Music fans no longer want to pay for music. That’s the song everybody’s singing these days, right?
The Lique disproved this notion in just 36 days with the help of 52 fans.
The jazzy Las Vegas-based hip-hop band launched a crowdfunding campaign May 30 to raise $5,000 to pay for its album and tour. On Independence Day, the group announced it had raised $5,092.
That’s what happens when you focus on making music that’s actually worth buying.
The Lique (pronounced “leak”) has been working on that since day one. The band formed in February 2015 when a mutual friend introduced rapper Rasar Amani to guitarist Sean Carbone. Amani had moved to Vegas in 2014 for a job with the short-lived variety show “Nocturne” at The Cosmopolitan. He was contemplating a move to New York after the show ended, when he met Carbone, who wanted to start a band and already players in mind.
The five-piece group’s chemistry was instant. The Lique started playing shows right away and has emerged as the local scene’s most promising act.
Sharpening its sound onstage, the group has made fans by playing all over Vegas, everywhere from the Brooklyn Bowl to the Sayers Club, where it landed a mini-residency. The group is also one of the local acts due at Life is Beautiful this fall.
This week, the Lique releases its debut album, “Democracy Manifest.” Fans who staked the band can expect a healthy return on their investment. The record’s the complete package and grows more rewarding the deeper you dig, with a variety of textures and styles. It’s a solid representation of the band’s multilayered sound, which is built on a fusion of jazz with rock, funk, soul and R&B.
The Lique comprises accomplished musicians from the jazz program at University of Nevada, Las Vegas, most of whom were raised in Las Vegas, including keyboardist Jason Corpuz, bassist Nick Schmitt and drummer Jeremy Klewicki. The setup typically inspires immediate comparisons to the Roots.
While aesthetically there are similarities to the “Tonight Show” house band, musically the Lique has more in common with “Jazzmatazz”-era Guru and artists such as Kamasi Washington and Thundercat, who played on Kendrick Lamar’s critically acclaimed album “To Pimp A Butterfly.”
The Lique developed a devoted following in Vegas thanks to Amani’s engaging stage presence and his bandmates’ masterful musicality. The Lique always makes sure the audience gets its money’s worth.
But the band has much more to offer than just a great live show. Amani crafts incisive, thought-provoking lyrics and has a dexterous delivery that comes through clearly on the album. Whether offering biting social commentary or taking cynical stabs at music industry execs, he’s consistently compelling.
He’s had plenty of practice. Although this is the Lique’s first album, it’s Amani’s 10th release. He was a regionally successful rapper from Sacramento, California, before moving to Vegas. Amani says his mother, a communications professor, encouraged him to express himself growing up.
He excels there with lyrics like these: “On paper, this is a republic that we’re living in / Theoretically, we’re a supreme power prohibiting / Any type of monarchy / It’s a plutocracy / Bipartisan arguments devastate democracy / What is anarchy, not too many know / We only need government when we lack self control.”
With such lyricism, the Lique clearly isn’t trying to tap into current trends. The outfit has a dim view of today’s mainstream music.
“We try to spend a lot of time focusing on music that we do love,” Amani says. “But I’d be remiss if I said that we aren’t deeply disgusted by the lack of originality and the lack of creativity (in popular music). It’s something that I think disturbs us.”
That drive to be different appeals to fans and keeps them engaged.
“What we’ve seen is people are hungry, man,” Amani says. “People deeply want to feel that music is still real, that you can still connect with people and it’s not merely for entertainment.”
Read more from Dave Herrera at reviewjournal.com. Contact him at email@example.com and follow @rjmusicdh on Twitter.
What: The Lique album release
When: 7 p.m. Thursday
Where: Vinyl at Hard Rock Hotel, 4455 Paradise Road
Tickets: $10-$20 (702-693-5000)