The two elements that give the California hip-hop trio One Block Radius a distinct sound is the group's musical self-sufficiency and their format of soulful hooks (by lead vocalist and producer, Marty James) accompanied by rhymes (from Z-Man) and scratches (from DJ and vocalist MDA). The group came together when Marty and MDA were working out of North Hollywood in 2003 and felt they needed another vocalist. They were fans of Z-Man, who had released two albums independently, and reached out to him. Once Z-Man was in the fold they independently released their debut, Long Story Short, in 2005 and began opening up for De La Soul, The Pharcyde, and KRS-One. Their hard work paid off when they were signed to Mercury/Island Def Jam and released their self-titled major label debut in 2008.