New Jacks Audible Mainframe Bring Old-School Swagger to Hip-hop
If the founding members of the hip-hop group Audible Mainframe had really thought it through, they probably would have never left Boston.
After four years of holding most of Beantown’s underground hip-hop circuit in the palm of their hand, a less-ambitious band might be content with the prospect of selling out shows at the same old spots and rocking the same old crowds. Their reputation for delivering dynamic, live-band hip-hop even earned them backing-band status with one of hip-hop’s most revered MCs—that lyrical Lothario, Slick Rick—whenever he was in town.
Luckily for us, Audible Mainframe didn’t think too hard.
“I think we are all just kind of nomadic by nature,” says MC Expo, the band’s rhyme-spitting, ’fro-sporting front man. “We were just feeling like it was time.”
But still, why leave Massachusetts behind? For one thing, Audible Mainframe’s eclectic style of hard-hitting, funked-out hip-hop is too good to let one of America’s puniest states hog it all for itself. So the band decided to test their credibility on the West Coast, splitting time between Long Beach and Orange County. The local scene is gradually starting to bite. AMF’s skills have also gotten them on the same bills as Damian “Jr. Gong” Marley, Lyrics Born, Arrested Development and Tone-Loc.
“We’re confident enough in our sound that if we get in front of you, you’re gonna leave being a fan of our band whether you like hip-hop or not,” says drummer John “Johnny 5” George.
AMF’s sound boasts the foundations of Rage Against the Machine, the Roots and boom-bap pioneers De La Soul. And it gets funkier. Its six members also drape their sound with thick ’70s gold chains and a dash of John Shaft swagger. Their song “Real Talk,” a brass-slathered blend of hip-hop and pocket rhythm, could even be an updated ode to Tower of Power. It’s a sound that’s notorious for luring half-drunk clubgoers to the stage to become part of the action.
“You come to an Audible Mainframe show, you’re going to have fun,” says keyboardist/trumpet player Dave Miller. “I don’t care if you’ve had a bad day, your girlfriend broke up with you, you just failed your math test—you’re gonna have fun; you’re going to dance.”
“And you might even get laid,” Expo chimes in, smirking.
Though the genesis of the band was a solo project/collaboration between MC Expo and beat-crafters guitarist Dave Sherman and drum-machinist DJ M.u.T.T. of the D-Boyz, the formation of a full band adds welcome twists to the mix. (The current lineup also includes bassist Jason Buchea.)
“I like the idea of being able to improvise onstage,” Expo says. “We make it so when you come to a show, it’s not the same experience as going home to listen to the album. Every show is different when you play with a band.”
AMF have received some golden opportunities. Their shiniest one so far has been the Slick Rick collaboration, which came about after a tight performance at one of their Boston stomping grounds. AMF fielded an offer from Rick’s management to accompany the eye-patched icon at his next Boston gig, and even after AMF’s move west, Rick will still occasionally hire them.
“I get to talk to [Rick] about a lot of things, like the history of hip-hop, and he really puts me on to a lot of stuff and teaches me things,” Expo says. “When he speaks, I listen because he’s been where we’re trying to go and he’s a nice dude. For us, it’s like playing with the Beatles or Led Zeppelin.”
Can we blame him? Keeping such good company and honing their considerable talents have AMF poised to plant a firm flag on OC hip-hop.
Audible Mainframe perform at Chain Reaction, 1652 W. Lincoln Ave., Anaheim, (714) 635-6067; www.allages.com. Tues., 7:30 p.m. Call for cover. Also at the Blue Café, 17208 Pacific Coast Hwy., Huntington Beach, (562) 592-1302; www.thebluecafe.com. Thurs., July 10, 9 p.m. Call for cover. For more information, visit www.myspace.com/audiblem.