While many so-called “artists” quell their creativity and stick to the industry’s script, The Earthman Experience boldly explores uncharted musical territories. Fronted by lead vocalist Richard “Earthman” Laurent, the five-man band has been rocking clubs all over NYC with their lively fusion of Afro-beat, world music and hip-hop. The Fox 5 network took notice and recently featured the group on its popular morning news show, “Good Day New York.”
Although The Experience is a freshly minted collective, its founders are no strangers to the music business. As a member of the house music group Moofou, the Haitian-born Laurent sold 250,000 copies of his ATA Records hit single, “I Say Shut Up” in 1987. In the mid-’90s, Laurent went on to form Kraze with his two sisters and Madonna’s ex-boyfriend, Norris Burroughs. Signed to Big Beat Records, Kraze sold 850,000 copies of their single “The Party” and embarked on an international tour.
The Earthman Experience’s DJ and co-founder, Hard Hittin Harry, was the deejay for multi-platinum rap trio The Fugees; Harry toured with the legendary group to support their debut album, “Blunted on Reality,” in 1993. Not only does he regularly spin at hotspots such as Red Bamboo, Negril Village and Hotel Gansevoort, Hard Hittin Harry manned the turntables on BET’s “Rap City” in 2006 and 2007.
Laurent and Harry joined forces in 2007 for The Earthman Experience, then recruited Shayshahn “Phearnone” Pearson on violin and Shaun Kelly and Senfu on djembe/percussion. Besides vocal duties, Laurent plays congas, guitar and keyboard.
“We’re bringing organic [music]. We really enjoy doing what we do, and we don’t have it set up in a rigid form,” explained Laurent during a recent interview with The Amsterdam News. “We like to experiment with the crowd. I don’t want you to come to my shows and see the same thing. You’ll hear a lot of the same songs, but there will always be some surprise. We rehearse sometimes, but I want our group to feel the inner spirit to guide [us].”
Though his DJ skills add hip-hop flavor to The Experience’s musical gumbo, Hard Hittin Harry insists that its influence is relegated to his cutting and scratching.
“I grew up in hip-hop, straight up, from back in the days,” Harry said. “I was poppin’ and breakin’ and stuff. For me, hip-hop is something else from what it was back then. Not to say it’s bad, it’s just something else. I’m not there anymore. I love hip-hop [but] I’m on some next-level thing. I love all kinds of music; I listen to everything. I can’t sit and listen to straight hip-hop anymore. I want to be moved; I want to be stimulated. To me, it’s got to be the tribal vibe; it’s got to be the drums. That’s why we’re doing what we’re doing, because that stimulates me. It all starts with the drum.”
“When I think about what’s happening in hip-hop; we’ve grown a lot,” adds Earthman. “Certain conversations we can’t hear anymore. You just can’t hear another one of those [thug] stories anymore. It’s not getting me anywhere. What individual is spitting something that I can just bring to my daughter and say, ‘Listen to this,’ and then they get advanced? I want Earthman Experience to be the kind of group where you can bring it to your child and say, ‘Okay, that is a dialect from France,’ and your kid can learn how to speak a dialect. If Earthman Experience can have people understand that we are unified and appreciate all different cultures that belong to us, we’ve won.”
The Earthman Experience will perform live at Bam Cafe on Saturday, May 24 at 9 p.m. For more information, visit myspace.com/earthmanexperience.