DRUNKEN IMMORTALS
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DRUNKEN IMMORTALS

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Before we even marinated our eardrums to Hot Concrete — the Drunken Immortals' third full-length album that's out to steal your mind with positive hip-hop vibrations and community-building lyrics — there was already word on the street that it was hot shit. You see, this seven-piece, live hip-hop groove machine is known as one of the best in the Valley, and the album most definitely lives up to the hype. The title track is set to a funky keyboard lick and opens with rhyme poetry reminiscent of The Last Poets before transitioning into quick-witted vocal spits by MCs Brad B and Mic Cause, while "Real Life" features lyrical heavyweight Abstract Rude rhyming over a percussive sound collage created by turntablist Pickster One. Dres from '80s rap mainstay Black Sheep makes an appearance, and the entire album is filled with ass-shaking cuts that incorporate driving jazz rhythms augmented by flawless guitar instrumentation. Hot Concrete also boats an impressive 12-inch wax release with multiple versions of the title track, including a blow-up-the-spot rendering by L.A. underground hip-hop producer DJ Drez. - by Steve Jensen (Phoenix New Times)


On a Friday night not long ago, I've found it right in downtown Phoenix. I'm in the groove with hundreds of warm bodies at the Old Brickhouse, carefully weaving through the bohemian crowd -- girls dressed up in sexy blouses and dangly earrings, half the dudes wearing Castro hats along with their artsy tee shirts, faces rosy from a couple of pints of Kiltlifter -- to grab myself a vodka tonic. It's an insane melting pot of musicians and poets, anarchists and indie entrepreneurs. The air is heavy with smoke and paint fumes, the latter from artists decorating canvases with brushes, markers and spray paint, for onlookers.

Eye candy's everywhere, but I'm looking for music. When I finally make it over to the stage, I'm sucked into the MC's near-angry voice and the DJ's seamless samples. Every so often, the hand-waving, head-bobbing audience steps back when b-boys and b-girls get worked up enough to start busting some moves, and the musicians onstage get an obvious kick out of all the commotion.

This could be in L.A. or New York -- it's that alive, the music's that good. But the action is right in the middle of downtown -- five minutes from my own house -- and I couldn't be happier about it.

The event was called First Friday Artwalk Extensions at the Old Brickhouse, but you don't need to remember that mouthful, because the Artwalk Extensions are long gone, replaced by various weeklies and dozens of one-off concerts that crop up at different spots around town -- just as cool, just as transient. Before you get a chance to get tired of 'em, they're gone.

But the party planners aren't going anywhere. Look past the big names on those fliers you pick up and read the fine print if you're curious about who's doing all the brainstorming: Blow-Up Co-op. You may not know the name, but you've probably been to Blow-Up Co-op's proverbial house. This hip-hop collective is like an invisible army, everywhere and nowhere at once, contributing all kinds of things to local culture while still staying under the radar.

Think of Andy Warhol's legendary Factory back in the '60s -- someone was always snapping a picture, singing a song, or striking a pose. It was always in motion, and full of intermingling personalities. With Blow-Up Co-op, you'll find MCs, DJs and other musicians teaming up with each other for one show or a regular gig, doing double time as artists, promoters and designers. The freeform, improv mix is kind of like hip-hop itself.

From the time I moved to Phoenix in 2000, I began looking for this in the music scene. Something that connected the dots instead of making me bounce from one isolated niche to another. Something that was all about music, but also a lot more.

It took me a while to figure out why Blow-Up Co-op was one of the most intriguing things in my rock 'n' roll world. Then I started thinking about how stuff is so spread out and disconnected here, and how this group seems to overcome that with raw energy and tons of ideas. So what if a natural urban vibe doesn't exist in Phoenix? These people just make it happen, in their own way, usually on a shoestring. It feels familiar because it taps into some old memories for me.

