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Throw Your Hands in the Air: Living Legends want to see your underwear.

Voltron Force

The Living Legends come up from the underground to destroy hip-hop stagnation in Santa Cruz

By Mike Connor

YEAH, OKAY, so the Living Legends are coming to Santa Cruz ... but which ones? The legendary underground hip-hop crew consists of nine members: Sunspot Jonz, luckyiam.PSC, The Grouch, Aesop, Bicasso, Arata, Murs, Eligh and Scarab. They play any given show alone or with any numbers of other members. And while they may have all the vocal skills, guess who's got the supa-dope math skills? I worked it out on a broke-ass calculator: there are 511 possible combinations of LL rappers.

"It's funny, any combination of us is a whole different show," says Eligh, who will be performing with Scarab at the Vets Hall on Saturday, Aug. 12.

Their pending arrival will come not a moment too soon. Ever since the economy took a shit, promoters are taking less risks when it comes to booking shows. Scott Knippelmeir at the Vets Hall says, "I think everyone's nervous because of the economy right now. Lots of shows have been flopping. This is our first try putting on a show this size, and it's a lot of work. Mainly we just rent our building to other promoters to do a show this size. But this is the type of music that I'm interested in, so we decided to take a risk and do it ourselves."

An appropriate comment, considering the notoriously independent D.I.Y. vibe of the Living Legends, which Eligh and Scarab have been abiding by since they met in South-Central L.A. while in the seventh grade.

"He was on my same bus route, that's where I met [Scarab]," says Eligh. "I've always been writing, but I just started writing rhymes and I never really said them to anybody 'til I met Scarab, because he was on the same shit as me. So we started rapping to each other in the back of the school bus." They've both since developed their own unique styles: On his solo record Fact of the Matter, Scarab is introspective and flows like a cross between Aceyalone and Del, but inflects his rhymes with a uniquely humble flavor. Eligh tends to stay low-key; his flow is more poetic than in-your-face, even in the midst of a rapid-fire delivery.

Unsigned and Hella Broke

After breaking off from the infamous Log Cabin crew, Eligh and Scarab moved north, and eventually hooked up with the Mystik Journeymen, who would later put out a fanzine called UHB (Unsigned and Hella Broke). The zine was uncompromising:

    Fuck Record Companies!!!! All I see is a grip of cellular phones, hella forty-two-year-old white men still rocking pony tails even though it starts in the back of they head cuz of their receding hairline. And then there's your stupid ass standing in the corner with a faded purple Philly Blunt bandana on your head and a backpack with a 'Flip da script' pin stuck to it full of your tapes and pictures begging to be signed ... by these slave owners.

Their independent status allowed the LL to put out records (which they sold out of backpacks, guerrilla-style, on the streets, at BART stations and at shows) that sounded different from what the major label acts were putting out on the radio. And thanks to a thriving underground hip-hop scene, LL were able to survive without the labels. But lately, the very label of "underground" has itself become something of a limitation.

"I'm sick of that word, underground. It's played out," says Eligh. "I'm just trying to make good shit, stuff that you can play next to label stuff that's on the radio and it sounds just as loud and as clean, but it's a whole different kind of music. I'm really not trying to sign anything unless I was free to do what I do already. But I don't see that happening very many places, man. I'd rather get a cool distribution deal and just set it at that."

"That's where my fan base is, and I'm thankful and loyal to them," says Scarab, "but at the same time, I feel as though I'm an artist, so, whether I'm over or underground, it's all about making music that I like, and thank goodness that I'm making music that other people like too."

Despite their success in the world of underground hip-hop, it still isn't easy to put out new music. Eligh will prerelease his latest effort, Gandalf's Beat Machine 2, on CD-R at the show on Aug. 3 to help fund a release on pressed CDs. Independence doesn't really pay ... or does it?

"If Eligh and I go to Santa Cruz to do a show, we don't have to depend on each other," says Scarab. "Once we depend on each other, you know, that's money. It means I can't eat until so and so comes to town, when we need each other. When in fact, we have enough material where I can do my own thing and survive. And when we come together, it's like Voltron."

Eligh and Scarab will perform at the Vets Hall on Saturday, Aug. 10, at 8:30pm. Tickets are $15, available in advance at Streetlight Records.

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From the August 7-14, 2002 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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