CityBeat: The Icons’ creative chemistry

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I wrote some words in CityBeat about The Icons, who I owe a debt to because they were the first ones to tell me about The Underground Improv, which I’ve pretty much mentioned in all interviews since. One interesting thing I found out during the interview was that Vernon Bridges used to be apart of either Glass House, the pre-cursor to Icons, or maybe even Zentradi Camp, which pre-dates Glass House (I can’t remember which and I don’t feel like sifting through notes right now).

Icons also shed some more light on the infamous Glass House vs. Ill Mannered battle that happened at The Improv. I’ll try to get around to transcribing and publishing that, just to offer balance to Piff’s take on the subject. But I also don’t feel like stirring up 20-year-old beef (again) as if we’re still caring about 20-year-old beef instead of caring about our actual adult lives in 2013.

Anyway, read an excerpt below but be even cooler and click over to my employer here. Afterwards, check out The Icons’ new website and new album:

There was a time when rap groups were commonplace. There were actually hip-hop artists who weren’t pursuing solo careers, who basically didn’t perform outside the confines of a group dynamic. Hiphop heads enjoy arguing over the greatest individual rappers ever, but many don’t get that rap groups—like A Tribe Called Quest, Public Enemy, Outkast and Beastie Boys—are responsible for the most revered music in the hip-hop canon.

The Icons, a local group of rap vets, get it. On a Friday night in mid-August, at Sadaf, a Persian restaurant Downtown, for the release party for their latest EP, Not a Scratch on Us, they’re sporting matching uniforms, taking a cue from ’80s legends Run-DMC. While The Icons’ uniform–white hoodies, white cargo shorts and orange Nikes–isn’t as iconic as Run-DMC’s black fedoras, leather jackets and Adidas, their attention to branding displays a certain level of showmanship.

More importantly, they have chemistry. The group’s two MCs, Frosty da Know-matic and Ech-U-Sketch, trade lines back and forth constantly, finishing each other’s rhymes in a way that Run-DMC made famous.

“We’re challenging each other in front of you,” Sketch tells CityBeat. “Everything that runs onto each verse is a complete thought between both of us, so you gotta hear us both to catch it.” He also likens their interplay to “fighting for breathing space.”

Video: Odessa Kane – Pancho Bonifacio + Congrats on his SDMA Win

I’d wanted to post about this video a couple months ago just so I could plug Odessa Kane one more time and help secure the SDMA for him. But it turns out he got it anyway for “Best Hip Hop Album”. Congrats out to him for a much deserved victory.

I asked Kane about the meaning of this song’s title and he said, “It’s a play on two names, Pancho Villa and Andres Bonifacio, two revolutionaries, one Mexicano, one Filipino.”

Pancho Villa was a general during the Mexican Revolution–which, as I understand, was like Mexico’s Civil War–who attained somewhat mythical status as a Robin Hood-like figure. Similarly, Andres Bonifacio basically started the Phillipine Revolution in the late 19th century to drive out Spanish colonialists and is now widely regarded as a national hero. Both are certainly worthy figures to invoke for an artist of Kane’s caliber.

One last word: I’m not sure I get the logic of anyone congratulating Kane on his win but also condemning the SDMA’s as bullshit. Maybe you don’t get how logic works but in this scenario, calling the SDMA’s bullshit would effectively negate your congratulations. It then becomes this passive-aggressive, back-handed compliment like, “Good job on winning a bullshit award. You deserve it.” Let’s try not taking anything away from Kane, who as an artist and a human, deserves accolades upon accolades. The SDMA’s aren’t perfect. But they hit the nail on the proverbial head with this one.

Cypher In The Park II this Sunday

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I don’t know if you know Chris Mosher but he’s been trying to bring back what used to be the Daygo Hip-Hop BBQ. It was real cool while it lasted and if we can all agree not to be jerks to each other, we can try to make these things last.

