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After 8 years, Jivin Scientists reveal new LP 'Cicada'

9 min read

Throughout the early-summer months, as does the Sonoran Desert yield life following a gentle rain, Tucson’s Jivin Scientists are additionally rising from dormancy with a brand new full-length album. After after spending the vast majority of their lives underground, the group is abuzz with new life.

Eight years within the making, “Cicada” finds emcee James “Runt” Owens and producer Ryan “Phen” Troncoso true to nature, attuning their signature gritty storytelling and bumpy boom-bap manufacturing.

“This would be the eleventh album we have made, however the first we’re releasing via a label (Unusual Well-known Data),” Owens stated. “We have a look at this as our first step in the direction of being seen to a a lot wider viewers.”

* * *

Owens supplied some historical past concerning the early days of Tucson’s hip-hop scene.

“Again then there was an actual heavy scene of break dancing, B-boys/B-girls, and graffiti. The rap scene advanced outta that.”

Sugh and Purple Darkish Specimens — a gaggle of children that got here collectively whereas attending Tucson Excessive College — had been famous by Owens as in style acts of the day. “That was within the late ’90s, they had been simply getting going, beginning to play out at a number of the golf equipment Downtown.”

“I got here up in New Mexico. I moved right here in 2002. There was much more historical past previous to that, however to be sincere, I wasn’t right here for it. I do know that there have been quite a lot of completely different individuals placing on reveals after I arrived,” he advised the Tucson Sentinel.

Rising from the potent commixture of sperm and eggs deposited into the spawning pool, Skrappy’s — an erstwhile Downtown youth collective and efficiency venue (1995–2005) — is extensively credited with enjoying an integral function within the growth of the burgeoning Tucson hip-hop scene.

“We had been part of that. Jivin Scientists performed there fairly a bit. Skrappy’s was one of many few locations that booked hip-hop acts. They might do B-boy battles there,” Owens mirrored fondly. “That’s the place we obtained to know quite a lot of the folks that had been doing stuff right here within the scene.”

“We had been very younger. I used to be 18 after we began right here.”

Not lacking a beat, Owens and Troncoso hit the bottom operating. Along with gigs at Skrappy’s, the Jivin Scientists performed reveals at Vaudeville Cabaret, Coronary heart 5, the District and different Downtown venues, finally touchdown coveted slots at Membership Congress.

They persevered, honing their craft, recording and releasing music, broadening their horizons.

“We used to run an occasion known as Mic Websites, an emcee freestyle battle that ran for a very long time. My buddies Bo and P operating that.”

Mic Websites came about yearly (or biannually) and have become a a lot anticipated occasion at Skrappy’s. Prize cash raised the stakes. Winners would usually stroll away with a pair thousand {dollars}, drawing in expertise from Southern California, New Mexico and elsewhere.

* * *

In the present day, Owens credit the efforts of Pike Romero — artistic drive behind Tucson Hip Hop Pageant (THHF), a neighborhood pushed hip-hop, arts and tradition pageant based in 2017 — with increasing the attain and creating unity throughout the hip-hop neighborhood.

“That was an enormous step ahead. By inserting everybody on the identical platform, (THHF) has allowed for lots of the completely different segregated teams to start out interacting. (Romero) has been very substantial in producing an precise scene that may reply for itself,” he stated.

“It is all the time been kinda segregated into South Aspect, East Aspect, Downtown. There’s nonetheless a few of that…  However there undoubtedly are individuals which are attempting to bridge these areas.”

Owens sees the restricted variety of venues for acts to carry out at, that enable hip-hop music, and the prohibitive nature of a pay-to-play system as contributing elements to the fragmentation throughout the hip-hop neighborhood.

“In promotion, it began taking place 15, 20 years in the past the place a promoter would e-book a present after which cost an artist to play on that invoice.”

“It’s normal apply in some areas with touring acts. So for years, right here in Tucson, it has additionally been a typical apply,” he stated.

“That is one factor we do not do at my location.” (Owens is common supervisor of Thunder Canyon Brewery.) “Over the past 5 years, now we have created a little bit spot on the scene right here. However, we do not cost individuals to play.”

“I have been doing music for 20 years and I’ve by no means paid to play any reveals. I’ve all the time felt, because the artist you are getting paid to play.”

At current, the Tucson hip-hop scene is centered at Thunder Canyon. Owens added, “The Edge (a northwest Tucson bar) can also be doing fairly a couple of reveals.”

* * *

Booming from the ghetto of the South Bronx in the course of the Nineteen Seventies, a cutting-edged sound emerged from the underground — with the “Founding Father of Hip-Hop” DJ Kool Herc main the procession — inspiring generations to observe.

Owens was no exception.

Delivered in spit, from bounce road, hip-hop gave voice to individuals residing on the perimeter.

In his childhood, Owens discovered inspiration in gangsta rap: Dre, DJ Quik, Too Brief.

“Maybe not in content material. I needed to say the issues that they had been saying, however I wasn’t residing the life that they had been residing. I hadn’t discovered my voice but. However in supply and construction, quite a lot of what I do right this moment has that gradual draw, similar to MC Eiht.”

“As I obtained a little bit bit older, in my teen years, I found the Golden Age of Hip-Hop (mid-Eighties to early ’90s). I fell in love. I spent quite a lot of time diving deep into that: Rakim, Gang Starr, Tribe Referred to as Quest and De La Soul.”

Along with the introduction of the Roland TR-808 programmable drum machine, one of many defining traits of hip-hop’s golden age was the heavy use of sampling — subsequent controversies and legalities however — the introduction of the E-mu Emulator and Akai S900 revolutionized the sport.

“Later, in highschool — Environment had turn into actually large — I started doing quite a lot of battle rap stuff.”

