They're multinational, multitalented and everything 2 Live Crew is not. The six Provo-based musicians in the rap group En Light like to emphasize the positive side of life in their lyrics and performances.
The six are: Andrew Meurer, 21, born in France; English-born Derik Johnson, 19; Spencer Rucker, 21, a native of Seattle who is a deejay at the Palace in Provo; Jared Keliiheleua, 22, from Hawaii, and Shawnn Hartley, 22, from San Jose, Calif. A new vocalist, Val Tiatia, 18, who hails from Samoa, has been added to the group, bringing a bilingual rap ability - Samoan/English.En Light's rap music is socially relevant as well as catchy and hip. Meurer is the group's main songwriter, and his "Time to Get Serious" tackles subjects like AIDS, nuclear weapons, the plight of the homeless and the depletion of rain forests.
So nation to nation, land to land
Let's all come together and lend a hand
To solve these problems I'm talking about.
This is something I know, without a doubt
That world hunger, crime, apartheid, disease
Will soon make us all an endangered species.
If you think it's a joke, you must be delirious,
Cause this is the time, the time to get serious.
The musicians rehearse five nights a week, practicing to the tracks that back the rap and doing choreography for their act. As Meurer and Keliiheleua move forward as lead vocalists, behind them the dancing of Rucker, Johnson and Hartley literally blisters the floor. The trio incorporates handstands and back flips with their fancy footwork.
The rappers have been approached by Salt Lake-based Airus Records but have not yet signed a contract. Embryo Records is also interested in signing the group. All the songs for En Light's first album are written, lacking only the studio to record them in. A video has been taped for audition purposes.
"We've learned that the three most important things in the music business are: promotion, a good song and talent - in that order!" said Meurer. Finding the right executive producer seems crucial no matter how talented musicians may be. While waiting for their "big break," the rappers have performed at Brigham Young University and at the Palace in Provo. Rucker moonlights as choreographer for the Rocky Mountain Stars drill team when he's not spinning disks at the Palace, and Hartley volunteers for "The Gathering Place" setting up anti-drug campaigns and seminars for junior high schools.
The rappers' squeaky-clean image is a mixed blessing. All of the band members
are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the group's name, En Light, is taken from a Book of Mormon scripture and Keliiheleua is a returned missionary. The rappers came across as near-translated beings in an article in the Daily Universe, Brigham Young University's student newspaper. "After reading that story you'd think we were the pope's posse!" said Meurer. "We've certainly made mistakes but we've learned from them. We are hoping that younger kids will learn from us," he said.
"We feel like we are role models, and we want kids to know that you don't need to take drugs to be someone," said Johnson. "Remember," added Rucker, "drugs have made a lot of people what they are today - absolutely nothing!"