LA rapper feels isles' beat


POSTED: Friday, January 09, 2009

HAWAII HIP-HOP has enjoyed a surge of talent in recent years, pushing the somewhat elusive and disjointed scene closer to mainstream status as artists get more radio airplay and gigs at local nightclubs.





        Where: The Loft, 115 S. Hotel St.

When: 9 p.m. Friday


Cover: $15 ($10 before 10 p.m.)



The improvement in quality has not gone without notice from beyond our shores. National artists who record in Honolulu have gained exposure to local MCs and producers, and the popularity of has made it possible for Hawaii-based artists to gain a worldwide following.

One of those mainland artists paying attention to moves being made in the 808 is Tommy “;Kahlee”; Victorino, a part-Hawaiian from Southern California who claims pro baseball player Shane Victorino and local musician DJ Pratt among his extended family. After getting his start with The Literates in 2002, he became a solo artist last year with hopes of creating a stronger Polynesian presence in hip-hop.

“;There's a big mixture, but the main parts I grew up around culturally was Mexican and Hawaiian,”; Victorino said last week via telephone from San Diego, Calif. “;Right now, I'm focusing on this Polynesian movement. ... I'm putting together this record right now that I think I'm going to call 'Roots and Culture,' with nothing but Polynesian artists.”;

  VICTORINO GREW UP a few blocks from the Roadium Swap Meet in Gardena, Calif., during the late '80s and early '90s, when gangsta rap was growing in popularity and N.W.A. still counted Ice Cube as one of the posse.

The youngest of four children, the 26-year old remembers borrowing his brother's and sisters' cassette tapes to dub music by the Beastie Boys and Run DMC as a pre-teen. When he reached high school, mixtapes were replaced by late night hip-hop mix shows on LA radio stations.

“;I didn't even know what I was listening to,”; laughed Victorino. “;I'd tape 'Friday Night Flavors' or 'The Wake Up Show.' ... It was something new to me.

“;I mean, I'd never heard Dilated (Peoples) before! It was just crazy.”;

As he began to develop his rhyming skills, Victorino graduated and worked a series of jobs. He joined forces with the Literates, serving as the group's spokesman and doing much of the legwork for the group on the business side.

The hard work paid off, scoring Victorino and crew “;Album of the Year”; honors at the 2005 LA Music Awards. But despite the success, differing opinions on their artistic direction caused Victorino to go solo.

“;I'm not down with them no more,”; he said. “;You'll probably hear my lyrics on (their new album), but I won't be spittin' them.”;

  WHEN VICTORINO arrives in Honolulu this weekend to open for DJ Swamp at the Loft, he hopes to reach out and build connections within the local hip-hop scene.

“;Tassho (Pearce) and Creed (Chameleon), from what I can see from where I'm at, they're some of the top names out there,”; he said. “;It's pretty obvious to me, at least.”;

While he plans to get in touch with family while here, Victorino also wants to chop it up with MCs, DJs and producers who might be interested in the upcoming “;Roots and Culture”; project and his current iTunes-distributed album, “;Man of Many Hats.”;

He may not hail from the islands, but Victorino's grasp of the aloha spirit is evident during conversation.

“;Whatever I can do for them cats ... I definitely want to pack in as much Hawaii hip-hop as I can,”; he said. “;The fact that I'm Hawaiian, it means more to me because I know how cats look at LA hip-hop.

“;And I got to get to Fitted to buy me some hats!”;