As teenagers in rural central Pennsylvania, my friends and I grew accustomed to going the extra mile for anything underground -- music, comics, clothes. "Alternative" hadn't become mainstream mall fodder, and we didn't have the Internet to satisfy our obscure tastes. It took desperate measures to find a Fugazi seven-inch or buy a real pair of Doc Martens. It took some guts, too, because being into punk or goth or rap or anything remotely subversive -- ooh, swear words! -- made you a full-on freak in the land of white, conservative conformity.

We'd gladly drive two or three hours to see hardcore bands in Lancaster or Philly or New York. If the show was on a school night and I couldn't expect to be home until really late, my dad let me go as long as I didn't miss class or let my grades slip. Hey, whatever it took. And if any acts actually came to the boondocks, it was because we managed to find a VFW basement or a roller-skating rink that would put up with our racket. We made our own tee shirts, pasted together our own 'zines, and made friends with every weirdo within an hour's radius of our tiny, spread-out scene.

We embraced the D.I.Y. spirit because, well, what choice did we have?

So while Blow-Up Co-op is a major presence on the local music radar, it's still classic D.I.Y. This informal alliance of musicians, artists, b-boys and b-girls, and other creative, motivated types sprang up out of sheer necessity, scraping together an underground hip-hop scene and clearly filling a need.

It's the truth behind an old cliché: If you build it, they will come.

Back in the late '90s, members of local bands Morse Code and the Drunken Immortals conjured up the Co-op as their own East Valley hip-hop crew. But the idea was also a way of simply getting things done -- conne - By Michele Laudig (Phoenix New Times)


At least another hour is left until touring headliners The Perceptionists are set to perform at the Old Brickhouse Grill on a recent Saturday night, but there are already hundreds of people in the house. When a startling siren blasts through huge speakers and a dense swarm of fans crowds in front of the stage, local talent Brad B. strolls out, clenching the mic in one hand and pumping his fist with the other. His old-school "Get on up!" chant on the soul-driven "Sound the Alarm" creates a sudden sea of hand-raising and dancing bodies on the floor, and it's clear that this MC is causing plenty of buzz of his own.

Better known as a member of the Drunken Immortals -- a tight eight-piece band that's one of Phoenix's most beloved hip-hop crews -- Brad's mostly performing songs from Drifter, his new full-length on the Tempe-based Universatile Music label. It's his second solo album, although that doesn't mean he's going it alone for the show. Backing him up is the double DJ assault of Pickster One and Skip Skoolnik, manning a row of turntables at the back, and Scott White, whose elaborate percussion setup and lightning-quick skills are put to good use.

Two nights later, Brad's relaxing with a beer on the patio outside Rio Salado Brewing Co. on Mill Avenue in Tempe. The hundred-plus heat of the day has mellowed into a warm, almost beachy breeze, and Brad's slouched back in a faded blue knit cap, a green tee shirt, and jeans -- pretty much the same vaguely bohemian look as his stage persona. As an MC, he spouts brainy, streetwise philosophy with a deep, fiery voice ("Art is the shadow of a struggle to transcend," he raps on "No Lie"), but in real life, he's a laid-back guy whose smarts are quietly wrapped in humility.

"Hey, how's Europe?" asks one passerby, the first of many people who stop to say hi throughout the evening.

"Great, man." Brad chats up the guy for a minute, then turns back to the interview, to talk more about the Drunken Immortals' first trip to Europe, the three-week Shut Up and Rap Tour with Awol One and Existereo of L.A.'s Shapeshifters crew. He just got back days ago.

"Hip-hop is everywhere -- it's such a dominant cultural force," he says. "But it's really different over there. We had something to offer, so people were nice to us, but outside of shows, we could tell that they didn't like Americans."

Still, the whole thing was a success -- shows were always full, and sometimes even sold out. In a van full of guys with a multilingual driver, Brad visited Switzerland, Germany, France, Sweden and Finland in April and early May. "We drove the equivalent of L.A. to New York to L.A. to New York -- it was almost 10,000 miles," he says, adding that he was ready to come home by the end of it. "After that tour, we're so inspired."

It's not the first time life on the road got his creative gears turning. Drifter itself is the result of constantly being on tour, a concept album that's "The Original Soundtrack" for an imaginary movie about Brad's life as a hip-hop artist.

