Tampa hip-hop duo They Hate Change is embracing the duality of life. On the April release, “Some Days I Hate My Voice,” the band showcased the sincerity and honesty that is a trademark of their lyrics. “Some days I hate my voice,” raps Vonne Parks, one half of the group, in a verse reiterating the emotional directness of the single’s title. “Some days I feel like I’m the Metatron.”
It’s unclear what the Metatron, a mythic Jewish angel referenced in the Talmud, sounds like exactly, but one could easily imagine a sublime voice transcending the human and mundane. That rise and fall embodied in their lyrics—to fluctuate from a low-frequency self to a fleeting state of complete power and potential—illustrates the very nature of being alive. The imagery also reflects They Hate Change’s relationship to writing and producing their music: meditative and grateful.
They Hate Change released their debut studio LP, Finally, New, last week—a record they told Noisey was the result of years of channelling bounce, hip hop, footwork, deep house, drum-n-bass, post-punk, dancehall, emo, and the essence of Florida Jook music. We caught up with Parks and Andre Gainey, the two rappers and producers who make up They Hate Change, to discuss the album and their newest video for the recently released “X-Ray Spex,” a song about seeing through facades.
“The record is maximal,” said Parks of Finally, New. Parks, who met bandmate Gainey when they were both 14, has a relaxed and gentle smile, and at the mention of the duo’s music, it naturally expands and brightens. “There’s a lot there,” Parks said. “Complex drum patterns, big sounding synths, a lot of depth to the bass.”
They Hate Change’s songs have a tangible sense of space, layering, and texture that are all intricately woven together as if decorating full rooms with sound. They pull from a cauldron of genres the group is infatuated with, which keep melting together and multiplying to create a sound that is energetic and different. As an album, Finally, New is stacked to the brim with experimentation, going on dramatic turns and landing at laid back, ethereal, and spacey lookout points.
“We’ve been really on a British sophistica-pop thing,” Parks said of the self-taught band’s recent fascinations. “The Style Council, Pet Shop Boys, Sade, Prefab Sprout, stuff like that—like, sweet music.” That helps explain the title of “X-Ray Spex,” which is a nod to the U.K. punk outfit of the same name. “The exploration of music can help you,'' Gainey added. He said there isn’t much that is manufactured about their wordplay—being that much of the material for their music is drawn from their real lives. “We’re talking about riding around in Volkswagens,” he said with a laugh. “Some of the bullshit is just not sustainable.”
Gainey moved to Tampa from Rochester at age 12 and soon after met Parks at the apartment complex where they both lived. Having grown up in Palm River on the outskirts of Tampa, Parks was already entrenched in Tampa’s music scene by their teenage years. As far as they can remember, Parks has always been rapping.
Parks and Gainey began their musical collaboration by DJing together at Tampa Bay house parties a decade ago, retooling songs and experimenting with a wide range of genres in their live set. Through those years spinning shoulder to shoulder, Parks and Gainey were cultivating their ability to showcase all of their eclectic tastes. “We were playing footwork tracks, deep house, old hip hop joints, and dancehall,” Gainey said. “We were going to different places that we just wanted to hear out in public, that we hadn’t heard, at least not put together that way.”
The two didn’t realize it at the time, but by stacking BPM’s and dissecting grooves to breathe and move together, they were laying the foundation of They Hate Change. “Finally, New is the culmination of that first DJ set, as an album,” Parks said. Through years of absorbing and reimagining the music that challenged them, They Hate Change has been laying down bricks as they pave a path for themselves that is fully their own.