The Corp Boyz, the Washington Heights-based musical group, are not interested in waiting.
The trio of aspiring, well-spoken performers does not believe that they are at the mercy of good fortune or fate for their success. Instead, Mark “Tana” Melendez, Johnathan “Jay Wise” Perez and Alex “Chaos” Dore are committed to standing out for their talent and hard work. But the Latin hip-hop/dance group is not merely interested in creating success for themselves.
“Our neighborhood has influenced us through good times and bad. The Heights has shaped us into great men and we can only give back,” says Dore.
These local demi-celebrities are looking to change perceptions of their community, and believe that, along with their growing fame, comes responsibility. The group, composed of young Latino men (Melendez is Cuban, Perez is Dominican, and Dore is Puerto Rican) believe that you can be the coolest kid around and not have to live the street life. The group is on the rise and the young men in it want to take neighborhood with them.
Based on singles like "Tonight" and "Party like Champions," the trio combines their skilled wordplay and lyricism with hard, bass-driven instrumentals that are intended to shake clubs. And the response has been positive.
In 2009, the Corp Boyz won the national Underground Music Awards (UMA’s), considered by many the Grammy’s of underground urban music. The UMA committee, impressed by their unique and crowd-pumping performances, created a Latin/Hip-Hop category.
“It was an honor to break boundaries. The competition was intense. We were up against musicians like Joel Ortiz, Maino and Red Alert,” says Perez, naming artists who are well-known hip-hop artists.
“The category for Latin Hip-Hop [at the UMA’s] was created after we began to dominate showcases in an industry that's predominately African American,” adds Melendez.
Despite their growing popularity, the Boyz remain focused on the local scene. You can often find them together hanging out or performing in one of the many lounges and clubs they frequent.
“We love Washington Heights and we try to support our local businesses first. We want to keep the revenue here,” explains Melendez.
It is that same focus here on issues of local concern that they feel has distinguished them for many other groups. And perhaps cost them greater name recognition. As Perez explains it, the Boyz have consciously decided against self-aggrandizement at the cost of glamorizing the street life, despite its being an easier path to fame.
“There [had been] a time where musicians rapped about the wrong things like drugs and violence, and there was a market for that. We never went that route. Gratefully, [now] that market is dying and party music is in demand,” said Perez.
The Corp Boyz are true to their words, volunteering at the Washington Heights Cultural Art Center, located at 4450 Broadway. They educate young children on the fundamentals of music and lyric writing, and beat counting. The Boyz want other local young men and women to find an opportunity for creative expression, wherever it may lead.
“A lot of our youths don’t have the ability or outlets to express themselves, and music is a channel in which that can happen. Communication is key to success,” says Dore.
The “Boyz” are strivers, and take their passion seriously.
“Success, we already have it,” explains Melendez. “We are living the dream. We’ve performed at legendary venues, we’ve won awards, and we’ve been on television. Most importantly, we are leaving a mark in our neighborhood.”