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Beyond the Fringe

Styles of Beyond takes underground hip-hop back to the future.

"It's been a struggle," Tak allows. "Most radio stations, they're programmed with the top ten songs that you hear a hundred times a day."

"Our songs don't really fit that format," Ryu says. "So we have to push them really, really hard, because we know that they're not just automatically going to play the shit out of them. We have to talk about them and break them down and do a lot of press on things to get people to pick up the record. But then when they listen to it, they're usually like, 'Damn, that's pretty dope.' I think they appreciate having something to listen to."

Such reactions give Ryu and Tak hope that they'll eventually be heard, and so does the slow decline of the hardcore rap for which Los Angeles has been known for so long. According to Tak, "Even a lot of people into that gangsta phase know that it's dying."

"There's always going to be gangs in L.A.," Ryu says. "But back in the Eighties, everybody used to be in a gang -- even little kids from nice neighborhoods. It was the trendy thing to do. But now that's fading, and you don't have to worry about getting shot up at house parties and stuff like you used to. And a lot of the old gangstas have hung it up. All they do now is sit home and smoke weed and drink beer, because they have kids."

For Styles of Beyond, this cultural shift represents an opportunity to reach beyond hip-hop heads to those who'd previously shown little interest in the music. And thus far, on a small scale at least, it seems to be working.

"We're happy that other people are picking up our music, because that's the direction we wanted to go in the first place," Ryu says. "We want to make music for everybody, not just for this little category."

"If we have a message, that's it," Tak notes. "Other than that, we're not trying to preach or tell people the way the world should be."

"Or to solve the world's problems, either," Ryu goes on. "We're just trying to put Canoga Park on the map."

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