Andrew Zaleski>Junior>English>Loyola University Maryland
Photo By: Tyler Fitzpatrick>Senior>Accounting>Loyola University Maryland
When Luke O’Brien and John Fitch started rapping freestyle verses while driving around Baltimore’s Roland Park neighborhood in O’Brien’s Jeep, they thought it was just something to help pass the time. Now, nearly five years later, O’Brien and Fitch are two of the five-man, Baltimore-based rap group A Cool Stick, which has released a six-song EP and established a prominent presence on the Baltimore music scene in a little more than one year of playing together.
“Baltimore has treated us so well,” says O’Brien, A Cool Stick’s 22-year-old rapping frontman. “We get good news after good news after good news.”
The group is composed of five Loyola University Maryland graduates: O’Brien, Fitch, James Hughes (guitar) and Brian Aranda (drums) all graduated in 2009. Bassist Brendan “Fuzz” Floyd, 24, graduated in 2007. Forming in March 2009, A Cool Stick mainly performs originals with the occasional cover song sprinkled into their set list (including a unique rendition of Jimi Hendrix’s “Purple Haze”). Drawing from a plethora of samples and originals, A Cool Stick’s songs aren’t "sloppily thrown together," says O’Brien. Fitch, the group’s beat producer, constructs their songs based on the beat behind the song, giving instructions and suggestions to the band members as to how each instrument should be played during certain parts of the beat. Then, as a whole band, each instrument’s role in each song is scrutinized until the band is satisfied with the end result.
"When you play real tight like that and all your drops are in sync, you hit the audience on a more subconscious level," says Fitch.
But A Cool Stick is perhaps best known for their song and video “I Love Knowledge”—a parody of Asher Roth’s “I Love College”—which now has more than 125,000 plays on YouTube.
“Our music is intelligent, and it’s clever, and it’s young, and it’s fresh,” says O’Brien.
Their energetic live show—which often features Floyd and Fitch bouncing around to the beat of each song—is a product of their rigorous rehearsals, during which they meticulously plot and plan their performances to prevent any on-stage glitches. The hard work has earned A Cool Stick opening and headlining spots at a number of Baltimore venues, including The Recher Theater, Rams Head Live! and The 8×10, as well as added attention from fans and listeners since O’Brien and Fitch, the group’s lyricists and rappers, are both white.
“For a lot of white rappers, that’s their whole shtick,” says O’Brien. “But John and I . . . we don’t feel the need to address it so much.”
“The bottom line is, we’re musicians,” says Fitch. “We really just try to rap about what we’re up to and how we feel and what’s going on. You just soak up what’s around you.”
Having just played a show at the end of March with another college rapper, Samuel “Wiz” Adams, at Sonar in Baltimore (“Best show we’ve played yet. I’d say just about 900 kids [were] there,” says O’Brien), the guys in A Cool Stick are looking to build upon their contacts and previous success live in order to land bigger gigs at larger venues. Come May, they plan to take their music to New York City when they open up at Terminal 5 for Chitty Bang and RJD2. They’re also currently looking for apartments in Brooklyn, where Fitch is from originally.
“We feel like we’ve reached the pinnacle of the Baltimore music scene,” says O’Brien. “It’s led us to the idea that we need to move up to New York City. We just wanna get up there and we just wanna create music. The way we see it, we’re all young, and if there’s a time to do it, let’s do it now.”