In recent years, those following the Azalea City music scene have witnessed the steady growth of local rock, folk, country and hip-hop artists. Now a new music project from two longtime friends might be laying the foundation for the development of a local rhythm and blues/pop scene.
Marcus “Fraziiaga” Frazier and Laron “SurReal” Martin invite Mobile and the rest of the world to join The Guest List. The Guest List is giving the scene a fresh, homegrown batch of infectious pop sounds blending bright, danceable pop and soulful R&B with “a sprinkle of hip-hop.”
The Guest List is providing Mobile with a musical style not yet tackled in the local scene. Their two-track introduction is undeniably impressive, both in their grooving R&B pop arrangements and high-quality local studio production.
Even though he acknowledges the group’s sound is heretofore unheard of in Mobile, Frazier hopes The Guest List will set standards that will encourage more local pop artists to step to the forefront.
“[The Guest List] is just a way to do something different from what pretty much everyone is doing,” Frazier said. “The pop scene is fairly small and still growing. We hope to change that.”
Even though the group claims Mobile as its base of operation, The Guest List originally formed in Montgomery. When they met, both Frazier and Martin were attending Alabama State University. The duo were members of the same college organization and both busy with their own musical pursuits.
In fact, Martin was attending Alabama State on a choral scholarship, which he earned from his experience with traveling choirs. Frazier says he was impressed with Martin’s musical style, his song concepts and his vocal ability. Frazier began to establish an artistic chemistry and friendship with Martin, but The Guest List still took some time to take form.
“I bugged him about it [starting a project],” admitted Frazier. “I said, ‘Let’s start a band and do a group project.’ He said, ‘I don’t know.’ We were in the studio, and I gave him a track and told him my idea for the song. After we recorded the song, we had a little listening session after that. He called me back after that day and said, ‘I’m with it. This would be great.’”
Once the duo combined their talents, the music began to flow and their artistic bond solidified. The Guest List’s songwriting techniques were cooperative experiences where Frazier and Martin found pleasure in “bouncing ideas off of each other.” Their individual egos were nonexistent, and criticisms of each other’s ideas were taken in a positive, constructive manner.
Both then and now, Frazier says no one is afraid to say “no” or “it doesn’t sound good.” This creative method has done nothing but strengthen the duo’s combined artistic endeavors and ability to recognize each other’s opinions in a variety of situations.
“Nine times out of 10 I know what he’s thinking, and he knows what I’m thinking,” explained Frazier. “If we’re sitting down picking beats, and I’m not with him, he knows what I like, and I know what he likes. It works good, because I can speak on his behalf and he can speak on mine. We know what each other would say and how each other would react to it. We’ve been around each other for so long.”
When the group began showcasing their R&B pop, The Guest List began to realize the biggest challenge to spreading their sound. While Alabama’s hip-hop scene is strong and continues to grow, The Guest List found very few outlets for its regionally unique sound, which has made “getting the brand out and the music out” challenging.
When the group performed at various showcases, the audiences initially didn’t know what to think about a sound The Guest List was marketing as “a blend of pop and R&B with a sprinkle of hip-hop.” Once they took the stage, those witnessing their sound in a live setting were impressed. For Frazier, the public response to The Guest List has been the most satisfying aspect of this project.
“People do not expect the type of music that we do,” Frazier said. “Once we start and finish, they want to hear it again or ask where they can get it. It’s about that reaction and the way our music affects people. I’ve had an instance where we have a song, and my wife played it for her friend. It brought her to tears. So, it really is the effect that it has on people.”
The Guest List’s next step is to release thier debut EP, “Spectrum.” To complete this task, the group has been laying tracks with seasoned studio engineer Matt D’Amico (Jada Studios, Integrity Music) in the sleek, professional confines of Day 6 Entertainment in West Mobile. Frazier notes the Day 6 staff’s positive energy and D’Amico’s guidance kindled the production process.
While there, The Guest List devised “Spectrum” as a concept album dealing with both spectrums of a relationship. The public has gotten its first taste of this effort through the release of two singles on Apple Music and Google Play.
“One Time” is a shining addition to the world of dance pop. Smooth hip-hop flow and spirited vocal work weave their way through bright synths and hypnotic beats that have yet to be experienced within the Azalea City music scene. “Nobody But You” is an emotional profession of love posing as a summertime party anthem with an arrangement that pulls influence from the late ‘80s/early ‘90s pop scene.
The regionally innovative nature of both of these tunes will leave listeners anticipating “Spectrum” and wondering why pop radio hasn’t already embraced The Guest List. After the completion of post-production and “tying up loose ends and paperwork,” Frazier hopes “Spectrum” will have a worldwide release in August.