I’ll admit now that I feel like a hypocrite posting this up because I actually can’t make it. But that’s because I’m flying back out to Nashville that morning. But if you’re actually in the city and you wanna get together with other rap peoples, you should roll through.

Throwback Raps: Ecay Uno – Always Out Numbered

Ecay Uno - Operation Elimination-cover
Ecay Uno “Always Out Numbered”

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I hadn’t realized until now that this song is 10 years old. But I’ve had Ecay’s Operation Elimination LP in my mp3 player for awhile and I’m constantly letting this track ride. Ecay’s just a dude I would never wanna fck with, which is appealing to me because people always fck with me and I’m trying to make it so they don’t. Which is why I take my advice from Uncle Ecay. I mean, how much more direct can you get with a hook that goes “Bitch niggas always out number real niggas! Bitch niggas always out number real niggas!” That’s one hard-ass hook.

Anyway, I have no idea who Ecay’s actually talking about but I wouldn’t be surprised if someone caught feelings about 10-year-old beef and called me out for having a personal vendetta against them. Uh no, I just like calling out the bish nukkas in my own life while stuck in traffic after a long day at work. Let’s just all stay calm and do better things in our lives.

Pacific San Diego: ‘Under Raps’ – Blame One, Marty MacPhly, Old English

Blame One
Pacific San Diego hit me up for their annual Music Issue. I wrote some small blurbs about Blame One, Old English, and Marty MacPhly though I gotta admit, I pretty much just plagiarized myself with MacPhly. And I feel like I’m representing him wrong now that I read it over. He’s not a joke rapper, he can just tell jokes and that’s cool!

Read below or even better, read from the link above so my employers feel better about employing me. I added my original introduction below though because I wanted to take casual shots at entire cities.

The big secret that the hip-hop world constantly seems to forget is that, yes, hip-hop does exist in places that aren’t New York or Los Angeles. San Diego may not be a huge media hub but we do have artists spitting rhymes over beats who are worth listening to. Check out a brief overview of just a few of the artists to be on the lookout for.

Blame One
Conventional wisdom says that hip-hop is a young man’s game but good luck telling that to North County rapper Blame One. At the ancient (by hip-hop standards) age of 38, he just released his sixth full-length album, Walk In The Sun, with beats from producer J-57.

Blame prides himself on making what he calls “grown man rap.” Far from the drug dealer fantasies portrayed in much of hip-hop, his music takes a more honest, blue-collar approach, often focusing on parenthood, spirituality, and the all-important meaning of life. Of course, when he’s not in the mood for maturity, Blame still likes to flex his verbal muscle with dizzying displays of battle-ready lyricism.

Old English
You’d be forgiven if you thought a hip-hop act named Old English took their moniker from the popular malt liquor brand of the same name. In reality, the inspiration comes from the early, 5th-century form of English most famously associated with the epic poem, Beowulf.

As it turns out, the National City duo splits the difference between malt liquor and classic literature. Their music is rife with seedy tales that prove the “Nasty City” nickname right. On the other hand, they wrap these tales up in artful, moody soundscapes that mesh jazz, punk, garage rock, psychedelic, and down-tempo influences together.

Marty MacPhly
Rappers like acting way cooler than they actually are. So it’s refreshing when you run across one willing to name himself after a nerdy, supporting character from Back to the Future. Hip-hop could probably use a little more self-deprecation and humor.

Thankfully, rapper Marty MacPhly is one funny dude. His music may cover familiar ground including getting money, getting women, and smoking on herb. But he covers those topics in new, interesting ways that have me dying with laughter. His boast that he “gets laid, you get laid-off” on the song, “Hit Me” is clearly the best use of parallelism ever in the history of literature.

Old English ft. Tiny Doo – No Safety

I’m back in SD for a couple of weeks. Wanted to throw up some bit of music while I have access to decent Internet.

