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Locally Grown Collective barely started out as a seed of an idea between a squad of local rappers. But in less than a year, they've managed to harvest quite a bit of attention from OC and LA hip-hop-heads cultivating some of the deftest backpack rap in OC. Despite being accomplished individual MCs, Endz, DeeJaeeBee and DaveAllen decided to put aside their solo missions and link up this summer. So far, that plan is proving to be fertile. However, they weren't exactly ready for the response they got from fans following July's release of their free mixtape, We Are Locally Grown. "That was just basically supposed to be something to tide over fans of Endz because he's working on his album right now," says DaveAllen, flickering a lighter in between responses. "I don't even know how it took off so soon!"
For starters, Endz is one of the most talented MCs rocking a mic in OC these days, period—a title we gladly bestow after listening to his Half N Half mixtape, also released early this year. Meanwhile, DaveAllen brings a knack for arrangements and structuring songs in addition to laying down woozy, poetic rhymes and harmonized vocals. DeeJaeeBee, a classically trained singer, brandishes his polished, neo-soul baritone whenever possible. Though he's not a rapper by trade, Endz helped him refine his delivery just in time for the group's buzzworthy appearance on the popular underground YouTube series The Cypher Effect.
With collective member FourthBeats providing the underground boom-bap instrumentals, the compelling concoction helped net them the distinction of being named Best Hip Hop Act in the Weekly's annual Best Of issue. For Endz, the music continues to be a byproduct of the group's natural chemistry. "When you're in a solo setting, it's your art," says Endz, who has built a following of his own. "Having a team, I feel like they point out stuff I can improve on."
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The Orange-based crew have roots that extend far beyond their first rehearsals in early 2012. DaveAllen and DeeJaeeBee are cousins who grew up together. Endz met DaveAllen at Orange High School. It's a bond that reveals itself in their bouncing, confident stage chemistry in venues such as the Observatory in Santa Ana.
To bring their alchemy of hip-hop and neo-soul to as many as possible, the group organized a local string of Stepping Stones Tour shows, networking with LA rappers such as Reverie and Vel the Wonder—fellow Cypher Effect alumni. The local tour takes them through San Juan Capistrano on Saturday, with other dates in the works in Whittier, Inglewood and Las Vegas.
In showcases, Locally Grown Collective's synergy is on another level. "The addition of Coley Cole on the drums just brings that live element that a lot of people don't have right now with the exception of going to a Talib Kweli or Lupe Fiasco show," DeeJaeeBee says. In addition to Cole, the group recently brought in local selector DJ NoThySelf to man the decks for them.
The group say they're proud to represent a new generation of MCs from OC—the "Young juice movement," as they call it. And the blend they produce relies on as many flavors as it does members. DaveAllen says that makes them ready for any and every opportunity coming their way. "We're here to plant hella seeds and reap the benefits," he says.
This column appeared in print as "Fresh-Picked Rhymes."