Living Legends

Almost Famous (Outhouse / Revenge Entertainment)

Renowned for its prosperous DIY independent scene, the West Coast has made a name for itself on behalf of spirited hip-hop shows and elaborate album-length collaborations.

As standout representatives of this hip-hop underground movement, the nine-man California-based super crew Living Legends is all but due for the respect and notoriety the group has earned since the early ’90s. Coming together from primary bases in Los Angeles and the Bay Area, few projects can match the size, significance or chemistry that Living Legends calls its own.

The unique LL Crew lineup consists of Sunspot Jonz, Luckyiam.PSC (representing the Mystik Journeymen), Eligh, Murs, Scarub (representing 3 Melancholy Gypsies), The Grouch, Asop, Arata and Bicasso.

Aspiring to make hip-hop a career with only the money in the members’ pockets, the Legends has managed to consistently add to its ever-growing fan base. Without the advantage of a major record deal, group members played their own middlemen and publicists by selling four-track produced tapes and memorabilia out of the trunks of their cars.

With a buzz popular enough to repeatedly sell out shows throughout the West Coast, the Legends tied together its meager profits to tour Europe, Australia and even Japan.

Rather than signing with Nu Gruv or accepting a get-rich-quick contract from KRS-One, the group opted to continue distribution on its own. By following this route, the Legends maintains complete control over how the group operates and how the music sounds.

Through extensive ambition and word-of-mouth, the Living Legends has placed itself on the map with the release of the ironically titled album Almost Famous.

Personifying the originality of sanctified hip-hop forefathers like Wu-Tang Clan, Freestyle Fellowship and Hieroglyphics, Almost Famous adds an exclamation point to the Legends’ stirring ode to underground hip-hop’s life-affirming power.

Although the crew has ditched its four-track mixers for a higher-quality sound, the tracks, produced by Grouch and Eligh (and one by Sunspot) stay familiar to their funky, laid-back, California-influenced vibe.

Whether Eligh’s monotone machine-gun raps, Scarub’s bouncy drawl or PSC’s high-pitched braggadocio, each MC brings a distinct flow and unique angle to the lyrics.

On the track “That Looks Good,” the fellas take a stand on social commentary, with notable flows on the rise of mind-damaging drugs and fake A&Rs. The mellow sound of “Flawless” shows the Legends’ sensitive side to the women in the members’ lives.

The hard-thumping “Gift Wrap” shouts about the crew’s life-long upbringing into the hip-hop art. The rolling, up-tempo sound of “What Would I Be” has the posse trading rhymes about how members would perceive their lives if their independent culture were to make them rich.

Meshing perfectly with the Living Legends sound and message, Almost Famous is blessed with a witty Hieroglyphic-induced guest appearance by Pep Love on “Not Here.” The album’s final track, “Nothing Less,” featuring Minneapolis’ finest MC, Slug, spits enthusiastic poetry over a beat to ride into oblivion.

With an ironic ostentatious appeal, Almost Famous should go a long way toward establishing the members of this oversized crew as legitimate underground hip-hop heroes. Living Legends is too real for an industry that, at times, favors fantasy and fortune. Its music reflects a love and commitment missing in much of today’s money-driven rap landscape and becomes the prototype for a struggling independent success story.

Living Legends is currently embarking on a much-anticipated American tour. The group opens for The Liks and Defari Feb. 23 at The Rave in Milwaukee. For more information on the Living Legends and an extensive online music store, check out its website at www.LLcrew.com.