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"Rhyme Is Here for a Reason"

Humboldt hip-hop skips a beat, gets back on track
Chris Durant The Times-Standard
Article Launched: 02/18/2007

Can this typically urban-based genre truly flourish in a place where the only high-rises are trees?

When you talk to most people about the local music scene, no matter which genre, there's one thing you often hear -- the area is rich in talent.

Rock, blues, bluegrass can all be found playing at any given venue on a weekend night, all with healthy followings. But until recently, hip-hop shows were hard to find.

Members of the hip-hop community recently discussed the rebound their scene seems to be on after a short lull.

Some agree the lull began when Peter Agoston moved to one of the disputable birthplaces of the genre -- Brooklyn.

Agoston, owner of Female Fun Records, was a hip-hop promoter in the area for about five years.

”Hip-hop in Humboldt didn't exist on much of a sizable scale when I first arrived in Arcata (2000),” Agoston wrote in an e-mail. “Besides the very occasional touring live act, Potluck, Humboldt County Freestyle Kings, and a little bit of Manifest -- there was only a very small scene. Not to say there weren't collectors, consumers and fans -- but from my experience during that period most all of them kept it at house or bedroom producer level.”

And because of that he had to open up to other musicians to work with.

”I found the rock scene a little more accessible initially, which proved a true comrade as we'd later incorporate hip-hop and rock acts in numerous events around the area,” Agoston wrote.

CJ Stewart, who worked with Agoston at the time, gave an example.

”Peter would always put anyone on,” Stewart said. “If he saw something, he'd put them on.”

Agoston illustrates the range of his efforts to promote hip-hop in Humboldt County.

”From the sheer volume of touring acts who'd never performed in the area, to establishing a stronger bond between several local artists, to the huge Female Fun MC Battles and the HSU DJ Battles,” Agoston wrote. “Some of the smaller accomplishments were still big victories, getting hip-hop played and appreciated at bars like Sidelines, The Alibi to re-establishing the space Mazzotti's inhabits as the go-to venue in Arcata, and maybe more importantly throwing avant-garde hip-hop performances to an all ages crowd at The Placebo. Leaving no stone unturned in the quest to facilitate interesting hip-hop events in an area relatively unnoticed for that kind of art-form.”

J the Sarge, whose resume includes being a member of Optimysitc Populist as well as producing and releasing his own records, has been making music in the area for 10 years.

He said after a while you start getting used to where you play.

”I've played every venue,” J the Sarge said.

But, he added, that's beginning to change as evident with local bands now opening up for acts touring through the area.

”But the Humboldt scene definitely comes in waves,” J the Sarge said. “There's a definite emergence of new acts, new producers and new faces.”

And he believes the scene is in full rebound from in the wake he attributed to Agoston's departure.

Part of the fluctuation has to do with Humboldt State University.

”HSU definitely accommodates to the hip-hop scene,” said Caveman, an MC native to Sacramento who's called Humboldt home for the past few years.

Caveman takes care of the limited venues by playing out of the area, like San Jose, Southern Oregon and Sacramento.

He adds the Redwood Curtain isn't so limiting with the Internet nowadays. And it's not just promotion that's accomplished online.

”I work with people and we pass beats back and forth over the Internet,” Caveman said. “I work with a lot of Bay Area (bands).”

So the same stuff heard on the mix tapes being passed around big cities can be heard in Humboldt County at the same time.

”I believe the local scene is dope,” wrote Sonny Wong, founder of the Fortuna hip-hop crew The Dirty Rats and owner of Dirty Rat Records. “Just for the fact that we live in a rural area, and there are cats that are just as fresh, independent and creative as anywhere I have ever been. It's the Jetson era; any kid with a computer, a beat and a mike with a will to create, will do so.”

Agoston agrees.

”I strongly believe, that whether you're in New York City, Los Angeles, London, Tokyo or Humboldt County, if you have drive and a unique take on art you will succeed,” Agoston wrote. “The world waits for no one; the music industry waits for even less. Yet what a lot of folks in Humboldt take for granted is that the county is a microcosm of the metropolis. There is no question that I dominated a part of the market there because of that approach, and I motivated the artists around me to do the same for themselves.”

