By Adam Lovinus
By Lilledeshan Bose
By Gabriel San Roman
By Rachel Mattice
By Stephanie Zacharek
By Daniel Kohn
By Nate Jackson
By Mike Seeley
It can't be easy being Brendan Porzio. As Ciph, one of two MCs in the OC hip-hop crew Idioms, he has a full-time job holding it down in Newport Beach. And he doesn't rock K-Swiss, either. But before you mistake him for an understudy in 8 Mile, know this: there's no Mekhi Pfeiffer mentor figure in this plot line.
"We're shopping our tape around right now, but we're being pretty selective," he says. "We want to give it out to people with a clue, instead of just doing a mass mailing or handing it to every person at a show. Like I give a shit what they think anyway."
It's hard enough clocking a paycheck from the Man and staying vital in the rap game—or, in Ciph's case, working as a loan officer by day and writing rhymes at night. But the struggle turns out to be the perfect muse, as evidenced by his nerve-shredding soliloquy "Sleep or Leap."
"That cut's just about everyday things," he says from his cell phone somewhere on the 405. "Stuff that makes me crazy, like cars all backed up on the freeway or this dude walking along the shoulder here—he's such a typical Orange County guy, spiked hair, his arms all sleeved-up."
Not that it's anything on you—it's just Ciph and his partner-in-rhyme Amnesia's lives. Therein lies the Idioms paradox: butt-naked diary entries contrasted with the head-nodding beat science of their DJ/producer Arkane, the final point in the triangle. None of Arkane's sources are obvious because he digs deeper than most, whether in his record crates or his own dome. Take the vertigo-inducing bass drops of "Basement Poetry" (they dangle on the precipice before the floor is pulled out from underneath) or the sinister-sweet jangle that buoys "Evolution Resolution," one of Ciph's three solo joints on the record. "We don't listen to any mainstream hip-hop," he says. "We love all kinds of music: indie rock, punk, Johnny Cash, Sinatra."
Ciph tends to be the band's spokesperson and business-affairs coordinator, but Amnesia is the more polished wordsmith, shining especially on "Occult Clash," on which he flips clichés on wealth, race and being just another crab in the bucket: "In the 714, the Dirty South is a 90-mile drive down the 5 to the 619. . . . They tried to teach the gospel of hip-hop on campus/But if you don't get it by 18 years of age/It's just another excuse to talk ebonics and conflate your GPA/While Asian cats bang it out from their Acuras. . . . This track has no hook, just a three-prong pitchfork through your psyche/And being a minority doesn't make you oppressed."
"It's just a slice-of-life type of track," Ciph is quick to point out. "It's not a dis or anything. We got mad love for Orange County."Idioms perform at China Beach, 2369 S. El Camino Real, San Clemente, (949) 492-6228. Sat., 9 p.m. Call for cover. 21+.