The members of Portland-based rap group Animal Farm grew up idolizing such legendary rap outfits like De La Soul, A Tribe Called Quest, Organized Konfusion, Wu-Tang Clan and The Roots. But when Gen.Erik, Hanif Wondir, F-1 and Serge Severe started making moves as a unit, there weren’t many modern-day rap groups to look to for inspiration.
That’s because in the last decade-plus, the rap business has focused on producing solo artists, leaving groups struggling to gain a foothold in an industry that seems to have little interest for them.
“It’s a lot easier to brand one person, stick them in a box and be like this is who they are,” Gen.Erik says. “With us, it’s really been important with our music to show all sides of our personality and that’s really the benefit of doing it independently. We don’t have anyone telling us, ‘OK, this is the type of rapper you are.’ If we want to do a party track, we’ll do a party track. If we want to do something that’s political, that’s what we’ll do. We don’t have anyone bossing us around, telling us what our personality should be.”
Down to Business
But what Animal Farm does have is internal push, something that makes its recently released “Culture Shock” album so compelling. The collection includes the soulful rap business expose “Down To Business” and the spirited lyrical exercise “Test Of Time” with Talib Kweli. As is evident on these cuts, the group members work together to make its material as strong as possible.
The same policy extends to the group’s renowned stage show. “It’s been really important for us because we can feed off each other’s energy and that really allows us to put on a much liver stage show and engage the crowd more,” Gen.Erik says. “I think that a lot of artists today are kind of getting lazy, just walking around the stage. It’s always a key point of how we sell ourselves, our live show. We really focus on that.”
Animal Farm has also had to focus on the reality that as they strive to push the group forward, individual acclaim and attention will likely take a back seat. “In order to be in a group, you really have to put your ego aside because it’s not just about you shining,” Gen.Erik says. “It’s about working together to make a project that everyone enjoys. To be able to sustain that is a really tough thing because there’s different personalities. Everyone has their own preferences. We’ve been lucky to be able to do this, to get along and to have a good time along the way.”
“We’re just lucky enough to be tight as friends,” adds Hanif. “We’ve known each other long enough that we know can work together and keep building.”
Serge Severe, un nom qui ne sonne pas trop Hip Hop... Et pourtant, c'est un rappeur américain de Portland avec de solides compétences d'auteur-compositeur et de redoutables performance en freestyle. Pour cet album, il s'est de nouveau associé à Universal DJ Sect, avec qui il avait déjà collaboré en 2008 sur ''Concrete Techniques''. On retrouve là un disque totalement ''Hip Hop à l'ancienne'' avec des refrains scratchés et des cuivres omniprésents pour un résultat qui sonne très Hip Hop/Jazzy. Seul petit bémol, l'album est assez court et donne du coup, d'autant plus envie de l'écouter en boucle.
Ok, so not covering Back On My Rhymes, the second album by Serge Severe, might be the second glaring oversight I’ve made this year following my recent discovery of a T Bird solo album which, like this, also came out in January. Mind you, given that I’d never heard of Serge Severe prior to two nights ago when I stumbled across him on hiphopdx.com and given that after a sound googling, he seems to be almost entirely below or beyond the range of the UK rap radar, I might be forgiven. I’m starting to think that the Yanks are keeping all the good shit to themselves. It’s like the French with wine isn’t it?
The short version is that this Portland, Oregon, MC (that’ll be West Coast for the geographically challenged) is setting hip-hop alight with back to basics beats and rhymes and, to be fair a big slice of credit has to go to Universal DJ Sect with with his ultra-funky beats. Last year was by far the worst year for proper hip-hop I can ever remember, but Severe and his new LP are yet one more reason why this year is the best year I can remember for hip-hop in nearly a decade. Don’t take my word for it though – check the vid of debut single Can’t Stop Won’t Stop featuring Braille below. Good luck buying it though– looks like Amazon’s ya lot and mp3 the only format. Listen link below vid:
SOHH teamed up with ReverbNation to select 20 unsigned rappers with "True Grit" --that rough, authentic swagger and determination to win at all costs. After weeks of deliberations and debates reviewing hundreds of worthy (and simply wack) contenders, the SOHH.com team countsdown the top 20 grittiest rappers on ReverbNation with a hustle so hard and rhymes so raw, they can't go unnoticed.
