Photo by Colin Peddle
Fuelling the fire of the growing St. John’s hip-hop scene are M.C.’s Riley Fitzgerald (a.k.a the Rit) and Johnny Wheeler, known collectively as Solid Gritty.
The two began making songs together a few years back as The Villains along with a couple of friends who eventually lost interest, leaving Wheeler and Fitzgerald to determine what should be done with the all the beats and rhymes they had accumulated.
“Between school and work, everyone went their own way,” says Fitzgerald. “Even now it’s hard to do shows because Johnny is so busy. I’ve got the time but he doesn’t. Kind of like an absentee father situation.”
The group have been turning heads with their high energy live shows which reflects an appreciation for the old school give-and-take flow of groups like Run D.M.C., but with a modern, grimy sound that comes from a life of long St. John’s winters spent holed up in the house.
“I think our style is completely different,” says Wheeler. “We do it dirty, upbeat, in your face.”
“We record in the basement in our longjohns and winter jackets,” he says. “There’s no bubblegum stuff comin’ outta there when you got a blanket for your boots.”
Of the name, Fitzgerald explains, “it comes from Johnny having misheard one of my lyrics. The line is ‘My style is Gritty, call me Ritty,’ but he heard Solid Gritty, which I think is a better name than The Villains anyway.”
Wheeler—who is the reigning Newfoundland and Labrador Lightweight and Novice bodybuilding champ—even went so far as convincing Fitzgerald’s girlfriend to tattoo an SG on his wrist with a homemade tattoo gun to show his dedication.
“I think we really complement each other well,” he says. “Lyrically, I leave the dictionary alone and break down clear, where Riley is more metaphorical.”
“So far the reception has been great.” CB