Brad abruptly admits to being a teenage troublemaker with divorced parents growing up in suburban Indianapolis. But he says he started channeling his restless energy into rap at age 18. He moved to the Valley with his girlfriend on the day after he graduated from high school, and although the girlfriend soon left him, he made a lot of good friends through skateboarding, including fellow MC Mic Cause, and joined Drunken Immortals within his first year here. For a while, he studied at the Conservatory of Arts and Sciences, and even briefly moved to L.A. "But I had to come back," Brad says. "Everybody goes there when they're trying to do shit, but we're trying to get stuff going here. There's so much talent here, and when people come here on tour, they're amazed."

Now 27, Brad's become accustomed to hitting the road every three months or so. He plans on doing a West Coast solo tour in early July, plus a one-off show in New York City. But all that's just gravy on top of his commitment to Drunken Immortals, who are scheduled to tour again (like clockwork) in August.

"I'm definitely not trying to go solo, because Drunken Immortals is my crew, my family," he explains. "But I live with my producer and my manager, plus their girlfriends, and a dog and a cat. I feel like I'm constantly thinking of shit to write about, and we have a studio in our garage, so I can always work on songs."

Brad didn't set out to make Drifter a concept album. "We were just going on the road a lot, and so many of my lyrics were about that," he says. After writing enough existential raps about transience and unfamiliar places, "the album happened real naturally."

Most of the 17 tracks were produced by Foundation, Brad's Drunken Immortals bandmate/housemate, and there are guest appearances by Cause, 2Mex of the Visionaries crew, Awol One, Die Young, and several members of Seattle's Oldominion crew. Shh! The Baby's Sleeping jammed for three in - By Michele Laudig (Phoenix New Times)


Si l'on excepte la prestation de Buck 65 pour la sortie de "POPvolume #3" il y a cinq ans, le concert du 27 janvier dernier au Triptyque était la première soirée hip hop jamais parrainée par POPnews. Et sur ce coup, sans parti pris et en toute bonne foi, nous avons eu le nez creux. En réunissant sur un même plateau trois MCs phares du rap indé et deux artistes de la scène méconue de l'Arizona, les fiers membres de Laitdbac nous ont offert l'événement rap parisien le plus réjouissant de ce début d'année.

Comme le veut la règle, le concert a commencé par ses artistes les moins notoires. Issus des Drunken Immortals, groupe pivot de la scène de Phoenix, amis du collectif Avenue of the Arts vanté sur ces pages, Brad B. et Foundation ont proposé le répertoire de leur tout nouveau duo, The Insects. Le premier, rappeur à barbiche, et son compère, un DJ dont Josh Martinez vantera plus tard le physique, n'ont rien proposé d'autres qu'un rap boom bap sans grande surprise. Qui plus est, le show est resté très statique. Enfin, par la force des choses, personne ici ne connaissait les morceaux et n'a pu les reprendre ou se réjouir à l'écoute de leurs premières notes. Pourtant, cela a fonctionné, grâce aux beats très engageants proposés par Foundation et grâce au charisme de Brad B. Certes, le MC n'a pas bougé d'un iota, il n'a pas quitté son pied de micro. Mais dans sa diction et dans la façon qu'il a de fixer le public, il y avait suffisamment de force et de persuasion pour rester scotché devant lui.

Dans un genre opposé et nettement plus agité, celui qui a suivi s'est montré tout autant marquant. D'abord, il y a ce corps énorme qui a occupé la moitié de la scène. Ensuite, il y a ce phrasé haché menu inimitable, ces raps déclamés les yeux mi-clos, comme en transe. Enfin, il y a tous ces mouvements auxquels s'est essayé le gros latino. 2Mex ne s'est pas économisé, il s'est donné à fond, tout de suite, s'essayant à quelques pas de danse, quittant la scène pour s'enfoncer dans le public, jouant tous les registres de l'entertainer, à l'instar de son copain Xololanxinxo il y a 3 ans au concert parisien des Shapeshifters. Les deux d'Of Mexican Descent ont le même jeu de scène, les mêmes astuces, rappant par-dessus des titres rock (cette fois, ceux de Weezer et de The Cure), puisant dans l'ensemble de leur carrière, de l'excellent "Shades Of Orange" produit par Nobody et qui figurait sur Soulmates aux titres du récent projet $Martyr avec Liferexall. C'était donc très bien, mais à une nuance près : la générosité de 2Mex envers son public a son prix, et à mesure que le concert s'est avancé, suintant de sueur, le rappeur latino a payé pour cette obésité sur laquelle il n'a cessé d'ironiser, il n'est plus parvenu à monter en puissance.