At this point, OE’s Band in Amerikkka is almost a year old. But whatever, I’ve still been bumping it over in Cashville. When I first heard this song, I was sure Tiny Doo had stolen the album with his verse (when he threatens to “blow your thoughts out”?!!!). Then Saviorself comes on like, “Nah, I’m really not about to get murdered on my own shit”. Good move.

Produced by DJ Cmerock of Prhyme Suspect fame. It sounds like he slowed down the bassline from The White Stripes’ “Seven Nation Army” and then added some drums that he recorded in a basement. It’s dope.

Video: Real J. Wallace – Eons Above Tragic

The video credits “ill Rendition” with the beat but I remember this from RJW’s Bandcamp from a year ago, which credits 21 Gramz. New moniker for 21 Gramz, I guess?

Anyway, jazzy video for a jazzy song, like if an iPod commercial got filtered through Eastern mysticism. For me and my shitty Internet connection (I’m in Nashville and apparently, the South don’t give a fck about high speed Internet), it looks extra mystical because of my low resolution. Spiritual enlightenment always feels fuzzy and rough like that.

RJW still raps well especially those opening lines: “I was born in a mess of all ugly/ hunger in my tummy and a knife into the throat of anyone who rocks a Snuggie”. Later, he also acts a deity, promising to “flood the streets with the flames of the Anti-Christ daughter” before offering us a deal to give us water if we end war.

According to the Youtube description, this song will appear on RJW’s forthcoming album, Cali/Kali.

Video: Dee Compose – Robots DJ’s

Dee Compose shows off as a quadruple threat. That’s him on the beat, the rhymes, the cuts, and the video production. Talk about independent artist.

For the hook, he takes from DJ Premier’s mini-rant about radio DJ’s off “Peace of Mine” from Gang Starr’s The Ownerz album. The beat’s pretty interesting, sounds like if you took some big band/marching band horns from 00′s-era Southern hip-hop and gave it Preemo to chop up. You can’t hear the rhymes very well through the filter but it still works. The vocals become another instrument in the instrumental.

Video: 3D – Network [prod. Infinity Gauntlet]

3D is now officially part of Red Lotus Klan. The song in the video above is produced by Infinity Gauntlet, who lays down some seriously somber guitar strumming (samples). On this song, 3D comes off kinda like Vast Aire from Cannibal Ox in that he’s not often on-beat. But he says some kinda wild shit so it’s alright. “Slow dancing with brooms/ rubbing my fingers through the mop.” “Moonwalking on spaceships.” “The sweet sounds of police sirens/ underneath the city lights.” “California mindstate/ Original customs, primate.” If I had to choose between a rapper who could come up with an interesting image in his rhymes and a rapper who could flow like water, I’ll go with the imagery. Especially because too many rappers flow like water but won’t say anything worth hearing.

Hip-Hop The SDMA’s Missed


Wrote this the other day for SoundDiego. I should go ahead and apologize for fcking up this year on my part. I missed the emails that Kevin Hellman sent me about SDMA nominations so I didn’t get to nominate anyone this year. My bad.

A few other albums I was thinking of mentioning but then got a little too lazy to write about: that one Bo Revere tape that’s apparently out of print, Piff & V-Rock’s Pixelated Memoirs, and Old English’s Band In Amerikkka.

Nominations for the San Diego Music Awards were announced last week. Let me just say a couple things:

  1. Odessa Kane deserves to win everything ever for Cuetes & Balisongs so the least we can do is award him with Best Hip Hop Album.
  2. As for Best Hip Hop, I might have flipped a coin between Blame One, Black Resume, and Parker & The Numberman. But Blame and P&T have already won SDMA’s before and I like spreading the love. So I’d give it to Black Rez.

But that’s not the point of this post at all. The point of this post is to give some modicum of recognition to the San Diego hip-hop artists and albums that deserve much more recognition. Maybe they’ll get that recognition next year or maybe the artists will just move on to way cooler things like touring all around the world or getting props from their rap heroes or something. Some of them have already done so.

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