This Friday, SRH Clothing brings their annual SRH Fest to the Observatory. Considering SRH's cult following among local bros, the bookings of ex-Kottonmouth King Johnny Richter and suburb-friendly artists like Mickey Avalon and Unwritten Law shouldn't come as any sort of massive surprise. But, there's also a booking that brings something more artistically-stimulating to mind: underground LA hip-hop dons DJ Babu & Rakaa Iriscience's Expansion Team Soundsystem project.
"It's cutting-edge traditionalism; it's hardcore party music," Rakaa Iriscience says of his Expansion Team Soundsystem project. "Expansion Team Soundsystem is more of a party-rockin' thing...we come to have a good time and push the line."
For decades now, Rakaa Taylor has been honing his creative craftsmanship as rapper Rakaa Iriscience, one-third of LA rap heroes Dilated Peoples. Alongside Dilated collaborator and close friend DJ Babu, he has been building a tenure as one-half of the progressive party-rap project Expansion Team Soundsystem.
Originally, Rakaa and Babu's collaboration as a duo happened casually. Both artists had already been close friends and creative partners for a while, and as Babu was receiving an influx of solo show offers, the esteemed DJ realized he wanted to add something supplemental to his performances.
"He was getting a lot of DJ offers and we had some downtime with Dilated so he was inviting me to go out and kind of 'host and toast' with him on his DJ shows as kind of something extra for the crowd and for the shows," Rakaa explains. "As Dilated took some time off and as [Dilated Peoples colleague] Evidence was taking time off to work on his solo project and deal with some family stuff we just really turned up the idea of me just going out with him and really put it together."
Babu and Rakaa then took time to map out and set into motion their plans for their Expansion Team Soundsystem project, and from then on their joint effort as ETS was set in stone. Even when the original trio of Babu, Rakaa, and fellow Angelino Evidence as Dilated Peoples continued to work and tour, ETS was still receiving a multitude of show offers, and the two-man team decided to continue performing as their own unit.
To date, there isn't much recorded output from ETS. There's a mixtape series entitled World on Wheels that they've released, but the pair choose to keep things more on the level of a live experience.
"For the most part, it's a live experience for sure," Rakaa says. "Whether it's a straight party takeover or a concert-style show, it's definitely based on a live experience."
That unique live experience Rakaa and Babu concoct as Expansion Team Soundsystem is set to detonate the Observatory floor this weekend, and Rakaa states that the larger, "festival" style outings are when their performance take on a particularly powerful tone.
"When we do festival stuff as Expansion Team Soundsystem that's when we get an opportunity to do more of the performance style stuff. We get a chance to really rock a bit more, and when we get an opportunity to really rock that becomes more of a hardcore hip-hop show."
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Larger-scale shows are a chance for ETS to really test their mettle as a performance-based entity, and when put to the test of a festival showcase Rakaa describes their live show as "very intense."
"Babu's crazy on the turntables, and I don't waste anyone's time on the microphone so we get up there and we have a lot of fun and we rock songs and really show what microphones and turntables can do out there."
Expansion Team Soundsystem will be performing as part of SRH Fest this Friday at the Observatory in Santa Ana. All ages, $15. For full details, click here.