Babe Ruth’s ghost once said, “Heroes get remembered, but legends never die.”
That phrase repeated in my head like a refrain as I sat in my hard UCen chair last Friday night. Just as he had stepped through Benny “The Jet” Rodriguez’s bedroom wall, the late Bambino had materialized in my subconscious to comment on my situation. I was slated to interview Living Legends, the phenomenally successful hip-hop group, before they played a sold-out show at the Hub.
This would be my first face-to-face interview, and I admit that I felt a bit anxious. Hell, I was downright nervous. I had to remind myself that Benny was nervous to face down the Beast at first, but he eventually conquered his fear. So as my editor and I waited for a cue from Ryan, our friendly Associated Students Program Board contact, I just smiled and imagined myself lacing up a pair of imaginary PF Flyers as if I were about to hop the sandlot fence of destiny.
We had taken up a perch overlooking the Hub floor as the doors opened around 9:30 p.m. Students excitedly poured down the stairs and into the soft, inviting orange light of the beer garden. At about 10 p.m., local Santa Barbara rapper Intuition took the stage to warm up the most eager fans already crowded around the stage. I remembered him from his appearance at a Method Man show in the Hub from more than a year ago. He remains a talented, sarcastic rapper with a penchant for pathos similar to that of other underground rappers such as Slug from Atmosphere. The mood and style of his set complemented that of the Legends very well.
As the clock showed 10:30 p.m., Ryan told us that LuckyIam.PSC – a co-founder of the Legends, along with Sunspot Jonz – would take the stage next. The other Legends were still en route. I remained confident, hoping my PF preparations would not have been in vain.
The lights dimmed and a roar went up from the crowd. Tiny flames flickered into existence throughout the crowd to light invisible joints and blunts as a voice came over the speakers: “What up, Santa Beezy!” An automated voice told the crowd it was “time to get lucky,” and LuckyIam.PSC swaggered onto the stage in a black letterman jacket and backwards hat. His humor and smooth lyrics connected with the audience immediately; stepping up to the crowd’s outstretched hands, he flowed about Internet porn and smokescreens similar to the one that began to fill up the Hub.
Shortly after Lucky said, “Turn the lights down, and let’s do some futuristic shit,” an event coordinator hurriedly approached. With his finger pressed to his radio ear bud, he told us that if we wanted an interview it had to be done very quickly. Time to make that leap.
We were lead out onto one of the UCen balconies facing the lagoon, which smelled sweet as ever in the light of a crescent moon. Before we had time to shiver from the cool evening breeze, we were allowed to enter. The coordinator gave us one piece of advice with a smile: “They said that you should be assertive.” I gulped and walked into the room.
Living Legends members Aesop, Eligh, Sunspot Jonz and Murs lounged in various states of repose, sitting in folding chairs and eating a quick meal of chicken and rice. As we walked in, some female friends sitting amongst the group quietly regarded our entry. Murs was in the middle of finishing a story, and he exclaimed, “Get on the bus, nigga!” Everyone laughed at this comment as we silently found seats on the outside of their circle next to Sunspot Jonz. After another minute of conversation about the bus incident and the “Real World,” I was able to introduce myself. After saying that digital downloads have become increasingly popular and controversial in regards to music sales, I asked the group’s opinion on the impact of digital downloads for independent artists.
“Damn, that’s a serious question,” Murs said.
Sunspot Jonz excused himself to go to the bathroom and Murs continued: “Come on, man-you’re lettin’ him get away! Be assertive!”
I turned to Aesop and asked his opinion. He smiled and gestured with his fork, saying “I could tell you about food, man.”
“All right,” I replied with a smile, “What’s your favorite food?”
“All kinds of food,” he said.
Murs belched audibly, and I asked if I could quote him on that. He laughed and said yes before answering my earlier question: “We are independent artists, so I don’t think … well, I sell more physical CDs than MP3s. I have probably made about $30 on downloads and $30,000 on physical CD’s so…” He trailed off, looking a bit glassy-eyed back at Aesop. Aesop mentioned that he liked MySpace as a digital resource for selling music because it is “so social.”
Eligh rose to go sell some merchandise downstairs as Sunspot Jonz returned. While Murs and Aesop debated the price of iPods, I asked Sunspot about how NorCal and SoCal styles of independent rap came together for the Legends.
“People from the bay are more there spiritually,” he said, “and L.A. rappers are usually really good with presentation. Both of those sides come together in our group.” I thanked him and the rest of the members for their time.
Ten minutes later, all eight legends appeared on stage, and the Hub exploded. Drawing mostly from their collaborative albums, Almost Famous and Legendary Music, Vol. 1, the group overflowed with energy and amazing lyrical talent. Sunspot Jonz and Eligh seemed to be crowd favorites on songs like “2010” and “White Rabbit,” while the Grouch stole the encore with his performance of “Simple Man.” After their amazing show and a very interesting interview, the memory of the Living Legends seemed sure to survive for a long time.