The phrases “family act” and “hip-hop” seem incompatible–the combination conjures images of squeaky-clean congregants waving their hands gleefully while rapping about such subjects as being down with G-O-D. But just because Orange County rap trio Blok likes to keep it in the family doesn't mean they're going to be donning gold-lame vestments and getting all koombaya on your ass. Brothers Damien Blaise 25, Jesse St. John, 22, and little sister Gianna Gianna,19, have been spitting rhymes with machine gun ferocity (mingled with a Warholian aesthetic) for more than two years.
And they've been getting lots of attention– not only from audiences in the hipster-rich, punk saturated venues of the OC, but from the odds-makers as well. Witness the 2010 Orange County Music Awards, when Blok was deigned the best hip-hop act of the year. Citing a diverse coterie of influences including from Tom Waits and Basement Jacks to Busta Rhymes and Aesop Rock, Blok will release a new single on iTunes, “The Lair of the White Worm” on Aug. 3rd. And with a new EP in the works, the act has some itchy ambitions to scratch.
OC Weekly (Brandon Ferguson): Where did you guys grow up?
Damien Blaise: Burbank, Santa Ana and Irvine. We grew up in Orange County, but I don't know if we fit in completely.
At first I was just writing lyrics by myself. I kept finding people who made music that weren't doing things progressively–or at least (in a direction that) I considered progressive. So I said “I can't find anybody, I'm going to have to produce myself. And then I said “I want to play live, I need someone, and the most talented person I know–the most interesting person I know–is Gianna.” I thought it would be cool to have a girl, too. And I knew her strengths. We all did theater when we were young. We're all pretty creative.
Did people ever call you crazy for wanting to start an avant-garde hip-hop act in Orange County?
It was so far left field at the time. For some ninth grader at Irvine–for me!– to play things that were influenced by traditional African culture and stuff that was experimental out of Europe. My friends barely considered them songs. I would be playing something I made, and they'd go “When does the song start?” And it would be a minute into the song.
Both. This is the project that I consider my catalyst into people understanding what I have to offer to modern music. Conceptually I have things I've been working on during Blok that have people going “What? He's a rapper why's he making this?” I have multiple projects. I'm also working on one where I just play percussion and I use things like a steak knife and a tom drum and a rain stick… I want to be able to have something symphonic and rhythmic, and have an urban flavor that at the same time harkens to classical music…but for now I'm going to keep it within three minutes.
Interesting. Might people ever expect to see a Blok concept album in the future?
Oooh. Good question. (Pause). I would want to shy away from using one concept for an entire album…you should try and fit more in. If I make music like this, I should try to add a fourth concept to the three concepts I already used.
It's so awesome to get the acknowledgment, especially in an area like Orange County that's considered pretty genre-specific and a little bit limited.
Yeah, we performed and Mark McGrath from Sugar Ray said we were his favorite performers (laughs).