Those who've waited years for Speach Impediments to give them something to talk about are probably wondering about the whereabouts of one of OC’s most recognizable rap groups. Despite their rep as a dynamic live acts, the opportunity to see them grace the stage is rare these days. With members spread out between Vegas, OC and Colorado, their ability to convene in once place at the same time is a bit like witnessing a UN summit. You’ll get a long overdue taste of SI again Saturday night when they make their return to the Observatory. Despite the absence of producer/emcee Dale “Firechild” Wood, a truncated lineup of emcees Syntax Vernac, Drew ID and DJ Zole prepare to open up for rap’s intellectual mercenaries Talib Kweli and Hi-Tek’s searing collabo Reflection Eternal.
Even though they’ve spread out, their flows have also branched out, thanks to a recent pilgrimage to Honolulu where Syntax helmed the production of a documentary called So Indie—Honolulu (filmed by Anthony Wallace), for Syntax’s label Keep Records. Featuring Syntax along with DrewID and other Keep artists—TonsofFun, Dar and Illisit—follow the emcees that forces them to grind deep into the earth of the underrated Hawaii hip-hop scene which they rock night in and night out in an effort to plant the SI flag somewhere new. We recently spoke to SI co-founder, label boss and rhyme slinger Syntax Vernac about their new doc.
OC Weekly (Nate Jackson): All the members of Speach Impediments are spread out between OC [Drew and Zole], the Denver area [Firechild] and yourself in Vegas. Does that effect any plans to put out any new music this year?
Syntax Vernac: As far as Speach Impediments, we’re slowly working on a project that’s at the production level right now. Dale, who goes by Firechild, will present beats to us two or three at a time every two weeks and letting us sit on them and let him know individually if we like the tracks and want to write on them or not. Unless he gets a yes from two out of the three of us, he treats that beat as a No and moves on to the next. So he’s building up that beat bank in order for us to start writing. Zole has been submitting beats to us as well which is a new step for him because he’s usually focused on the DJ thing. We don’t know if we’ll actually be releasing a new project this year, but we’re absolutely working on one. We’ve confirmed four total beats at the moment, the goal is to get to 16 before we start writing.
What’s it like taking time apart and them getting back together on stage in various incarnations of SI? Does it feel like something you have to get used to again or more like second nature?
We’ve been doing it so long and rocked together consistently without a break for so long that it’s kind of like a breath of fresh air. We go out and do a lot of solo shows so you don’t feel as much camaraderie as you do when you’re with your guys. And we’ve performed and rehearsed our catalog thousands of times, so when we do get together, it’s exciting. Rather than being worried about whether or not we’re gonna get this track right, we’re happy to be on stage together because it’s like, without saying so, we miss each other on stage when we’re together. It’s like that familiar taste of a dish you don’t get unless you’re back home.
Talk about the documentary you guys put out, So Indie—Honolulu. How did that project spawn out of your love for going to Hawaii for vacation every year.
It was very much a progression. The first year it was just me going out there. The second year, [rapper] Tons of Fun saw and heard about the first year and asked about getting on. [Julia and I—owners of Keep Records] said why not, the more the merrier, so we brought him. Then the word started spreading and I told Drew, you this isn’t just us planting a seed anymore, we have bookings and things secure that we can go do. I don’t want to bring him along unless it’s tight. I feel like as a group Speach Impediments is at a greater caliber than the sum of any of our solo hip-hop careers. I hate to make the comparison cuz it’s so cliche, but would you rather go see Method Man do a solo show or see Wu-Tang do a show when all of them are up there? I treat my solo stuff as guinea pig runs and when we find areas that are receptive to what we’re doing, it’s usually the second or third time we go back that I invite the SI guys. Like, yes now this ground has been broken, so let’s go rock it properly.
Is there actually a hip-hop scene in Hawaii?
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I would by no means go out there and buy a place with the intention of making a living in music in the Hawaiian islands. I think collectively they only have like three record stores among all eight islands and maybe 15 venues if that. It’s a small market, but you really get the vacation vibe. Anyone who’s been to Hawaii knows what that feels like. I like to go often, at least once or twice a year. They have a lot of enthusiasm but you couldn’t just stay there.
Did the mixture of tour, vacation and documentary with this group of MCs allow you guys to bond in a different way than a regular tour?
While we doing it, it happened to be a really good, busy tour that happened to be in filming mode. It wasn’t until afterwards when we’re going through the footage and the guys from Montana are calling us and asking what the next thing is. It’s not till a few months later when you’re missing each other. Not to sound sappy or anything, but you realize you guys shared a once in a lifetime moment together. It wasn’t until we did the previewing when everyone except Illisit made it out and we hadn’t been since Hawaii that we’d all been in one place and we realized, oh shit this really does feel like a family. It was like we picked up right where we left off and have even been talking about doing another one. My dream is to do So Indie Australia within the next year or two, that’s my dream.
Speech Impediments perform with Reflection Eternal at the Observatory, Saturday Jan. 23. (late show). For tickets and full details, click here.