who cares
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who cares

Sacramento, California, United States

Sacramento, California, United States
Hip Hop EDM

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"DJ Hazel & Who Cares"

Combining the elements of jazz, hip-hop, and the love of improv that belong to both, this central Cali-based trio have taken the underground music scene by storm, and in it, won over a lot of support from all sides, having rocked stages with everyone from Afrika Bambataa and “Egyptian Lover” to The Album Leaf.

These three immensely talented dudes put on one helluva show. That is fact. Ernie Upton, the frontman, has a flow reminiscent of the great storyteller MCs from the late ’80s, loves to freestyle much of the set, and does it all from behind the turntables. Jammal Tarkington, is the gentle giant of soul. Having cut his teeth with Reno-based funk rockers Keyser Soze among numerous other projects, he barely has time to catch a breath between singing, rapping and playing saxophone solos. Rounding out the on-stage menagerie is Maxwell McMaster, whose silky smooth keystrokes on his vintage Wurlitzer and MPC keep the whole show seamless and lively, while keeping up his end of the three-part harmonies to create quite possibly one of the greatest show atmospheres you will ever witness. — Owen Taylor - Weekly Volcano


"Cares Package"

The three man hip-hop collective Who Cares may have everything it takes to be a great band, and their music will make you feel like you're reliving your first heartbreak.

Rapper Ernie Upton holds nothing back when he tells stories of growing up, breaking up and everything in between.

"That's the theme of my life," says Upton, 26. "I'm always crying and stuff, but who cares?"

Jammal Tarkington, 31, provides backup vocals and plays the saxophone, and Maxwell McMaster, 26, runs production and the keyboard.

Who Cares' influences range from Slick Rick to Miles Davis, and it shows, especially with the addition of the sax and keys.

"Jazz is a major influence in our band," says Tarkington, who also plays in local band Keyser Soze.

Upton, usually wearing a brown cardigan sweater and thick glasses, doesn't look much like a rapper. "We don't wear jeans, either," Upton says of himself and Tarkington. McMaster, who lives in California and was not at the interview, wears "really tight jeans," Upton adds.

At shows, Upton is usually the guy with all the fans gathered around him after a performance.

"I really like everyone that comes out to our shows," he says. It's not just hip-hop fans either. "We've got some punk rock kids I really like."

The band estimates it's played roughly 100 live shows since first performing together in 2003. The frequency of their shows in Reno is evident by the number of fans at their shows wearing Who Cares T-shirts, adorned with the group's sad bear logo.

The band members say they make an effort to do as many all-ages shows as possible.

"The one thing I really like about this band is that we have a connection to the youth," Tarkington says.

Their next scheduled all-ages show is at the Holland Project on July 8 and again on Aug.11 for a multi-act hip hop show.

"It's my pride and joy for the summer," Upton says of the event.

Who Cares officially released their first full-length album, Who Cares-The LP, in 2005. Much of it was finished in 2004, and some of its songs were recorded as early as 2001. The LP is 14 tracks of raw emotion. Even the lighter songs, like the ode to hip-hip "Play Standards," are sad: "Do you ever see reflections of your past at night/ The ones that help you rebuild hope and make you feel like you're alright."

The album is well-crafted. Regardless of how you feel about emo-rap, as some may be tempted to label it, there is no denying these guys as musicians. If you're suffering a heartache about love, or about anything, you won't be able to take this album out of your boombox for weeks.

Their second album, an EP called The Winter Came Back, was released in spring of 2006. It was recorded in McMaster's bedroom, except for one track recorded live. It's a little less melancholy. Not as much effort went into it as The LP, the band members say.

In nearly every song they've ever made, their continuous heartbreaks are evident.

As artists, "we're all horrible with women," says Upton. "Max is all right, but he's still horrible."

But hey, who cares? At least they know how to rap about it. - Daniel Riggs - News & Review (Reno)


"This Secret's Out"

My friend Billy used to always wear a button that said "Who Cares" on the collar of his jacket, until "some bitch" stole it off of him at a dive bar near our neighborhood. Billy was pissed, not because he'd lost some expression of apathy he was aiming at the world via his garmentry, but because Who Cares is one of his favorite rap bands, underground kids he met back when he lived in Reno (the members split their time between there and Sacramento).

