Just a mile over from the Buffalo Niagara Airport, friends Michael Lawrenson and Ed Kerber meet up to hang out after their day of school and work is over. However, when the door to the side room off the Lawrenson house closes, everything changes. The room becomes a recording studio, Lawrenson becomes producer Minel, Kerber becomes rapper Neetchy, and together they form the collective 200 Kids Outside.
“Me and Ed first met through a mutual friend,. She used to rap with him, and he always took it a little bit more seriously. She knew I made beats so she had us link up. He heard a song I put online, came over, hit it off, and went from there,” Minel says, referencing their mutual friend and local musician, Ellen Pieroni. Pieroni went to high school with Neetch and knew Minel through the Buffalo music scene.
“I actually dated Mike in high school. Ed and I were really good friends, I think because of band,” Pieroni recalls. She says she used to rap with Kerber at the time, and even after she and Lawrenson broke up, they remained in touch. She knew that putting the two guys together could only help both of them.
“I wanted to be a rapper and not sound bad. Minel allowed me to do this. I’m very lucky to be in my situation,” Neetch says of their first meeting and motives for working together. Pieroni knew Neetch was interested in rapping seriously, as he and his friends had done many small raps together growing up.
Though the duo has only been working together for a little more than two years, they have a respectable amount of work under their belts.
“Show him what we’re working on,” Neetch suggests as he points to the chair in front of the makeshift yet impressive sound board Lawrenson has set up. Much like their previous three releases—0 A.D., Autopilot, and Ya’ll Need A Drink—the sound is hard to describe, but the duo themselves refer to it as “cloud rap.”
200 Kids Outside explains that this is more than just a hobby for them. “People make a living doing this as their job. We come home from our jobs to do this,” says Neetch, who is currently working a part-time job and attending college. No matter how busy their schedules, they always make time, meeting up three to four times a week on average.
“We’re influenced by everyone who’s ‘doing them’ entirely. So no matter what people are doing, if they’re turning up, doing them, being different, that’s what we like,” says Minel. The group considers “cloud rap” artists like Young Lean and Bladee as artists to emulate, but also draw from a wide variety of artists ranging everywhere from Coldplay to Lil B.
The influences are not strictly limited to music. The duo have a sense of humor that shines through in their lyrics, artwork, and stage presence, but most notably on their Twitter accounts. “We love memes,” says Neetch. “That’s comedy nowadays.” At their inaugural show, Minel wore a shirt with a “200” emoji on it, and Neetch wore one with a collection of his favorite viral images plastered on the front.
Their Twitter has drawn them some negative attention as well. “If it was meant to be a polite thing where you have an introduction, a header, and a ‘sincerely’ at the end…we already have e-mail, real mail, and can meet in person. Let Twitter be Twitter,” explains Minel. The group has no problem letting followers and other Buffalo rappers know that they’re not afraid to speak their minds. Neetch says, “If you go on my Twitter and it bothers you, I’ve won.”
Considering Neetch’s age, the options they have at the moment are limited. “Since I’m still 20, we’re pretty much limited to Broadway Joe’s and Mohawk Place,” he says. The latter hosted their inaugural show in late January. The duo emphasized that these shows are being used as practice, where they can gain their footing and serve as almost a “preseason” to the later half of the year. “Once he turns 21, it’s game over. We can kind of sit back, be a little more thoughtful about what we want to do,” says Minel, referencing Kerber’s 21st birthday.
But the group is not letting age slow them down. They’re too future-minded to let that happen. “We understand nostalgia—it’s the same reason we watch Nickelodeon,” Minel says, referencing the landscape of Buffalo’s hip hop scene. “If you like something that happened 20 years ago, that’s cool, but you’re in the past and standing in the way of people who are doing something new.”
200 Kids Outside will play the Waiting Room Saturday, February 27, with Goldy Brinkman and Snatchemup Records, and Sunday, February 28, as a part of Burt Fest 2016.