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Central Coast Hip-Hop: Interview with CRH of Lyricist Lounge

WCW- Workingclasswhole

CRH- Chris “CRH” Harrison

WCW: How long has Santa Maria’s Lyricist Lounge collective been around? How was it formed? Any connection to New York’s Lyricist Lounge?

CRH: The Santa Maria collective had been actively ran by DJ Greenleaf from 2008 to 2011. Mainly focusing on the local scene and the showcase environment, he helped get exposure for upcoming artists. He took a hiatus for a few years and kicked it back into gear around 2015, that’s when I got involved. The local talent was still a focus combined with the element of the headliner act.

We brought such legends as 2Mex, AWOL One, and Casual of Hieroglyphics crew from Oakland, CA. Local shows fuel the culture when such people we admire can step into a bar in a little town and have a beer with you while rocking your favorite track off their catalogue in an intimate spot. The only connection to the New York Lyricist Lounge is the fact we are paying homage to a collective of conscious minded people that care about hip hop preservation.


WCW: How did you get involved in the local hip-hop community?

CRH: I’ve been involved in making music since I was 18 years old I am 37 now. To get into the scene you just gotta make your music, believe in yourself enough to display it in front of others. The hip hop community I’m connected chooses to identify to the conscious side hip hop. Choosing to escape the gangs and trouble that can get young kids involved in dangerous situations. Hip hop saves lives. Believe it or not.


WCW: What does DIY/underground hip-hop mean to you?

CRH: Just what it looks like. Haha…DIY means to be hands on with your craft. From production, writing, mixing and mastering, marketing and merchandise production. DIY is cool, but you can burn out fast. I highly suggest in building a network. It is a real blessing to have people dedicated to helping you while perfecting their craft. No one wants to look or sound bad. Don’t have such an ego you can’t work well with others. Know your limits and know what you’re capable of.

WCW: If you can, tell us about the history of the hip-hop community here in the Central Coast.

CRH: All I can say is it has evolved greatly. I am proud of the emcees that rock shows without vocals behind them. I am very proud of DJs that still spin vinyl. To the bboys/bgirls and graff writers I salute you for the continuous effort to push this culture forward. Finding a truly dope beat-boxer is like finding a diamond. If you are out there please keep going and elevating and teaching your craft to the next generation.

A general answer to the pop culture would be: 90s were golden. 2000s were flossy. 2010s were trappy. 2020s the golden era is gonna circle back. Everyone is tired of the bullshit

WCW: How has the underground hip-hop community dealt with the effects of the pandemic and quarantine? Any attempts at live-streamed performances (battles, cyphers, or otherwise)?

CRH: On the live aspect of it, hip hop artists and fans have been bummed in general. The whole idea we can perform is such a hard pill to swallow right now. As of right now no plans for streaming a show, but we aren’t opposed to it. From the creative side it has affected travel, scenic views, and people watching opportunities. A lot of what can inspire instantly is a delicacy now. So when you get that spark hold on till it fades. Features are still done by emails. Not much in studio work with my friends as of late.


WCW: With trap currently being the dominant style of hip-hop, have you seen it make any inroads into the underground hip-hop scene? How has the underground hip-hop scene here in the Central Coast evolved over time?

CRH: Same answer as #4.plus it’s forced the new kids to be lazy, less imaginative and fall short of having any substance. Rhyming sentence structure and the message are very important to me.


WCW: Back when shows were still happening, many of the Lyricist Lounge live events showcased graffiti art and breakdancing. How would say those elements of hip-hop have aged compared to the musical aspects of it? Do you think they have managed to stay as prominent?

CRH: A culture is only as prominent as its teachers that pass on the spirit, passion and wisdom of a conscious minded hip hop head. As long as our kids still practice their favorite or all of the 5 elements we can expect it to be preserved. The musical side hits some quicker than graffiti or dance but if you care about history and why things are the way they are you better study all elements: DJ / emcee / graffiti / bboy bgirl/ beat-box.

WCW: You’re recent project, The Reptile and The Realist, just released an album back in January called Intrinsic Value. Care to talk about the background behind The Reptile and The Realist, and what went into writing and producing Intrinsic Value?

CRH: The reptile and the realist consists of Elliott “Big Zelly” Niezel (the reptile) and Chris “C.R.H” Harrison. The album is a display of growth and style. Dealing with the ups and downs of fatherhood, religion, matters of the heart, and the state of hip hop in general. Production by Illmajestic, Fatjack, Elusive, and C.R.H. Featuring AWOL One (shape shifters). Mixed, mastered, and cuts by Deeskee at Weightless Audio Productions in Los Angeles, CA. Very proud of this record. It is our second installment of a 3 part series. We are currently constructing beats for the 3rd release. Go to repandreal.bandcamp.com for all music and merch purchases.


WCW: We know this is a tough question to answer with so much uncertainty given the current state of the pandemic, but what would you say the future holds for Lyricist Lounge and the Central Coast DIY hip-hop scene?

CRH: When it opens up for us we will be planning the year out. Till further notice is all I can say right now.


WCW: Last but not least, are there any local MCs, DJs, B-boys/girls or graffiti artists here in Santa Maria and the rest of the Central Coast you want to give a shout out to?

CRH:

A few I can remember…Peace and respects to: Dean / DJ Greenleaf / Elliott Niezel / clever one / Twiggz / Battleaxe Global / Grangerville Villains. R.I.P. to DVS / Mic Bles / Thelonius funk / Cinikill / A.I. / Central Coast Beat Social / Bobby Nostyle /  Jon Doe / SZA hands / 90 Heads / Microphone Gorillas / Dtragic / Highlife Kingz / AWOL One / Deeskee / Megabusive. So many more, but no disrespect I can’t remember everyone. Haha. Peace to any parents teaching their kids about this culture. Much respect to any human being preserving hip hop in its purest and rawest form. I appreciate your questions very much. Thank you.

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