There’s a movement happening on the Central Coast.
It’s not social, cultural or musical — it’s all of them combined, and it’s coming to The Graduate this Saturday night in the form of local hip-hop group Public Defendaz.
Consisting of five guys from very different walks of life, the group uses its unique and fresh blend of hip-hop as a means to spread “people music” to the masses.
As its members claim, Public Defendaz makes “music for the people.” Hip-hop, for them, is both a cultural influence and a way of life.
Members Taktical, Royal, Tha Oktapu$, j4rd (pronounced J-ford) and IyayI (pronounced Ee-yah-yee) da Cali Kid all hail from California, and each one brings a wide range of influences to the table. Rap, classic hip-hop, funk and soul all come together, forming a virtual gumbo of sounds that the group describes as “earth tones.”
“We just make the music we like,” Royal said. “All of us listen to our own genres of hip-hop, so we never stick to the same sound. Listening to our album is like listening to a compilation.”
All members share mic duties, while three of the five (Taktical, j4rd and IyayI) make the beats. Scanning through tracks off their album “Speedy Trials, Vol. I,” representations of almost any style of hip-hop can be found. Lyrics that deal with honest, thought-provoking topics are delivered diversely over beats ranging from bass-driven slappers to mellower, more intricately produced rhythms.
“Even though we’re from different backgrounds, we’re all spittin’ for the same cause,” Oktapu$ said. “We all know reality and right from wrong, and we project that through our music but still keep it hip-hoppin’.”
The Defendaz have opened for such high-profile acts as Slick Rick, Tech N9ne, Boot Camp Click and Andre Nickatina, among others. Along the way, the group has managed to gain a considerable fan base throughout the Central Coast.
Initially performing separately as friends, the group formed in 2006 out of a mutual love for music, friendship and collaboration.
“We all had the same vision – it’s all about the music,” Royal said. “It just came together the way it was supposed to.”
“We have a deep appreciation for each others’ talents,” j4rd added. “I have a ridiculous amount of respect for these cats.”
If you have to draw comparisons, the group strives for a “West Coast Dungeon Family sound,” referring to the hip-hop musical collective that includes artists OutKast and Goodie Mobb.
But the Defendaz’s music defies modern tags and refuses to be pigeonholed, and the group credits this in part to living on the Central Coast.
“San Luis is one of those places a lot of people come to from outer areas,” j4rd said. “Just like other places have done, it’s developing its own sound.”
Response to the group, especially its live performances, has been overwhelmingly positive, prompting the band to call itself and its fans a “movement.”
“We started calling it that when we saw people singing along at shows,” Oktapu$ said.
“The movement is our message and our music,” Taktical added. “But it goes beyond that and includes our fans. Anyone can join our movement.”
One benefit to having a larger group is that each member is able to rely on others’ abilities, becoming almost entirely self-sufficient in the process. In addition to the music, group members handle most recording, photography and album design.
“There’s a lot that goes into it,” IyayI said. “Almost everything is done within the group, but we owe a big thanks to our promoters, Numbskull Productions and J-Neal.”
The group plans to release a second album later this year, and if the movement continues, it’ll also be touring California. But for now the group is content doing what it’s doing the best it can, and hopefully expanding its following while doing it.
“We love everyone that supports us, the new fans and the ones that keep on comin’ back to shows,” IyayI said.
“We’re not tryin’ to reach any certain crowd. If you dig it, you dig it,” Oktapu$ said. “That’s why we call it ‘people music.’”
To join the movement, check out Public Defendaz Saturday night at The Graduate or pick up their album at Cloud Nine Imports for $5.