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kingmaxwell

  • Music:

Connect the dots, follow the arrows: Humboldt Hip Hop

By Maxwell Schnurer, Times Standard June 5, 2008

Hip hop is commonly defined by the four elements (dancing, djing, graffiti writing, and emceeing), but it entails a whole host of other knowledge. Comic books, cinema, fashion, and of course location are crucial in understanding this cultural movement. Thinking about the geography of Humboldt Hip Hop can be a valuable way to consider this movement.

I rode my bike to The Works, Eureka’s fine independent record store on a sunny Sunday morning and discovered DJ/emcee/Dirty Rat Stir Fry Willie crouched over the record bins at a time many people would be in church. Willie is a charming, ecstatic, often costumed performer whose DJ nights featuring rock, soul and hip hop offer a chance to see this kinetic artist show off his musical inspirations. We shared words on disguises, records, motivations and spoke of our places in the universe.

Stir Fry Willie a handful of his fellow Dirty Rats rep Fortuna, while I honor the fair city of Eureka – which I consider the center of hip hop culture on the north coast. Affordable, accessible, and complete with the semi-regular drama of cities ten times its size, the stories of hip hop bubble through the record stores, clubs and streets of this beautiful city.

A few blocks away from the record store, I am dazzled by the art on the alley wall of the Accident Gallery, a crucial local performance/gallery space. It’s worth noting that the alleys of several local businesses have become dizzying optic-stimulating art spaces. One business contacted me with the tale that they’ve added large full-color art pieces to their outside wall largely to deter low-quality writing on their walls. The outside writers deserve kudos for sharing their visions with the citizenry and the idiot who has been writing on trees deserves 100% shame.

Among other cross currents that blow through the Accident Gallery have been the recent spate of slam poetry contests run by the feminist and verbally-savvy crew A Reason To Listen. After some cut-throat preliminaries, the Humboldt Slam Team is now final and prepared to represent the lost coast in the world of stage poetry performance. Carved out of the competition, the newly inaugurated Slam team consists of: Vanessa Pike, Brad Wilson, Mischief Mic, and Lorena Boswell. The Humboldt team will travel to the national championship in Madison Wisconsin in August.

Backwoods star Garth Culti-Vader had an accident recently with some injuries. His recovery period was spent crouched over a computer editing his first film. Titled: Chronic TV: Humboldt Hip Hop Volume 1, the movie shows Garth rocking a handful of live shows, a new song from Sub Sab emcee Elision, a video from producer emcee Myster DL and some high-speed, dank-inspired editing.

Accompanying Myster DL into the Universal Balance Productions Studios, I ran into Massagana vocalist and emcee Ishi Dube. Ishi has been performing and rocking hard for 2008 bringing conscious reggae and repping his location to audience at a moment’s notice.

Myster DL was in the studio to work on a couple of tunes, and it was rad to see producer/guitarist Piet “Demolition” Dalmolian lay down some guitar solos and tweak the pro tools. DL is a behind-the-scenes kind of musician, whose catalogue of tracks is rich with underground stars. With some time spent soaking up the sounds in Miami, his albums are catchy and kicking. Check out his recent album The Storm, and his first local mix tape Humboldt County Stories hosted by Onyx emcee Sonny Seeza.

I cadged an invitation to see Dirty Rats GMG and Stir Fry Willie do some MPC damage in their Fortuna, Dirty Rats lair. Watching a beat evolve from vinyl to chopped loop under the talented fingers of GMG was a real honor. As I exited Stir Fry Willie laced me with some of the Dirty Rats back catalogue, including the 2004 album the Plague, and a copy of his ultra-rare first album Piss in the Crisper. Pass the verses or ride in hearses.

Humboldt State’s Poetry is Not a Luxury collective have been hosting a series of politically charged open-performance spaces, including contributions by Watts Prophet Amde Hamilton and Anarchist Black Panther Ashanti Alston.

L.C.A., or Lower Class Alcoholics have been opening shows all over Humboldt, including for the recent Devin the Dude stop. They’ll be touring around California in June supporting their album Bottom of the bottle, concluding in Eureka with a star-studded Red Fox Tavern show Friday June 13th with Himp C, the Resonators, and the Republican Duck Hunters.

Local bass player and Opti-Pop emcee, J the Sarge has a new project with Freestyle Fellowship star Myka 9 called Magic Heart Genies – the debut video is out on the internet and the sound is quick and slippery – check it out and get the album when it drops this summer.

Subliminal Sabotage emcee MCP has released his long-anticipated solo album I’m in love with death. The release is worth the wait – featuring keyboards masterfully played by B Swizlo, contributions from many of the Subliminal Sabotage/Nucleus musicians carving out a a smooth plate for MCP’s whisky tortured dark vocals.

Humboldt Rocker Reckless Rex organized and hosted a B-Boy dance battle last month and dancers swarmed to fight for the thousand dollar top prize in a two-on-two breakdancing battle which was captured by global stars the Break Disciples -- RoxRite and Kid David. Claiming the victory in the popping battle was JHits who will be coming back through town to teach some workshops with Rex this weekend. Check the workshops June 12 at 8pm and June 15 at 6pm in the old creamery building in Arcata.

Respect the geography, and keep the music and culture moving forward ‘til next time.

Tags: dirty rats, hip hop, humboldt, humboldt rockers, lca, magic heart genies, mcp, stir fry willie
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