Los Angeles hip-hop duo Substance Abuse return to hip-hop with their sophomore LP, Background Music on November 6. Consisting of emcee Eso Tre and Subz, Substance Abuse pull no punches on their latest offering: The 18 track collection is a hard-hitting, funky rap album that feels distinctly LA. The LP features MC Eiht, Tash of Alkaholiks, Percee P, Max Julien (The Mack), Sadat X of Brand Nubian, Myka 9, and KRS-One.
Substance Abuse stick to their trade mark style of socially conscious content. On the track “Flossin”, Substance Abuse and MC Eiht address the valorization of the affluent lifestyle that dominates today’s hip hop. The track “Rear View” featuring KRS-One, tackles the futility of trying to embrace a time period that is gone and never will be again, while still affirming some of the timeless values that people cherished during that era.
“When we came up with the title we had a few things in mind,” explains Eso, who grew up in the southland with Subz. “First, we’re talking about the era that we came up in, the early 90’s graffiti scene. It was a time when tagging crews in Los Angeles had members hailing from different socio-economic and ethnic backgrounds, where you’d have kids from West LA in the same crews as kids from South Central and there was a certain sense of unity in that. “The umbrella provided by graffiti and hip hop,” adds Eso, “represented something positive.”
On the negative side, graff culture had also become increasingly violent, mimicking gang culture in Los Angeles. The cross-pollination within these tagging crews, where kids from the hood were closely associated with the kids from suburbia, also allowed for members of L.A.’s more well known gangs to become involved in tagging crews. Suddenly the lines between “crews” and “gangs” were blurred.
“Background Music also refers to the state of hip hop today, explains Eso “where the music seems deracinated of the personality and edge that it once had,” explains Eso. It also refers to how our music is construed by the masses, people who generally seem to favor the popular over the obscure. Real hip-hop has been forced to play the “background” to club and dance music that seems devoid of any message or staying power.
After gaining much acclaim for their collaboration with MF Doom on the infectious single “Profitless Thoughts,” Substance Abuse released their debut LP Overproof in 2006. The LP featured Saafir, Kool Keith, Motion Man, Kutmasta Kurt, Rasco, Thes-One, and MF Doom and received critical acclaim from outlets such as YRB, URB, platform8470, and XLR8R.
What looms in the background of today’s music scene are people who are fed up with the current state of affairs and want change. If you’re one of them, check out Background Music.