The SOHH True Grit Artist #3: "SERGE SEVERE", PORTLAND, OREGON
Dope lyrics. Doper beats. Very rarely you come across an artist that has the ability to mesh together both concepts effortlessly. Guru's touch to a DJ Premier track is the only way to explain the effect of Portland, Oregon's Serge Severe. His cadence over grimy beats encapsulates your mind in such a manner that you find yourself lost inside of his music. Don't think SOHH is the first to co-sign his grit, just take his appearances with Wu-Tang Clan, De La Soul, Talib Kweli, Goodie Mob and Dead Prez as the real support for today's #3 "True Grit" artist.
Serge's work ethic definitely lives up to his rapper alias: severe. He's the definition of a work horse. While staying true to his Focused Noise label, Serge has put out quality albums over the past few years such as 2008's Concrete Techniques (which won critical acclaim from sites like HipHopLinguistics.com) to the recently-released Back On My Rhymes. Already a MySpace star with over 8,300 fans, you're more likely to catch Serge putting in work around his hometown at spots like Mt. Tabor Theater or The Crown Room, where he's performing shows on weekly basis. The hunger doesn't stop there and neither do the accolades. His emcee talent has been acknowledged by various publications including HipHopDX, The Portland Mercury, That's Hip-Hop and more. His talent has also allowed him to perform at the annual SXSW festival in Austin, Texas throughout previous years.
Serge is unapologetic with his rhymes, as the emcee exudes an unparalleled sense of candor. You can hear the grit rise from his diaphragm on tracks like the eerily-toned "Prepare for Sergery" ("The drum kicks and my tongue spits/You heard of Serge/Drama, I'm like homicide/Murder words/Figure of speech, I just figure a beat/Cause this is scorching, blazing, sizzlin' heat/Like the bars from a stove/Take my bars like a pro."). Caught your attention yet? We thought so.
Give Serge a shot and we're sure he'll continue to maraud your ears.
If Serge ever needs an elevator pitch to sum himself up he can lift it straight from one of his track titles: "Classic But So New".
With his latest album Back On My Rhymes, Portland emcee Serge Severe has achieved an admirable feat in delivering a collection of songs that manage to capture hip hop’s golden age without sounding stale or superfluous. If Serge ever needs an elevator pitch to sum himself up he can lift it straight from one of his track titles: “Classic But So New”.
Severe comes from a place where hip hop heads convene around a Street Fighter arcade game while the sounds of The Chronic (on cassette!) can be heard coming from every pair of headphones. Right away in the album’s opener “Here Comes The Man” Serge lets his audience know that while he may have one foot planted firmly in the vintage hip hop of his youth - he is “smooth like Slick Rick’s vocal tone” - the other is pushing forward - “like a GPS around the city I roam.”
Serge’s rhymes aren’t weighed down by abstract cosmic references or a cataloging of model names and numbers of high-tech weaponry. Rather, Severe prefers wordplay that is efficient, sharp and strikes close, essentially mirroring the machetes, shovels, box blades and chokeholds that work their way into his metaphors.
In “Prepare for Sergery” Severe states, “Button pushing DJ’s, that’s just hypocrisy.” Thankfully Universal DJ Sect along with the rest of album’s producers have accepted the challenge as Back on My Rhyme’s beats steer clear of contradicting that anti-button pushing ethos. Production-wise there is no foot dragging when it comes to turning back the clock from the age of the MP3 to the MPC and the album’s lo-fi chunky instrumentation is one of the big reasons Serge’s rhyme schemes feel organic instead of forced. Jimmy Spicer and Pete Rock records are cut up for hooks and the samples themselves help make the case that current hip hop could use a little more of the “less is more.” The upright basses are allowed to rattle, the snares aren’t quantized and the the pops haven’t been polished out of the Hammonds.
Equally integral to Back On My Rhymes success are its features. All of the LP’s guests - including standouts Luck One and Cool Nutz, who deliver a memorable rip through “No Bittin Allowed” - jibe with the album’s throwback spirit and keep the subject manner consistent.
So if some hip hop newbie ends up throwing down the gauntlet and asks for an album made this year that captures some of the same magic that excited veteran fans 20 years earlier with albums like Paul’s Boutique or Bizarre Ride II The Pharcyde, grabbing Serge Severe’s Back On My Rhymes off the shelf is a move that can be made with complete confidence.