A well-documented dichotomy exists within hip-hop, perhaps more so than in any other musical genre. On one side are artists creating ring-tone-ready commercial-radio bangers heavy on hooks but light on substance. Lurking just beneath the surface, though, is the yang: an underground DIY scene that creates (sometimes painfully) “real” hip-hop and inspires a rabid, but smaller, fan base. The go-getters in this latter category rival their early-’80s punk-movement counterparts in their focus on self-sufficient production, promotion, recording, touring and distribution. Haters, of course, argue that DIY rappers work this way not by choice but by necessity: It’s not so much that they harbor anticorporate ideals, but that they make music that the mainstream rejects. But even if that’s halfway true, history has repeatedly proven that what the mainstream rejects is often more durable than the shit the masses lap up, and better withstands the test of time. The end result: Cappadonna drives gypsy cabs while Chingy pimps his whip.


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Not a belly-itcher in the bunch: The home team sets up.

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L.A.’s Living Legends crew, one of the biggest success stories of the indie-rap movement, have sold close to 300,000 units of their various solo and group efforts — all by them-damn-selves. Formed in the mid-’90s, when L.A.-based MCs Scarub, Murs and Eligh (then part of a group called 3 Melancholy Gypsys) moved up to the Bay Area, the Legends hooked up with Sunspot Jonz and Luckyiam.psc, also know as the Mystik Journeymen. After like-minded NoCal MCs Bicasso and Aesop joined the fold, the entire crew moved their home base back down to Los Angeles in 1999.

The collective handle all facets of their operation, the living embodiment of their longtime slogan, “Control destiny.” Last month, the LL crew released an EP called The Gathering on their Legendary Music imprint, each track featuring all eight MCs. And this Friday, the Legends perform at the Music Box at the Henry Fonda Theater. To get you primed and ready for the new album, what follows is a dot-connector of their various backgrounds, many side projects and thoughts on being part of a large group. It would have been easy to bind it all together by referencing another famous 16-legged hip-hop crew, the Wu-Tang Clan. But this being baseball season, we went another way. Murs proved a little hard to get hold of, but what follows is your basic “who’s who” of the legendary Living Legends crew.

First Base: Luckyiam

Projects/Affiliations: Mystik Journeymen, the CMA, Underbosses, Bad Dudes, ME & YOU

Vital stats: Performed at Leimert Park’s Good Life Café in the early ’90s; moved to the Bay Area after the L.A. riots, where he co-founded Mystik Journeymen and Living Legends.

Best thing about being in a large group: “Strength and a dope variety of MCs can only come in numbers.”

Worst thing about being in a large group: “Splitting dough eight ways sucks.”

Second Base: The Grouch

Projects/Affiliations: Zion I & the Grouch, the Grouch & Eligh, the CMA, Sound Advice EP (with Daddy Kev)

Vital Stats: Grew up in Oakland; first performed with Mystik Journeymen in 1995.

Best: “[It’s] faster making songs because you don’t have to write as much, and it’s cool having at least seven friends around wherever our group goes.”

Worst: “It’s hard to get eight people on the same page to do anything: Taking a picture, making music, leaving the hotel, whatever it is, it’s always a major production.”

Shortstop: Murs

Projects/Affiliations: 3MG, Felt, the Netherworlds

Vital Stats: Perhaps the best-known member of LL, he has put out albums on Definitive Jux and Rhymesayers (including one entirely devoted to Christina Ricci) and co-created the Paid Dues Festival.

Murs was unavailable for comment.

Third Base: Bicasso

Projects/Affiliations: Solo albums including Rebel Musiq, Catwalk Sounds and Living Life Lookin’ Out

Vital Stats: Has gone by the names MC Profit, Slick X, Safari and Bizarro; met Mystik Journeymen while attending Humboldt State.

Best: “There’s a healthy competition that pushes everyone to come with their A-game when recording.”

Worst: “Egos that sometimes don’t give.”

Center Field: Sunspot Jonz

Projects/Affiliations: Mystik Journeymen, the Temper Twins, Black Belt Jonz; film projects including Sonny Dreamweaver, Unknown Superstar, Drops ov Paradise

Vital Stats: Co-founded Mystik Journeymen and Living Legends; currently involved in various film projects as actor, writer and director.

Best: “You get to make great music and go on trips with people you love and respect.”

Worst: “Everything [as you get older] turns less personal, and you have to find new ways to weave out of that and still be close.”

Left Field: Scarub

Projects/Affiliations: Solo albums, including One for the Road, Vol. 1 and A New Perspective, and projects 3MG and Afro Classics

Vital Stats: Formerly known as Quaz and Mudd Foot; met Eligh and Murs at Hamilton High, where they formed 3MG.

Best: “Each one of us brings a unique dynamic to the performance that makes our work second to none.”

Worst: “Most of the time, we don’t see eye to eye, or have to deal with others’ bullshit.”

Right Field: Aesop

Projects/Affiliations: Solo albums including Living the Dream … Awake and Black Libra

Vital Stats: Also known as Derrick McElroy, Aesop Fables, Aesop the Black Wolf; currently resides in Fresno.

Best: “Having a group of great minds working on a common goal.”

Worst: “Having to share a small spotlight.”

Pitcher: Eligh

Projects/Affiliations: Various solo albums, the Grime Brothers, the Grouch & Eligh, On Sacred Ground: Mother and Son (the forthcoming collaboration with his mother, Jo Wilkinson, which he calls “folk-hop”)

Vital Stats: Formed Boogalu Badboys with Scarub at Hamilton High before meeting Murs and creating 3MG.

Best: “Eight minds to think of concepts and pick beats. Onstage, we all share the weight in different ways.”

Worst: “Trying to get everyone together. And touring can be a bitch if everyone’s confined together for too long. … We’re brothers! Brothers fight and get irritated with each other.”

The Living Legends perform at the Music Box at the Henry Fonda Theater on Friday, June 6.

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