14th Annual Rap/Hip-Hop Album Nominee
10th Annual Rap/Hip-Hop Album Vox Pop Winner
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Record Label: Self-Released
Home Base: Portland, OR
Genre: Intellectual Hip-Hop
Categories Entered: Rap/Hip-Hop Album, Rap/Hip-Hop Song
Work submitted: Corroded Utopia; “Balance”
Artists Featured: Promoe (Looptroop Rockers), Smoke (Old Dominion), Poeina Suddarth, and Ricky Pharoe
Label: Eastern Sunz Productions
Influences: We are more influenced by social issues than specific bands and artists. We are big fans of, and have learned a lot from, Swedish group Looptroop Rockers. They have a huge following in Europe and throw excellent live shows. Promoe from Looptroop is also featured on our title track “Corroded Utopia.”
What’s the meaning of your band name? One of the most common questions we are asked is why we’re called Eastern Sunz since we’re from the West Coast. Eastern Sunz is a metaphor for the collective consciousness rising.
Describe your nominated work: Corroded Utopia is our fifth album and features Promoe (Looptroop Rockers), Smoke (Old Dominion), Ricky Pharoe, and Poeina Suddarth. It is produced almost entirely by Smoke. Addressing political, social, and environmental issues, Corroded Utopia picks up where our last album left off. We think it’s our best work yet.
Why did you choose to submit this work to The 10th IMA’s? We felt we had a good shot at winning. The type of music that we make is unique, so we have to find the right outlets for recognition. We have been independent artists, in every sense of the word, for ten years now. We’ve released five albums, toured the US as well as Europe, and have built a solid fan base. We think we’re the types of artists that the IMA’s try to represent.
Did you use any unusual effects or instruments in this recording? As with all our albums, we use some obscure samples from social/political documentaries. Our engineer uses a lot of effects that go over our heads as artists, but I don’t know if they’d be considered obscure. We plan on using a wide range of live instrumentation on the next album.
Were there any happy accidents while in the studio, or did everything go as planned? Making an album is basically a series of happy accidents. You sit down with an idea of what you want to do, but over the course of a project the album pretty much takes on a life of it’s own. There were a few guest spots that didn’t work out for various reasons, but the artists who stepped in did an amazing job. For instance, on the song “Up In Flames”, we made a late decision to have our producer Smoke rap on the song. He did an outstanding job and now we couldn’t see the track any other way.
Did fans help you fund this project? Not directly, although a lot of funding does come from merchandise sales and show money. We may attempt to raise money for the next album through a fan-funding website.
Who’s sitting in your audience? Nobody is sitting, they’re all on their feet dancing if we’re doing our job right.
What makes your fans unique? We’re hip-hop artists, but we appeal to people who are music fans in general. We often get the comment “I don’t usually like hip hop, but I love you guys.” We have fans ranging from young kids to grandparents. We meet people from all demographics that support our music. Our fans are typically the critical thinker types who believe in what we have to say.
Are there any songs you wish you wrote? The “Happy Birthday” song. Did you know that someone still owns the rights to that? You have to pay them to use it.
What artists are you listening to that would surprise your fans? I’m not sure what our fans would expect us to listen to. We listen to a lot of different types of music between the two of us. What we’re not fans of is a lot of the hip-hop that’s put out today. That may or may not be surprising.
What is your dream show lineup? We’ve already been fortunate enough to perform with most of the artists we look up to. We’d love to perform our entire album backed by a live band or orchestra.
What is your guilty pleasure on the road? We have a bizarre fascination with Bob Evans Restaurants since we don’t have them on the West Coast. They are a mediocre chain, but when you are on the road, sometimes your options are severely limited. For some reason it’s one of the only places where we can always agree to eat. Bob Evans is like our beacon of hope when we’re starving and there is nothing else but gas stations and McDonalds for miles on end.
Any close calls or mishaps while on tour? We’ve had plenty just with the driving alone. Everything from flash floods to tour vehicle breakdowns, nearly hitting giant elk, and numerous drug searches by suspicious highway patrolman. Oregon plates and dreadlocks behind the wheel just don’t bode well in a lot of places.
Do you have any rituals before you go on stage? Not really, but our DJ is a nervous wreck until sound has been properly checked.
Should music be free? Music is free. If all revenue made from music suddenly stopped, music would still exist. A lot of people profiting from music that aren’t artists might not exist, but people are always going to create and perform music. Do I believe that blatantly downloading music illegally is right? No. But at the same time, we have people downloading our albums, and we have no problem with it. You can’t download a T-shirt or a live show, so we hope that when someone downloads our CD, they enjoy it and come support us at one of our concerts. When we sell albums, we encourage people to make copies for their friends. There are artists that I’ve discovered from downloading music that I never would have known otherwise. Now I buy their albums and pay to see them in concert when they’re in town.
How has digital affected your career? It’s hard to quantify, but it could only have helped. The resources that are available to independent artists today are incredible. You can write, record, mix, master, distribute, and market an album without even leaving your bedroom. Plus it’s for a fraction of what it would have cost only a decade ago
Are digital singles vs. full albums the future of music? I don’t know, we’ve never focused on that. We have always taken pride in making good albums first. We always have the goal in mind of making solid, cohesive albums that you can sit down and listen to from start to finish. It seems like a lot of up and coming artists are focused on making a radio hit or selling ringtones. That’s just not our thing.
Finish this sentence: The music industry is… an industry. We didn’t get into music to make money, but we’ve come to realize that to be able to continue supporting yourself by making music, you better develop some sort of business savvy. There’s not much a major record label can do that independent artists can’t do for themselves these days. Staying independent has allowed us to continue making the type of music we believe in.