For those who don’t know about CES Cru, you’re missing out. Ubiquitous and Godemis have been ripping apart the Kansas City circuit limb from limb for a minute now. Finally, after ten years of holding it down with scattershot rhymes and explosive live performances, the dynamic duo got their national stage to shine on Tech N9ne’s Bad Season mixtape. “Livin’ Like I’m Dyin'” features the two MCs on the philosophical tip peppered with the dynamic wordplay and rhythms that made CES Cru what it is today. We talked to the Kansas City wordsmiths to get their take on the mixtape and how it all came to be. Ubiquitous filled us in on the story behind their contribution on Bad Season.
How long have you guys been putting it down in Kansas City?
Shit! Ten years?
You guys are part of the Innate Sounds crew, tell me about that kind of movement and what you guys are trying to do.
As far as Innate Sounds goes?
It’s just a collective of local musicians from here, there, and everywhere. There’s MCs, DJs, we’ve got some jazz influences in there, a drummer, pianist, R&B singer, so on and so forth. I don’t know, we just kind of talk to each other! We’re friendly and on the same side and stuff. We all wave the INnatesounds flag. Occasionally, we do some music together as well as far as shows and things like that.
Who are some key figures in the movement?
Miles Bonny, Leonard DStroy, CES Cru…naturally: Ubiquitous and Godemis, Brother Moses, Reggie B, Brandon Draper…there’s more and whatever but anyway. [Laughs] It’s deep!
What are your guys’ thoughts on Tech N9ne as an MC?
Tech as an MC? [aside] Get that, get some! [slam] I feel like Tech has a phenomenal amount of technical ability and really a knack to rap unlike anybody else rapping at this point and time in the game. I know there are a lot of other cats who do it fast and shit but Tech N9ne not only does it fast but he flips a lot of different wordplay and shit and he makes conceptual songs. He’s in a class all his own, I’ll put it like that.
How do you view what he does for Kansas City?
I think it’s a beautiful thing that he’s managed to stay connected to all the young talent that came up under him, acknowledging a lot of these guys probably came up listening to him and listening to his music. I know I did. He still works with a lot of these cats and we’re all part of the same musical network, if you will, just being local and trying to grind. Everybody aspires of course one day be on Tech’s level so I think it’s real ill that he just stays connected with all the young cats doing music.
Can you recall some of the songs that got you into Tech N9ne?
Of course “Mitch Bade”. I was bumping that in high school. I remember when that dropped on the Cloudy Eyes EP. He had “Questions” of course on the Gridlock’d soundtrack that blew everybody’s heads off. The list goes on and on. “Psycho Bitch” is one of my favorites. “This Ring” goes real hard. He’s got a lot of what I feel are just masterpieces really.
You guys grind independently, how do you view the success of Strange Music as an independent movement?
Strange as an independent movement? Honestly, nobody does it better. Independently nobody’s doing it better. I don’t need to shout out other labels that aren’t doing it better than Strange but I’ll just say that Strange is crushing it on an independent level. Strange to me–and I’m on the outside looking in–they appear to operate like a major label…but they’re independent. That’s pretty much untouchable.
One thing I could draw a similarity from between you guys and Tech is the energy of your live performances. Is that something you take pride in and work on or does it just come naturally?
A little of both! I think, you know, seeing live shows fuck up and stuff sort of set a high water mark for me. Entertainment used to be a little different in the 90s and what have you. I dunno! Guys don’t go as hard these days, I don’t think! I think there’s a lot of technical help, a lot of digital help, and a lot of help that wasn’t around when I started so I guess we hold ourselves to different standards than a lot of the newer acts.
How did you guys originally get approached by Tech to do the mixtape? Have you guys been in contact with him before?
Yes we have been in contact with him before. As far as how the mixtape worked, I dunno man, the phone just rang, you know? Because we had already been in contact before, because I had Tech in my phone, I kind of knew it was him when he called. It all just happened in three minutes.
Did he just say “I got a track, it’s going to be on a mixtape, you guys would be good, get on it”?
You know what? Travis was there though too. Tech asked me to be on the track, he said Kutty was on there, Krizz is doing the hook. He initially asked me and Godemis to split a 16, you know 8 bars each or whatever. So I was like “Yeah, I’d be honored.” I guess Travis took the phone and said “Don’t let this guy underplay this! It’s DJ Whoo Kid” so on and so forth, “This is going to be crazy!” I was like “Okay.” [Laughs] And I dunno! That was it! He said “Where do I send it?” and I gave him the e-mail and that was it, we was recording three or four days later I guess.
Did you guys record at your own place or at Chapman?
Yeah we rolled out to Chapman and actually laid the track down. Everybody else’s material was already done. I let Tech know that I would like to do another track, something a little more aggressive and what have you, so I’m looking forward to doing more music with Tech and other members from Strange camp.
Have you guys heard the mixtape?
I actually haven’t heard it in it’s entirety yet.
But you heard the track, yes?
Yeah I’ve heard the track.
Did you hear Tech giving you guys a shoutout at the end?
How did that feel?
[Godemis: Game changer!] Pretty much a game changer! I don’t know if he does or doesn’t fully understands what he did when he said that. For us? Game changer, that’s what I would say.
Yeah because now you got people all around the world going “Who the hell is CES Cru?”
Right! Yeah I was really happy to hear that and then you try to keep shit in perspective before you speak–try not to get carried away, but I’m thinking in the back of my mind I’m getting carried away just a little bit about it. But now if anything I’m just ready to do more work–ready to go to bat on another mixtape or whatever it may be. I’m ready to put some more music out.
Just keep it going. Yeah man, for sure.
Yeah man. For him to vouche for us like that, it means a whole lot. He’s got us pretty much. If he ever needs us he’s got us.
Now I know you guys got a big show coming up at the Beaumont Club on January 15th? I know you guys are going to kill it! For those who don’t know, tell them what to expect from a set of CES Cru.
Well a lot of different things! We keep it live, we keep it moving, the energy is high. We like to get the crowd involved a little bit. We like to have a good time. Sometimes we like to toss a couple things into the audience to stimulate the audience, whether it be merch or ourselves [laughs]…if it’s right! Yeah man, I dunno, we just like to get a little crazy! I understand what Tech’s fanbase is like and they expect hot shit so that’s what we gotta do–we gotta give them that hot shit.
So are you guys preparing for it any special way or is just business as usual?
Well I don’t think it would be special if we mentioned what that thing was. [Godemis laughs]
I’m not–look: we’re prepared for it! Expect a technical tight show, expect that.
Before we go tell us what to expect from CES Cru in the near future.
We’re doing a litte side project with another local dude named InfoGates that we’re entitling Brain Locker, the name of our group. I [Ubiquitous] myself am working on a mixtape, it’s going to be called Matter Don’t Money.
How long has Playground been out?
Fall of ’08. Wait…is that right? [Godemis: ’09, 09!] I’m trippin’ ’09!
I just saw the video for Float, did you guys just put that up?
That came out pretty recently. That’s about a month old I’d say.
It’s tight! I like it a lot! I’m about to buy the track after I get off the phone here–it’s sick.
Anything you want to say before peacing out?
Definitely come see us on the 15th and uh…you know. Yeah, come to the show! That’s going to be live. Cross your fingers for more Strange/CES collaborations in the future.
Well I’ll probably see you guys there I appreciate the interview.
Be sure to check out CES Cru opening for Tech N9ne, Krizz Kaliko, and Kutt Calhoun at the Beaumont Club, Jan 15. Click here to download the Bad Season mixtape. Watch the video for “Float” below, a breezy tour through KC, MO.