WEST COAST BRIDGES: SUBSTANCE ABUSE

CALIFORNIA | SUBSTANCE ABUSE (ESCO TRE)

CALIFORNIA | SUBSTANCE ABUSE (ESCO TRE)

INTERVIEW SHAMIKA SANDERS-SYKES PHOTOGRAPH

ESO TRE AND SUBZ MAKE UP THE WEST COAST HIP HOP DUO, SUBSTANCE ABUSE. THE GROUP DROPPED THEIR DEBUT SINGLE "WHAT THE FUCK YOU RHYMIN' FOR?" IN 2000, WHICH WAS FOLLOWED BY THE SINGLE "CAN'T CALL IT"/"NO GUARANTEES". THEIR DEBUT ALBUM, OVERPROOF, WAS RELEASED IN 2006, FOLLOWED BY THEIR SOPHOMORE EFFORT, BACKGROUND MUSIC, IN 2013. THEY RECENTLY DROPPED THEIR SINGLE, "BRIDGES" FEATURING ACEYALONE, A FOUNDING MEMBER OF LEGENDARY LOS ANGELES HIP HOP COLLECTIVE, FREESTYLE FELLOWSHIP. I SIT DOWN WITH ESO TRE AS WE GET TO KNOW A LITTLE MORE ABOUT THE GROUP FROM CALI.

VALIDATED: WHAT TRACK YOU HEARD THAT MADE YOU SAY "HIP HOP IS WHAT I WANT TO DO?"

SUBSTANCE ABUSE: THREE SONGS COME TO MIND, ALL AT DIFFERENT TIMES IN MY LIFE.  RUN-DMC "YOU TALK TOO MUCH," PUBLIC ENEMY "911 IS A JOKE," AND BRAND NUBIAN "PUNKS JUMP UP TO GET BEAT DOWN."  THE RUN-DMC SONG WAS THE FIRST TIME I MEMORIZED RAP LYRICS.  MY BROTHER HAD THE TAPE.  I REMEMBER SPITTING IT ON THE PLAYGROUND AS A SUPER YOUNGSTA AND SOME KID SAYING I HAD A TALENT FOR RAPPING (OR AT LEAST MEMORIZING OTHER PEOPLE'S RAPS AND TRYING TO IMPERSONATE THEM).  THE P.E. SONG STRUCK  ME LATER ON BECAUSE OF IT'S ENERGY.  AND THE BRAND NUBIAN SONG BLEW MY MIND.  THE LATTER TWO ESPECIALLY,  BECAUSE THEY MADE ME FEEL LIKE I KNEW ABOUT A RECONDITE FORM OF MUSIC THAT OTHER PEOPLE DIDN'T KNOW ABOUT.  IT WAS THE RAP THAT EVERYBODY WAS LISTENING TO, IT WAS THE RAP THAT PEOPLE WHO REALLYKNEW HIP HOP WERE LISTENING TO.  I AM NOT SURE THERE'S ONE TRACK THAT MADE ME WANT TO RAP AS A VOCATION, BUT I REMEMBER SEEING RAKIM IN THE "DON'T SWEAT THE TECHNIQUE" VIDEO AND THINKING THAT WAS THE KIND OF ENERGY I WANTED TO PUT OUT IN THE UNIVERSE. 

VALIDATED: HOW DID YOU COME UP WITH THE NAME SUBSTANCE ABUSE?

SUBSTANCE ABUSE: THE FIRST FOUR SONGS WE RECORDED WITH A PRODUCER NAMED NO WERE ORIGINALLY SUPPOSED TO BE PART OF AN EP CALLED SUBSTANCE ABUSE.  THEN CAME THE DISCUSSION THAT SUBSTANCE ABUSE WOULD BE A BETTER NAME FOR OUR GROUP, WITH THE IMPLICIT UNDERSTANDING THAT THE NAME WASN'T ABOUT VENERATING ACTUAL SUBSTANCE ABUSE.  ABUSE IS A WORD THAT CORRELATES WITH EXCESS, AND WE ARE EXCESSIVELY CONCERNED WITH PUTTING SUBSTANCE IN THE MUSIC WE PRESENT.  YEAH, WE DRANK FORTIES AND ALL THAT SHIT.  BUT THAT'S NOT SOMETHING THAT WE WOULD EVER GLAMORIZE.  IF WE DO TALK ABOUT ACTUAL SUBSTANCE ABUSE, WE TELL YOU BOTH SIDES OF THE STORY.

VALIDATED: THROUGHOUT THE YEARS, YOU HAVE WORKED WITH A NUMBER OF HIP HOP STALWARTS FROM YOUR DEBUT ALBUM, OVERPROOF, TO YOUR MOST RECENT SINGLE "BRIDGES." IS THERE ANYONE THAT YOU HAVEN'T WORKED WITH YET THAT YOU WOULD LIKE TO AND WHY?

SUBSTANCE ABUSE: NAS IS ALWAYS SOMEONE I'VE WANTED TO WORK WITH.  PAUL WALL WOULD BE DOPE, AS WE'VE NEVER DONE A SONG WITH A RAPPER FROM THE SOUTH OR MIDWEST.  I ALSO THINK A COLLABORATION WITH MURS WOULD BE DOPE.  HE'S AN LA O.G. FROM THE SAME ERA AS US AND I THINK WE'D BE ABLE TO CREATE SOMETHING SUPER DOPE.