Toutefois, le rappeur n'a pas perdu de son humour. Pour annoncer Awol One, 2Mex s'est lancé dans une imitation de son copain Shapeshifter. Le Shapeshifter est donc arrivé, vêtu d'un gros manteau qu'il n'allait ôter qu'à la fin. Il faut dire qu'il n'allait pas risque de suer avec le show qui a suivi. Sans conteste, l'auteur de "Souldoubt", de "Slanguage" et de "Number 3 on the Phone" a été la déception de la soirée. Le rappeur a oublié qu'il avait un public devant lui. Il s'est montré désinvolte, mouvant, flottant, sans présence. Et pour ne rien arranger, Awol One a commencé exclusivement avec des titres récents, ses moins réussis. Et quand en fin de course, il s'est enfin lancé dans des classiques comme "Sleeping All Day" et "Ignorance", il était bien trop tard. Les connaisseurs ont voulu se convaincre qu'ils étaient contents, mais pour les autres, il n'y avait pas assez de nerf et trop de je-m'en-foutisme pour donner l'envie. Dommage.

A force, la salle s'est un peu dégarnie, au bénéfice du bar et des fauteuils. Mais cela n'a pas duré. Tout à coup, au moment où tous allaient s'endormir, Josh Martinez est apparu. Et pas n'importe comment. Le fantasque rappeur canadien a fait son entrée au son tonitruant de "Eye of the Tiger", en hurlant les paroles comme un rockeur transi. Tout de suite, le public s'est massé à nouveau devant la scène pour découvrir le phénomène. Et il n'a pas été déçu. Les facéties du rappeur et ses échanges en français avec le public auront rendu le personnage attractif et attachant, de même que ses blagues sur son physique et sur celui de Foundation (qui aura été l'unique DJ de toute la soirée), ou ses remarques ironiques sur la façon de tenir le micro du rappeur qui l'accompagne. Qui plus est, ce qui ne gâche rien, Josh Martinez a joué les meilleurs titres de "Buck-Up Princess", de "Midriff Music" et du dernier Chicharones, avec en sus quelques nouveautés prévues pour un prochain album comme le titre "Fight or Fuck".

Pour rappeler qu'ils sortent ensemble un album ces jours-ci, Josh Martinez a fait revenir Awol One le temps d'un titre à deux. Cela aura été le seul moment dans la soirée où le Californien aura daigné bouger ses fesses, puisque le morceau ce sera termi - pop news


Given the sometimes-finicky attitude of fans toward local music in the Phoenix/Tempe area, it's an accomplishment in itself that Drunken Immortals have hung around for almost 10 years. Well, they've done more than hung around, actually. They've thrived in a city that isn't exactly at the top of anyone's list when it comes to hotbeds of hip-hop.

And that longevity is a credit to the group's proactive approach, rather than surviving by attrition. They helped create a label, Universatile Music, and helped form the Blowup Co-Op, a loose-knit collaboration of hip-hop musicians, artists, activists and such.

They just released their third LP, Hot Concrete, a title that pretty much says it all when it comes to the group's loyalty to Arizona; if you've ever been to Arizona in August and tried to walk barefoot on the sidewalk, you know what that means. The album features guests Dres from Black Sheep and Abstract Rude of Project Blowed. With seven members and live instrumentation, Drunken Immortals are versatile enough to adapt and keep a step ahead of stagnant hip-hop machismo. Real Life, with Ab Rude, is DI in peak form: Latin-influenced guitars and percussion, turntables and emcees all mixed seamlessly into a fluid groove.

