By Jeff Mays
HARLEM — Ask Harlem rap group Square Off who their influences are and the answer might surprise you.
Brothers Solomon "Trips" Davis, 20, and Dayquan "Slim" Davis, 22, drop names like Grandmaster Caz, DJ Hollywood and Big Daddy Kane, hip-hop pioneers that their contemporaries may not have even heard of.
But Trips and Slim got to know these hip-hop legends first-hand because their father — rapper, producer and one of the earliest pioneers of beat box style — Doug E. Fresh, can count himself among that group.
"My pops had us around these guys and it was crazy to have conversations with Hollywood and Caz. It was like being a skateboarder and meeting the dude that created the skateboard," Slim said.
"We got to rap with Big Daddy Kane. A lot of new school artists copy his flow but don't know who he is. My father says new artists don't know where hip-hop came from," said Trips.
But these two graduates of Rice High School say they are out to forge their own path, out of their father's shadow. With a new album in the works and a newly-released mix-tape, Slim and Trips say they have developed their own style. They call it "new old school."
"I feel like we are nothing like today's artists. Our style and the way we do music is different. It's a new sound like when Drake came into the game he brought a new sound," said Trips.
Slim said he feels like he has more of a "1990s flow," talking about hip-hop's most recent golden age.
"What makes us different from other artists is we are versatile" said Slim. "We have different styles and we make good music. We are not stuck to one dimension."
Both Slim and Trips trace their desire to become performers back to being out on the road with their father at age 10 and 11. Trips started out wanting to be a DJ at first. Slim just found himself constantly thinking about hip-hop.
"It found me because I was always around it. No matter where I went I was around it. I started thinking about doing this at 11 and by 12 I was taking it seriously. I started battling and by 13 I was in studio learning about bars and hooks.
But being the sons of a hip-hop legend with strong Harlem roots has both its ups and downs.
"Some people are tired of the wack hip-hop kids. When they hear that we are Doug E. Fresh's kids they may automatically think we're wack," said Trips. "But when we rap they don't think of us as just Doug E. Fresh's kids."
Slim said accessing his father's wealth of knowledge about the industry has been the best advantage.
"I have an encyclopedia in my crib, and he can teach me things about the business because he has done it. A lot of the artists i look up to have come to him and asked for advice," said Slim. "The biggest thing I learned is that it doesn't happen overnight. It takes work."
The pair took that advice to heart, releasing three mixtapes so far to create buzz, including one with Cory Gunz, the son of hip-hop artist Peter Gunz. They are using YouTube and Twitter to garner new fans. Slim has started producing.
Next month, Square Off will release their album named "Money, Moët & Memories." The album focuses on their lives, things they've seen and struggles they've dealt with. There's also a fun side that talks about girls and partying.
Both Slim and Trips say they plan on giving back to their Harlem neighborhood, especially helping young kids and those coming home from prison.
"I want to come back and build schools and different businesses to help people get jobs because a lot of people in our neighborhood can't get jobs," said Slim.
Both say they know they have a tough road ahead but feel up for the challenge.
"A lot of people think we might have had it easier because of our father, but we've been rapping since 11 and are still putting out mixtapes and still in the streets. It hasn't been easy at all," said Trips. "My father told us this industry is not built for weak people."