And what about the rivalries synonymous in hip-hop?

”In hip-hop 'I'm cooler than you' is common, it is the b-boy way,” Wong wrote. “Without some exaggerated - The Times-Standard

"Local hip hop band inspires documentary"

Article Launched: 04/05/2007 04:30:37 AM PDT

A hand-painted sign on the side of a Fortuna road planted a seed in the mind of Sabrina Ross Lee a few years ago that's now beginning to see fruition.

The sign read “Hip hop show.”

”I thought it was a joke,” Lee recently said in an interview.

But she arranged for a baby-sitter anyway and went to the show, where she met the Dirty Rats, a Fortuna-based hip hop crew.

The idea of a documentary seeped into her head along with the beats and rhymes that night. Within weeks she was starting to lay the groundwork for her own movie about rural hip hop.

Last month Lee, who now lives in Montana, and a cameraman, Matthew Buzell, were in town to film segments of the Dirty Rats' show at Club Indigo for the upcoming documentary “Where you from?”

She said it was the dedication she saw in the MCs at the Fortuna show a few years ago that inspired the movie. The fact that the usually urban-based hip hop was flourishing in a place where there were no high rises, alleys or that many venues for the genre.

”If you have enough passion for something, you can make it happen,” Lee said.

But the Dirty Rats aren't alone in the movie.

Lee tracked down Eightrack
Mind from Bozeman, Mont., and the MCs Mic B and Tommy Two Tone, also from Montana.

Franco of the Dirty Rats believes being in the documentary can shed some national light on areas not looked at too often when the words hip hop are mentioned.

”Being behind the Redwood Curtain, this is going to help us get national exposure,” Franco said. “It can open some doors to us and get more people to listen to our music.”

Lee said she thinks the movie, which she hopes to have completed and shown within the year, will have good play among the hip hop crowd, but it's those that don't necessarily like hip hop that she's targeting.

”One of the themes we're looking at in this film is hip hop as salvation,” Lee said. “They're telling their stories.”

It's those who blindly judge hip hop, attributing all the negative stereotypes found in some of the more popular rap songs, Lee wants to point out the positivity the music has on those who perform it and those who are fans.

”It's better to be making hip hop than making meth,” Lee said.

With production still under way Lee hasn't focused too much on where the movie will be played but did mention a variety of festivals and the possibility of it being shown on PBS.

More information can be found at www.whereyoufromthefilm.com .

Chris Durant is a writer for the Times-Standard. Email him at cdurant@times-standard.com.
- Chris Durant/The Times-Standard

"Dirty Rats Surface for KRS-ONE Show"