These guys were on the local circuit quite a bit when I was going to school at Arizona State, so it's nice to see them keep stretching out but still reppin' their hometown. That's the 602 and the 480 (and sometimes the 623), for those not in the know. - So Much Silence


Discography

1999 - The Rent - Cassete Tape
2001 - Face The Music - CD
2001 - Drunken Poetry 12in
2001 - Brad B - Cerebral Subbteranean CD
2001 - Brad B - Cerebral Subbteranean 2x LP
2002 - Drunken Live CD
2003 - Soul Revolution CD
2005 - Dont Call the Cops 7in
2005 - Brad B - Drifter CD
2005 - Brad B - All Come Along 12in
2006 - Hot Concrete CD
2006 - Hot Concrete 12in
2007 - The Insects CD

Photos

Bio

.Drunken Immortals.

According to the ancient Chinese legend, the Drunken Immortals were invited to attend a banquet in an undersea kingdom. At the banquet, they became drunk and wild. All of the kingdom's guards attacked the Drunken Immortals, but the immortals created an impromptu style on the spot and defeated the guardsmen.

Allying themselves with hip hop's underground movement, the Drunken Immortals have decided to forge their own independent path towards recognition within the music industry. The impromptu style the Drunken Immortals have created is composed of live band instrumentation with turntable percussion and sampling, while being fronted by two hip hop emcees with the verbal tenacity to battle the best of them. With thousands of tour miles behind them, the Drunken Immortals are ready to make the leap from being a national success to a worldwide contender. The Drunken Immortals have aligned themselves with some of the west coasts most influential emcees and producers, and their message has been spreading like wildfire.

This multifaceted ensemble of musicians and rhyme crafting emcees have been creating their unique styles since 1999 when the Phoenix art and music scenes began to make noise, We met at Sub Society skate shop at a time when Tempe was really blowing up with art and music, like a renaissance- shit was crazy, says drummer/producer Foundation. Emcees Mike Cause and Brad B first crossed paths while attending the conservatory of recording arts when they decided to share their gear to work on one of Brad B's projects. They ended up in a studio where there just happened to be a guitarist and drummer sitting around, and as Foundation puts it, Mike Cause had always dreamed of playing with a full live band. Those recordings became the first Drunken Immortals sessions put to tape, and lit a candle that would begin to burn much brighter for this seven man group bent on bringing the best of both worlds to an eager audience. The group is very adept at weaving the melodies of live instrumentation within the realms of the poetry being dropped by Mike Cause and Brad B, and one element never seems to overpower the other. This attention to detail comes from the groups relentless ability to hit the road, Besides the legendary group of weeklies we've been a part of for the last six years, we have done over 20 national tours and we toured all over Europe for a month, says the groups DJ, Pickster One. The groups process of spreading the D.I. gospel and listening to both Drunken Immortals albums makes it abundantly clear that this group takes the DIY punk philosophy to heart, Yeah, we have always been very community based and see ourselves as a hip hop group that is mad funky, says percussionist Scott White who recently finished a nationwide tour playing alongside DJ Z-Trip. With the ability to touch on everything from political strife to living life in the valley of the sun, Drunken Immortals possess the type of versatility that every well rounded group of artists needs to keep listeners hooked. The groups local popularity is reflected in their awards for best Hip-Hop group in Phoenix by the Phoenix New Times, which they won by popular vote in 2001, 2002, 2003 and 2006. DI also received best Hip-Hop band in Arizona by the Arizona Republic for 2003 and 2006.

Drunken Immortals have recorded with a number of the underground hip hop worlds heavy weights, such as: 2mex, AWOL ONE, LMNO, Existereo, Sleep, Danu, Grayskull, Abstract Rude, Blacksheep, DJ Drez, and Josh Martinez. If the past is any indicator for what will lay ahead, then the prolific nature and impromptu styles of the Drunken Immortals will keep their sounds inside stereo speakers for many years to come.