I first met MondreM.A.N. and Squadda B—the duo better known as Main Attrakionz—in early 2011 when I had moved to Oakland. At the time they were known as the originators of “cloud rap,” and they were one of the most notable acts blowing up on the still-formative internet rap scene. This was when their song “Take 1” featured a mostly unknown A$AP Rocky. A few years later and that song is widely known as “Leaf,” a song from A$AP Rocky’s mixtape LIVELONGA$AP. This past spring, after about four years, they released 808s and Dark Grapes 3, and it’s yielded some work. Noisey is premiering the video for “Cycles,” the album’s lead single, below.
Main Attrakionz started working with production duo Friendzone in 2011, and the oldest sessions for 808s and Dark Grapes 3 date back to those times. And while they’ve effectively been working on the album for the last four years, more recent times have yielded the work that makes up the album. In the years that have passed since Main Attrakionz first started working with Friendzone they have been signed to two labels. In 2012 they released their album Bossalinis and Fooliyones with Young One Records, and this latest release finds them with Neil Young’s Vapor Records (we know, right?). In the time in between Bossalinis and Dark Grapes there have been no Main Attrakionz releases, but the duo haven’t stopped working. There have been solo releases from Mondre and Squadda (perhaps most-notably Mondre’s MC Illin project with SF-based SWTBRDS), and various guest appearances, but for the most part they’ve been living their lives. Their Green Ova crew has remained a stable touchpoint for artists of the underground who have the sensibilities of a life lived outside the norm and the insight of someone living with an almost transcendent intention.
What does it mean to bounce back if you never reached the heights your trajectory was set on? On Dark Grapes 3 we get to see an evolution that answers the question, and if we follow the mantra of the song “Cycles,” well, then, it all moves in cycles. Thus, trajectory is only finite if you quit, according Mondre and Squadda. And so, as they’ve picked up with music again they pick up right where they left off: two artists perpetually poised for success. After Bossalinis they took a big step away from music, and have come back to an almost completely transformed scene. Danny Brown has gone on to tour the world, release critically acclaimed works, and align with some of the industry’s biggest players. A$AP Rocky just put out his second major label album on top of starring in a major role in a feature film. Ryan Hemsworth is playing festivals around the world and won a Juno award for his album with one of the biggest record labels in Canada. Now groups like Awful Records, C9, Thraxxhouse, and Seshollowaterboyz have risen to prominence following a path that was blazed in large part by the Main Attrakionz.
But given the grand sense of perspective that Main Attrakionz posses it becomes difficult to see their trajectory as anything less than exactly what it should be. There are only detours, derailments, and crashes if there is an end point in mind, and for Main Attrakionz there isn’t really an end point. One thing that you don’t hear on the record is bitterness, resentment, or regret. On “Cycles” Main Attrakionz give us a familiar vein of insight into their lives. They’ve got a little money, but they’re not rich. They do some shit, but they don’t get reckless. And they’re good with where they’re at. Are they trying to go further? Most definitely, but important than the possibilities of tomorrow are the definites of today. “We got the monthly showcase at the Rock Steady and we’re just trying to build up the local fanbase,” says Squadda B. “There’s a lot of people that know us as Charles and Mondre, but they don’t even know the Main Attrakionz. This is our first time trying to really blow up in our hometown. Cause that’s all we got at the end of the day, that’s always gonna be home.”
Catch Main Attrakionz performing at Jones Beach for the Billboard Hot 100 Festival on August 23.