The Four Members of Sacramento Hip-Hop Group Alumni Challenge the Local Music Scene and Each Other
A square is a shape made of four equilateral sides. Perhaps that’s why the four equally talented hip-hoppers who make up Alumni decided to title their bombastic new album Square. M.I.Geezus, Prhyme Suspect, KelCz and Mahtie Bush were brought back together after a six-year hiatus by their unified desire to, in every aspect of their music, “Just fucking kill it.”
The guys all went to Johnson High School, where none of them knew each other. It was outside of school, at events like KSFM’s rock the mic contest and at rap shows at the Colonial theater, where they eventually met.
“I remember Mahtie sucking so bad,” recalls M.I.Geezus of a 19-year-old B-boying Bush.
“Mahtie sucked so bad,” the group agreed in unison.
Bush, mind you, has come a long way from being that awkward B-boy trying to blossom into a rapper. He has been one of the most outspoken hip-hop artists to represent his peers; most notably for his locally infamous declaration that, “Sac Hates Hip-Hop.” In person he is calm and reserved, on the mic he’s a demanding lyrical weaver.
But Bush agrees, “OK, OK, I sucked for a very long time. I was the worst one in the damn group for a while.”
Prhyme Suspect was a classic knucklehead around the time Alumni met. He wasn’t going to do shit or listen to shit unless you could promise stage time.
“We were both just doing our own thing, but then we would get together in the neighborhood and mess around with beats,” said Geezus.
M.I.Geezus and Prhyme Suspect bonded over the Acid 2.0 music program; an extremely outdated synth and beat software that M.I. and Prhyme still hold onto for dear life to this day.
“I mastered Acid, so why the hell would I go and learn some new shit?” said Geezus.
The four eventually started performing with each other as the Rap Pack, an unfortunate name choice by a band member who will remain anonymous for his sake, and then officially and definitively as Alumni. The group had regular performances at Capitol Garage, Press Club, The Colonial and even overseas.
M.I.Geezus spent time in Tahiti recording with dubstep reggae artists who sought his confident energy and ability to resurrect hip-hop in the most refreshing sense. When he was asked to return, he said, “Well, there are four of us now, so I’ll come if I can bring my boys.” Four tickets were booked, and Alumni, flew out to Tahiti, where they almost immediately found major success making music for Orangina (Orangina is to Tahiti what Coca-Cola is to the United States).
“We were on the front of the paper and on the radio. It was crazy,” beamed Mahtie.
Other than knocking around the local music scene and in Tahiti, the guys have yet to tour. However, they dream of the day they can travel to France, where the hip-hop scene is exciting and full of opportunity.
Back home in Sacramento, Alumni opened up for DJ Eevolution, Grouch and Eli, Little Brother, Mistah Fab, Chino and their personal favorite, Nas.
“It’s hard to find a genuine reception from a crowd here. No one wants to throw their hands up and just dance,” said the group of performing in Sacramento. “Everyone is an artist. So you’re just an artist promoting to other artists who are probably sitting at your show saying, ‘I can do that shit better.’ If we can get a crowd jumping at a show here, we can do it anywhere.”
Since being unleashed in late October, Alumni’s new album, Square, has done just that. It is bordering on experimental hip-hop, with everything from chest-pounding bombastics to gentle acoustics with collaborators such as Stevie Nader and Mic Jordan.
The track “Pretty/Dope” is an unglamorous look into the seemingly glamorous. It follows three females and their downward spiral into the party life—pretty girls with ugly lives. What’s most gripping about the song is not the song itself, but the music video that accompanies it. It offers an almost uncomfortable glimpse into the lives of women who seem to have it together, when really they are just good at masking their nasty habits and addictions; a combination that is bound for personal collapse. Director Alex Ramirez turned Red Rabbit bar into his cinematic canvas and battled the terrain of nightclub bathrooms and comfy living quarters to capture the intensely intimate video.
“I think that many people got caught up in the video much more than the overall song,” said Prhyme, “It was so intense and more like a short film. I think the intensity of it maybe even overshadowed the song.”
Alumni’s music videos have served as one of their most important and effective tools in getting their music exposed. So far, they already have three videos out with at least two more on the way.
They recruited the help of writer/director Alex Ramirez to take the reins of the creative direction of the Alumni videos.
M.I.Geezus hired the director, “Alex dove right into creating our videos from writing scripts to capturing the perfect lighting and feel. He just did an awesome job developing the concepts and helping visually capture the lyrics of our music. The videos have definitely been the key thing in getting us exposed to more people.”
The first release off the album, “(Take a Walk on) My Side,” featuring Stevie Nader, has thousands of views with more daily, proving itself the surprise hit of the album so far. The video shows Nader and Alumni taking a casual stroll down Detroit Boulevard in South Sacramento with burning tree stumps in the background and a setting sun.
As their record release party approaches and hopefully a packed schedule of live performances, the groups main duty is to never ever, under any circumstance, be mediocre.
“Someone I looked up to for years was performing live and he just blew it and completely sucked,” Bush recalls. “I don’t think there’s anything more disappointing than not getting blown away by someone performing.”
All four guys share this competitiveness with everyone else, especially one another, to be the very best and outshine the rest. What’s ironic is that Alumni may have a lot in common with the artists the rap group calls out for going to shows and having that “I can do it better” attitude.
“If someone does outshine us, we want to shake their hand and give them props. And mostly tell them congrats…until next time,” said M.I.Geezus.
So far, Alumni has been satisfied with the success of their album. Since the beginning of October, the group has had one success after another. From getting nominated for a Sammies award to local press and a healthy amount of Square downloads, Alumni is where they deserve to be. It almost seems like they work tirelessly in devoting their lives to a never-ending cycle of family and music. The group lives by this simple motto when it comes to their work, “Alumni does not fuck around. We want to be the best and we want to bring the best to all of our shows and nothing but the best. Again, Alumni: We do not fuck around.”
Saturday Nov. 23, 2013, Alumni will hold their CD release party at the Blue Lamp (1400 Alhambra Blvd., doors open at 9, cover $5). You can also download their album on iTunes or visit their site at Ihatealumni.com.