One drunken evening in the backseat of a friend’s car is where I heard the song “The Motto” for the first time when it came out on the radio. “Who isthis?” I had asked the people in the front seat. Someone proceeded to list the three different people on the track to which I replied, “Wait! There’s three different people on there?”

The hashtag-rap style— that people like the YMCMB crew has driven into oblivion— is evidence that you don’t have to be in Bone Thugs ‘N’ Harmony to rap like everyone else in your crew, and still derive a large amount of success doing it. 2Mex is not about that life.

The prolific California MC, known for his work with Los Angeles’ rap underground, is a product of the Good Life Cafe. He says, “[Good Life Cafe] was this training ground where you would move your hand around and the people would be like, ‘No! You can’t do that because somebody else does that!’ You couldn’t have a certain inflection in your voice because someone else did it, you couldn’t stand in a certain ways.”

Chronicled in the 2008 documentary This Is the Life, the Good Life Cafe (a health food store in South Central LA that held a weekly open mic night) is where he bred his own unique style. “I think we live in a world now where you can bite someone else’s style and no one cares,” 2Mex says assessing the current state of rap music. “Action Bronson sounds exactly like Ghostface Killah! Back in the day, Action Bronson would’ve got shut the fuck down.”

lookdaggers1_2Today, that same mentality is what drives his creativity, especially in his recently rebooted collaboration with former Mars Volta keyboardist Ikey Owens called Look Daggers.

The duo, now performing with a full band, first made waves with their 2006 album Suffer In Style. 2Mex talks about Look Daggers, “We had two rules. Rule number one, Ikey’s in charge of the music, no judgement, and I was in charge of the vocals, no judgement. Really, the only other rule was to not sound like the Roots. We felt like every hip-hop band sounded like the Roots.”

Rather than taking a route where jazz chords turned a song into a ‘Golden Era’ throwback, Owens crafts free-form excursions that often sound like, to borrow one of their song titles, a “New Wave Spazout.”

After remaining dormant for a few years— Owens doing everything from contributing to records by El-P, Saul Williams, Busdriver and touring with Jack White, and 2Mex working on solo material and collaborating with local LA artists— Look Daggers is back in the studio, back performing in small Long Beach clubs and are even set to play the Lowbrow Palace on December 13.

They’ve started with recording what 2Mex says will be a 10-minute song, “As far as my commitment to it in rapping, it’s like 120-140 bars of rapping. It’s a two-verse thing. It’s called “Suffer Like a Saint.” It’s me and Ikey and this Jack White-type character who sings pretty crazy. So far, we’ve been laying that song down, and I laid down one long verse.” 2Mex also says that they should have about five tracks down by February with hopes to release something digitally by then.

Their recent Long Beach shows have been works of experimentation with 2Mex freestyling a lot of the time. He even says that about 30% of the upcoming El Paso show will be freestyled, with 70% of the rhymes being written. But that is, according to him, depending on how lazy he is that night.

Staying consistent with not wanting to bite anyone’s style, you don’t get any more original than rhymes off the top of the dome. With the in-the-moment element of improv from both 2Mex and Ikey, it should be a show unlike any they’ve performed before, and unlike anything El Paso has seen or heard; it should be an experience to check out if you’re a music fan. Why not?



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