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Ink: Humboldt Superhero

Times Standard, August 1, 2008
Humboldt is thick with musical talent. One of the casualties of the proliferation of rappers in this area is that some voices get overlooked. When Dirty Rat producer GMG handed me a CD-R labeled Humanoids from the Deep, it joined a fairly large pile of new music, but it only took one play to stand out.

The Humanoid emcee’s Ink and the Broke Superhero were not only musically talented, but they were clever with the rhymes. As Ink says on “emcee for life,” “If it’s a war of words, I hit you with a triple letter score.” The Humanoids from the Deep mixed the political with the humorous, and created just plain old great hip hop.

Ink is a Humboldt musician – and I was honestly curious about his background. I called him up and got a few words from the emcee on his collaboration with Fortuna’s Dirty Rats, (appropriately called Dirty Humanoids) and a little history.

A California native, Ink’s musical history begins with what he calls the “golden age” of west coast rap. “Between ‘90 and ‘92, when it exploded, really good stuff came out. Being focused was key, the videos, and magazines had real hip hop. There wasn’t really alternative pop rap. The real hip hop cats were getting all the publicity. And that’s where we learned our style.”
When questioned about his own turn to write rhymes, he explains: “I started messing around in the late eighties maybe. Goin’ at it hard and, putting it together by at least 1990, and then I took a long break in-between. There were years where I still wrote, here and there, but wasn’t doing anything as far as making music.”

San Jose friends became musical allies when a bass player created some beats for Ink and he joined the Broke Superhero to make Humanoids from the Deep. Ink makes clear that his move to Humboldt was the catalyst for an on-again-off-again musical project to become an album.

“It’s a good place to make music. I had no idea, when I first got here. I wasn’t sure that there was a hip hop scene. Running into Gabe, (GMG), discovering some cats trying to do some real hip hop. To find cats so close to where I was staying. There is more shows and underground stuff than I would have thought here. It’s real cool.”

The collaborations with the Dirty Rats have culminated in the Dirty Humanoids record which Ink promises should be out “within a couple of weeks.” “Every Rat is on it. The nucleus is me, GMG and Stir Fry Willie. My homie, the Broke Super Hero came out and he recorded two or three tracks. My friend Hochii came up and did a few tracks, and soon we had enough for an album.”

Whether rhyming about work blues on “Now,” or cracking sly comic book references, Ink’s couplets are fresh. When asked about his style, he remarks that his lyrics are: “digestible, understandable – not watered down, but I want to have a point. I like the fun stuff, the parties, but usually when I’m rhyming I’m at least trying to express myself. It’s not really haphazard.”

The creativity obviously flows out of Ink – he is cooking up a second solo album. “It’s pretty far along. More than half of the beats are lined up. A lot of GMG beats, and a few Sonny Wong beats, and a few from my homies back home.”

Since I first heard the Humanoids from the Deep I’ve had the pleasure of seeing Ink a few times on the microphone and his live show are intense. Most recently his tour on the stage at Franco’s birthday party was explosive. Kudos to an area emcee whose energy and output raise the bar for Humboldt hip hop.

In other hip hop news, August 15 welcomes a nice all-day hip hop festival Outlaws and Angels at the Southern Humboldt Park in Garberville. Headliner is Everlast – former emcee/instigator of House of Pain, whose post-heart attack solo work is surprisingly deep. Lets hope for some tracks off “Eat at Whitey’s.”

Mystic, the Moonshine Bandits, LCA, the Resonators, and a handful of other local artists will be on hand to make sure that the stage stays bumping. Expect a friendly independent-minded festival out in the sun. Beer garden (for grown ups) and food vending will round the day festival experience. Get tickets early.

If hip hop is based in youth culture, then the all-ages Placebo collective is an important component to keeping authentic expression alive in the area. Sunday saw wonderful show with the increasingly savage Eureka-based Revocateurs, whose punk rock break-beat style goaded the crowd into motion.

But it was Eugene’s Scrap Yard Swag offered a folk/punk combination of accordion/guitar/drums/bass/violin that motivated much ruckus. No one else might think so, but I think that a dozen Eureka punks moshing to an accordion is the most hip hop thing I’ve seen in a few years. Check out the Placebo.net for upcoming opportunities for all-ages anarchist circle-pit redemption.

Thanks to all the promoters and organizers who put on all-ages shows, roller derby bouts, rap music festival, or anything thoughtfully provocative.
Tags: hip hop, ink, local music
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