When one hears the word hip-hop one thinks of New York buroughs, beat boxing, turntables and MC's.
But Fortuna?
Fortuna, California?
One of the best kept secrets of the local music scene can be found right here in the Friendly City.
The Dirty Rats have been established since 1998, started by Fortuna artist Sonny Wong.
"That's where it all started," said crew member Mass Cypher.
And it's hip-hop, not "bitchez and hoez" rap. Smooth, grooving beats, made by the crew's producer GMG, with lyrics that actually say something.
Mass Cypher said the gets up to about 11 people, but the core is about nine.
The core members are Sonny Wong, Franco, Callous, Stir Fry Willie, Kush, D-Rize, Mr. Ocean and Mass Cypher.
And every rat has their own hole.
Though they collaborate often and put out records together, a lot of the MC's do solo projects.
"We all try to do our own thing," crew member Callous said. "But it's cool when we can get together."
And they look far beyond the Redwood Curtain.
Last year a large part of the crew made it over to Japan to play seven shows.
"It's wild overseas," Mass Cypher said.
Crowds reaching nearly 1,000 people filled small Japanese clubs to catch the Dirty Rats, Mass Cypher said.
"But they're into image more than the music," Callous said.
He said Japanese fans would be donning the latest rap-culture fashions like brand new New York Yankees hats.
Franco participates in freestyle competitions around the country, like the upcoming "Scribble Jam 11" in Cincinatti.
"I've won some battles," Franco said.
Some of his victories can be seen on a DVD by DJ CJ called "Best of Franco."
GMG said his beats, made with a sampler and drum machine and fine tuned with Pro Tools, can be heard crews all over the county.
While some local producers sell their music for thousands to local MC's, GMG said he likes to keep things affordable, selling beats for anywhere from $40 to $100.
"Not only are the beats pretty nice, but I'm a nice guy too," GMG said.
And not all the music is made electronically. GMG has worked with some bas players and other musicians in the past.
"I'm always open to anyone who wants to come jam on a live instrument," GMG said.
Members said over the last eight years they've seen the hip-hop movement growing, especially among the younger set.
"It's spreading like wild fire, there are so many kids doing it," said Kush.
"I think it's gaining a little more momentum," said D-Rize. "And I think this KRS-ONE show is going to be great for this area."
And sharing a stage with the "Teacha" is another step up in the career of the Dirty Rats.
"I feel like a kid in a candy store," Mass Cypher said. "It means a lot to play with KRS-ONE. It's hard for me to put it into words."
"His command on the mic, his voice, his presence, it's pretty incredible, it's ridiculous," Callous said. "It;s our biggest show so far."
For all things Dirty Rats, including information on the upcoming record "Spitshine" from the whole crew, D-Rize's "Damien, the Omen" and Callous' "One For The Notebooks," check www.dirtyratrecords.com. - Chris Durant for the Times-Standard (7/27/06)

"Class Is Back In Session"

(Review of KRS-ONE show)

"......The Dirty Rats took over and infused the crowd like a lyrical Red Bull. Though the Rats rocked the stage, people could sense that KRS-ONE was just around the corner. And without lengthy breaks in between sets ...KRS almost immediately jumped on stage to ride the swell started by the Dirty Rats." - Chris Durant for the Times-Standard (8/3/06)

"Callous drops political fire on new CD"

Article Launched: 11/19/2007 03:33:14 PM PST

Callous is one of the wall-paper tall emcees who perform with the Fortuna-based Dirty Rats crew. Under his ever-present fitted baseball cap, he blends in with the rest of the group. With the release of his first solo album, “One for the Note Books,” he distinguishes himself as the group's reigning political critic and risk-taking poet.

Early on in the album Callous stakes his claim on dense hip-hop, in a song called “Take That”:

”Oh my God left when he saw the design flaws

Gone like five-and-dime shop and copies of Mein Kampf

Pine box armies getting slaughtered like livestock

Prodded along, then we stampede when the price drops”

Callous has the credentials to be a home-schooled emcee. He moved to Eureka in the second grade and wrote poetry through high school. He first considered performing those poems when he met hip-hop savvy Kush at UC Santa Barbara. The two became roommates, and started home recording.

Callous said this was a formative time, mostly for their persistence to learn how to rhyme and make music. “We were jacking beats, but we stayed with it. Even with bad technology we would make something happen.”

Through Kush, Callous met the rest of the Fortuna hip-hop hoodlums including freestyle champ Franco, chairman of the board Sonny Wong and the chaotic and costume-savvy Stir Fry Willie. GMG advanced the beat-making and folks like the enigmatic Mr. Ocean, local DJ D-Rize, and the thunderous Mass Cypher added to the talented posse.

”One for the Note Books” offers a chance to hear collaborations with Callous' bandmates on a few tunes, but mostly it is his voice. One that is more mature perhaps than expected. On tunes like “Sweet Tooth” we get dense poetry -- metaphors and rhyme schemes a touch above the average emcee.

”Upgrade” is a forcefully jump-around tune that has already been added to the Dirty Rats live set thanks in large part to the vocals of Mass Cypher.

”Green streets” is a good example of the evolution of the Dirty Rat sound. The beat has a Theremin drone mixed with a punchy piano loop. As guitar sounds fade around the rest of the track, ambient struggles with the empty spaces to make an infectious sound. It doesn't hurt that both Callous and Franco offer world-class verses on “Green Streets.”

