It doesn't take a life of booze or drugs to write a rap song.
Four Frankfort men are out to prove hip-hop doesn't have to come from Los Angeles or New York or glamorize crime and life on the streets.
Chris "Hybrid" Ballinger, 28, Aaron "MattyRitch" Ritchie, 27, James "Boonie" Williams, 28, and Nathan "Phorensicz" Graham, 28, comprise the local hip-hop group Basement Upstairs " who say despite being from Kentucky, they perform music with an edge.
The quartet met in high school. Two attended Frankfort High and two attended Franklin County High. Ballinger said they were all friends and the friendship led them to create Basement Upstairs.
"Rap is something we loved and started experimenting with," Ballinger said.
The group has been together for 10 years, but started performing routinely a few years ago, Ballinger said.
Basement Upstairs derived its name from the location of its first studio, which started in a basement but then moved upstairs. Ballinger said the name refers to how the group is trying to bring underground music to a new level.
The men are all self-trained; they write and compose their songs, mainly in their South Frankfort studio, a room in a house shared by Ritchie and Williams that has a sound booth, a keyboard and other recording equipment. Basement Upstairs has already produced more than 10 albums, most recently a compilation album titled "DubTape MixTape Volume 2," and "Feel Good Music."
When not in their Frankfort studio, the men rent studio space in Louisville where they spend several hours producing albums. The recording studios are a step up from the karaoke machine and microphones the men used in high school, Graham said.
Ballinger said the band doesn't have a specific influence, but rather draws on rap styles from a variety of sources.
"I think we all have different genres in rap," he said. "Being in Kentucky we pull from all different regions."
"If I had to compare it, it'd be a middle-class type of rap," Ritchie said. "It's hard to describe. It's laid back, humble."
Ritchie said the songs just try to get people to have fun; the lyrics include topics about relationships as well as life in Frankfort and Kentucky.
"We don't talk about stuff we don't do," Graham said.
The group says that's what makes Basement Upstairs relatable and appealing.
They say audiences from children to grandmothers enjoy their shows and they've performed in front of a variety of local spectators at places such as Expo and Western Hills High School's prom in addition to venues in Louisville and Lexington.
The men, who have other full-time jobs, agree their main goals are to continue to perform and expand their notoriety. They're working on a music video and have established their own record label DubTape Records, which helps them work with other local artists.
They've also organized Franktown Live #2, a showcase for artists to perform in Frankfort. It's the second installment of the showcase, Ballinger said.
Basement Upstairs members say they will keep working to get word about their music out, even if it means plastering fliers all across town.
"Sometimes you will run into fans and that's cool to interact," Graham said.