Totally in Sync, Tribe Mafia Joins DAWA's Black Music Month Residency

Austin hip-hop duo talks TV placements ahead of Antone's show

Still the Same: Chinasa Broxton and Carlos Dashawn Daniels of Tribe Mafia (photo by Wayne Lim)

Austin hip-hop duo Tribe Mafia, composed of Chinasa Broxton and Carlos Dashawn Daniels, got their start in music the way most high schoolers do: on the T-Pain Auto-Tune app, obviously.

Nearly 10 years since their escapades on Pflugerville basketball courts and recording songs in bathroom stalls, Broxton and Daniels have opened for radio hitmaker Akon in Brazil and landed dual song placements on a CW television series following a distribution deal with Empire. Next, the pair will perform at Antone's Nightclub on June 16 for the Sonic Frootz residency, also happening on June 8, 23, and 30.

The monthlong showcase, co-presented by local arts organization DAWA (Diversity Awareness & Wellness in Action), will feature musicians from across Texas in celebration of the nationally recognized Black Music Month. Also observed: the relaunch of the musician-supporting Black Live Music Fund, conceptualized by DAWA founder and Austin Music Commissioner Jonathan "Chaka" Mahone in 2020 before he took the effort to the private sector. Mahone's musical duo Riders Against the Storm headlines each week, and acoustic R&B singer Ivy Roots, indie rock act Clarence James, and neo-soul artist Lunar RAE compose a small sampling of the many acts to watch.

"We're finally getting a voice here," Broxton says. "It's important for Black artists here in Austin to have a venue. There's not a lot of venues here that support Black music. Before we had a band, we couldn't get any shows."

The incorporation of a live band created unexpected opportunities for Tribe Mafia after the release of their rambunctious full-length debut, Teepee Gang, in 2020. According to Broxton, he and Daniels wanted to switch up their act.

"When we got a band, that's when we got our sponsorship with Sennheiser, Ford, and C4 Energy," he continues. "It's weird, like, 'Oh, maybe that's why everyone has a band here in Austin.'"

Daniels quips: "We wanted to do a live band version of our songs, we didn't know it was going to turn into that."

Since then, Tribe Mafia has set their sights on larger ventures, like creating music for film and television with their agent at InDigi Music Group. Lately, the longtime friends have successfully landed snappy singles "Reach for the Stars" and "Hype Me Up" on the CW's All American. The tracks were just two of more than 60 submissions the duo wrote for various TV shows in 2022, according to Daniels.

"It was so many different songs, we forgot about them," he continues. "We [were] like, 'Oh, so I guess we're never gonna get placed.' That all started happening this year. I thought it was impossible. Like, 'Oh, that's a real thing.' You can actually get better and learn."

The duo also secured music placements in a handful of indie feature films, including one track in Keli'i Grace's My Partner and 10 songs in John Michael Nolan's Heartbreak Falls. By these numbers, Broxton and Daniels have cracked the code to songwriting for sync licensing, which matches music with movies or other visual content. Tribe Mafia sometimes churns out as many as "five songs in one night" or are just "freestyling the tracks," according to Daniels.

"You just have to be able to create fast," Broxton adds. "You can make this song the best song in the world, and it might never get picked. Or it might get picked 10 years from now. You won't know until BMI sends you a check."

Of the surplus of songs the two crank out, some remain stuck in sync-submission purgatory due to exclusive rights agreements. Regardless, Tribe Mafia remains optimistic and ambitious about their craft, tirelessly working full-time day jobs until they can pivot to full-time musicianship.

"It comes from an early age because of our family and our parents," Daniels says of the duo's work ethic. "They already told us you're going to have to work hard no matter what, even if you don't have a dream. Anything you want to do that makes you happy without getting paid – that's how you know that's your passion. Why wouldn't you want to work hard for that?"

Even after their efforts for TV and film, Tribe Mafia successfully generated three albums' worth of their own music, currently awaiting release as Broxton and Daniels wrap accompanying photo shoots and music videos across the globe. In the queue? A dancehall record, a heartbreak mixtape, and a cultural compilation, all of which will expand beyond the duo's hip-hop beginnings.

"Stay tuned for our new music," Broxton grins. "Let's keep building the city, let's keep building the tribe. That's what we're here for."

Until Tribe Mafia's next album, looking for their music onscreen – or on the Antone's stage, where 2022 single "We Matter" will make its full-band live debut – will have to suffice.

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Chinasa Broxton, Carlos "Dashawn Daniels" Moore, DAWA, Black Music Month, Black Live Music Fund, Antone's Nightclub, Riders Against the Storm, Sonic Frootz, Diversity Awareness & Wellness in Action, Jonathan "Chaka" Mahone

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