The first thing you hear on Crimewave 5150’s debut album is the sound of an open hand slap across the face stopping someone from singing more than the first couple words of the Star Spangled Banner. Then the eerie detuned piano line comes in the mix, and before you know it, you’re off into the night with Crimewave 5150, “doing nothing legal.”
“The sound of Crimewave is definitely not average” says Dez Yusuf, half of Crimewave 5150, “It’s a little aggressive”
“It’s instantaneous,” adds on JSNMSK, the other half of the group
Instantaneous is one way to describe Crimewave 5150’s unique brand of dead-eyed serious, eerie, hip-hop that sounds like an ominous cloud of malevolent terror stalking the streets of Long Beach at night. The closest musical comparison is early Three Six Mafia, but while Three Six Mafia were obsessed by a cartoonish satanic aesthetic, Crimewave are much more interested in painting a picture of the type of violence that people are afflicted by, and what that does to their body and their soul. Both the people who are at the receiving end of the violence, and those that do the violence.
“I like to think we were just kind of born out of it”, says JSNMSK, commenting on the sound, and the lyrics of his group
“I think it’s just the experience of growing up on the eastside [of Long Beach],” says Dez.
That experience of growing up in Long Beach exposed both Dez and JSNMSK (who both made tracks as solo rappers before getting together as Crimewave) to hip-hop, and punk rock, and metal music, which all are apparent influences to the music they make.
“The first song we did as a band was actually sampled from a local metal band” Dez says. “I’ve been called arrogant for making the comparison, but it [Long Beach] feels very much like late '70s, early '80s New York, where you know, people were just hanging out with each other, it didn’t matter where they came from. Mixing different genres around, everyone kind of coming from kind of a punk background.”
The era that Dez describes in New York, where hip-hop culture and music began to spread out of the Bronx and into Manhattan where the original CBGBs punk scene was dying down, morphing into weirder more experimental forms of post-punk, is kind of a mythical time period, like the Al-Andalus of American history, where white punks embraced and participated in hip hop music and culture, and black and brown kids participated and revitalized punk music.
On their first release as Crimewave 5150, the EP Y.H.N. (or, Young.Hell.Nigga) Dez and JSNMSK collaborated with both Long Beach rocker Jonny Bell of the band Crystal Antlers, and Long Beach electronic music producer NiceguyxVinny. The EP, nocturnal and eerie hip-hop with a nihilistic punk rock vibe, sounds kind of like a trap producer sampling a DJ Screw chop and screw of one of the reggae songs on a Bad Brains album. A record, and a group channeling that double consciousness of being black and young and angry in America into a chance for other frustrated young kids of color to express their own anger and frustration.
“A lot of people didn’t know what the acceptable level of energy was to display at our shows at first” says JSNMSK, “then we’d start getting buck, then everybody knew instantly that this was a place for you to feel comfortable to let out all your aggression.”
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“The shows get out of hand, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.” says Dez. “That’s how I stay sane, just being able to get it out. I get to scream for a half an hour, that’s like two weeks worth of sanity. When I’d go to punk shows when I was younger it was either you were one of the only black kids there and you were cool or unique, or it wasn’t cool at all. No One should feel that alienation, and that was a part of the inspiration for the live shows. I wanted it [to be] not just [for] black and brown kids but for everyone, black, brown and younger crowds. Women and men, boys and girls too to come thru and get that aggression out and do whatever they feel.”
Crimewave’s debut record, Menace, the group's self-produced which came out last month, sees the band locking in on their trademarked eerie, aggressive, punk and metal tinged, hip-hop. JSNMSK describes it as “an amalgamation of all the momentum and energy we’ve been building for the last few years.” The album has given the band some attention allowing them to play some more shows in Los Angeles, but Dez just wants to play more shows in Long Beach.
“My focus is really here [in Long Beach] because L.A. has tons of shows. Here it’s extremely important, especially playing all ages shows. It’s really important that kids have a chance to get that aggression out.”
Crimewave 5150’s Menace is out now, listen and download it here.