It was the last performance on final night of Seattle Hempfest and the crowd's energy was burnt like ash at the tip of a joint. Winding down the country’s longest-running three day legalization rally (aka “Protestival”) on the water front of Myrtle Edwards Park, the weekend-long culture fest, unofficially dubbed “Disneyland for Stoners,” was about to be the Emptiest Place on Earth. Tired hippies began their sleepy trek home or, more likely, to the nearest hot dog stand—right as OC hip-hop group Four Finger Ring were about to take the stage.
“It was a little nerve racking because right before we went on there was the guest speaker and we saw everyone walking away,” recalls rapper Mic Moses. “We were like ‘Man this is gonna be shitty.’ The act before them had all these people.”
“I was trippin’ for sure,” his rapping cohort C4mula confirms.
But something amazing happened when Moses, C4umla and their group members Nu3tron and DJ Zole stepped on stage to face the backs of the crowd. They proceeded to turn up the sound system and let their bombastic brand of bars and beats bringing the fest back to life. Before Nu3tron’s eyes, the crowd of once- fleeing potheads turned around and slowly returned to the party.
“When we stepped out on stage there were two hippies on the lawn,” the rapper says. “But by the time we got into our third song, there were 1,000 people standing in front of us.”
The gravitational pull towards the group’s mix of stoner humor, slicing syllabic wordplay and refreshing eclectic style including some EDM-infused bangers has grown stronger lately. The crowd at Hempfest only helped solidify their confidence. After a decade plus spent honing their skills separately in OC's hip-hop scene, the three emcees and their DJ combined forces, releasing rapid fire videos and songs pronouncing their arrival to those who’ve slept on them. Now Four Finger Ring finally feels like they’re about to hit big. It’s a momentum that started in 2016, when the four individuals decided to ball their energy together into a fist of OC hip-hop fury.
When we say “OC hip-hop” please disregard tired cliché of white-bred, wannabe gangstas—it’s 2018, folks. Hip-hop culture, even in the 'burbs, has evolved quite a bit over the last few years. Instead, think of it as a wide swath of influences that can be sponged up and wrung out into a melting pot of dexterous rhymes, party anthems and political messages poured over innovative beats.
Production-wise, FFR’s growth isn’t so much about their rhymes as it is their ability to write good songs. Braggadocios bars notwithstanding, the first thing most fans of the group will notice about their first slew of singles (including tracks like “Dead Rose,” “Bass Heads,” and “Not Like Us,”) is how cohesive they feel despite working with producers from OC to the UK.
“Instead of just grabbing whatever was on the table. We found people, and some people found us, and we gravitated toward each other,” C4mula says. “There’s one producer from the UK, Skortix, who made us some awesome grime shit, Jim Perkins with Roshambo Studios and Zole’s always making beats so he made us some dope shit.”
It’s no surprise that all four members came into the group with a wealth of material and enough experience crafting their own albums, several of which the Weekly’s written about over the years. The group dynamic is only enhancing their output as they prepare to release a staggering 45 tracks and a slew of new videos in 2018. The yeoman’s work of stockpiling songs over the last several months in studio at their label Lip Drum Entertainment in Santa Ana is a daily routine for the group which is different then who they’ve written albums in the past.
“It wasn’t one thing like a broken heart that inspired this record,” Nu3tron says. “Maybe one of us did suffer that in the last year or two. But as the emotions come and the songs come that’s how this album got made.”
On a recent Sunday afternoon, C4mula, Moses and Nu3tron are sitting in front of a glowing computer monitor at Lip Drum’s studio space bouncing in their chairs as they play back some of their latest tracks, several of which will be released in their forthcoming mixtape WTF (We Are The Four), the first in their series of offerings beginning this month. Continuous plume of steam from a humidifier fills the air of the room like incense. A mysterious white casket is fixed against the wall, a leftover prop used for their video for “Dead Rose” released back in September. Even with the funeral vibes, the studio is alive with the energy of the crew getting lit to their own shit.
The new songs they play during the session run the gamut from soul-sampled big beat bangers a la Boi -1Da to explosive London grime and island-inspired rap reggae fusion on a track featuring Jared Watson of The Dirty Heads.
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Considering all the styles they’ve managed to layer into their new sound, Moses says he’s never felt as strongly about any music he’s created as he does with this project.
“So many artists are releasing records just to release records,” the rapper says. “You put it out but you’re not behind the record 110 percent. I think now since we’ve been working together, this record shows we all feel very strongly and confident about our sound.”
Part of the confidence is knowing that their power is more than just the sum of its parts. It’s a renewed excitement that comes from the hope that somewhere in the avalanche of songs they’re about to spring on us this year is a hit waiting to be heard every time they take the stage.
“Recently we got a call from the Observatory to come come do an opening set for one of their shows like an hour before we were supposed to go on,” Nu3tron says. “They’re like ‘Are you guys ready?’ and we’re like “Of course we’re ready’ We’d already been practicing so we stepped on stage and just destroyed it. We’ve been ready.”