My Dad Bruce
Northwest hip-hop has only just begun to break out on the national stage, but those who know and love the local scene have been spoiled not only by an eclectic group of artists but by the community they have helped create, one that encourages collaboration and support for one another. One such group, My Dad Bruce, who are on the verge of releasing an album three years in the making, have found themselves not only a product of that community but one of its main advocates.
Comprised of a number of Bellingham artists, including MCs Julian “Adjectives” Friedman and “Jesus” Chris Willis, producer Devin “Dozer” Kain and supporting musicians Michael Harris, Ryan Patrick Wapnowski, Matt Hunter, Ian Hulford and Cory Winget, who provide live as well as studio instrumentals, My Dad Bruce is an amalgam of local groups both past and present.
Friedman, who started making music at age 16 as a part of The Educataz, met Willis at a hip-hop event Willis was running at a local church. Shortly afterwards they began making music under the moniker Somebody Cares with a number of other local artists, including Whiplash, Friedman’s partner with The Educataz, Lokeye of North by Northwest fame and DJ Booger from the Wilson Project.
“With Somebody Cares we had a few really awesome shows in town in the beginning,” said Friedman. “We opened for Gym Class Heroes, which doesn’t sound like the coolest thing, but we had the opportunity to play for a crowd of 700 or so really receptive college students, so that kind of showed us that we had the potential to have successful shows in Bellingham and get out there to a lot of people.”
Shortly afterwards My Dad Bruce was formed and the group hit the ground running, performing their first show as an opening act for the Hieroglyphics. While sharing bills with big-name hip-hop acts certainly helped the group get the word out, support from other local artists played a large role as well.
“The thing that makes this music scene good I think is that for the most part, in all of the different approaches musically, all of the artists are really receptive to building a community of artists,” said Friedman. “We are in a good relationship with a lot of other bands both in hip-hop and in other genres, and we’ve pretty much had nothing but positive experiences working with other artists in Bellingham.”
“At least in the hip-hop community, from the top-down most of it feels more horizontal than vertical as far as the way we work with each other and support each other, so pretty much anyone entering the scene can get the support and encouragement they need to feel like they aren’t being judged. I and others in our group have been doing music here for over ten years, but if we meet someone who is just starting out we are more than willing to spend the time with them to talk about their music and what they’re doing and potentially even play shows with them.”
One of the ways these artists support each other is through the Sunday Cypher, a local meet-up of artists both new and old who get together to spit rhymes, bounce ideas off of one another and generally just hang out and enjoy one another’s company. While it certainly represents a who’s who as far as the Bellingham hip-hop scene goes, it’s also one of the best examples as to how these artists support and encourage one another to reach the next level of their craft.
My Dad Bruce is as easily influenced from within as from what’s around them, however. According to Friedman, the personalities of both Willis and himself have created a complementary working environment that allows both to harness their strengths.
“Personality-wise we are kind of on other ends of the spectrum,” he said. “Chris is more of an introvert, he’s really focused on getting work done and going through his process, he is extremely dedicated to his music and introverted in the way he gains perspective, and I’m a little more out there as far as picking up little pieces and getting our name out there. That translates in our music as well because there is a cool contrast of styles where Chris is extremely developed as far as some of the stylistic things and technical approach and I have a way more eclectic approach in dialect and style.”
Another major component of the group is Kain, who has allowed Willis to hand over most of his production duties and focus exclusively on lyrics and vocals. My Dad Bruce made a decision early on to eschew the “traditional” hip-hop method of crafting instrumentals out of others’ samples (“We spent a lot of time being the iPod MCs,” said Friedman) and instead opt for live instrumentals both in the studio and on stage, which Friedman says not only gives more life to the songs themselves but the live performances as well.
“Usually we start with some sort of instrumental and Chris and I will be sitting around together or just going about our days listening to these instrumentals with a concept in mind,” said Friedman. “Usually one of us will write a chorus or verse and bring it to the other person, and then if the other person is in agreeance then we will develop the song further.”
Only one of the ten songs on the new album uses a sample, giving it not only a more full sound but an original one as well. Friedman said that despite the long creation process and the difficulty in coordinating so many musicians, ultimately the entire path was a rewarding experience.
“I liken it to making a baby, where you spend all this time raising this kid and making it what you want and learning from it but eventually you have to let it go,” he said. “It’s still part of our life but we’ve given up our parental oversight of it. So some college kids in Indiana can listen to it and have their own experience with it and we would never know about it, but that’s a good thing because these songs are supposed to have their own life.”
My Dad Bruce’s self-titled album can be purchased on iTunes or at mydadbruce.com. Those who are unable to afford the album can also e-mail the group at firstname.lastname@example.org and inquire about receiving a free copy.
(You can catch My Dad Bruce at The Shakedown on November 30 with The Staxx Brothers and Cutlass Supreme. For more information, check out http://www.facebook.com/mydadbruce)