Published Jan 21, 2019"America has a huge lack of understanding of who we are as a multicultural people," Jason Aalon Butler tells Exclaim! "We're a place that was built on the backs of various cultures, not just white male hetero-normative ones. These different ways of living, that's what made America. Partitioning cultures in the most dangerous part of what we're doing right now. We're in desperate need of some empathy."
Butler is not your average SoCal frontman. The former letlive. vocalist is now the singer for the Fever 333, a politically charged rap-rock group that recently exploded onto the scene. Although they only just released their debut full-length, Strength In Numb333rs, they've already received some surprising acclaim and attention. For his part, Butler reacts to the band's recent Grammy nomination — Best Rock Performance for "Made An America," from their March 2018 EP of the same name — with almost total nonchalance.
"I mean, it's a cool acknowledgement," he says, "but I think the most important part is to make sure we bring our message with us. It's a huge platform to get something across."
Butler grew up in Inglewood, CA, and his upbringing shaped his current political perspective. "I do live in a gun culture," he says, "I've had friends shot dead in front of my mother's house. My own mother was shot at in our alleyway. I've seen guns, I've held them, I've had them in my house. But the type of weaponry we're able to acquire, with very little protocol before acquisition, it's very concerning. We've all seen it now, people who needed help with their mental health and not in the right position to be purchasing high-calibre weapons. But they were allowed to, and they acted on an imbalance and took the lives of many, many innocent people. To see these things happening to children, it's just sickening."
Butler's views are deeper than the average "fuck the system" angst that commonly fuels music subcultures, and gun violence and xenophobia aren't his only concerns either.
"Every day that I had to turn on the television and see a young brother killed and their life not holding the same meaning as a white person's. Or seeing where the patriarchy is exerting its force over women. This are all statistics and facts. It's not conjecture or my opinion. I only work with facts, and my own experience as a biracial person of colour who lives this dual line."
Everything about Fever 333 is intensely political. In mid-2017, before they started attracting the attention of scene heavyweights like Travis Barker and Yelawolf, the band were drafting escape plans for their first (illegal) concert. Stopping their rented U-Haul in the parking lot of Randy's Donuts, they proceeded to show exactly who they are and always will be.
"We did that one to highlight gentrification, and the power being imposed upon people by corporate elements," Jason explains, "I've always wanted to do a pop-up show at home. It was great."
Social and capitalist woes aside, Fever 333's hard-hitting rap-rock sound has inevitably been compared to Rage Against the Machine. "They are the benchmark for political activist rock-infused hip-hop," Butler acknowledges. "We can only say 'thank you' to be in the same breath as Rage."
Strength in Numb333rs is out now via Roadrunner Records.