For any local act, the formula for blowing up basically boils down to four things: time, hustle, luck, and chemistry. Few OC rappers know more about that then C4mula, the Orange-based emcee who's had plenty of brushes with fame since he picked up the mic. And while he's shared the stage with nearly every OC rapper of note in the last decade or so, it's funny that his biggest break to date is the result of pairing up with the skinny, scruffy guitarist who most of his hip-hop buddies used to describe as "the punk rock guy." But he found an unlikely partnership with friend and Orange-bred singer/songwriter Nicky Gritts--one that combines deft lyricism and charisma with catchy, melodic vocals and hooks that inspire you to turn down your cares and turn up the volume.
Officially pairing up at the beginning of 2014, C4 & Nicky Gritts got the kind of jump start that few practitioners of hip-hop/stoner party rock could comprehend. In the last several months, they've toured the U.S. with Kottonmouth Kings, signed with their homegrown label United Family Music, and even wound up on stage at last summer's Gathering of the Juggalos all before releasing their first single.
Though they don't have any officially released music yet, their handfull of local shows so far (including KMK's annual Jingle Bowls concert at the Observatory last month) have been enough to give us a taste of the good-time sound that C4 likes to call "the Beach Boys Meets the Beastie Boys." Their journey together started after the longtime associates decided to do couple acoustic shows together that produced an energetic set of songs that paired well with both rambunctious rock bands and straight up emcees.
"I was stoked on the project because I get to be in both worlds. I grew up on serious-ass hip-hop and I wanted to always experiment with other shit," C4 says. "Meeting Nicky allowed me to do that."
The acknowledgement of each other's talent is mutual lovefest. Especially for Gritts who grew up in Orange being a fan of C4.
"[C4] I feel has just been destined for success his whole life ever since he started rapping and I've been glad to be along for the ride," Gritts says.
After starting the project with Gritts, C4 got the opportunity to bring him into Roshambo Studios in Irvine to sing hooks on a promo CD that the rapper was preparing to give to Brad "Daddy X" Xavier, founder of the Kottonmouth Kings, as a way to get on his radar. The plan was more successful than anyone expected. Xavier liked what he heard and not only put them on his label United Family Music, but also invited to take C4 & Nicky Gritts as a supporting act on their most recent U.S. tour. The dynamic on stage has been an adjustment for Gritts who has worked on harnessing the cajones it takes to impress the stoned, faithful (and often unforgiving) followers at a KMK show.
"It's weird sometimes to go on stage and sing my heart out in front of hip-hop fans or the Kottonmouth Kings fans, it took some getting used to," he says. "All in all I have to laugh at it and just sort of take that punk approach or else it'd eat me alive. It's worked out so far though."
Xavier enlisted C4's rhyme skills can also be found on KMK's forthcoming album Krown Power. Few things helped the duo's newfound fortune set in like performing at the festival of Faygo-guzzing, face painted madness known as the Gathering of the Juggalos. In addition to getting on stage in front of 15,000 people during KMK's set, C4 & Nicky Gritts got a baptism by fire at one of the festival's tent stages.
"That was the most intense shit I've ever been a part of. People would throw beer cans at you whether they liked you or not," C4 says. "Luckily I ducked a couple of 'em."
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That kind of survival experience should come in handy as the duo prepare for another tour following the release of their debut album Seriously Kidding, produced by Mike Kumagai (KMK), C4's DJ/engineer Eddie Ruxspin and others. Tomorrow night they'll be headlining another local show at the Wayfarer where they'll get another to amp up their hometown momentum in 2015.
C4 & Nicky Gritts perform on Thursday at the Wayfarer with New Ethics, The Velvet Tongues & Borracho Obama. 8 p.m. $5, 21+. For more info, click here.