There are a couple of nice head-nodding tunes on “One for the Note Books.” “Sound of sin” shares a loping beat and great verses for D-Rize and Mr. Ocean. When Callous takes the microphone he doubles the time and twists the meter of the song into another dimension.

It is clear that Callous can make great songs, but even more importantly he isn't afraid to take some risks. He plays with tempos, and is confident that his rhymes will hold up. Borrowing from reggae, jazz (and a little Guns N' Roses) the beats are the best on any Dirty Rat album released so far.

”Audible Illusion” is their challenge to consumer approach to hip-hop. Callous busts down fake rhymers, and Sonny Wong distinguishes real graffiti skills from posers. Despite the subject, neither come off preachy, almost as if they want folks coming up to keep doing hip-hop, but to do it right.

”There is a lot of substance that is missing in music,” Callous explained.

This seems consistent with Callous' approach. When asked about the title of the album he said it was a no-brainer.

”I have all these notebooks. I've been writing for so many years,” he said. “Now-a-days I make a trillion songs and people just never hear them.”

The value of filtering out tunes to release only the best of the best certainly seems to be working for the artist on this album.

Callous is on a casual grind. Admitting that he “isn't looking for mainstream fame,” and that he isn't trying to make big money on hip-hop gives this emcee a chance to work on what is important -- his sound. “One for the Note Books” is an evolution of a lot of poems, myriad shows and a lot of hours of work. The result is a champion album from this local emcee.

Maxwell Schnurer is a frequent contributor to Northern Lights. Contact him at northernlights@times-standard.com

- Maxwell Schnurer/For the Times-Standard

"Humboldt Hip Hop"

September 13, 2007

Beat Controller

If you passed the unassuming artist GMG in the supermarket you might guess he was the I.T. wizard at some local workplace, or maybe a plumber.photo of GMG In fact, the 33-year-old has dedicated his last eight years to mastering the art of creating hip hop music, making beats and laying down backing tracks, primarily for Fortuna's Dirty Rats family.

GMG. Photo by David Lawlor.

Not long ago, with a few solid years of beat-making under his belt, GMG decided that he didn't really like his sound -- it just wasn't "clean enough." So he went to recording school and studied to be an engineer. After mastering a few recording programs he returned to Humboldt with a new bag of tricks.

Asked what has changed about his sound since going to school, GMG gets animated. "Now it's all about separating the beat," he says. "I make sure that all our sounds are separate, so we can specifically match the sound for what we need. Now our beats are more controlled; the kick and the snare are controlled."

The dialed-in GMG sound can be heard on Kush's new Dirty Rat Records album, Green Thumbs and Cauliflower Ears. Crisp percussion and a broad sampling palate give GMG's beats a professional feel. Songs like "Bring it back" mix orchestral strings and martial drum breaks to give Kush and Callous space to get serious with their rhymes. The result is a musical product as good as any in the nation.

GMG is a professional whose attention to sound can be heard on myriad recordings. He's made beats for the Kush and Wong album Mic Eugenics, the recent Dirty Rats record Spitshine and for the heavily slept on artist Ink, whose album Humanoids from the Deep offers Humboldt's funkiest funk.

You can also see GMG in action at any Dirty Rats show: He's the guy crouched behind the boards, loading up beats and cuing the dozen or more MCs who roll with the Rats when it's their turn to grab the mic.

Recently his music-making time is experiencing new pressures. He and his girlfriend have a baby on the way, and he's been thinking about balancing the needs of his family and his career.

"Your time with your beat-making, with your work and girlfriend have to balance," he says. "I'm totally the one who does not balance it. The baby thing has really changed me." One unforeseen outcome of the impending birth has been an unprecedented period of productivity. "For the last two weeks, I've probably made a beat a day," he says, noting that the "ideas get weirder, maybe deeper" as the day of birth gets closer.

With almost a decade making hip hop, GMG is a consummate beat controller who perceives the changes in hip hop as opportunities. With the birth of his upcoming child, we can expect to see that sound evolve into something quite interesting.

