With the urban squalor of South Central just minutes away from the glamour and glitz of Beverly Hills, the Los Angeles metropolitan area is easily one of the most dynamic and volatile socio-cultural environments on the planet. Therefore, it really should come as no surprise that this location would produce some of the most explosive amd stylistically synergistic music of the modern era.
Crazy Town, a seven-man band based in the City of Angels, redirects the course of modern music with The Gift of Game, their debut album on Columbia Records. Spearheaded by lyricists/vocalists/producers Shifty Shellshock and Epic Mazur, who've been key behind-the-scenes players on the L.A. rap scene for the past eight years, Crazy Town masterfully combines hip-hop's lyrical attitude and rhythmic sass with the sonic musculature of live rock instrumentation.
"It was my calling in life," Shifty says of forming Crazy Town. "I grew up listening to hip-hop and punk rock. Crazy Town is like an X-rated Dennis The Menace. We wanted to paint a picture of what's going on with kids today. I wanted to incorporate rap and rock like it had never been done before. No matter what kind of music you liked, I wanted you to enjoy something about it."
"I don't know what you would classify our music as," Epic adds. "Sometimes you may think it's purely rock, sometimes just hip-hop. But listening to the whole album, we're expressing whatever kind of music through a hip-hop mentality. We're some hip-hop kids that needed to rock, rather than some rock kids that needed to rap."
Produced by close friend Josh Abraham (Orgy, Coal Chamber) and Epic The Gift of Game features audio H-bombs like "Little Black Cloud" -- with Jay Gordon from scene mates Orgy -- and "Dark Side." The latter was the last song recorded for the album, yet it masterfully states the musical alchemy that is Crazy Town. An aggressive tune delivered by pulsing guitars, boasting snarling vocals, "Dark Side" contains both the twisted musical and lyrical punch that is the group's signature.
"The beat is banging and by the time it gets to the chorus, you don't notice the change," Epic says. "All of the sudden your head is banging up against the fucking wall." "Everybody has their dark side," Shifty chimes in regarding the sinister twist of the lyrics, "whether they want to admit it or not."
Then there's the first single "Toxic," a fittingly abrasive tune, effectively the Crazy Town theme song summing up the organized confusion of the band's aural assault. "'Toxic' describes Crazy Town because our sound is toxic," Shifty relates. "It gets inside of you and its radioactive. We're loud and obnoxious."
"Butterfly" is an ode to the one special woman every man hopes to have by his side someday, while "Revolving Door" is about getting down with as many honeys as you can in the meantime while you're still looking for Ms. Right.
Crazy Town's lyrics recount the temptations and the trials people go through during life. The group analyzes the choices each one of us faces every day and the twists of fate these decisions precipitate that lead us either to success or failure.
"Do what you want to do," Epic says. "Go out with that girl, do that drug, go to that place. Just realize that you're going to have to deal with the aftermath. Crazy Town has been known to chew people up and spit them out. If you don't know how to navigate yourself through it, you will die."
Helping put across the Crazy Town message on The Gift of Game are special guests hip hop prophet KRS-One , dancehall toastmaster extraordinaire Mad Lion and Dirty Unit ("Think Fast"). A friend of the group had dropped by while they were recording, liked what he heard and immediately called up Lion, holding up his cell phone so the Mad one could hear what was going on in the studio. Quickly, the latter offered his services as toaster on "Hollywood Babylon." When he finished the track, he took a tape home and played it for KRS-One who was suitably impressed and in turn volunteered his services as well for "B-Boy 2000." This was a dream come true for Shifty and Epic as dyed-in-the-wool hip hop heads!
Shifty and Epic grew up listening to N.W.A, Cypress Hill and Ice-T as well as alternative rock bands like The Cure in Southern California. Shifty (who claims to be "like Sid Vicious, Kurt Cobain and Biggie Smalls all trapped in one body") routinely skipped out on his various music lessons, but when he came across a copy of the Beastie Boy's Licensed To Ill while in Mexico, he saw a fresh side of hip-hop that proved inspirational and he began making demo recordings on his own.
Meanwhile, Epic, whose family is originally from New York went to high school in Cali with Ice Cube, Divine Styler, Everlast and House of Pain's Danny Boy. He started making beats and cutting tracks early on, and wound up providing music for MC Serch of 3rd Bass' solo record.
It wasn't until Shifty and Epic hooked up that they either felt they could really pursue careers as professional musicians. Initially coming together as the Brimstone Sluggers about six years ago, the pair recorded plenty of music, but never completed a full album of their own because they kept getting involved contributing to with other hip hoppers' projects i.e. Divine Styler and what would later become Black Eyed Peas.
Finally, Shifty and Epic decided that all of their respective outside ventures would cease and they would concentrate on their own special vision: a hip hop band featuring a full instrumental line-up to complement their rapping group. Recruiting Faydoedeelay (bass), Rust Epique (guitar), Trouble Valli (guitar), DJ AM (turntables) and JBJ (drums), Crazy Town was born with roots in classic rap-rock miscegenation ike Run DMC's "Rock Box," Public Enemy and Anthrax's collaborative "Bring Tha Noize," etc.
"Our parents listened to rock and we grew up listening to hip-hop," Shifty says. "We're part of a new generation of kids who really have an appreciation for all kinds of music and they're all being pushed together."
Yeah, into one Crazy Town.