3 the Hardway earns Denver hip-hop a second look

It's been just over a year since rapper A.V.I.U.S., producer Es-Nine and DJ Cysko Rokwel came together to form 3 the Hardway. On the strength of their first leaked single in 2007, "Wild Style West," the three have created a buzz that's stretched statewide. Now they're gearing up to drop their debut, Set in Stone, produced entirely by Es-Nine and featuring guest appearances by Rakaa Iriscience (of Dilated Peoples), Defari (Likwit Krew), Braille (Light Headed), Mane Rok & InkLine (ManeLine), Aurora Lopez and Doujah Raze (Trilogy Records). We caught up with A.V.I.U.S. to get the inside scoop on the group.

Westword: How did 3 the Hardway form?

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3 the Hardway CD-release party, with Likwit Junkies, Rakaa Iriscience and ManeLine, 9 p.m. Friday, February 28, the Marquis Theater, 2009 Larimer Street, $15, 18+, 1-866-468-7621.

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A.V.I.U.S.: We already knew each other through mutual friends within the Denver hip-hop scene. But what really brought us together as a group was my solo album Patience and a couple shows we did together after the album dropped. We instantly realized we had good chemistry in the studio, on stage and on a friendship level, which is the most important thing in order to make a group work.

 What's the meaning behind the name of the album, Set in Stone?

We all have had a long road in this biz, together and apart. After working on the Patience album, we felt we created a good buzz and that whatever we did next really needed to leave an imprint on Denver as well as the national music scene. Set in Stone was perfect for what we're trying to create musically with this album: something that can be considered classic and can stand the test of time.

Before the group formed, each of you had your own things going on. How do you make it work?

We support each other in whatever it is we do. We push each other to work on individual projects and help each other any way we can. We are 3 the Hardway no matter what we're working on, together or separate. It's not that hard to maintain.

Have you started on any projects outside of the new album?

A new A.V.I.U.S. solo album is already in the works, as well as a Cysko Rokwel solo project and an Es-Nine solo project. At the moment, Es-Nine is producing tracks for Mane Rok, InkLine, Zome, Dyalekt and a bunch of other top-secret stuff that we can't speak on at this point in time. And Cysko plans to compete in many national battles this year, including the DMCs. This is his year to bring the title home to Denver.

 
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