I totally understood his frustration -- when you find a band that really speaks to you, that the whole world isn't jocking yet, that most of your friends have never heard of, that band seems like your own secret sculpture you keep hidden under a sheet. After hearing Billy playing Who Cares' self-titled LP all the time in his car, it was obvious why the band -- an MC named Borg One, producer and Rhodes piano player Maximus McMaster, sax and winds player Jamal Tarkington, and drummer Jake PebRock -- made Billy so possessive. The foursome, due to perform here at the Old Brickhouse on First Friday (March 4) with Aceyalone, and Abstract Rude, plays elegant, jazzy, downtempo jams with heartfelt, heartbroken stories written over the waves of soul.

Soon I was a convert as well, wishing I had a damn "Who Cares" button.

It's because Who Cares embraces an aesthetic that hip-hop is often missing; as Borg One told me on the phone the other day, "I just want to be able to play with other people who play pretty music and make sure it's pretty first, more than anything. That's all I really care about; I like it to be beautiful all over, as much as it can be."

The Who Cares LP is a 14-song opus with woodwinds and piano riffs filling in the infrastructure of PebRock's cymbal-heavy jazz stylistics, but it's also an inspirational story of kids looking for family among their friends, yearning for love when there's none on the horizon, and struggling to stay positive as drugs and violence strip away at the institutions that are supposed to lift you up.

"This album is all just stories from my life, growing up as a kid," Borg One says. "It's pretty much a little autobiography -- each song is like a piece of a paragraph." To that end, the first track on Who Cares' LP is titled "Topic Sentence," a one-minute-long rap intro over a drumbeat that asks, "Who cares about the stories of a lonely little boy, who wanted something better and believed that he was worth it?"

I ask Borg One if the band gets hit with the "emo-rap" tag often, to which he replies, "All day. It's pretty emoed out. It's real personal -- I'm always talking about being fat, being a depressed little fat kid, so I can't really come across any other way. It's all just stories of growing up being sad. I'll probably never make music that's about anything except hard times and bad luck."

What separates Who Cares (the band self-released its own album and has no label support or extended touring on the horizon) from the recently blown-up "emo-rap" acts like Sage Francis or Atmosphere is the soul of the music itself. Sure, if you strip away the lyrics, it wouldn't be labeled emo-rap, but the instrumentals would land it squarely in a dark, smoky lounge where single guys sip scotch and stare at the bar in overcast contemplation. "We definitely don't want to not have instruments," Borg One told me. How Who Cares has escaped the limelight thus far is beyond me, especially considering the popularity of artists doing similar things musically and lyrically.

Actually, the popularity of Atmosphere and Sage Francis has been something of an albatross to Who Cares. "What I hear more than anything is, 'You sound just like Sage Francis, man . . .'" Borg One says. (Personally, I don't think the comparison is apt.) "It's a huge compliment, but at the same time I'd rather they say, 'Hey, man, I like your rap.' It just makes me feel funny."

That's cool, though, because when Borg One feels funny, it makes for inspired, searing rhymes, like on "Much To Do About Nothing," where he raps, "At times I'd rather die than live through a broken heart, I'm notorious for not finishing what I start. . . . At times like these the fear breaks me to the ground, I couldn't give a shit about myself, but I can't let my mom down. . . . I don't want to spend the rest of my life looking for reasons why I'm still standing here unhappy, I don't want to spend the rest of my life watching dope and glass have its way with my family."

Once Who Cares hits town this Friday, it's unlikely that Billy and I will be the only ones leaving the Brickhouse sporting the band's merchandise. Who Cares is a band that gets inside of you and shares your pain; as antithetical to hip-hop's orthodox anger and misanthropy as that is, it's what makes Who Cares the real fucking deal. - Phoenix New Times


Discography

Still working on that hot first release.

Photos

Bio

Since coming onto the scene in 2002, Who Cares has dominated hip-hop markets from Reno to Seattle and all over California with their live four-man act. Rapper Ernie Upton bounces back and forth from heartbreak anthems and an old school style of rapping that hip-hop has all but lost. (Think Atmosphere meets Kool G Rap.) Saxophonist and back-up vocalist Jammal Tarkington provides a jazzy feeling not unlike that of The Roots. Dusty Brown & Young Aundee, are responsible for making all the beats, play live—whereas most bands simply play instrumentals off a computer. And Young Andee tops off Who Cares’ sound with his melodica (a harmonica with a blow tube) and high-pitched vocals.

This four-man group has grown more and more successful over the years by rejecting the clichés of today’s hip-hop—money, sex and violence. Who Cares is appealing to a different audience, a more intelligent audience, which explains their success on college campuses all along the West Coast.