Freestyle Champ

In terms of raw talent, Humboldt's leading MC may well be Franco. While he often performs with the Dirty Rats, he has earned his stripes as a devastating freestyle battle rapper. Popularized in the 2002 Eminem movie 8 Mile, freestyle battling is one of the oldest and most intense of the hip hop arts. photo of FrancoTwo MCs face each other on a stage with 30 or 60 seconds to lyrically dissect their opponent, tossing rhymed insults in an advanced version of the dozens.

Franco. Submitted photo.

Subliminal Sabotage MC Elision says, "I have all these freestyle DVDs, and I saw Franco's DVD [Best of Franco] and he beats all the people who win on the other DVDs!"

Watching Franco respond with lightning speed to insults in dense rhymes is impressive, in part because he works completely off the top of his head. You can see how his relentless multi-syllabic flows leave his opponents shaking their heads, conceding the battle with their body language.

In August of this year, Franco went to Cincinnati to compete in the nation's top underground freestyle rap battle, Scribblejam. In order to get in, he had to win a qualifying battle in San Francisco, which he took easily. At the Cincinnati battle, he defeated MC after MC, winning four bouts before losing in the final round to L.A.-based rapper NoCanDo in a tight battle.

Thus positioned, he returned to Humboldt able to claim the title of second-best freestyle MC in the nation. Franco is diminutive, a slender guy who has heard more insults about hobbits than Elijah Wood.

Humboldt-grown, Franco has a lot of memories of hip hop in the area. He has been writing raps since he was 17 and claims he started freestyling as soon as he started speaking.

While his flows shine on every Dirty Rat album, his most recent production is a solo album currently available only on vinyl, appropriately titled Even if the Record Skips. It showcases an incredibly lush sampling sound (GMG created most of the beats) and a rapper with an innate command of rhythm. Some MCs fight beats -- Franco seems to respond fluidly to the track no matter how fast or slow it might be.

While Scribblejam makes his reputation i - Maxwell Schnurer for The North Coast Journal

"Dirty Rat releases solo effort"

Article Launched: 07/05/2007 04:22:30 AM PDT

Click photo to enlarge

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Dirty Rat Records has been busy.

With “Spitshine” featuring all of the Dirty Rats and Franco's solo record “Even if the Record Skips” and his “Best of Franco” freestyle DVD, you'd think that maybe Fortuna's own would take a break.

But along comes Kush's solo, full-length CD “Green Thumbs and Cauliflower Ears.”

In a recent interview, Kush said it was his first solo record ,which freed him up from having to run everything by other band members.

”You just do it your own way,” Kush said.

But he'll be the first to tell you that by no means did he do everything by himself.

GMG, the producer for the Dirt Rats, laid down most of the beats for the 16 tracks (with Sonny Wong producing a couple of songs).

And most of the Dirty Rats can be found on at least one song on the album.

Franco, Callous and Mass Cypher are on “This is,” Franco is again on “Kaleidoscoper,” Mass Cypher and D-Rize are on “Fall back,” Callous is on “Bring it Back,” and Sonny Wong is on “Tacker.”

Other emcees also make appearances, like Nac One on “Sword in the Wind,” and Hiway on “Toy

The oldest song on the record is about a year old and Kush made about 30 songs before deciding on the 16 he put on the record.

”By the time you complete the record, the new tuff is old,” Kush said.

Kush was exposed to hip hop growing up, but it wasn't until he heard Nas' “Illmatic” and The GZA's “Liquid Swords” that he was inspired to grab the mic himself.

And from the sound of “Green Thumbs and Cauliflower Ears,” he's been inspired by a range of artists.

The samples from the Pharcyde's “Runnin'” on “See With Your Ears,” illustrate that hip hop has been around long enough that the genre's older songs are now being sliced and diced and picked from like the innovators of hip hop did with old soul music.

And who would've thought that the intro from “For You Love” by the Yardbirds would make such a sleek hip hop song on “This Is.”

Other songs, like “Elbows” and “Tacker” are uniquely Humboldt County.

Overall, the entire record is an impressive release from Kush and Dirty Rats Records.

And Kush summed up Humboldt County hip hop with one line: “I'm not street, I'm dirt road.”

