Heirs to the Throne

CCR_Photo_4It’s been a mighty minute since the Crown City Rockers last found themselves in this situation. The five live hip-hoppers finally have a new album to promote — and they’re making a party of it. Staying true to its roots, Day After Forever builds on the group’s breakthrough sophomore effort Earthtones with a whole new set of soulful, jazzy cuts.

Fresh off rocking shows in Japan and Bali, the crew is back home in Cali, where — as producer/bassist Headnodic puts it — they’re “keeping it rollin’.” The Guardian chopped it up over the phone with CCR members Headnodic and MC Raashan Ahmad, discussing the new record, their Boston days and the band’s return to UCSD.

Guardian: How is the tour going?

Headnodic: It’s going real good. We’ve hit a bunch of our main stage spots, and also hit Tokyo, Japan, and Osaka, Japan, and Bali.

G: How were the shows out of the country?

H: The shows out of the country are beautiful, and they’re so different from anything we’re used to experiencing. The cultures are so different, so the way that they react to our music and the way they interpret our music — the way that they even move to our music — is completely different. It’s great to see how other cultures interpret what we do.

G: So you guys just dropped Day after Forever in September, five years after your previous release Earthtones. When did you guys start working on this project and what was going on in the time in between?

H: The record is Day After Forever, and it’s in keeping with the idea that it took so long to make this damn record. We’ve been working on this for a while, off and on, and also we’ve been doing a whole bunch of projects. It’s taken a while just because we’ve been doing a whole lot of experimenting and kind of just settled back on doing what it is that we wanted to do. We really wanted to make a timeless record. And I think in the end, we kind of persevered through it and got the songs that made for a solid album.

G: Since you guys are a hip-hop band, you probably hear a lot of comparisons between you and the Roots — obviously a really famous hip-hop band. What do you think about that comparison?

H: First off, we all in the band love the Roots, and the Roots are insanely fresh. I think it’s not like we draw specific inspiration from the Roots any more than we would A Tribe Called Quest or Kanye West or Jay-Z — it just so happens that they play live instruments. I think we have a pretty original take on staying as an organic, live hip-hop band. We’re definitely not going for trying to be another version of the Roots, because they did it — they did it perfect, and they continue to do the Roots sound really well. We’re definitely not trying to step on any toes, you know?

G: A couple years ago, you guys actually played at the pub on our campus on 4/20. Do you guys remember anything about the show at all?

R: Wait, wait, wait… How does that room look? Is that, um…

G: It’s kinda like this dark, grungy place.

R: Is it rectangular?

G: Sorry, what?

R: Is it rectangular?

G: Uhhh…

H: Wait, is that the show with Persephone’s Bees?

G: Yeah, they played after you.

H: That was a dope show.

R: Oh, yeah!

H: There were several dope bands that night. But no, that was a great show. That was definitely fun — the crowd was really live and you know, 4/20.

G: Did you get to celebrate with any of the students afterwards?

H: I think some of us did, definitely (laughs).

R: The students down there love to get down and have a good time. That’s why I love coming down there. Everyone’s so ready for it. Some places you go, it’s like you really have to really, really fight to get everyone into it and involved. But I just remember everyone ready. Soon as we hit the stage it was like, aight, cool, let’s go. You know — let’s freakin’ party in here.

G: I had a question for Raashan. So last week, we had UCSD’s first-ever freestyle emcee battle on campus.

R: Yee-ah.

G: I was wondering if you remember your first battle, and what it was like for you?

R: Yeah, dang, my first battle…

G: Or any memorable one?

R: If I had to choose my most memorable battle, it was when I met the original member of Crown City Rockers — we used to be called Mission. I actually met him in Boston, on the street. I moved from Pasadena, and the night before, I met some emcees and I was freestyling with them. They told this guy Moe Pope that there was an emcee from Cali that was pretty dope and I met him on the street and he was like, “Yo, I heard you was dope.” I was like, “Yeah, you know, I’m cool.” He was like, “Wanna battle?” (laughs). I was like, “Yeah.” So we just started battling, right there on the streets in Boston. And I remember there was snow on the ground, and I wasn’t used to snow. And like, the dude was so ill — we just went back and forth, back and forth, and later we shook hands and we became a crew after that. Which is how I met Crown City Rockers: off of that battle with Moe Pope.

G: I’ve seen you guys live before and, to say the least, it wasn’t what you would expect from an average hip-hop show. What would you tell people to expect from a live Crown City show?

H: Expect the unexpected. Oooooh (laughs). It’s a party. Like I was saying, if you listen to the record, there’s a lot of different kinds of moods. A little bit of party stuff and also some introspective mellow music, and I think when we do it live, we really try to blend what we do on record and a positive approach to making music, and mix that with keeping it very much a party. It’s not gonna be a snoozefest. It’s definitely some rip-roarious stuff musically, and definitely some fantastic vocalizations by the man Raashan Ahmad.

G: I think that covers everything. Is there anything else you guys want to add?

H: Check out the Day After Forever by Crown City Rockers, and get it any way that you need to get it. If you can spring the 10 to 15 bucks to buy it, then you’re on our Christmas-card list forever. We really appreciate the support and need the support, and if for some reason you can’t spring for it, get it off the Internet, get it from a homie, spread the word and tell a friend.

R: Come to the show. Buy a T-shirt. Be on the team.

Crown City Rockers will perform at the Loft with Afterschoolspecial and Mike Gao on Nov. 20 at 9 p.m.

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