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For the homies, by the homies: Portland’s Gualla Boys experience with hip-hop in Maine.

For Cameron Goff and Alex Girsch, hip-hop is much more than just a pastime. Their newest album “Righteous,” released on Aug. 12, has given them a new perspective on what it means to be artists and performers in Maine.  

They wrote, recorded and mixed the album over the course of a summer, but their passion for music began long before they started the project. Goff, a third-year marketing student, joined his first band in middle school. Since then he has experimented with genre and style but has always been grounded in his love of hip-hop. Goff and Girsch began making music together in high school.

“It kind of started out as a joke. I’ve known Alex since I was five years old. We grew up two minutes away from each other. We work together, and eventually, [starting a band] came up in conversation,” Goff said.

“We decided that if we had a hip-hop group it would be called Gualla Boys, and then made it happen. When we first started making hip-hop, there was no one you could point to as the Portland hip-hop artist. There is nobody holding it down for Portland,” Goff said.

Goff and Girsch may hope to someday “hold it down” for Portland, but that isn’t what drives their music.

“At the end of the day our main priority is to just have fun with the music,” Goff said. “That’s how it started, and we got better as time went on once we figured out our formula. When we made our first album, Alex didn’t listen to hip hop that much, so the beats are really weird. The whole first album was produced on Garageband on an iPad. It sounds crazy.”

The Gualla Boys are happy with their progression as a duo. The connections Goff and Girsch have made by being a part of Portland’s music scene became fundamental elements in the production of their new album. Reilly Musgrave, a third-year student at Goucher College who produces music under the name ASUMI, and Portland-based rapper Trevor Tucker, known as THT, contributed to many songs on the album.

“[ASUMI] beats bring a sound to the table, since he mostly makes EDM. It’s fun to watch him and Alex work together because they both have extensive knowledge of different programs and genres, and they always end up making a banger,” Goff said.

Collaboration has been critical in not only the creation of their music but also in the creation of their community. Having recently been just high schoolers sharing music with their friends, having a substantial discography and their music available through many streaming platforms feels surreal for the Gualla Boys.

“Responses have been mostly positive, but that could just be because no one wants to come up to you and say that your music sucks. Our whole thing is for the homies, by the homies. We just wanna make music that we would wanna listen to,” Girsch said.

One of Goff and Girsch’s proudest moments happened during an apartment show in Portland this summer. They were originally supposed to be the second performance of the evening, but the host asked them to close the show since so many of the audience members were there for Gualla Boys. A mosh pit broke out during one of their songs, and the crowd’s energy made the floor look as though it was going to give out. Despite it leading to the show getting shut down, that is the level of energy Gualla Boys hope to bring out in their audience during every performance.

“I think for Gualla boys, a lot of our songs are centered around the live show,” Goff said. “We bring a lot of energy when we perform and we bring a lot of hype. We want people to go crazy. It’s really exciting when you see the people you are performing for using just as much energy as you are. You can’t really do that with a lot of genres, you can play loud, but hip-hop is universal, especially for college students,” Goff said.

The Gualla boys don’t currently have any shows on the calendar, but they are looking for opportunities to perform. You can follow them on Facebook and Instagram, as well as stream their music on Spotify, Apple Music and Soundcloud.

While they can’t say exactly what the future holds, the Gualla Boys plan on remaining loyal to their fans. “For the homies, by the homies.”

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