The Smile Rays are a hip hop group out of Jacksonville, Florida that I hadn’t heard of until a few minutes ago. Hip Hop is my favorite genre so I decided to scour the internet for hip hop acts I had never heard before. But, I didn’t just aim to find a cool group or solo artist that could spit, I wanted to find someone or some group that went about hip hop differently. I wanted to find rappers that were unconventional. Not to toot my own horn, but I’m pretty up to date with new rap music so it would be hard for someone to introduce me to a present-day rapper that I haven’t heard of. So, I figured I’d dig through the archives.
The Smile Rays are listed on a blog called Rapscurity in an article entitled “Fourteen Rather Obscure Hiphop Tracks That you Might Have Missed.” The specific track mentioned in the blog is “Museum” featuring Willie Evans Jr. It was released in 2008 and never got much attention. It reminds me of A Tribe Called Quest with it’s funk rap feel, who they actually mention in the song as an inspiration, as well as some Sublime ska punk vibes, and a female singer emitting psychedelic croons a la Lana del Rey. As you can tell, this song incorporates many different styles, which is something that drew me to it. It even gives off a slight reggae feel which I love.
The group consists of Therapy rapping and disc scratching, Daisey singing, and Batsauce on the beats. In the song “Museum,” Therapy raps that he was “listening to everything, rock, soul, hip hop, reggae, and jazz, R&B, funk, old, and new.” You can easily tell that all of these genres had something to do with the creation of this song as they are all represented audibly. It actually reminds me of a lot of a Fort Minor song, and Fort Minor is a group that incorporates many different styles as well. Mike Shinoda, rap vocalist from Linkin Park, created Fort Minor as a hip hop side project in 2004. Considering that The Smile Rays first appeared in 2007, I would bet that they were at least slightly influenced by Fort Minor’s sound, which I would describe as an infusion of rock, rap, funk, and pop music. They are often defined as an “alternative hip hop” or “rap rock” group. (Listen to Fort Minor’s album, The Rising Tied, as an example, if interested).
But, The Smile Rays create their own sound that actually sounds as if it’s older than it really is. To me, their songs have a 90’s hip hop feel much more than a 2000’s hip hop feel. With disc scratches and pure funkiness, they radiate some good, old school vibes that I really dig. Their song “Smilin’ On You” uses brass instrumentation, specifically a trombone, to really bring the funk. This song was featured on their album of the same name, “Smilin’ On You,” released in 2007 with 9 other tracks. They released 2 other albums, according to discogs.com, all in 2007, Party…Place and A Toast. As far as I know, these three albums were all they ever recorded as a group. Therapy, otherwise known as Paten Locke, has since embarked on his own solo rap career. He’s still presently making music today. Lady Daisey, born Daisey Traynham, is married to Britt Traynham, aka Batsauce, and he is still her producer on her solo projects. Her last solo album was released in 2014.
Not many musicians come out of Jacksonville, Florida. The Smile Rays are unique in their sound, location, and look. I don’t know why they didn’t receive more attention than they did. But, maybe if they had stayed together for a longer period of time they would have achieved that recognition. I couldn’t find much biographical information on the group other than what each member is up to now. So, I’m unsure of why they split up, but I wish they hadn’t. I like the sound of Therapy’s harsh cutting raps, over Batsauce’s jazzy rock beats, with Daisey’s soft pop vocals on the hooks. I wonder what they would’ve sounded like today had they stayed together. Their infusion of genres is compelling and obscure and I want more.