Creativity is challenging without community, a problem that the up-and-coming OffKey Entertainment is looking to solve. They aren’t a band, or a record label, but something bigger than that.
“We are a collective, we are a group, we are a family,” I’m told on the porch of a Carver house venue. It’s a Friday night, and music blares from the backyard as the six of us sit in a circle and talk about the cause that’s brought us all here on this late summer night.
OffKey is made up of, but not limited to, a handful of talented Richmond-based musicians: drummer, artist, and, according to other members, the glue of the group, Timothy Maverick, singer-songwriter Chyna Monay, rappers and musicians Rob Jae and D.kno, and keyboard player Allen Macuno.
The artists of OffKey are all hard at work on their own creative endeavors. Chyna does vocals for latin funk band Los Malcriados. Allen just wrapped up playing keyboards for Beautiful: The Carol King Musical at the Virginia Repertory Theater. D.kno just released a music video for his single, “Away from Me.” Rob Jae put out an album, Boy-Scout, and is working on a music video. Timothy, in addition to bringing all of these guys together, is working on his own album, as well.
Regardless of their individuality, the group fosters a sense of togetherness. During their set, they took turns sharing the mic, switching between songs. They were accompanied by the band The Eye of Life, which features Allen on keys, Timothy on drums, as well as two additional artists and community members: Nathan Fussell on bass, and Rinatt Montoya on guitar.
The set ranged in genre, from neo-soul to hip-hop to soft rock. The audience was not only captivated, but immersed in the performance. The array of sound kept folks on their toes, never quite knowing what to expect next, but loving it all the same.
There is, without a doubt, an insane amount of talent in OffKey, and that talent is made stronger by their collective. They’re best friends, and the confidence and support they give one another strengthens their artistry.
“I have so much praise, everything for the group man. Everything we’ve been doing for the past two years has been amazing, the best times of my life and the best growing points of my life, as well,” Rob Jae said.
I could tell he meant it, and that it was felt by the others, as well. Their chemistry is palpable; probably because they came together organically. Timothy, D.kno, and Rob were always good friends that made music, and at some point along the way, they started doing it together.
“All three of us have been doing music forever, like 10 years, something like that. We just kept rolling with the music, then the main man Maverick decided to make a whole collective and his own band, and that’s kind of what brought this all together,” D.kno said.
Allen, also a long-time friend, was next to join, and then Chyna joined after seeing the group live at their first performance. “Allen hit me up and was like ‘Come through,’ and it kind of just flourished from there,” she said.
OffKey’s doors are always open. “We work with all different artists across Richmond, we try to advertise it that way, because it is a community space,” Chyna continued. “It’s how we all found each other, honestly.”
Their physical space, Safe Haven, is a recording studio out in Midlothian. There, they record group sessions, and they’ve made it clear that all artists are welcome.
“To be honest, just pull up. We’ve had all types of artists at the Safe Haven. You get there, you can make any type of music you want,” Rob Jae said. “It’s a family type of thing, but at the same time it’s a business that we’re trying to push forward.”
As a collective OffKey has released one single, “PEACEOFMIND”, divided into three parts to reflect the diversity of its artists. The project is eight minutes long, and it mixes the styles of each artist beautifully, with mesmerizing vocals and flow moving into blissful instrumental sequences seamlessly.
“That was really the point… that each person in the collective would have their shine on this song, even down to how melodies were born with Allen, the names, the solos and everything,” Timothy said.
The song was actually created to meet the demand for a music video. A friend of theirs in the film department at Virginia Commonwealth Univsersity called on them for a class project. Her class wanted to shoot a music video for OffKey, even though they didn’t have a single yet — a true testament to the group’s presence in the artistic community of Richmond.
The collaborative nature of how this single and music video came to be really solidifies OffKey’s by-everybody, for-everybody approach. The collective isn’t only for musicians, but artists across the board. Creative community transcends medium.
“The main goal with us is to spread that message that you don’t have to be alone in this journey, that there’s people who are like-minded, like you, who just love the essence of being creative,” Timothy said. “It’s just one of the many things that humanity can agree upon, that being creative is all types of a reliever… creativity can solve so many problems.”
Want to get involved? Hit them up on Instagram, @offkey.ent.