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Davis, California

Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Couch Concert: Alfha Records

More than just a rap collective, Sacramento-based group gives back, empowers youth

It all began with a fist bump. Not just any fist bump — when Sam Lauderdale and Thaddeus Turner met up on the playground in middle school ready to fight, something unusual happened. “He squared up with me,” Turner said, “And then he threw a punch and both of our fists connected at the same time, and I watch anime so I was like… this is meant to be… and after that, everything’s been Gucci between me and him, like that’s my brother.” 

Alfha Records is a rap collective comprised of six artists: Sam Lauderdale (Alfha Sam), Alayé Sanders (Alfha Bliss), Thaddeus Turner (Alfha Blu), Nick Miles (Alfha Nick), Kenny Lee (Kayego aka Alfha K) and Tex Wambui. Although they are all associated through this group, they are individual artists under one label, and they “all want to capture a different essence” with the most important thing being staying true to themselves.

The artists met in middle school, not all as epic a meeting as that first fistbump, but nonetheless special enough to form friendships that would bloom into brotherhood. Alfha is an acronym for the message the group wants to share, each word reflecting a different part of their lives. 

“Alfha itself gives a perfect explanation,” Sanders said. “Artistry, being creative and not being sucked in by the industry; loyalty to each other, loyalty to who we started off as and why we wanted to do this; family, because we’re always about family, always about bringing back to our respective communities; honesty, in terms of not capping in our raps; and then just the Alfha symbol, beginning to end, making sure we are concise and clear and cohesive as a group.” 

The cohesiveness of the group is based in the similar struggles some of the members faced growing up in South Sacramento. 

“[We] just kinda got a connection, just being on a team together… going through hardships,” Miles said. 

For some of them, support through these hardships was crucial.

“When our families didn’t have food, we’d go to the other’s house and scrounge with each other together,” Turner said. “Feed our families together. That’s exactly what we’re doing now.”

The experiences are what makes this group’s message authentic: They recognize where they’re from and what they’ve been through in their music and use that to write genuine lyrics with meaningful themes.

A distinctive quality of the collective is the mindset they have when making music. The men took inspiration from artists like Kendrick Lamar, who “was a beacon of hope… [who] showed us that you can pop off and make money and give back to your community by being true to yourself and making an authentic sound.”

For Sanders, this influence was particularly important in finding his sound.

“Honesty is at the forefront of my music,” Sanders said. “There’s power in being vulnerable as an artist. We’re the speakers for people that don’t have a voice, so I always think that the most important thing for an artist is to speak for his or her generation. We’re reflecting the things that we go through on a day-to-day basis, reflecting what we’re thinking about, the trials and tribulations we’re going through.”

Turner touches on personal topics in his music, like the birth of his daughter.

“Things become pretty difficult when you have a child,” Turner said. “There are times when I’ve been feeling this heavy burden of needing money, so when I write that’s what comes out. Everywhere you try to make a move, there’s always something stopping you from trying to get money.”     

These rappers don’t take their platform as musicians for granted. 

“Us growing up in the hood, in South Sacramento […] we all were in AP classes and making sure that we could get the highest level of knowledge possible,” Miles said. “Breaking the stereotype. And [we] put that in our records. So yeah, we come from the hood, and yeah we got banging beats, but listen to what we’re saying.”

All the members are currently students at different universities and colleges. As exemplified by the ‘f’ for family within the Alfha name, they all take part in some sort of community outreach. Most of the group members work with students in programs similar to those that benefited them as highschoolers, like Improve Your Tomorrow in Sacramento. 

“There are a lot of young people looking up to us,” Lauderdale said. “[We’re] helping young men get into good colleges and helping them get more educated and get out of these environments.”

Tex Wambui, a fifth-year economics major at UC Davis and the producer of the group, is especially committed to promoting social change. His nonprofit SITTY, an acronym for Stay In True To Yourself, has a “mission to improve the lives of individuals by facilitating the discussion of how to stay true to yourself.” He is currently working on research in education with this goal in mind and has three published books related to his work. 

The group’s music reflects the message they wish to spread to the youth they work with as well.

“We can’t be putting out detrimental messages while trying to help these young men,” Lauderdale said. “I’m not going to be talking about shooting people in a community where people getting shot is one of the major problems that we’re trying to solve. Just making music that is more empowering rather than bringing people down is always something we’re going to hang onto. No matter how big we get, it’s always going to be the same message.”

Sanders added that a lot of people “don’t make music to contribute to a community.”

 “We’re not here to just turn up,” Sanders said. “We’re here to contribute to the culture.”

The conversation with the five members of Alfha Records was enough to discover the empowered and authentic nature of not only their music, but their ideologies as artists, influencers and human beings. For Alfha Records, relatability is something they want to convey in their music, and it shows. 

Alfha Records will be featured in an upcoming Couch Concert video. 

Written By: Allie Bailey — arts@theaggie.org


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