Check out the corresponding picture; who are these mysterious barhoppers? Eriksolo and Quarterbar may look benign, but they are the Meanest Man Contest and they just released a single right under your nose – most likely while you were busy sleeping or listening to KJEE 92.9 FM.

The masterminds behind the blossoming Weapon Shaped record label, Eriksolo exposes his vocal cords while Quarterbar makes love to his Akai sampler and old, obscure stacks of wax at the same time.

The duo was once part of a KCSB 91.9 FM hip hop legacy, and to experience it, you essentially had to be in the right place at the right time.

At the end of ’96, I was still learning how to tie my shoes in junior high when the collegiately acclaimed formed. Counterparts Baruti, DJ Lion and Lafura Jackson (aka A-Twice) complimented Eriksolo and Quarterbar’s already stellar foundation. You may have heard of them but perhaps didn’t have access to their music, which was independently released off of Eriksolo’s first, tiny record label, Rocketship Records.

Quarterbar tried to recapture the rapidly fading early ’90s “big drums and jazz bass lines” that were so prominent during the glory days of hip hop. “Mostly, we were just trying to make thoughtful songs,” he said. Trust me, they succeeded.

After graduation, however, the group’s progression was tragically halted when Lafura developed cancer, which eventually took his life. An integral part of to say the least, Lafura was also one of the most talented MCs you’ve probably never heard.

“It’s been a year and half now and it’s still hard to believe he’s gone. More than his musical influence, he influenced my personality and sense of humor,” Quarterbar said, “he was just so open-minded.”

Lafura was “the least judgmental person I’ve ever known,” Eriksolo said. “As far as music, he was incredibly motivated and made shit happen for sure.”

Without him, is no more. But remaining members Barutti and DJ Lion will most likely be featured in upcoming Meanest Man Contest releases.

The first Meanest Man 7″ single is short, but saturated with dopeness. “Contaminated Dance Step” and “Feeling Pretty Psyched (About Love)” are both overflowing with the artistic, creative aspect of hip hop so badly needed in the present scene.

These two modest innovators know they’re not going to be superstars; they don’t even want or need to be. Their admirable goal is to get exposure from those who appreciate their work while having fun. However, both agree that their ultimate goal is for their creations to substantiate their primary source of income. The future looks bright.

While tons of independent artists drown financially, Eriksolo marvels over the fact that he never has – still to this day – lost money on a project. “We’ve been lucky with the label. Everything we’ve put out, we’ve always at least been able to break even on.”

The day I called them, they were laying down the vocals for some new tracks hopefully due out this summer. The word “innovative” hardly begins to describe what will soon be released. “A lot of different stuff will be thrown at you,” Eriksolo said. “We’re trying to get all [our] good ideas out to people.”

These “good ideas” originated from interesting places. Quarterbar began listening to hip hop during the late ’80s but didn’t really start making beats until college. His early four-track creations, consisting of his bass playing, a drum kit and a friend’s freestyling, just didn’t cut it. “It was awful,” he said. Needless to say, he has surely made up for lost time. Most of Quarterbar’s productions yield a stronger, more appealing and satisfying blend than most underground producers offer today.

Eriksolo has been fascinated with home recording since the sixth grade. Besides De La Soul and Brand Nubian, it was Los Angeles-based groups such as the Freestyle Fellowship and the Pharcyde that influenced him to lyrically branch out. “You can do whatever you want to with hip hop …there’s really no structure you have to adhere to,” he said.

He writes about everyday things so that everyday people can relate. “Nothing that’s outstanding, no stories of gunplay,” he said. But that doesn’t mean this English major’s lyricism isn’t outstanding: he delivers meaningful phrases with tact.

Perhaps the duo’s greatest motivation came from their time at KCSB. Besides the formation of and the friendships made, Eriksolo mentioned how important it was to get away from the typical Isla Vistan lifestyle. It showed him what life is really all about.

“I think it’s a matter of finding out what you’re capable of, and you’re capable of doing whatever you want, you know?” Word.

[Mr. Bell wants to innovate …if interested, email him at]