“The Humorist and the MC Got Plenty of Things in Common”: The Koreatown Oddity Interview

From recording prank phonecalls to collaborating with Ras_G, The Koreatown Oddity talks Backwoods, ice scultpting, and Gangsta Nip with Sweeney Kovar.
By    February 4, 2015

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Ras_G, Leimert Park’s own Crate Creator, is known to friends as one of the most stringent judges of rappers. Despite cutting his teeth as a resident DJ for Project Blowed, _G spent years releasing records without having an MC ever rocking one of his beats. That’s begun to change, and fast. After releasing several one-off collaborations with MC’s through various outlets in recent history, _G found the perfect partner to dive headfirst into the rap world with–The Koreatown Oddity. 

Uniting under the moniker 5 Chuckles, Ras_G and KTO compliment each other to a T. In Koreatown, _G finds an MC with just the properly calibrated balance of humor, introspection and bizarrerie. Within _G’s beats our wolf-masked MC is able to explore parallel ghetto worlds just a slightly off center from our own. 

Their eponymous debut album arrived late 2014 via Leaving Records buttressed by Stones Throw. The eight-track project was presented as a limited run cassette package inside a Backwoods pack. Eight, my cardboard-blunt-averse smokers will recall, is the original number of Backwoods one would receive in a package before it was reduced to a paltry five. Much like the thick smoke of a tobacco leaf, the vibe wrought by the combination of Dominique Purdy’s hilarious “human style” raps with Ras_G’s blunted beats is a raw but ultimately nuanced and rewarding experience. 

On the day of the cassettes re-release and the album’s digital release, I spoke with The Koreatown Oddity about the making of 5 Chuckles, why they chose to keep the circulation of the album limited to just 100 cassettes for nearly two months and just how is it that the idea of an ice-sculpting pervert made its way into song.  — Sweeney Kovar

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How did you first meet Ras_G?

Obviously I’ve known of _G, he’s _G. I was always hand-to-hand with my tapes before I was on the net much. When I would see DJ’s or MC’s or producers I fuck with, I would just give them a tape. Like Guru says on the beginning of “Hard To Earn,” ‘give them a compliment, tell them my name and peace.’ That’s basically how I built a rep, I’d just let the music talk.

I was out at Beat Swap Meet a while back and saw _G there and I gave him a tape. It must have been after my Exit The Dragon’s Mouth beat tape came out. I gave him a tape and went back to digging. Then he hollered at me to come through Beat Soup at Poo-Bah’s so I did that with Ashtre Jinkins and Eludem, that’s when I first met them as well. I think that night I mighta did one rap joint but I mostly played beats.

How did that develop into 5 Chuckles?

We just started talking about doing some joints. I was at his pad chilling one day and we did a joint that ended up being on Raw Fruit Vol.3, “Bruce Leroy Glow.” I started talking to him about this 200 Tree Rings album I was doing at the time and he gave me some joints for that.

One day I came to his pad and the second beat you hear on “Film Roll Splices And The Deleted Scenes,” because there’s two beats in that one track, he was working on the second beat as I came through the door. You know those bells jingling in the beat? He literally had a thing he was jingling and recording live. Then he played me the last beat he made before he went to sleep the night before which is the first beat you hear on that track. I got the last beat he made before he went to sleep and the first beat he made the morning after. That’s why those two tracks kinda go together.

We would just chill. I’d come through, we’d listen to beats, watch flicks, talk about shit, eat Ethiopian, all that shit. Then one day he was just like, ‘We gotta do this project together. Let’s call it 5 Chuckles.’ I got some beats from him and I just started writing to them. I think the first joint we recorded was either the “Ice Fetish” joint or the “Black Days of Thunder.” I remember hearing that “Black Days of Thunder,” that was crazy when I first heard it with the car noises.

You recorded all of them at the SpaceBase right?

Yep, all of them there at the base. We recorded everything at the base. He had a couple of beats he already had set aside for me then I also picked a couple from just beats that he had. That’s how it came together. We had that shit finished before anyone really knew about it. You could probably check Instagram and go back look at videos he posted when I recorded some of the verses. We had the album for a while. I think the last joint we did was the “Live and Direct” one with the KRS sample. The one we did right before that was the one with KahiLL. To be honest I thought we were done, but he sent me some new shit and that’s how the KahiLL beat came about. I did a verse and it ended up making the album.

_G went on tour like two times during the making of the album. He went to Europe and he went to Japan. That’s around when we talked about putting that shit in a Backwoods pack.


Tell me more about your intentions behind the packaging. Putting the tapes in Backwoods packages was very creative.

My Pop’s 45’s joint was packaged like a dimebag pretty much. It’s almost like taking that to another level in a sense. We were talking about that, ‘We should do this shit in a Backwoods pack.’ So he just started collecting them. He already had a few but after that he just started collecting them. He even got some from around the world, that’s what was really dope. We just wanted to give the people something raw like that. Not too much, just raw.

Initially it was just the 100 tapes. You guys aren’t doing digital until now, almost two months later. 

