Squeezing between a bed, a computer desk and a couch are seven members of the hip-hop group Hygher Level.
They're silently cheering Brandon "Clepto" Battle as he spits a verse into a mic facing the wall in Manuel "Complex" Cox's Fort Myers bedroom.
Together, Hygher Level — nine men and one woman — is a group of rappers working together to make their rap dreams a reality.
"We can make more noise together than we could in this town if we were doin' it individually," Clepto said.
In the group, there is no jealousy. There is no animosity. And there is no selfishness.
They collaborate. They work on individual songs. They release albums as a group and individually. One of their members, Codell Fyoucha Paige, teamed with two other Fort Myers rappers and began a label and is opening a studio.
Hygher Level's unified approach is contrary to the typical animosity in hip hop culture. But it isn't new.
Wu-Tang Clan, ranked the No. 1 Hip Hop group of all time by About.com in 2008, is one of the most popular groups that followed this approach. Ol' Dirty Bastard, RZA and Method Man, are just few of its better known members.
Rappers, typically, joust, jab or jump to reach the top. Even without guarantees.
"Everybody wants to be a rapper now," said Frank Lini, a Fort Myers rapper, "to the point where they hate on people already doin' it."
One way is through rap battles, like 239Takeover locally, two rappers go after each other by discrediting the other until one is deemed the victor.
"People use that as a publicity stunt," Lini said. "They hope it will help their careers take off faster, but I don't use that as tool. If you gotta use somebody else's fame to try to come up, you're not going on with your own craft. Let the music speak."
He said the animosity is prevalent in Fort Myers and believes rappers should work together rather than hating on each other.
For example, Lini is often perceived to be a rival competing with Plies.
"People are always thinking about who's the best rapper," Lini said. "Plies has a record deal, but Frank Lini's better, he should have a record deal, so people twist it and make it more than it really is."
And when rappers make it, Lini says, they should come back to their community and use their fame to help the underdogs. Slowly, the community itself has started to band together. An underground local magazine, Ford Entertainment, captures the hip hop culture in Fort Myers.
To help draw more attention to area talent and support the budding emcees, D.J. Scrap "Scrappy" Jackson of 105.5 The Beat held a contest called Mic Check Mondays last year. It began with 186 rappers recording 16 bars and competing against each other.
"There is talent in Southwest Florida. The volume is ridiculous," Jackson said. "Everyone wants to be hip hop artists, Let's say 1 percent of them is super, but that 1 percent super in here is not getting mentored, not getting the door opened for them, not getting the opportunity that otherwise a New York cat would get, or a Detroit cat for that matter."
A Fort Myers rapper, Resin, won the contest and was given an opportunity to record a track and meet with record executives among other opportunities.
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