Grateful Web Interview with Living Legends

Article Contributed by Nick Gumas | Published on Sunday, June 2, 2024

Fresh off their first album release in 15 years, California Hip-Hop supergroup Living Legends brings over a century of experience between their members to the studio and the stage with every song. As they celebrate their latest reunion, Grateful Web got to sit down with the project’s founding members The Grouch and Luckyiam to speak with them about the differences between musical generations, their opinions on AI in music, and the connection they feel between Hip-Hop and Reggae.

The Grouch | Cali Roots | Monterey, Ca

Grateful Web: As a Hip-Hop act performing at a Reggae festival, why do you feel the genres play so well to each other?

The Grouch: I will say, there is a lot of Reggae at a Reggae festival, so when there’s something different, then it's like a fresh breath of air. And it's the beat from a two-track stereo, recording with 808’s and basslines already built into it when everybody’s listening to mostly live bands all day is a good change-up. And the music is related, it's music from the black struggle.

Luckyiam: It's good vibes, you know? And we bring it. Plus, it's called Cali Roots, everybody in our crew is rooted in Cali. It makes sense, why not?

G: Hip-Hop and Reggae are related. A lot of Reggae artists were rapping before rap was entitled rap.

L: And one of my first albums that I got, I remember I had a little Sony Walkman with orange headphones and one of the first tapes I got from Martin's records around the corner from my Mama and Daddy’s house was Criminal Minded by BDP.

G: I also had a Reggae rap artist named Shinehead on cassette back in the day and he was like a reggae rapper. I got it probably from, what's that record store that closed down? Tower Records. I bought a lot of my tapes from the flea market, but that one I remember I bought from there, But anyway, Reggae and Hip Hop definitely have roots with each other.

The Grouch and Luckyiam | Cali Roots | Monterey, Ca

GW: Do you see new artists coming up now with SoundCloud and the social media generation having a harder or easier time than you did?

G: I mean, they're worldwide instantly by uploading, but that doesn't necessarily mean it's going to take off. You know, there's no formula for any of this. Somebody may excel on SoundCloud and the next artist does the exact same thing and it doesn't work for them. We come from an era of recording cassette tapes in our homes and then traveling to Europe, Japan, or Australia and selling those tapes in order to spread awareness about our group, and nowadays you don't technically have to do that. I think grassroots, being in the face of people, showing that you're human, is always going to work. Sometimes SoundCloud is going to work and sometimes it's not.

L: Nowadays being human is not necessarily a requirement to make music. I've heard a couple of AI songs that are getting close to being good. So if you're doing music nowadays, you better hurry up and get it cracking because, in a few years, AI is gonna be fucking y'all up. 

G: I'm not scared of AI.

Luckyiam | Cali Roots | Monterey, Ca

GW: Grouch, you’re from Oakland. Are there any rappers coming out of the Bay Area that you really like right now?

G: I love Rexx Life Raj, but he's been around for a while now, and I love Kamaiyah, but I don't know who's super fresh right now, to be honest. I love Mistah F.A.B., I love Nate Curry. But all those names are established already. LaRussell. LaRussell is an independent artist out of Valejo and he is killing it. He does shows in his backyard and invites the public to them and he does everything independently, so I definitely resonate with that. I have a song with LaRussell that I'm getting ready to put out that I, that I'm blessed to have. He is kind of my favorite current artist out of the Bay right now.

GW: I have to ask this one, Kendrick or Drake?

G: I'm not going to take sides on that. I've traditionally been team Kendrick, I love Kendrick, I resonate more with him than I do with Drake, but I don't think he killed Drake in this battle.

The Grouch | Cali Roots | Monterey, Ca

GW: Where do you see the line between sampling to create new art and plagiarism? 

G: I actually don't see that line at all. I feel like even if an artist takes a full instrument, you know what, I'm sorry. The line is making music with AI. Like telling a computer to create it for you. But otherwise, in my opinion, even if an artist takes an instrumental from another artist and then writes over the top of that, that's not plagiarism, that's still art. I come from sampling artists, and so I believe that even if I were to rap over an Earth Wind & Fire instrumental, it's still art. Even if I didn't create the backdrop of it, I'm still writing, I'm still thinking about how my vocal is going to flow over the top of that. Now if I were to do that, I'd give them credit and say, thank you for creating this backdrop, can I please get your blessing to put this out? But you know, art is art and you can use other things for inspiration. That's how I feel.

GW: Do you guys have a plug?

G: and We have a brand new album, well, a pretty brand new album, our first album in 15 years for Living Legends. It's called “The Return.” It's out now on those websites that I just mentioned, and How the Grouch Stole Christmas later this year. We've got a couple more Living Legends albums coming down the pipe. I got an album with Luckyiam. I got an album with Pure Powers. I got two albums with Grouch and Eligh. I got another album with Reverie. I got an album with Casual from Hieroglyphics. And yeah, we're working. We're here. 

Luckyiam | Cali Roots | Monterey, Ca

GW: What's one question you've never gotten in an interview before?

L: No one's ever asked me “Why are you so shy?”

G: You’re not shy.

L: But that’s one question I’ve never gotten.

The Grouch | California Roots | Monterey, Ca