DENNIS ODA / DODA@STAR-BULLETIN.COM|
Rapper "Emirc" -- "crime" spelled backwards -- whose real name is Tassho Pearce, likes the basketball courts, so he jumps up and grabs the rim while his producer, "Syze" (Eric Okuhara), keeps his feet on the ground.
In this age of radio consolidation, corporatization and cookie-cutter playlists, breaking through on Hawaii's commercial stations is a weighty and confounding task for local artists. Outside the island music genre, the chances of a native talent earning spins on Honolulu's mainland-owned signals are slim and none.
That makes Emirc's circulation on Oahu airwaves all the more extraordinary. The home-grown hip-hop MC's first single, "Honolulu," a head-noddin', mai tais-in-the-air ode to urban island living has received serious attention from such outlets as KXME, Da Bomb and I-94. It went on a five-night tear on I-94's listener-driven 9 O'Clock Knockout, beating out such major label-backed singles as Ja Rule's "ClapBack" and 2Pac & Biggie's "Runnin' " and claimed the top spot on the station's request-based afternoon countdown.
Emirc album release party featuring DJ Babu and Rakaa Iriscience of Dilated Peoples, Trace & Kimo James, DJ Azia and DJ Equal
Where: Wave Waikiki, 1877 Kalakaua Ave.
When: 9 p.m. to 4 a.m. Sunday
Admission: $10, 18 and over
"It got some love out here and I know it's gonna catch on," says Emirc (pronounced 'immerse' and, by the way, spell his name backwards for another take on his moniker). "People can't deny it. 'Honolulu' is an anthem for Hawaii and a real representation of life in the islands. It's definitely a standout track."
BUT DON'T get it twisted. Emirc's aspirations go far beyond simply acquiring air time. Since the mid-'90s, he has toiled with well-regarded underground outfits Hoomanakaz and Invisible Inc. and repped the 808 with aplomb, sharing the stage with such hip-hop luminaries as De La Soul, Wu-Tang Clan, The Roots, Dilated Peoples, The Pharcyde and Common.
His considerable mic skills have recently earned him the backing of turntable master DJ Rhettmatic of the World Famous Beat Junkies, who contributed a track to Emirc's debut album "Rhyme and Punishment," as well as Rakaa Iriscience of Dilated Peoples and DJ Babu (Beat Junkies, Dilated Peoples), both of whom will appear at Emirc's album release party at the Wave Waikiki this Sunday night.
This winter saw a West Coast tour for Emirc and partners-in-crime Syze One and Jimmy Taco, with whom he shares a fledgling record label and Honolulu-based entertainment company called Flip the Bird. While in Southern California, the trio linked with Dilated Peoples for several shows and attempted to forge new ground with SoCal audiences.
"We built a lot of bridges out there," says Syze, who produced the bulk of tracks on "Rhyme and Punishment." "We hooked up with people who we respect and them showing us love as their peers is the most gratifying thing. That made our year."
"They're real down-to-earth people and they handle their business on the street level," adds Emirc. "I handle myself on the same level, too. We just connected."
This Sunday, DJ Babu will return the favor by supporting Emirc with a solo DJ set. "If you've never seen Babu live, he's amazing," says Syze. "He plays chronologically, where he goes through all the different eras of hip-hop and uses records a lot of hip-hop DJs wish they could drop on a crowd. Those are the records you just fiend to hear all the time. He brings those out like they're new and just kills them."
In time, Emirc believes, crowds will find "Rhyme and Punishment" equally electrifying, partly because of its uncompromising stance, which puts the album at odds with the habitually sunny outlook adopted by most island troubadours. In between crushing currents of witty, incisive rhymes and resourceful rhythms, the album offers brief glimpses of gritty life in the 808. "Even before the trip, we believed in the product and we believed in the movement. The album, we felt, was a solid piece of work. We want to put Hawaii on the map and let 'em know what it's really like here. It's not all palm trees and calm breeze," he says, with a shallow chuckle. "It's Spam and crystal meth, too."
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