[Locals Only] LMNO Creates a Sound That's Fresh, Fierce, Flake-Free

Letter RIP

Don’t Flake Out

*This article was updated on Nov. 6, 2009.


Long Beach rapper LMNO (a member of hip-hop group the Visionaries) will tell you his new album, Devilish Dandruff With Holy Shampoo (out Nov. 17 on Up Above Records), isn’t a classic. It’s a humble thing to say. And it also happens to be true—if by classic, one means a record that would be a big commercial hit. For now, the Long Beach rapper born James Kelly prefers to dance on the bleeding edge of hip-hop progression. For him, that meant collaborating with innovative French producer Yann Kesz, bouncing ideas over the Internet from their respective countries without ever meeting face-to-face. But there’s no digital jet lag here: LMNO’s diary of fiery staccato flows over Kesz’s sonic lather of thick bass and clean keys, creating a sound that’s fresh, fierce and (most important) flake-free.

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OC Weekly: How did the collaboration with Yann Kesz come about?

LMNO: Through MySpace, he reached out [to me] about four years ago. He just sent me a beat and asked if I could rhyme over it. I laid vocals to it, and he sent me another beat. By the second song, I was like, “What’s the possibility of doing an LP?” The dude was crackin’, so I asked him if he’d like to do an album. I’ve never physically talked with the dude, I’ve never physically even met the dude, so I’m hoping that on my next run overseas, I’ll be able to actually meet with him.

Seems like a strange way to do an album.

This was definitely a unique situation.

What inspired the album title?

My tattoo artist had just come back from Mexico, and he was talking about the experience he had at the border. One of the border officers told him in Spanish that they were searching [cars] for the “devil’s dandruff.” And right away, I was like, “Aw, that’s what they call cocaine?” So I took “the devil’s dandruff” and just played off it.

Who are some guests on the album?

JFK, a.k.a. Ninja Face, from Greyskul. We got Lorett Fleur and Kev Brown.

What is the biggest show/tour you’ve done this year?

The [European] tour I did with Oddisee, LD, Kev Brown and myself—that was pretty big. We had shows in arenas, little dive-bar clubs. It was very well-covered.

With Yann on the album, do think that helps you expand your appeal to the French hip-hop-heads? Do a lot of them already dig you?

It’s not like it’s my personal mission, but I definitely believe in abolishing that whole French hip-hop vs. Cali hip-hop vs. New York hip-hop, etc. It’s just hip-hop.

What does the acronym LMNO mean to you on this album?

Leave My Name Out kinda sticks out the most because that was the first album I ever released. But now I’m more like, “Leave My Name On.” I’m seeing that everything has room for growth, and the roots are definitely free to grow. I’m not stuck.

Which song on the album is the most personal to you?

This album was just a personal experience, all-in-all. “Never Stop” is that emotional idea of “I don’t care what you think about me; I don’t care what you say about me.” I wake up and go to sleep knowing that I should never stop what I’m doing because of that one person on a daily basis that I’m affecting. That’s what I’ve been sent here to do.

LMNO performs with Kev Brown, Declaime, J. Rocc, Babu and Orator at his album-release party at the Rhythm Lounge, 245 Pine Ave., Long Beach. Thurs., Nov. 12, 8 p.m. $10 before 10 p.m.; $12 after. 21+. For more info on LMNO, visit www.myspace.com/lmno.

Hey, Orange County/Long Beach musicians and bands! Mail your music, contact info, high-res photos and upcoming show dates for possible review to: Locals Only, OC Weekly, 2975 Red Hill Ave., Ste 150, Costa Mesa, CA 92626. Or e-mail your link to letters@ocweekly.com.

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