We wanted to make sure we put it out last year. I want to say we had most of the album finished in 2013 and we added a joint or two in early part of 2014. You know with music projects you never really know when it’s going to be released, there’s so much shit going on behind the scenes. Sometime in the fall we thought we should put the tape out on Black Friday. That just sounds good. “5 Chuckles” Black Friday. They both got the same amount of syllables. It just fit.

We wanted to not worry about digital and just have tape and see who was really going to fuck with that like that. It was more of a scramble for the label than us. We had it done, mixed down and Deezy, Matthewdavid, made sure it was ready to go for Black Friday. There was no real promo. I liked that. I liked that in the sense that you’re not trying to force it down people’s throats like ‘Here comes my shit! Here comes my shit! Buy my T-shirt! Buy my hat!’ Niggas is always shilling some shit.

I remember my phone was dead on Black Friday. I woke up around 1pm and put it on the charger and by the time I checked the tapes them shits was all gone. I think Matthew might have tweeted the night before that the tape was coming out but I feel like no one really knew until the day of.

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Have you gotten yours yet?

Nah I still don’t got one. _G ain’t got one either. We’re coming out with the repress. It’s not coming out in the Backwoods package it’s just gonna be that leaf-print cassingle case. It’s going to be that and the digital on Tuesday. Alot of people’s first time hearing it was when they came to Low End to see me and _G. Some people knew the words! It was cool to see both sides–people who hadn’t heard anything and some people who were already familiar.

So far you guys have done two shows as 5 Chuckles, right? One at Low End Theory in LA and a more recent show in Oakland. 

The first time I did Low End was with Gypsy Mamba. I did a song with him and when he was about to play Low End he asked me to come do the song with him. The next time I did Low End, I did that “Bruce Leroy Glow” joint with _G. The next time was when 200 Tree Rings came.

_G just came up to Oakland for that second one. On some, ‘You and Zeroh bout to be up there? Imma just roll up there.’ It was like a surprise show for people. People was bugging out! I remember a Filipino girl was in the crowd freaking out. That Oakland show was even more different than Low End. I was going up there to do a solo set so I played shit off the MPC. I played beats, I spit some shit. Then _G came on and we did our 5 Chuckles joints, we did our 200 Tree Rings joint, the Raw Fruit Vol. 3 joint and he played some beats too.

Were the subject of the songs born out of a dialogue between you and _G or was that all you?

I was just talking about this with Ashtre. My style is human raps. Life becomes a part of my rhymes. That’s another reason people connect to my shit. You may hear some shit you may have seen. I can reference the store I just went into. A person that no one really knows but certain homies might know. Some food I was eating that day. I don’t really like to talk about shit I don’t know about or haven’t had an experience with. I don’t want to do anything where someone might bump into me later and I say something like ‘Actually I don’t really fuck with that.’

I think of my raps as documenting time. I’m documenting time, me and _G talk about that. These are little time capsules and journal pieces. We’re going to look back on 5 Chuckles and we’re going to think about the time we was watching Lonnie Hall, the artist, at _G’s crib because there’s a reference to that on the tape. Or when George Zimmerman and DMX was supposed to fight. All these little things like that.

_G just really let me do my thing. I think on “Live and Direct” we talked about which verse would come first or second but pretty much other than that I would just do my thing. I would write to the beat, whether I did the rhyme in my head and held it until I came over there or wrote it on my phone. Even some sounds might have gotten added for effect because of certain things I was saying. Once I do the rap _G might add something.

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Did that happen with the Paul Mooney line?

Yeah, exactly. It almost happened at the same time, meaning he pulled that Paul Mooney quote as I was finishing the verse. Alot of times that’s how it will happen, it will just come out of the air. He just happened to have some Paul Mooney he was listening to that day and I had half of this rap and I come up with the other pieces while I’m there.

I like to feel the beat. Some people like to have raps and apply them to whatever beat they may get. I like to have my raps go with the beat, meaning the feeling of the beat and the vibe and the pattern of the beat. I’ll take beats and just listen to them and then words will appear. I might listen to some tracks, turn them off and then go do some fuckin’ laundry. Some raps might come into my head while I’m doing laundry for this one specific beat. Then I’ll get back to the beat and try my raps out. Sometimes the beat will make me think of the concept. I want to make sure that people, when they hear the beat, they say there are no other rhymes that could have been on the beat. I want this shit to fit. I want people to say this is a song.

Some might write a verse and get a beat later and they put a verse they already had in they notebook on top of it. That’s cool too. It all depends on how it works out. Sometimes that works. My style is more to feel the beat. That’s why when you listen to that [“Planet Nagataurus“], it sounds like that’s what that song should be about.

How did the “Ice Fetish” joint come about? 

Growing up I got to experience alot of weird stuff in terms of being around people that was known weirdos in music or comedy. Alot of people put me up on weird videos when I was young too. My parents were never really into censoring me. I don’t think I had a censor. I seen Set It Off in the theatres with my mom and there’s a scene where Jada Pinkett’s getting fucked in there. It’s crazy because as a kid I never said I was about to go out and do some crazy shit because I watched a movie. I always got that it was a movie, it was fiction. I think all those programs and comic books and TV and hip-hop, all those things melted into me and now when I hear beats, they have colors and they have pictures as well when I hear them.

