Donterrius Walker, '19, and Frankie Rodriguez, '19, play in their studio in Warren Square A on Monday, Sept. 26, 2016. Walker and Rodriguez are in the band 7G. (Samantha Tomaszewski/B&W Staff)

Two students bond over similar backgrounds, form band named 7G


Every good superhero has a catchphrase.

Between organizing the new Creative Vibes Community, producing and creating a 21-song album in the course of a few months, speaking out against hood violence and hosting concerts, all while studying for 4 o’clocks — it’s safe to say members of the group 7G are musical superheroes in their own right.

So what’s their catchphrase?

“Our motto is ‘F–k it,'” Donterrius Walker, ’19, said.

Frankie Rodriguez, ’19, whose alias is the Paragon, and Walker, whose alias is the Fearless Magician, hit it off immediately when they met at Lehigh’s Summer Scholars Institute. With their charismatic, social personalities and commonality coming from disadvantaged backgrounds, an instantaneous creative partnership and friendship was formed.

“There are a lot of parallels between our two cultures, even though he’s from the South (Memphis) and I’m from Philly,” Rodriguez said. “Hood is hood everywhere.”

But hailing from two sides of the same coin has served as a powerful inspiration for 7G’s music. Diversity is the main thing that sets the group apart from other musicians of their generation. Even their self-branded genre is “whatever you want it to be.”

“We don’t try to be one image,“ Walker said. “We do different types of styles to make our album sound more unique. We’re not trying to be, ‘Oh! He sounds just like blah blah.’ Nah, 7G sounds like 7G.”

And it shows, with their 2016 album “Heuristic” combining a remix of Drake’s “Trophies,” an acoustic version of Chance the Rapper’s “Same Drugs” and a slew of original songs, skits and freestyles.

For Rodriguez, a lot of his varied tastes in music stem from switching over from rap to EDM when he was a freshman in high school.

“I hated the negativity that was in hip-hop at the time,” Rodriguez said. “Although it’s real stuff, I was surrounded by that. Music was my everything, so to listen to that and be surrounded by all of it was very downing. It’s hard to hear that when you’re going through it every day.”

Growing up in West Philadelphia, Rodriguez recounted on times where he’d be nervous to leave school because of violence — even saying he almost witnessed a man being shot after the man dropped his daughter off at day care.

This made Rodriguez almost swear off lyrics all together, entering a phase of listening to mostly instrumental tracks. For example, when he would listen to Kanye West, he would listen to the instrumental version of “Power.”

Like many partnerships at Lehigh, the duo first began over a keg in an off-campus basement. The two were at a Halloween party when the aux chord was handed to them. The night’s atmosphere changed, as a bunch of students told the house owner the DJing was the best they’ve seen at a party.

Rodriguez and Walker became even more powerful together by turning their on-paper ideas into full-blown realities. After visiting the Music Appreciation House and seeing it consisted of mostly band students and a “vibe” they didn’t identify with, the duo had the idea of starting its own community.

“(Creative Vibes and Music Appreciation) both have a deep core of music, it’s just how they convey it,” Rodriguez said. “It’d be like comparing us to a rock band. We could bring Music Appreciation House in here, and they could do tracks, but we’re two different atmospheres.” 

On the outside, Warren Square A looks like an ordinary house — enveloped by brick and a concrete stairway. The second Rodriguez —the house’s Gryphon who has purple-stained hair — opens the door, the entire atmosphere changes. Decked wall-to-wall with posters of various musicians, Creative Vibes is more than just a residence hall.

Just to show how much work was put into the transformation into Creative Vibes, Walker said they transformed the vacant basement into a recording studio. Where an old, abandoned boiler used to be is now an drum set, sound-proofed walls and a series of other instruments and recording devices.

Their secret to being successful is written all over their music and their lifestyle, and when it comes to getting things done 7G marches to the beat of its own electric drum. Each group member works together to make sure their goals are being accomplished.

“We also didn’t know how we were going to do a concert last Saturday but we did it,” Rodriguez said. “One hundred and twenty people came out. We made and sold glow-in-the-dark T-shirts. We made these shirts like we do everything else — we did it ourselves.”

With their third official member $tu, who studies at LaSalle University, the group is not afraid to be prolific. Initially, they decided that “Heuristic” was going to be a 16-song album. However, they ended up with around 25 songs and eventually cut it back to 21 songs.

7G will be releasing its next album July 7, 2017.

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