Marine hip-hop group balances military, musical careers
Pfc. Aaron Hostutler

CAMP KINSER, Okinawa (February 22, 2008) -- The room grew hotter by the minute as the beats bumped and the lyrics flowed. The volume was high, but the energy was higher as each of nine Marines contributed his own style to form a wide-ranging melody.

The common purpose of making music brings an aspiring group of local Marines together.

This particular scene took place in a barracks on Kadena Air Base Feb. 4. The musical Marines used the setting to make recordings for their group, Skool Boyz.

Skool Boyz began in June with four members but has more than doubled in size since then. The group now includes Marines from various backgrounds, talents and jobs.

"It's not easy what we do," said Cpl. Michael Lund, a warehouse clerk with Combat Logistics Regiment 35, 3rd Marine Logistics Group, and the band's newest member. "Balancing a career in the Marine Corps and pursuing a career in music is no easy thing."

Being Marines, there are some particular difficulties the group comes across.

"Because most of us have red cards, it's hard for us to get out there and get ourselves heard," said Cpl. Justin Keel, a supply administration and operations clerk with CLR-35, talking about the type of liberty cards which requires the bearer to be back on base by midnight. "In order to perform at our last concert, we had to get special liberty."

The band's last show, held at The Banyan Tree on Kadena Air Base Dec. 8, didn't start until 12 a.m.

"It's things like the special liberty, late nights and early mornings that make it difficult to get all of us together," said Cpl. Fabien Nelson, a supply administration and operations clerk with CLR-35.

Lance Cpl. Jason Balewa, also a warehouse clerk with CLR-35, also talked about some of the challenges associated with juggling a career and their musical pursuits.

"I can't tell you how many times I've finished a long day at work and felt like doing nothing but passing out; but it's important that we keep practicing constantly," Balewa said.

But juggling two jobs isn't all bad, according to Keel.

"Learning to balance these two careers helps us develop responsibility and maturity," Keel said. "You know that you're giving it your all when every single second of every single day you are working for the Marine Corps or making beats and writing rhymes."

"It's devotion that keeps us going," Nelson added.

When the Skool Boyz look for an addition to their group, devotion is one of the key factors they consider.

"That's what we look for when we try out new people," Keel said. "There are a lot of cats out there who have talent, but if they don't have a drive to succeed, then we're not interested."

The Skool Boyz pride themselves on the unity and uniqueness of their group.

According to Pfc. Lelve Watkins, a maintenance management specialist with CLR-35, the brotherhood within the group is what keeps everyone going.

"When one of us is down, we do everything we can to pick him up," he said.

Working with each other during the day has helped form a strong bond between members of the group. According to Cpl. Troy Collins, a supply administration operations clerk with CLR-35. Working together and experiencing some of the same things everyday adds to the bond the group has.

The Skool Boys agreed that the hard work and dedication they put into their jobs and music is what makes balancing both careers possible.