The “Ice Fetish” beat has the icy blue kinda look in my head. It just made me think of being in ice. Then the metaphor became if my rhymes cut like an ice sculptor. There are some talented-ass ice sculptors that be making all kinds of shit. People order that shit and it’ll cost thousands of dollars to get them to do that shit for you. That song is expressing that this is what I do and the ladies are the creativity I have. ‘I’m the illest ice sculptor in the village, create frozen images of sexy vixens.’ And the ladies are the perfect artwork too. Some people call their car a lady. Some even call their beat-machine their girl. I wanted to kind of say that and express the style.

I start talking about niggas that’s all about ice fucking with me too like Sub-Zero and Mr. Freeze. These niggas know I’m the illest with it too. They even want to get some custom built shit. Mr. Freeze pays triple for the custom built ones. He’s like, ‘I don’t give a fuck. I got racks!’ Sub-Zero wants one that he can basically stick his dick into and it’ll have water shooting out. That’s how it came about, seeing the visuals to the beat. That’s how the rhymes come. You can say as well for “Black Days of Thunder.” That’s more of an obvious one because you hear all the car noises. It’s me and _G out here, this is how we roll in our whip. We got the 5 Chuckles whip, it’s sponsored by Backwoods. This is how we dippin’. If we had a video for that it would be _G on a fuckin’ earpiece giving me commands and advice while I’m whippin’. That’s how I imagine it in my head, like a little story or a scene.

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You do both hip-hop and comedy and you do them well. what are the parallels you see between the two disciplines?

Like it says on the beginning of that “Planet Nagataurus” joint, “the humorist and MCs got plenty things in common.” You shouldn’t be surprised that I’m able to do both, I’m able to be humorous and spit rhymes. “One of them is control the crowd, even if you bombin’. gotta hit these spots and test out these jokes. a laugh or rhythmic paragraph, I bless you with both.”

Punchlines are a parallel obviously. Even when Bushwick Bill is saying the most gruesome thing or somebody like Gangsta Nip or somebody like that is saying the most craziest thing, it might make you laugh because it’s so crazy and so visual. Like Gangsta Nip saying he’ll cut off your head and it’ll roll across the street. That shit is funny! You could picture it. Some people scoff at things like that and say it’s just the up-in-the-club, shoot-em-up, chain music or whatever. They think that he’s seriously going to chop off your head and it’ll roll across the street. No, he’s being funny! Maybe he will fuck you up but not really cut your head off. That’s more for effect and he’ll give you a picture to go with that.

So the visual element is shared between both aspects, as well as the use of a punchline. I would say being a wordsmith in general relates in comedy and in rhyming. They also reference each other all the time. Jay-Z has so many Chris Rock references. Chris Rock has jokes about Ludacris’ “Move Bitch,” about Biggie and Tupac, ‘Them niggas didn’t get assassinated, they got shot!’

It’s someone rocking a mic at the end of the day and the best ones are connecting with stuff you can connect with as well. In both things I think people that are fans of comedy or hip-hop can accept all kinds of personalities. There’s so many personalities of MC’s and comedy too, prop comics, one-liner comics, deadpan comics, political comics, topical comics, super raunchy comics…

That makes me think of Blowfly. 

Blowfly is a perfect example. He’s a combination of the two as well as soul music. I feel like comedy and hip-hop have always been related. Growing up, that was me right there. Growing up it was clownin’, jokes, me and the homies baggin on each other and then going home and making tapes! In high school the homie had a keyboard, we’d go to his crib and hook up a little beat, he’d call me up and I had a karaoke recorder and I’d put the mic on the earpiece and spit raps into the mouthpiece. We would record raps like that and it would have this crazy raw sound. That was just how we could do it. We weren’t doing that on purpose, it’s just what we had. He was at home with his keyboard, I was here with the karaoke, that was just how we could do it.

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That reminds me of a Johnny Cash quote B+ would say, “Your style is a function of your limitations more so than a function of your skills.”

Right, I totally agree with that. That makes me think of something else I’ve heard, something about the format of creating you’ve had the most fun with, keep doing it the way you have the most fun doing it. Shit, I remember doing tapes in junior high and that shit was fun! 9th grade, we used to prank call. I was the nigga that would call people up, put people on three-way, get up to like four, five niggas on three-way and call somebody up and start making sounds in the background and record it. Homies would come to the crib and we would listen back to the phone calls laughing.

There’s this trick we used to do: it’d be two of us on the phone and we’d both click over, call somebody else, click back in, the phones would both be ringing and two people would pick up the phone and after a while they’d have to accept that regardless who called who they had to start talking. We would be hearing information about people at school and recording them. It really brought me back when I watched the A Band Called Death documentary and it showed when they were younger and they were doing the phone tricks to make their voice echo out and sound all weird.

 




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