Almost a year ago, Matt Howe and Sam Carter were walking across The Woodlands at Firefly Music Festival, a slight breeze in their face and the sound of hip-hop artist Ludacris wowing the crowd with a particularly entertaining rendition of “Southern Hospitality.” But instead of “throwin’ bows” with the massive mob, the pair continued on slowly to their post.
It was the third day of the festival, and the third day of work for the two Dover residents, who were returning to their Bud Light cart near the Lawn State. As the two settled in at their post to finish off a shift that wouldn’t end until the wee hours of the morning, Carter turned to Howe.
“Next year, man. Next year we gotta figure out a way to be a part of this,” he said as he exchanged a crinkled $10 bill for a Bud Light Lime. “And I’m not talkin’ about serving beer. I’m talking about gettin’ in here and gettin’ on that stage, or any stage.”
Despite what seemed like a longshot, Howe (aka Tribe Beats) and Carter (aka SAM) immediately decided to officially form a three-man hip-hop act they’d been working on with their friend, Matt Coston (aka Meeze). Fast-forward nearly nine months later, and Trio, the threesome’s fiery hip-hop group, is set to play the 2017 edition of Firefly Music Festival.
“We started collaborating in late 2015 and knew we had something, but we weren’t official until after Firefly,” said Howe, who has worked the festival beer tents since 2013. “But we had released a eight-track album, ‘Law of Attraction,’ earlier in May of 2016, so we were close. The experience at Firefly put us over the top and made us realize we needed make it official and apply for a spot.”
The three originally met, as with most hip-hop groups, through a collaboration with other artists. Though Carter, 23, and Howe, 24, both attended Caesar Rodney High School together, it wasn’t until later on that the two began “collabing” together.
“I met Tribe (Howe) during a recording session at his house, and we’ve been on and running since then,” Carter said. “When you meet someone and vibe with them, it’s only a matter of time before you get to know them and then work with them on a project.”
Coston, a 26-year-old New York native, but graduate of Dover High School, met the two at a party where Howe started playing some beats and tracks on his phone. Coston, raised on the streets of Rockville Center on Long Island, was never one to shy away from freestyling, and impressed Howe and Carter right away.
“I remember we were at a house party, and someone tells me this Meeze character is quite the freestyler,” Howe said. “I had maybe 15 beats on my phone, about three minutes each, and he worked all of them. I mean, the man was freestyle rapping the whole time. It was crazy.”
For Coston, freestyling and rapping was always more about competition than anything else. While some kids in his neighborhood growing up were interested in who could jump the highest or run the fastest, Coston was more interested in hip-hop culture, and who he could beat at freestyling.
“My pops was one of those guys who walked around with a boom box playing different cassette tapes, so I vibed off of that all the time,” Coston said. “It’s part of the cultural pride in New York; when the mood strikes and it’s flowing, I can freestyle over any genre, any song, any piece of music.”
If competition is what Coston and his counterparts seek, it’s what they will get at Firefly this summer. Trio’s start times are not only at 10 a.m. Thursday and Sunday morning, but as the only Delaware act, the group has been somewhat relegated outside The Woodlands to the North Hub Campground. But do they consider it a bit of a letdown? Absolutely not.
“I’m definitely not a morning person – not at all – so it’s gonna be interesting. We didn’t really plan our set list based on day or time, so Thursday will give us a chance to have a test run.” Howe said. Coston, on the other hand, is optimistic, saying, “The way I look at it, we’re kicking things off. We’re basically opening the festival on two different days. I think that’s pretty cool.”
As for their approach on how to get people to attend a morning show at Firefly, Trio plans to attack the masses just as they would at a campus show at Wesley College, Delaware State University, or the University of Delaware, all of which they’ve played over the last few months.
“What we’ve been doing is handing out cards at Wesley and Del State and really hyping our appearance at Firefly, so that people know to come see us,” Howe said. “I think when we’re at The Woodlands, Meeze will literally grab people and tell them to come to our show. We’re even thinking about carrying a speaker around with us to play music for people.”
Trio has their set list mapped out and will be teasing future fans with tracks like “Work When I Want To,” about being your own boss, and “So Long,” the first recorded track they laid down after a night out. For a sneak preview of these and other tracks, head to Spotify or YouTube and search “Tribe Beats.”