In my view, hip-hop is in the best place it has ever been just due to the fact of how diverse it has become. If you take the time to delve beyond top 40 lists and the songs being promoted on the radio, the underground scenes in just about every region are thriving. Thanks to the internet, aspiring spitters from all ages and areas are now capable being heard by large fan-bases without the assistance of a label. The internet have also given the youth access to an almost endless archive of music from artist past, allowing them to be influenced and molded by scenes way before their time.
A case example of this is LA's rising hip-hop clique Villain Park, who have been making boom-bap inspired jams since early 2012. The group is comprised of four rappers who have barely graduated high school, but who are garnering a considerable buzz due to their technical skill and classic production. I met up with members of VP (Smokey V, kilaM, Niftee, and Classicko) at their manager's home-base in Crescent Heights where I was given the opportunity to ask them questions about their origins, future aspirations, and thoughts on the current state of hip-hop.
EARMILK: So how exactly did you guys come up with the name Villain Park ?
Smokey V: Well I originally came up with the group name "Villains", but decided that it was a bit played out. Villain Park came about kind of randomly, but I think it works well because as a group we're raw at what we do, but are still young and mischievous. The villain part is supposed to represent us being Villains to the industry.
EM: When was the group founded?
Classicko: Like around early 2012. Initially it was just me and Smokey messing around with beats in the studio, but we later brought Niftee and kilaM to the fold later on. We all grew up in the same neighborhood and have been friends for a minute, so it all came together pretty naturally.
EM: How would you describe your sound?
kilaM: We have like, a modern day style with an old school vibe. Or rather an old school style with a modern day vibe haha.
Smokey V: A good blend of East Coast and West Coast because we grew up listening to all of that stuff. We like it as long as it's dope!
EM: What acts have influenced you guys the most?
VP: The Pharcyde, A Tribe Called Quest, Boot Camp Click, Wu-Tang Clan, Souls of Mischief, Notorious B.I.G., Slum Village, Snoop Dogg, E-40.. you know all of that dope shit.
EM: What inspired you guys start rapping?
Smokey V: Well my older brother is Double K from People Under The Stairs, so I've always been around the hip-hop scene growing up. It just makes sense to me and has been something I've always been passionate about.
kilaM: My uncle was in this group called CO$ that was just him and homies rapping, and going to the studio with him influenced me a lot. I even used to write with them and hopped on a couple of tracks.
Classicko: Back in the day I was really into dancing, but slowly got into the rhyming scene. A lot of people used to underestimate me and say that I'll never be good at rapping, and that only pushed me to get better.
Niftee: Before going to school everyday, I used to watch this channel MTV Jams and I just started to realize that I didn't like a lot of the hip-hop they were playing on TV. I decided to go back and listen to older records and I just vibed with it more. Seeing Smokey and Classicko rapping and hitting the studio really inspired me as well.
EM: What are your thoughts on the current rap game?
Classicko: Much respect to a lot of cats doing their thing like Logic and J. Cole, but there are far too many people pushing that same played out ratchet sound.
Smokey V: Way too much bullshit being pushed on the radio right now!
kaliM: We're trying to change people's perceptions of what hip-hop is in 2015.
EM: How has growing up on the West Coast shaped your sound?
kaliM: Well me, Smokey, and Classicko all went to Hamilton High School, which has a pretty good music program. Being in LA in general has definitely pushed me to be open minded about music and life in general.
Smokey V: I didn't really shape my opinion on music until I went back and actually studied the roots and history of hip-hop…
Niftee: Real talk, you shouldn't be rapping if you aren't aware your hip-hop roots.
Classicko: I wasn't really that into old school rap, until these guys exposed it to me back in the day. No going back now.
EM: What are you goals for this next year?
Niftee: Our debut mixtape is dropping first quarter next year. Its gonna be called "Same Old Shit".
Smokey V: Our goal by next year is to hopefully be on tour and spreading the word.
EM: Any last words?
Smokey V: Everyone that is calling this music that we’re creating “east coast” style needs to know that there is still real hip-hop in West LA. Just because you hear east coast influence doesn’t mean we’re jacking their style. Of course West coast hip-hop was ultimately influenced by the east because thats where it was created, but we took it and made it our own.
kilaM: If you like good music, then you will like Villain Park!