Hardaway And The Commoners

The Set List

By Brian Washburn


Organic hip-hop. Not many artists can have that term attributed to their musical abilities and sounds. While rap and hip-hop artists today are perfecting their techno beats with computers and other synthesizers, Fayetteville’s Hardaway and the Commoners are keeping the hip-hop genre fresh with live instrumentation and giving listeners a different perspective on the music they perform. And with their new record “Off the Records,” Hardaway and his band look to take their self-proclaimed “Certified Organic Hip-Hop” to the masses.

The group, vocalist Hardaway, guitarist Will Collins, bassist Dan Hicks, drummer Brad Haj and saxophonist Barrett Barker, unleashed their album at George’s Majestic Lounge last week when they took the stage with The OneUps and Groovement. While this was a show to promote the CD release, the band thrives off their live performances.

“We put a lot of effort into making our performance memorable for everybody in attendance,” Collins said. “Hardaway and the Commoners is essentially a group of musicians who have been playing improvisational music for many, many years and although we like our shows polished and structured, we also love to take a tangent when it’s called for.”

Improvising shows as well as the raw feel of the instruments sets the band apart from many acts today, specifically around the NWA area. While this comes from the band’s influences, it also comes from their experiences as musicians.

“We all have many different influences and I think that is what makes this band so interesting. As a band we listen to everything from Charlie Parker and Shuggie Otis to Erykah Badu and Lupe Fiasco,” Collins said. “Our experience as musicians and our range of instrumentation allows us to cater to a much larger audience. Hip-hop with a band is just something you don’t see very often and it still holds that certain authenticity reminiscent of the glory days when samples were cut straight from vinyl records.”

Hardaway and the Commoners’ unique blend of music catches audiences who don’t usually listen to hip-hop off-guard. With “Off the Record,” the group hopes to catch more audiences off-guard throughout the Midwest when they promote the record, a record written mostly with improvised musicianship and lyricism. While new Hardaway songs usually start with a guitar riff or a melody, the band tries different transitions and puts the rest of the instrumentation together piece by piece. When the band is putting their pieces together Hardaway is in the corner “getting excited and typing lyrics like a mad man on his laptop,” Collins said.

“On days like these, our creation process is completely spontaneous. (Hardaway) feeds off of our energy as a band and we structure the verses and choruses around what he has come up with for the tour.”

The energy and spontaneous improvisation is what seems to have Hardaway and the Commoners getting fans to come back to shows. While the group has garnered a following in Northwest Arkansas, reaching the nation’s ears is going to take hard work and dedication, which Hardaway and the Commoners are willing to do.

“We all have aspirations of making a steady living doing what we love to do,” Collins said. “Needless to say, this takes a lot of dedication, practice and discipline but has been a top priority with this project and in our personal lives.”

Categories: LIVE! In NWA