Kush will be opening up for Guru July 27 at Club Indigo along with Opti-Pop.

His CD is now in some local record shops and more information about Kush can be found at www.myspace.com/kushdirtyrat .

Chris Durant is a writer for the Times-Standard. Email him at cdurant@times-standard.com.
- Chris Durant/The Times-Standard

"Callous: One for the Note Books"

February 7, 2008, from THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT NEWSPAPER, Vancouver B.C. (http://www.straight.com/article-131182/callous)<br>


One for the Notebooks (Dirty Rat)

These days, rappers come from just about anywhere—even places like Fortuna (population 11,250), a town in Northern California known for farming, its rodeo, and little else. Callous is a leading figure in a Fortuna-based squad called the Dirty Rats, an appropriate crew name for a bunch of scrappy MCs who rely more on passion than polish to get their point across. On his first album, One for the Notebooks, Callous proves himself a clever and politically committed rhyme writer who manages, in his best moments, to rise above the crowded fray of pale-skinned strivers in the indie-rap game.

Faced with the miserable state of American affairs, Callous responds not with a lethargic shrug or a righteous call to arms, but with the muted anger that sums up his generation’s passive-aggressive response to George W. Bush’s outrageous crimes. More observer than agitator, he seems like one of those MCs that spends far more time writing than rapping—a trait evident in the overly dense wordplay of songs like “Take That” and “Global”. But backed by the sturdy, minimally adorned beats of producer GMG, Callous ably plays the role of the American everyman: exasperated, yes, but not entirely without hope.
- The Georgia Straight, Vancouver, B.C.

"Dirty Rats release new record, open for Vast Aire"

"More and more grade-A hip-hop acts are coming through the Redwood Curtain and Fortuna's own crew, the Dirty Rats, always seem to be right there on stage with them..... opening on Saturday night on the heels of their new record 'Spitshine.'
.....The group's producer, GMG, nails down beat after beat with loops that remind me of '90s-era hip-hop and the occasional scratch fest with DJ Itchie Fingaz.
The flow from the MCs is flawless, once again with lyrics that talk more about real life than gangster fantasies." - Times-Standard 11/09/06

"Enter the Dirty Rats"

The Dirty Rats quickly took the stage and pushed the crowd to new levels. GMG crouched behind the boards and made sure every beat sounded tight. Callous stood out early on with quick verses and some deft stage moves. Franco leapt and pounced all over the microphone and the stage. Kush rocked his rhythmic cadence and seemed really well connected to the beats. Sonny Wong bumped every party anthem and played the champ. D-Rize cranked into some talented verses with a rough voice that forces the beat to obey. Stir Fried Willie changed costumes and shined on the microphone. Both Ink and Donzel joined the crew for some songs.

But the sum of the Rats is greater than the parts. Almost every song has more than four emcees on it, and in classic party rhyme style they back each other up when you see them live. They pass the microphone with the speed of a double-dutch session, sharing a crowded stage with intense communal energy. Franco is a fantastic battle emcee – he won the Nu-Jack’s freestyle contest with ease in September. But with the Dirty Rats he is also a thunderous performer – talking to the crowd and working the microphone as a teammate. Likewise, Stir Fried Willie could be viewed as a joke in his panda suit and leather trenchcoat, but with the rest of the rats, he is a powerful party machine echoing choruses, and grabbing the microphone for surprisingly dense rhymes.

I’ve previously compared this crew to the Wu Tang Clan because of their rhyming style, but this time, they seemed more like Jurassic 5 or Five Deez, crews who rhyme together like some kind of organic animal, knowing when the beats are going to change and when the other emcees are going to take a breath. It was refreshing to see such nice live hip hop. - kingmaxwell (http://kingmaxwell.livejournal.com/13883.html)


2001 - '02
Franco's "Don't Battle Me" and D-Rize's "Low Budget"

Franco Callous Kush Unite (FCK U)
Franco's "Non-Existent"

Dirty Rats "The Plague"
FCK U 2 "Caught You Sleepin"
Stir Fry Willie's "Piss In The Crisper"

