Being aware of death has a funny way of inspiring some people to live life to the fullest.
Back in 2010, Denver rapper Juice Hugo was diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukemia. He and friend Owen "O1" Trujillo had been working day jobs they hated and were busy deferring their dreams; the cancer was a wake-up call for both of them.
"We were working regular jobs at that time," Trujillo recalls. "He got sick. We felt like we didn’t have much time yet. We should save up some money, quit, and go full-time on the music."
"It pushed us to shoot for our dreams," says Hugo. "And we’ve been doing that ever since."
As Hugo's cancer went into remission, the friends continued to live out their dreams in music, eventually consolidating their efforts into the band 2MX2 — a hip-hop outfit currently fronted by Trujillo and Hugo, with DMDTheProducer, guitarist Elias Garcia of Los Mocochetes, rising pop singer Lolita, R&B crooner Jon Shockness (aka Kid Astronaut) and Flobot Kenny O.
With family members who have been sick with COVID-19 and the world in crisis, the bandmates wanted to put out a feel-good song that would help people get through this wretched time. They looked through the tracks they had planned to drop as an album last spring, before the pandemic hit, and landed on "Elevator," a song that's uplifting from its name on.
When they first set out to write the song, they'd connected with Aja Black, of the Colorado Springs-based duo the Reminders. She agreed to collaborate, and they brought her a bare-bones track from DMDTheProducer. The track opens and closes with a minimalist guitar part and rises in the middle into full-blown electronic pop.
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Black started the songwriting workshop by encouraging them to pick a few meaningful words. They chose "helium balloon," "elevator" and "Xanadu." Eventually, they traded the latter for "Neptune," but used the balloon and the elevator in a hook about rising up.
As they brainstormed visuals, the group thought about the elevator in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory that can go in all directions. That inspired both the lyrics and the animated music video for the song, which is just being released.
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"Elevator" opens with bars about the band's vision of love and peace, followed by an explosive chorus sung by Black about riding a helium balloon to Neptune and an elevator into the sky. The next verse revisits Juice's struggle with cancer and the band's origin story. The song eventually invites the listener to fly high, as the bandmates have.
"We’re trying to give somebody something to feel good about," says Trujillo. "Everything is kind of crazy. It’s a joyous, inspirational song that you can still dance to."