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Liqdzunshine are an anomaly in the OC scene, a self-described "funk-driven hip-hop" group who bring a contrarian brand of soul to unsuspecting audiences. "We can play for people who aren't hip-hop fans," says bandleader Kahlid Woods. "We'll play a Sly Stone cover, and the next song they're dancing to is 'Los [rapper Carlos Young] spitting about how much he hates radio hip-hop."
Liqd sound like Arrested Development 10 years on and 10 times better, drawling P-Funky R&B under ornery rapping and Creamsicles-for-the-ears vocals. "We admitted early on we liked pop music," Woods says, himself a veteran of people-pleasing cover bands playing OC surf 'n' suds joints. That's where he met Young in the late '90s.
Young's nasally, topspin rhyming is heavily influenced by Q-Tip and Chuck D, and he sounds as angry as those revered MCs. On "America's Bitch," from Liqd's Audiopleasure disc, he surmises the state of being black in America and concludes, "Guess I'm a nigger," sounding down but not out.
To fill out Liqdzunshine's lineup, Young brought in drummer Dave "P-45" Sussman, bassist Dave Staples, Mike Cleveland on woodwinds and dreadlocked chanteuse Denean Dyson, a Cal State Fullerton student who joined four years ago. Woods got the oddly spelled name from P-Funk's Motor Booty Affair.
It's hard not to like these hip-hop ambassadors who hold their own on bills with death-metal bands and thug rappers, but do it without dumbing anything down. Woods had a label deal through Sublime's Gasoline Alley Universal imprint back in the day and lived to tell about it. "Typical story of people who know nothing about music trying to tell me how to make a record," he says. So for now, they do their own thing and are finishing Beautiful Things with producer Evan Frankfurt, who also produced Audiopleasure's hazy greatness. "We're inspired by Beck and Radiohead because they're both artists with incredible production," says Woods. "We aim pretty high. Like Bob Marley's Catch a Fire. You don't think of that as great reggae album—just a great album."
Liqd's greatest talent so far is getting their albums into people's ears. "At one point, our crowd was Orange County housewives," 'Los maintains. "Kids were like, 'I got your CD, but now my mom's got it in her car, and she's not giving it back. Can I get another one?'"
"America's Bitch," indeed.