Mission Viejo rapper Apoetnomadali explores where the fake OC stops and the real OC begins
When I took this job, my friends, whether they had spent any time here or not, had plenty to say about Orange County. You’ve heard it before: boring, conservative, suburban—all the things they learned from TV. Even our sister paper, SF Weekly, recently called OC a “cultural void” on their music blog. (Guess we can’t all claim such transcendent acts as Journey.)
But I’ve been here long enough to know that, while there’s a grain of truth to these stereotypes, only the intellectually lazy think that’s all these parts has to offer.
Which brings us to Mission Viejo hip-hop artist Ali Nourbakhsh—known professionally as “Apoetnomadali”—and his album, Orange County Disorder. Here is a local guy, most likely exposed to some of the hippest corners of the county, but seemingly perpetuating stereotypes I figured were a creation of embittered screenwriters and Bravo execs.
Released late last summer, the record is dedicated nearly entirely to the county. On his MySpace, the titular “disorder” is described thusly: “Owning a vehicle worth over $50,000 at the age of 16, spending more on clothes, accessories and toys than most families in the United States spend on food, fear of other ethnicities not your own, general resistance to labor and hard work.” On the track “OCD,” he raps, “She don’t eat carbs, and her breasts are fake” and “He likes the UFC, and he lives in the gym. . . . He wears tighter pants than his girlfriend does.” Not exactly shattering the shallow image many outsiders have of these pants—sorry, parts.
“The thing is entrenched in humor,” says Nourbakhsh, 25, loftily comparing the record to Candide in that it’s a satire in which the author is a part of the society he’s critiquing. “Some of it is what I’ve grown up with. It’s not anything I’m just conjuring or making up. Even where you get the singular view from the TV shows or things like that, they have the roots in the reality of certain matters.”
Nourbakhsh isn’t an OC native. He was born in Iran and lived abroad before spending third grade through high school in Mission Viejo. After, he spent time in LA, Spain and Italy, returning here to be closer to his family. None of those other places inspired him artistically the way his home county does.
“I definitely felt like a fish out of water here, growing up,” says Nourbakhsh. “At the same time, there are some redeeming qualities. The whole [album] is really a social commentary on Orange County. It kind of represents it from a lot of angles, the good, the bad and the ugly.”
And yes, despite his digs—“you might see me down at the Irvine Spectrum, the question is will the wack Irvine P.D. arrest ’em,” he spits on “Party Tonight”—he does think there’s some good to be found here.
“What about the jazz clubs in Fullerton? What about SanTana? What about all this color?” he asks. “Hopefully I can broaden views and change the perception of the place where I spent a good portion of my life.”
Nourbakhsh insists he wasn’t concerned that fellow residents would be upset about their portrayal on the record.
“Any time you’re speaking truths, you’re not as worried about the response,” he says.
That response, according to Nourbakhsh, has been “amazing,” though he admits it has also been a “slow burn.” I figure this must be because of a less-than-bustling hip-hop scene here, especially in South County—something Nourbakhsh downplays.
“I’m kind of on the ‘if you build it, they will come’ mentality,” he says, adding that he doesn’t strictly go after hip-hop fans, and instead strives to convert nonbelievers. “If your music is good, no matter what, people will come and listen.”
Not that Nourbakhsh is looking to stick around here for the long haul. He does have “nomad” in his rap name, after all, and on “Party Tonight,” he states, “It’s an okay place, I guess; I’m too big for the county, though, I must confess.”
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“That nomad, that traveler, that is a constant in me,” he says. “I know I’m going to have to leave, and I’m going to want to because I want more experiences and perspectives, and I have a lot to offer.”
And potentially, many more geographically based concept albums to come. I hear San Francisco has some great bridges!
Visit Apoetnomadali at www.myspace.com/apoetnomadali.