michael Bender.
Over a decade ago at N.C. State, Bender got together with Tab-One and beatboxer Adam “Adid” Smith and began performing around campus. “We just started playing college parties and stuff like that,” says Bender. Soon, Smarts and guitarist/keyboardist Kyle Phelps joined the group, as they played at shows where the seeds of Kooley High were firmly planted.
“Basically, we were doing Inflo stuff, and the people that are involved in Kooley High would come to the shows,” remembers Smarts. “Rapsody would come to the shows. Sinopsis and Foolery would come to the shows and Foolery and Sinopsis, the producers, they were doing the maniacal scientist, rubbing their hands-together, like, ‘Ooh, we gotta get them in the booth!’”
Eventually, Kooley High and Inflowential began doing shows together. “We would do shows where Inflowential would be the headliner and Kooley High would open up,” says Bender. “So, we would rock a show for, like, two hours onstage. We’d do it because it was fun.”
Here’s one thing I will say: don’t nobody sound like us. Even Kooley High don’t sound like Inflowential.
As Kooley High became its own popular force in the local hip-hop community and other members started concentrating on life in and out the Triangle (Smarts has been living in Brooklyn for the past several years), Inflowential would get together whenever they could.
“We were playing less shows and people were doing jobs and work and stuff,” says Bender. “So, (Charlie and Tab) were keeping it going and doing their own thing with Kooley High.”
They did release an album in 2008 (which is hard to find now) called “The Exciting Adventures of Inflowential.” Several of those tracks can be still located on their ReverbNation page, along with a very relevant track called “Sheriff,” which lists black people who’ve lost their lives to police brutality. The song may be a bit dated (Sean Bell and Oscar Grant are two of the people who get shout-outs), but it certainly speaks to what’s happening today.
“The theme of ‘Sheriff’ – that (expletive) happens every year since I can remember, bruh,” says Smarts. “So, it’s sad that that song is still relevant. That song shouldn’t be relevant, but it’s still relevant.”
They may do an updated version of the song at Raleigh’s Groove in the Garden, which will be happening this Saturday. The group will be one of many acts performing at the daylong event, now in its second year.
Spectators may not comprehend how much of a rarity a live Inflowential performance is. “We get together when they pay us,” says Smarts, half-joking. “Like, you’re dealing with grown-(expletive) men with kids that don’t live in the same town and aren’t neighbors. So, it’s kind of like, when I come in town, we can hang and we can get a beer. But, when people want us to play, they actually have to pay us. I hate for it to be like that, because we love the music. But it’s just like, logistically, we can’t just be like, oh we gonna do this just for the (expletive) of it.”
While Inflowential performances may be few and far between these days, the members assure audiences they’ll get a unique experience.
“Here’s one thing I will say: don’t nobody sound like us,” says Smarts. “Even Kooley High don’t sound like Inflowential.”
What: Groove in the Garden, with Inflowential
When: 2 p.m. Saturday
Where: Raleigh Little Theatre, 301 Pogue St., Raleigh
Details: 919-821-1120 or thepourhousemusichall.com