When roommates Jack O’Briant and Branden Montgomery left their hometown in Magnolia, Texas, for college, they didn’t just leave behind friends and family. They left behind the fellow members of their rap group Thugz of Normandy, who also were heading to college.
“I think a lot of groups would fall apart in this situation, but for us it’s not just a rap group, it’s the thug life,” said O’Briant, a freshman biblical studies major who goes by the rap alias J O Breezy.
The name of the group is also inspired by their thug lifestyle and outlook on life. “During World War II America stormed the beaches of Normandy. In 2010, the Thugz stormed the beaches of the world,” O’Briant said.
The Thugz aren’t the normal amateur rappers, throwing together mismatched words on poorly made beats. They already have quite a following on their Facebook and Myspace pages.
Songs like “Haterz Gunna Hate” and “Ping Pong” have more than 450 hits, and their album is on sale on iTunes. They even have been interviewed by the The Houston Press.
Several girls found the music online and formed a street team to promote the band.
When some of the team went to Utah for vacation, they took burned CDs with them.
The Thugz of Normandy quickly began receiving Facebook “likes” from new fans in Salt Lake City. Another fan moved to New York City and is spreading the album to friends there.
“The songs get stuck in your head all day long. And being on the street team was so random for us,” said Emily Novelli, a member of the team and high school student.
“It was just something fun for us to do and get out there and be crazy and spread music. We even made shirts.”
Other Thugz members, James Mills and Ryan Thornton, or J A Milly and Thorn Dawg respectively, are freshmen at the University of Texas.
They helped establish a fan base in Austin. Thugz of Normandy’s debut album, Bringin’ Jaw, went on sale there Aug. 31.
“We always been dishing, but now we’ve brought it to a whole new level,” Mills said of the release. “Ya’ll shouldn’t be surprised.”
Other Thugz members are also “bringin’ jaw” to their towns.
Will “Phat Wiggy” Boesel is attending Texas A&M. The album has already been played at a major dance party there.
Ryan “Big Money” Welborn is at Southern Theological Seminary in Kentucky.
Jacob Elkins, or J-Bawlzz according to the Thugz, maintains the fan base in the group’s hometown of Magnolia as he attends Lone Star College.
Despite the distance between the members, their writing and rapping hasn’t stopped. Their next song will be themed around going to college.
“I’m just happy that we have the Internet and we have webcams,” said freshman Montgomery, or Trip Money. “It’s hard being separated but this way we get our stuff out to a wider audience.”
The rappers hope the lyrics speak to their generation and encourage them. Their song “Haterz Gunna Hate” ends with the lines, “I don’t sweat it though, ‘cause it all comes down to fate, and the lovers gonna love and the haters gonna hate.”
O’Briant said “The main message of the Thugz is that haters can’t bring you down. Just look at our president and how the haters couldn’t bring him down.”