By LA Weekly
By Henry Rollins
By Weekly Photographers
By Shea Serrano
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Dan Weiss
By Erica E. Phillips
By Kai Flanders
|Photo by Mike Piscitelli|
Nothing helps: not DJ Cheapshot's steady groove, nor the enthusiastic representing of SOB's posse -- with boisterous assistance from the megahuge Forty, raising his meaty arms and spewing the usual crowd-inciting clichés ("Styles of Beyond in tha housssse!"). MCs Takbir and Ryu futilely shout their rhymes at the thoroughly frisked crowd of perhaps 300 -- teen skater boys, preppy-looking girls in miniskirts who bob and weave to the muddy bass beat, and gravity-defying esés whose breakdancing spins turn them into human drill bits.
The MCs pack it in after 20 minutes. They had a feeling it would be like this. Besides, they coulda backed out when Tak tore cartilage in an ankle while performing photo-shoot acrobatics two days earlier. Instead, he's carted around the crowded stage in a wheelchair, occasionally hopping up to punctuate a line. However, when you're the San Fernando Valley's great hip-hop hope, with a freshly inked major-label deal and a national tour in the works, a bad show ain't no thing.
Styles of Beyond -- the unlikely alliance between a buggin' white broken-homie with Abe Lincoln whiskers and a mellow African-American hip-hop legacy -- emerged from a suburban swamp that has little in common with the bitches, blunts, ho's and gunshots that are the earmarks of West Coast hip-hop. Which is what makes their debut album, the sly and slinky 2000 Fold (on the Dust Brothers' Hi-Ho Records, though originally released on the indie Bilawn label last fall), such a pleasant shock to the bootay. It's a blast back to the day when rap was pure joy, sans the politics, exemplified in "Easy Back It Up," with its celebratory refrain, "Put the needle on the plate." 2000 Fold is hardcore without the horror, informed by that which all kids worship -- Japanese animation, comic books, the Discovery Channel -- and driven by classic hip-hop grooves produced by Vin Skully and assistance from an array of guest DJs, with a word up to the Beasties and A Tribe Called Quest, and a twist of Chic's "Good Times" turned on its head.
A concept album of sorts, 2000 Fold stars Ryu (Ryan MaGinn) and Takbir (Takbir Bashir) as badass superheroes who arrive in a radio-unfriendly universe to turn the beat around and save it from a morass of shit-talkin' gangstas and Puffyesque poseurs. The record's loaded with the clever, boastful rhyming of freestyle-battle vets: "Turn the rats on the ashes of what rap was before you trapped it/locked in a box as big as this room, but you can't keep hip-hop captive!" they shout in "Styles of Beyond (Style Warz)," over a tricky, low-down beat supplied by DJ Rhettmatic.
Outside the studio, however, the capes are off. "I just think we're trying to revitalize it, give it that old spark it used to have," Ryu says. "We're not trying to save it, because it's not dead, it's just a lot different than we used to hear it."
Not that the MCs had any idea what they were on to when they began recording 2000 Fold more than two years ago. "We didn't purposely set out to create a certain sound or anything like that," Ryu explains as he sucks down an 18-ouncer of Newcastle Brown Ale. He's observing the happy-hour geezers at SOB's away-from-home headquarters, the C-Park English pub Scotland Yard, whose only obvious nods to the hip-hop nation are an SOB CD in the jukebox and a Jurassic Five sticker on the ceiling of the men's bathroom. Tall and blond, Ryu does most of the talking, punctuating his sentences with perfectly cultivated rapspeak: ". . . and shit," ". . . know what I'm saying?" Takbir, 22, sits back with a green cap covering his dreads, his swollen ankle elevated, chiming in only intermittently, in chill mode after tossing back a Vicodin for the pain, washed down with his own Newcastle.
What sparked them were the old-school sounds they heard on the late radio station KDAY: Big Daddy Kane,
De La Soul, Tribe, the Beasties, and an artist KDAY never played . . . Grandmaster Mr. Mojo Risin'. "The Doors were a major influence," Ryu says. "Jim Morrison was the original fucking rapper."
If nothing else, 2000 Fold channels into the KDAY heyday, providing a funked-up alternative to the watered-down mainstream rap of 1999. "We don't have a deep message," says Tak. "We're just trying to embrace all the different subcultures of hip-hop. The KROQ listener's gonna get a Styles of Beyond album."
Despite pressure from the purists, SOB won't be gunslingin' any time soon. "It's really a hardcore hip-hop without the crap in it," Ryu says. "You could still be hardcore and have rough lyrics and sick-ass beats without playing yourself in the process."
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