Touchdown exterior the mainstream, indie hip-hop is usually characterised by socially aware, optimistic, or anti-commercial lyrics.

“I felt like I may discuss common stuff and never achieve success.”

* * *

Since their inception in 1998 — whether or not drawing from analog and natural instrumentation or electronically generated sound sources — Jivin Scientists have sought to position a definite imprint on their work.

“Once we had been developing, we would discover sounds that we appreciated and would pattern these. As we expanded our musical data over time, the extra essential it turned for us to seek out methods to create our personal sounds.”

Ultimately, they linked with musicians who had the chops to execute and animate the sounds that swirl inside their heads.

“That was all the time the objective.”

* * *

Owens displays on the group’s origins.

“My brother Deeko was a founding member. He’s a DJ. He began our group. He lives in Oklahoma now.”

“Soundsmith, was a significant a part of the group. The final 4 or 5 years he has been doing his personal factor.”

“Jivin Scientists have all the time been a collective, kind of, than a gaggle. Lots of people come out and in of the group. However me and Phen have been the core members for the previous 15 years,” he stated.

That bond goes approach again. Troncoso and Owens have been finest pals since first grade.

“As quickly as Phen obtained a pc, we began working. He was higher at making beats. And I used to be higher at rapping on them. We made our first album after I was sixteen.”

* * *

Throughout the summer time of 2015, Jivin Scientists self-released “Thirsty,” the group’s tenth album. It drew consideration. They might go onto signal with Unusual Well-known Data — an imprint based by indie/underground rapper Sage Francis — in early 2016.

As destiny would have it, pre-production on the album that might finally emerge as “Cicada” needed to be postponed. In 2017, Owens’ ailing father would bear kidney transplant surgical procedure. An ideal match, Owens could be the organ donor.

“We notified the label that it could take a while earlier than we may go into the studio to start work on the album. It was lots: getting prepped for the surgical procedure, the precise surgical procedure itself, after which the restoration. That ended up taking a yr out of my life.”

Put up-surgery, Owens’ life took on new hues.

“Issues had been undoubtedly completely different afterwards. Life was completely different. My perspective was completely different. Quite a lot of issues.”

On “D.O.G.” — the closing monitor on “Cicada” — Owens raps, “And I ain’t been the identical since they minimize me aside / Life has been a multitude, in all probability finest place to start out / See, deep inside my abdomen grows the seed of hope and lots / Sliding via my organs, wrapped across the bones inside me.”

“D.O.G.” was the primary track that I wrote popping out of that difficult interval.”

* * *

As a wordsmith, Owens pulls no punches. His lyrics usually function a chronicle of exhausting residing; there may be alcohol, medication, violence, and melancholy. A few of it’s autobiographical and a few of it’s storytelling.

“After I was youthful, I used to be actually inquisitive about being a author. One of many issues that I discovered… There was a write-up — it could have been J.D. Salinger — that talked about using the entire experiences that you’ve in your life to create this faux determine to jot down about; like a Frankenstein of your entire experiences.”

“My songs are about individuals. It might be me, it could be somebody that I do know. The actual tease, I’m attempting to jot down in that route so I can get to the emotion. And emotion is my finish objective. I’ve spent the previous 15 years attempting to get to the purpose the place I can write like that.”

* * *

This month, Jivin Scientists dropped “Cicada.” Tracked and mastered of their dwelling studio on digital and analog tape, Troncoso and Owens collaborated with notables: bassist Chris Pierce, keyboardist Paul Jenkins, drummer Steven Escalante, and emcees AWOL ONE, Marley B, Rae.L, Mopes, Dewey Binns, Def-i and DJ Bonus.

“Phen and I each work jobs to make ends meet, however the music was all the time who we had been, and can all the time be who we’re. Some individuals make issues for enjoyable, and a few create to maintain from shedding their minds. We have all the time been a part of that second group.”

“I misplaced a few pals over time. It modified who I used to be whereas I used to be writing. My older stuff may be very darkish with out quite a lot of hope. One in every of my good pals, hip-hop artist Wake Self (born Andrew Martinez), from New Mexico handed away (in a automobile crash). His final album was stuffed with hope. I bear in mind a dialogue we had the place he advised me, ‘I’m beginning to write the life that I wish to stay.'”

“So, in some unspecified time in the future, I requested myself, ‘Do I wish to proceed writing about these unhappy issues or do I wish to write the life that I wish to stay?'”

* * *

Owens laid naked the backstory behind “Cicada.”

“We often begin our albums with an idea. We took an interest within the concept of cicadas being within the floor for therefore lengthy then popping out. It actually signified what we had been doing. I grew up with cicadas my complete life in Oklahoma and Missouri the place my dad and mom and grandparents lived. Going to sleep at night time, it’s a bizarre sound that’s really comforting.”

“The story is autobiographical. My mother and pa each had very troublesome childhoods. My grandparents threw newspapers their complete life, and retired off of that, in Neosho, Missouri (inhabitants 12,590 as of the 2020 Census).”

“There’s a illness within the air the place we come from. The entire verses in “Cicada” converse of my household’s darkish historical past. So, it’s attention-grabbing for me to have a look at the place I’m at in life, and the place I may’ve ended up.”

“My brother used to beat the shit out of me with boxing gloves within the entrance yard. He taught me how one can combat. However he additionally taught me how one can stand up and never keep down,” he stated.

On the title monitor, Owens belts, “On the age of eight my brother obtained me with a proper hook / And laid me flat onto the bottom / He rattling close to knocked the tooth out of my mouth / I can nonetheless hear that sound / And as I laid on the inexperienced grass / Blood dripping from my tooth to my tongue / I may style how salty the world was / And the place the fuck I got here from.”

“It caught with me my complete life.”

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