Sonny Wong's "Music To Seppaku To"
Kush and Wong's "Mic Eugenics"

new crew album "SPITSHINE"
Franco's "Even If The Record Skips"

Kush's "Greenthumbs and Cauliflower Ears"
Callous' "One For The Note Books"
Franco's DVD "The Best Of Franco, Battle DVD"

Various tracks from these albums have been played on the radio and are available online at myspace and soundclick.com




Sonny Wong started DIRTY RAT RECORDS in 1998 as a record label and a crew. The crew members included Franco, Kush, and Stir Fry Willie. These guys had already been making raps on 4-track recorders with jacked beats and crappy mics, the style was grimey, skills were unpolished, but everyone had a drive to get better. During the next few years Callous, GMG, D-Rize, Mr Ocean, Karina, and DJ Saursaus joined the team. Some rappers came, and some went. Joints were recorded, local shows were rocked, and the rhymes and production got better. Upgrades in equipment followed, and a common focus began.

In 2004, the crew set a date to drop their first album, THE PLAGUE. After a few months of hard work, the Rats got the proper funds and had the album pressed up.

In late 2004, FCK U (aka Franco Callous Kush / Unite) released their sophomore album " FCK U 2 / CAUGHT YOU SLEEPIN". The album rocked the underground and put the haters in their place. Not only did the album feature the Dirty Rats, but it also included other underground greats like DJ Thanksgiving Brown (Female Fun Records), Z-Man (Heiro), and production from GMG, Sonny Wong, Equalibrum, and Bira

Stir Fry Willie dropped his first solo album "PISS IN THE CRISPER" in 2004. This album proved to the world that Stir Fry willie is not only a crazy bastard, but a talented one at that, featuring local underground latin hip hoppers, L.O.S., punk rock kings The DTs, and all kinds of loco skits and funky rhymes.

Also in 2004, Franco took his freestyle skills across the country as he battled at various locations. At Scribble Jam, the most well known emcee battle and B-boy competition in the world, Franco took 3rd place and proved to everyone that he's one of the best. He also won battles in New York and the Bay Area, and went on to win Mind Games, the largest California battle, in 2005. All the while he hustled copies of his first two solo albums and spread the word.

The Rats continued to play shows in 2005 with the same intensity and energy they had become known for. However, this time they took their infectious style overseas. Stir Fry, Franco, Kush and Callous went to Japan where they toured for a month, moved a lot of units and signed a whole bunch of autographs. With new Dirty Rat merch to slang, the crew began to gain an international following. Dirty Rat Records capped off 2005 with the release of "Kush and Wong: Mic Eugenics." This LP showcased the raw talent of two of the first Rats and stepped it up with the cleanest sound yet to come from the independent label. Featuring most of the group and the return of DJ Thanksgiving Brown, the album showed just how far the crew had come in terms of beats, overall production and, as always, rappin'.

In 2006, the Dirty Rats were busier than ever. Performing shows with hip hop artists such as KRS-ONE and Cypress Hill, as well as numerous well-known underground rappers, the Dirty Rats increased their fan base and gained exposure. Work was completed on the crew album titled "SPITSHINE." It was the quintessential Dirty Rat album featuring all the members of the crew and the dopest GMG beats and production yet. Filming began for a documentary about rural hip hop featuring the Dirty Rats, and after a year full of shows and studio time, 2007 arrived.

Along with it came more original, inventive music and more live performances. Franco took second place at Scribble Jam. Kush dropped his solo debut "Green Thumbs and Cauliflower Ears", and Callous followed with his own "One For The NoteBooks." Work was completed on a collaboration between the Rats and Humanoids from the Deep entitled "Dirty Humanoids." The official website of the group was renovated and is now better than ever. Franco dropped "The Best of Franco Battle DVD", which clearly showcased the rapper's dominance in battles and freestyling. As usual, The Dirty Rats blew up the stage all year, opening for Redman, Guru, Too Short, and Pep Love to name a few.
2008, the year of the rat moves on and the group continues work on a new album, as well as individual projects and collaborations. Look for new releases soon.