Busting the Corvallis Hip-Hop Myth

Mac Moss

Born in the Bronx from the blending of island and American folk art and culture, hip-hop is probably not the first thing one associates with the Corvallis music scene. In fact, it is surely the last. Yet, side by side or even intermingled with our local punk and indie movements, there are some incredibly talented locals telling their stories through their own unique styles and deliveries. It’s a scene that is often hard to find one’s way into, so consider this breakdown of major players and their upcoming gigs the key to opening that door.

Hiram Cervantes
Hiram Cervantes is a house DJ at Impulse Bar & Grill who has hosted the likes of E-40, Bone Thugs and Harmony, and Andre Nickatina—in our own town. Hiram maintains that Corvallis’ appreciation of hip-hop is “surprisingly still pretty big” and he finds spinning hip-hop tracks significantly more popular than EDM. Besides simply mixing and scratching tracks for people to dance to, Hiram also DJs for artists from Eugene and Portland visiting Corvallis. You can find him entertaining at Impulse on Fridays and some Saturdays.

Definitely check out one of his sets, as he’s a bonafide turntablist in the tradition of Grandmaster Flash or Jam Master Jay—not just a guy choosing which song goes next on a playlist.

Mac Moss
Local legend Mac Moss (pictured), calling himself the “Oregoonian,” considers hip-hop to be a way of life. In his own words, “I wake up in the morning, I’m hip-hop. I go to bed, I’m hip-hop.”

For inspiration to his music, he has no lack. He’s lived a storied life—born and raised in the Bay Area and the Pacific Northwest. He served in Iraq for 13 months as a .50-cal gunner, part of the National Guard outfit out of Corvallis. Injured in the line of duty, Moss returned to the states and found himself on a path that involved pursuing his passion for music.

Despite a fairly tumultuous life, he remains unhardened or jaded by this roller coaster. If you couldn’t tell from his Oregoonian moniker, Moss is a big fan of the Oregon-based, 1985 adventure comedy The Goonies.

“I’m a goonie for life, goonies don’t die,” Moss growled. This is, in fact, part and parcel of the spirit of rap. To be able to rise above challenges and find your place through expression… a comedic spirit seems essential to being a good MC.

There is however, a time to medicate—legally.  With his characteristic half-joking bad boy affectation, Moss chuckled, “If it weren’t for weed, I’d be in prison or dead. Society needs it to protect them from me.” Along these lines, he is currently working on a duet album with his producer Tony Snow, slated to be called Somethin ta Roll 2. Look for it in the future.

If you want to hear a sound hard as concrete and rough as rugby, aka the Oregoonian, check out http://www.reverbnation.com/macmoss.

I met Freemetz of the funky experimental band Xenat-Ra at his currently under construction sports bar / arcade, The Dam, on 4th Street. At the core of hip-hop, as with any artistic movement, is innovation. Not to diminish any of the other cats, who are very talented and original, Freemetz embodies innovation and experimentation.

One might think of his style as a hip-hop version of psychedelic, jazzy, socially conscious prog rock with dope rapping. Evoking a clear Rage Against the Machine sensibility, much of his lyrical content is overtly political. As Freemetz stated, fiercely emphasizing his independent ethos and commitment to art for art’s sake, “Money only ruins music—it destroys creativity and artistry. It’s just a mind-killer.”

Currently he’s hyped on an upcoming solo album titled Freemetz, as well as a podcast show by his project Channel Zero. Xenat-ra, in addition, will be playing at Old Nick’s Pub in Eugene on Friday, July 22, for those willing to stray from the Corvallis area to support a Corvallis artist.

You can check out his music at https://freemetz.bandcamp.com/releases and that of the band Xenat-Ra at https://xenat-ra.bandcamp.com.

For a representative of the younger, college-age rap scene, one might check out rapper Puma of the local collective and independent record label Starfleet. Starfleet itself consists of seven members, including Puma, NappyTHC, Keepfalling, Cyborg, Kid Fresh, and Disciple.

Asked to categorize his style, Puma suggested that he’s a mix of three inspirations: the Beastie Boys, Mac Dre, and Pacific Northwest indie-rap giants the Blue Scholars. When asked what hip-hop meant to him, he said, “Hip-hop is energy and ideas—an expressive force that enables me to get my voice.”

Puma is particularly hyped about his label-mates NappyTHC and Mikey’s as yet untitled new and significantly lyrical album—which he will undoubtedly be featured on—slated to come out in the next few months.

Puma will be performing on Saturday, July 16 at 9:30 p.m. at Cloud & Kelly’s with most of the members of Starfleet and Eugene rapper Landon Wordwell, and at Avery Park on Saturday, July 23 from 5 to 10 p.m. with Starfleet and a number of local music acts. No cover has been set yet for either show, but you can keep tabs on the former at http://cloudandkellys.com/music_and_nightlife. We’ll post an update to our calendar when further information is released.

In the meantime, grab an earful of Puma via SoundCloud, https://soundcloud.com/oipuma, or follow Starfleet on twitter @EloquentFU6S.

Young Penitent
Hip-hop is many things, not least of which is an avenue for expressing one’s spirituality. Young Penitent, a Russian Orthodox Christian, does just this, finding inspiration from his faith and writing a variety of songs as meditations on the human condition, scripture, and living right.

Fairly new to rapping on the stage, though he has recorded a full album that hits all the marks for a serious rapper, he’s lately been regularly visiting the open mic nights in town with hopes of soon booking a show at Imagine Coffee.

Asked about his writing process, he likened it to solving a puzzle. Starting with just a title or theme, it becomes a game to find the right words, the right syllable count and rhymes, without losing either rhythm or meaning.

One other issue that plays a large role in his writing is mental illness, as, in his own words, he went through hell before he was able to get treatment. One project that is important right now for him is a show that he’ll be doing for the NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) community picnic in July.

You can listen to his album at https://www.cdbaby.com/cd/youngpenitent.

By Joel Southall