Their families landed on the same quiet cul-de-sac in Imperial Beach during the 1980s. Now they are prepared to take the hip-hop music world by storm. They are Atlee Urquhart, Joe Knox and Kyle Ginter, all Mar Vista High School graduates.
“If I could pick one word to describe everything that has happened to this point and everything that is currently on the horizon for us, it’d be ‘surreal,’” said Ginter, who is now in his final year of studies at San Diego State University.
The three young men, whose friendship dates to their days in elementary school, are partners in the Avenue Music Group, which released Tha Anthem’s junior self-titled album into worldwide distribution on March 30.
Urquhart is Tha Anthem, his rapper name. Knox and Ginter handle the music production and business ends of the company, respectively.
The album is available on all online music distribution outlets, including iTunes, Amazon, Napster and Rhapsody, among others.
“Everyone has dreams of ‘making it’ in this industry, but to actually be on the cusp of changing your lives forever is an inexplicable feeling,” Ginter said. “All three of us were close when we were kids — Joe was the oldest and watched out for Atlee and Atlee watched out for me. As we all hit middle school and high school, we drifted slightly because of the age difference during that period of our life. It wasn’t until I graduated from Mar Vista High School in 2006 we be began to reconnect.”
That reconnect was the basis for the trio’s company, formed in December 2006. The Avenue Music Group has been an established licensed company now for three years. It includes a musical production company, publishing company and record label. The studio is located in Orange County.
Knox is the company president; Urquhart is the company vice-president and Ginter is the CEO.
The company’s previous releases include two prior albums by Tha Anthem — “The Exception, Not the Rule” (released May 6, 2008) and “Act Right or Get Left” (released March 22, 2011) — as well as one by Knox: “The Wheel of Fire” (released Jan 12).
It all began at informal block parties way back when. “As a collective, we’ve been at this dream for six years,” Ginter said.
Making the grade
Tha Anthem’s latest album is produced in collaboration with such industry heavyweights as Brisco (Cash Money Records/Universal Music Group), Gorilla Zoe (Block Ent./Altantic Records) and Compton hip hop artist Chase. Brian Gardner, who has worked with such recognized artists as Lil Wayne, Eminem, Dr. Dre, 50 Cent, The Game, as well as Linkin Park, mastered the album.
Knox, whose uncle Jim coached volleyball at Mar Vista, has been in the music industry for more than 10 years. He graduated from Mar Vista in 1999, and subsequently attended UC San Diego and most recently graduated from UC Irvine with a masters degree. He currently resides in Irvine.
The main hub of writing for Tha Anthem’s albums comes from Urquhart, a four-time champion of the schoolwide rap-off at Mar Vista High School. They constitute his solo projects.
The instrumentation is performed by Knox.
“We all have input on all aspects of the album, but the bulk of the writing is done by Atlee unless the song has a feature in which that respective artist writes his or her own lyrics,” Ginter said.
Knox’s album features collaborations from other artists and each artist on the album wrote his or her own lyrics.
Knox calls Tha Anthem’s music “rare multicultural fusion.” It is laced with talkbox inspired from the West Coast popping and B boy scenes and contains a cast of MC features that range from Gorilla Zoe to Brisco.
Tha Anthem raps in both English and Spanish.
“Together since birth, and probably before, each of us represents multicultural worlds that are fused together in our creative works ... becoming the byproduct of American expressionalism,” Knox said.
“Growing up in Imperial Beach and Mar Vista had more of a cultural impact and development on us as people than anything else,” Ginter said. “Because it’s so close to Mexico and 70 percent of the school is Hispanic, the Chicano culture is very evident in our music, particularly with Atlee as he is a fluent Spanish speaker.”
Urquhart (class of 2002) currently lives in San Antonio, Texas. He is serving as a Spanish-language linguist for the Navy until his music career gains more momentum. He currently flies into California when he is ready to record.
Urquhart was the BMOC at MVHS his senior year. While a Mariner, he played football, basketball and volleyball.
The trio’s talent has been evident since very young ages.
Urquhart wrote his first original song at 12 while attending Imperial Beach Elementary School. He came back following his graduation to host the MVHS rap-off event.
Urquhart remains humble about the group’s success. “We have been humbled and honored to come from our quiet upbringing and to be able to collaborate with such amazing and talented people who believe in us.”
Ginter’s specialty is the business side of operations. He built the business end while Knox mentored him in music production.
They remain lifelong friends. “I’m truly blessed to be able to do what I love with the people who mean the most to me,” Ginter said.
“Our chemistry is amazing. While most people may frown upon going into business with close friends, it actually was the most ideal situation since all of our personal characteristics are different. So the traits that one of us is lacking, the other two make up for and vice versa.”
Tha Anthem’s latest album has done well so far and the trio’s company has plans to feature it as a free sponsored download on www.DatPiff.com (a prominent hip hop music site) for the limited time.
For more information, visit the Web site at www.theavenuemusicgroup.com.