Brenton Gomez (left) and Adam Haug (right). Photo by Harrison Martin.

M34N STR33T is the brainchild of Brenton Gomez (alias Conny Franko) and Adam Haug (alias Haunted Gauntlet). The name anchors them to the place where they created the music: 34th and 33rd streets in Gifford Park, running north to south through midtown Omaha. Haug sees this as the mean in a mathematical sense, the common ground where everything comes together — where it all began.

“When I think of M34N STR33T,” Haug said, “it’s a good place, like Sesame Street. A place where people come together and get along … a collaboration between both of our worlds making this sound.”

Under the stage name Conchance, Gomez was one of the first hip-hop artists to play the Slowdown in early 2008. Haug came up in the local punk, hardcore, singer-songwriter, rap and hip-hop scenes.

Gomez and Haug have been friends for about 13 years, starting to collaborate when they were students at UNO. Their first song together ended up on M34N STR33T’s 2014 album Mutants of Omaha. Each has his own solo project as well. As M34N STR33T, they’ve played Maha Music Festival, the main room at Slowdown, The Waiting Room, O’Leaver’s, and gone-but-not-forgotten Brothers.

Haug is the instrumentalist. He spends hours searching for source material for his beats and samples, digging through old records, YouTube, and VHS tapes for music loops and dialogue. Some of the sounds were written by Haug on piano or guitar. “People assume with rap and hip-hop in general that the art of sampling is, like, a cheat, or an easy way out,” he said. “It’s a real hodge-podge, quilted-patchwork collage of sound.”

Gomez provides the counterpoint to this patchwork collage. “He’s definitely the poet, the lyricist. Constantly reading and writing,” Haug said. “His style of jazzy flipping and ripping, dodging bullets style of scatter rap … that contradiction between harshness of his style with the more melodic stuff … It’s that contrast between him and me that makes M34N STR33T special.”

Haug sees himself as the man behind the curtain, “constantly in front of my laptop doing the art, social media, making the beats, the graphics,” while Gomez is the face of the group.

They often start with a simple loop or progression. Gomez writes the lyrics, and Haug refocuses the song toward those words. Haug noted the authenticity of the lyrics: “Conny doesn’t write about stuff he doesn’t know.”

Gomez thinks of their music as art rap because everything has deeper meaning beyond the surface. He loves the process of storytelling “the way you can use language in a very unorthodox manner, really showcase who you are.” His lyrics also draw on a love of literature, especially larger-than-life magical realist authors such as Gabriel García Márquez and Jorge Luis Borges.

Cover Art for M34N STR33T single Hungry. Photography by Joshua Foo. Credit: Joshua Foo

Gomez and Haug also make a point of collaborating with local artists and photographers when they can. They brought in Joshua Foo to do the photography for their latest release, Hungry, and got Foo’s brother Sam and Lauren Abell to make the video teaser. The track started as a livestream on Twitch, with Haug making beats and playing guitar for an online audience, and Gomez writing lyrics after the livestream.

Gomez describes Joshua Foo as “one of the most potent creatives I know in the city.” They had known each other for years, back when Caffeine Dreams was a creative hub in the city, and rekindled their collaboration when they ran into each other at Archetype Coffee in 2021.

This year, M34N STR33T has an album coming out on LA label Org Music. Gomez developed a relationship with the label over several years, and now the record nears its release day on vinyl. (Alprazolam)

As someone who collects VHS, vinyl, and other physical artifacts of music and pop culture, Haug is excited for something tangible to share with fans. Gomez has released music on vinyl under different aliases as well. “If the internet was to shut off today, some people’s artwork would be lost into the metaverse, or whatever we call this shit. You can walk down the street and buy and hold the things we’ve created,” Gomez said. “They’re artifacts of our existence.”

Haug wants to make Omaha proud but also expand their audience outside the city through this release. “This is not what’s popular on the radio. This is uniquely us. We’ve always been the underdogs, the DIY … We prided ourselves in coming from that underground music scene.”

The new album, titled Besos, is for Gomez a way of talking about how to feel love. He sees the power of a kiss as a vehicle for love and affection, something that can build a bond or destroy it.

After Besos, they plan to continue doing limited vinyl releases and are already working on their next album.

Haug is excited for the future.

“Some of our best art we’ve put out as a group is on the horizon.”

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