Seventeenth Floor: Taking Hip-hop to Another Level

Seventeenth Floor:  Taking Hip-hop to Another Level
Venues & Businesses
Copper Dragon, The

Who: Seventeenth Floor
What: funk, hip-hop
When: 2011-12-09
Seventeenth Floor: Taking Hip-hop to Another Level
Leah Williams Wright

All musical genres seem to have special pockets where the best of the best congregate just before fame breaks. Sun Records gave first recording contracts to Carl Perkins, Roy Orbison, Johnny Cash and the king himself, Elvis Presley. Punk rockers can thank CBGB’s in New York City for giving the Ramones, the Misfits, Patti Smith, and several others a place to play.

Atlanta and its Dirty South sound are no different. Aaron Thompson tells Nightlife of a rehearsal hall that heard the sounds of some of the great rap and rhythm-and-blues acts of the nineties. Goodie Mob, Usher, and many others stopped by to warm up.

And the ladies of one of the most popular female hip-hop groups of all time-- TLC-- just happened to come over when Thompson and his band, the Seventeenth Floor, was practicing.

“They heard us play their song, and they came in and jammed with us,” Thompson said. “Then they asked to come on tour with them. We couldn’t believe it. We were eighteen, nineteen, twenty years old. It was cool.”

Cool, indeed.

The Seventeenth Floor brings the party to new heights with a performance Friday, December 9 at the Copper Dragon.

Founded by Thompson and his brother Greg, the Seventeenth Floor has combined several talented musicians in a rocking, live-band sound. The Thompson brothers provide an important nucleus of any hip-hop song: the rhythm section. Aaron Thompson plays bass, while Greg sits behind the drums.

During the world tour with TLC, the Seventeenth Floor went from playing at fraternity houses on campuses to packing in forty-thousand-seat arenas. During that tour and subsequently, the Seventeenth Floor shared the stage with Boyz II Men, Jodeci, and M.C. Hammer.

Coming back from the TLC tour, the Seventeenth Floor frequented college campuses all over the Midwest and South. But another rising rhythm-and-blues artist contacted the band and wanted assistance with his tour. Usher was his name.

The Seventeenth Floor rehearsed with Usher for his My Way tour in the late nineties and even appeared with him on The Keenan Ivory Wayans Show.

Thompson said the Seventeenth Floor is still in contact with their famous friends. He said they even saw and spoke to Usher at his mother’s birthday party.

“Yeah, we still keep in touch with them,” he said. “The thing is, you realize that they are just human beings just like everybody else. They just have a lot more money.”

The Seventeenth Floor caters to the classic elements of hip-hop while still mixing in some fresh vibes to keep the music interesting and fun to dance to. They combine top-ten cover tunes as well as some originals. The guys tally more than two-hundred shows per year.

“The rap and the [rhythm and blues] are a good blend of the old and the new,” Thompson said of his band’s setlist. “Everything is live, and we try to combine the two and turn it into something to listen to.”

Hip-hop has seen a meteoric rise into the mainstream throughout the last generation. Thompson said he believes that the genre has found a way to be more accessible and more accommodating to average listeners.

“I think hip-hop was like what pop was fifteen years ago,” he said. “Everybody is into it. There may be a little bit of confusion, but the good thing is it is always changing.”

When he is listening to other people’s music, Thompson tries to find something to connect to. The basslines and the rhythm section are all are things to which he pays attention.

“As a musician you don’t do so much as listen to song; you listen to parts of the song,” he said.

And by that same token, he has a hard time pinpointing what kind of music he likes.

“It’d be easier to ask who am I not a fan of,” Thompson explains. “I listen to everything-- country, hip-hop, metal, rock. If you hear a good song, you know it. A good song is a good song. I don’t care what it is. It could be a beat or a hook, something that just catches your eye. I was listening to this country song and was thinking, ‘Wow, that is a cool song.’”

The Seventeenth Floor plans to unleash a new single titled “Here We Go” in the new year. Thompson said preliminary plans are to have it available in January.

“We want to take it to another level, maybe to that next level of ultimate fame, but who knows?” he said.

A musician nearly his entire life, Thompson said he is enjoying where he believes the Seventeenth Floor will go.

“It’s just work, but if you enjoy what you do, it doesn’t seem like it,” he said. “I have been performing on the road since I was sixteen years old. And we have now brought in these young cats. And they get it and they play everything.”

Thompson said Carbondale is often a favorite spot for his band to tour because of the reaction and love they get here.

“The fans of Carbondale are great,” he said. “They have been supporting us for quite some time. The energy we get.... I’ve been in big concerts, and it’s just like we are at a major concert.”

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who: Seventeenth Floor

what: funk, hip-hop

where: Copper Dragon Brewing Company

when: Friday, December 9