From The Studio

Yeezy taught me: Meet Syracuse’s Kanye cover band

Nalae White | Staff Photographer

Kanye West cover band Some of the Lights plays its next show on May 5 at Barton Cove, a local house venue.

With just a week’s notice, Josh Daghir was asked to perform at the first ever house show at the marching band house. He panicked.

Daghir, a senior advertising and information management technology major, played guitar in several bands before, but all his bandmates had graduated. So he made a new band.

Daghir realized a week was not a lot of time to write new songs, so he decided to make a cover band. Always interested in creating a hip-hop band with live instruments, Daghir chose Kanye West, whose popularity and producing skills made him the perfect hip-hop artist to cover.

Daghir then reached out to his musical friends, with the text that started it all: “Hey I’ve got his crazy idea, hear me out.”

Bassist Sean Dougherty and drummer Kyle Drumheller, well-known on campus because of their band Harryhausen, were friends with Daghir through the music scene. Dougherty, a senior marketing and English and textual studies major, lived with Daghir while studying abroad in London right at the time West’s album, “The Life of Pablo,” was released. The roommates listened to the album religiously, and Dougherty had no problem agreeing to join the group. Then, Daghir needed to find a vocalist and contacted his freshman year friend, Haywood McDuffie, whom from West’s native Chicago, felt up to the challenge of filling the role of West.

While attempting to translate the songs from a hip-hop track to real instruments, Daghir discovered that West’s beats and vocals had quite a bit of substance and complexity to them. He would have to add another guitarist and vocalist. Her turned to his roommate, Matt Prussin, a senior film major, who before this band, considered himself just a bedroom guitarist. Daghir, heard the talent that strummed from Prussin’s room and took a leap of faith.

Terrified of performing in front of other people, Prussin’s original answer was no. But with more time to think about it, he decided to go for it. Last added to the bunch was former style columnist for The Daily Orange Darriea Clark, who contributes the female vocals. The six musicians became Some of the Lights.
Even with only a week to prepare, the first show was a hit.

“Our show went so well that there were specific points where the floor was like bending and caving in,” Dougherty said.

“The people downstairs told us to stop jumping. Later that night after we played, people were like you have to play again,” Daghir said.

Since then, Some of the Lights has performed at Schine Underground, Funk ‘n Waffles Downtown, 560 Allen St., Big Red, Rock for Reporters and various other house shows, gaining recognition on the Syracuse University campus. Next is a May 5 gig at Barton Cove.

They have also expanded from their normal strictly West set list, including songs “Black Skinhead,” “Jesus Walks,” “All Falls Down” and “American Boy,” to covering other artists such as Kendrick Lamar, Gorillaz and Dr. Dre.

Although controversy seems to swirl around West, Some of the Lights does not condone the negative actions and words of West — they just want to translate his music, because looking past his problems, they said, he truly is a great musician.

“We are playing songs that are important to people, the songs that people like to hear. A lot of very famous artists are very controversial. If you’re in a Beatles cover band, does that mean you condone every single thing John Lennon ever did? I don’t think so,” Dougherty said.

“For the most part, I’m just here doing Kanye’s vocals. Like he’ll say something and I’ll be like, ‘Oh that makes me so mad,’ but also he made “Graduation,” he made “College Dropout,” so I can’t stay mad at him,” McDuffie, a senior communication and rhetorical studies major, said.

Besides making sure they are doing a good job portraying West, Some of the Lights faces other challenges: choosing songs that will have the best crowd reaction and are somewhat easily translated to real instruments, finding time to practice and, considering that the majority of the group will graduate soon, attempting to figure out the next step in their life.

But the lack of practice does not show on stage. The chemistry of the group is undeniable and it is hard to believe that some of the members did not know each other before this year.

“Once I’m around these guys, and once we’re all playing together, it’s not about Kanye,” Clark, a junior magazine journalism major, said. “It’s just about all the fun we’re having together. It’s about the music we’re making, and it’s about putting on a good show. It’s about having a good time.”

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