VALIDATED: WHAT IS YOUR TAKE ON HIP HOP TODAY, ESPECIALLY WEST COAST HIP HOP? WHERE DO YOU FEEL THAT TODAY'S INDUSTRY IS FAILING?

SUBSTANCE ABUSE: I THINK THE MAIN GRIEVANCE PEOPLE FROM THE TRUE SCHOOL ERA HAVE WITH WHAT'S GOING ON TODAY IS THE DEATH OF DOPE LYRICISM.  THE RAP THAT'S OUT NOW HAS SOME DEFINITE DOPE ASPECTS TO IT, IT HAS A UNIQUE ENERGY AND VIBE TO IT.  BUT ASIDE FROM KENDRICK, SCHOOLBOY Q, AND FEW OTHER PEOPLE, THERE'S NOT TOO MANY WELL KNOWN PEOPLE WHO PRIORITIZE LYRICISM.  AND I UNDERSTAND THAT, BECAUSE IT'S NOT WHAT SELLS MUSIC.  PEOPLE FORGET ABOUT WHEN NAS SAID HIP HOP IS DEAD MANY MOONS AGO, BUT I THINK WHAT HE WAS TALKING ABOUT IS LYRICISM.  EVERYTHING IS ABOUT A CHORUS THAT CATCHES PEOPLE.  THE LYRICS CAN JUST BE FILLER.

VALIDATED: WHAT SURPRISES YOU ABOUT YOUR AUDIENCE?

SUBSTANCE ABUSE: THE INTERNET'S A CRAZY THING.  WE'VE HAD PEOPLE FROM ALL PARTS OF THE GLOBE REACH OUT TO US ABOUT OUR MUSIC, RECORDS WE DID LIKE "WHAT THE FUCK YOU RHYMIN' FOR" THAT WE THOUGHT PEOPLE FORGOT ABOUT.  I THINK THE REACTION PEOPLE USUALLY HAVE WHEN THEY HEAR OUR MUSIC IS "DAMN, I DIDN'T KNOW THIS KIND OF HIP HOP STILL EXISTS."  I HAVE NEVER BEEN ABLE TO GAUGE HOW MANY PEOPLE KNOW ABOUT US. IT'S ALWAYS BEEN A MYSTERY TO ME.

VALIDATED: WHAT NEW ARTISTS ARE IN YOUR PLAYLIST?

SUBSTANCE ABUSE: I DON'T KNOW ABOUT BRAND NEW, BUT THERE'S CATS THAT I'VE BEEN LISTENING TO THAT I THINK MORE PEOPLE SHOULD KNOW ABOUT.  MY PEOPLE FROM LA LIKE STROE ONE AND AC THE PD GOT SOME DOPE STUFF GOING ON.  OUR FAM NEBZ SUPREME IS A LEGEND IN THE 805 AND SHOULD BE KNOWN WORLDWIDE.  YOU HEARD HIM ON BOTH OUR ALBUMS, AND EXPECT TO HEAR MORE FROM HIM.  DOS FEELIZ IS A SUPER GROUP DOPE FEATURING THE GREAT ERIK SOLO AND OUR FRIEND JASON BETRUE.  THEY ARE DOING SOME REALLY EXCITING AND IMAGINATIVE STUFF.

VALIDATED: HOW DID YOU TEAM UP WITH RAMROCK RECORDS?

SUBSTANCE ABUSE: RAMROCK BREATHED NEW LIFE INTO WHAT WE DO.  THEY ARE MUSIC CONNOISSEURS WHO BELIEVED IN WHAT WE DID AND SUPPORTED US.  A BLOGGER IN THE UK NAMED NEIL GARDNER DID A POST ABOUT THE RECORD "REAR VIEW" WE DID WITH KRS-ONE A WHILE BACK.  WE KNEW WE WANTED TO PUT "BRIDGES" OUT ON VINYL, BUT WE THOUGHT IT WOULD BE BETTER FOR SOMEONE IN EUROPE TO PUT IT OUT, WHERE WE THOUGHT THERE MIGHT BE A MORE ENTHUSIASTIC AUDIENCE ABOUT THE KIND OF STUFF WE DO.  IT WAS REALLY A PIPE DREAM  WHEN WE INFORMED NEIL ABOUT OUR LOFTY AMBITIONS HE POSTED THE "BRIDGES" VIDEO ON TWITTER AND TAGGED RAMROCK, AND MADE THE SIMPLE REQUEST THAT THEY PUT IT OUT.  LUCKY FOR US, THEY AGREED.

VALIDATED: WHAT IS ON THE AGENDA FOR THE REST OF 2019?

SUBSTANCE ABUSE: RECORDING MORE MUSIC.  DOING MORE SECRET COOL STUFF WITH RAMROCK.  AND ELEVATING OUR LIVES IN ALL RESPECTS.

VALIDATED: ANYTHING ELSE YOU WOULD LIKE TO ADD?  

SUBSTANCE ABUSE: SUBSTANCE ABUSE AIN'T GOING NOWHERE.  LOOKOUT FOR THE "OFF DA WAGON" PROJECT WITH NEBZ SUPREME. 

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