At Ghosthouse Studioz in Anaheim, five teenagers stayed up late on a school night, but their parents didn't mind. The aspiring rappers took turns in the booth recording verses for a song that will be on a future recording project slated for release this summer. The group of youngsters dubbed themselves "MCe" with the "e" standing for 'eternal' or 'everlasting.' Between the ages of 16-19, they're all a part of Costa Mesa's Save Our Youth (SOY) after-school center. Eddie Iniestra, better known by his rap name Edifica, guides them through the session as SOY's Arts and Music Program Coordinator and the driving force behind the MCe project.
The youth wear matching black hoodies with the group name emblazoned on the front. Jazmine Hernandez goes by Jazzy Sound. Jennifer Carmona, the youngest in the bunch, is known as Dedicated. Victor Sanchez is Infinite. Cesar Hernandez, with long, relaxed afro locks, adds a little French to his Bête Noire Spazztic name and Mason Mendes raps as M.t.MC-aGOG. The kids all hail from Newport Harbor and Estancia High School.
"We help our students get into college, but we have to have the other side, especially since a lot of schools cut back on music programs," Iniestra explains. "I try to facilitate a place where they can feel free to come and express themselves." He outlines a vision for an 8-track album with five solo songs and three group efforts. It's tentatively titled Super Nova. "Hopefully Super Nova is really going to be that big blast that's gets everybody shinning."
Iniestra, who is producing the entire effort is paying for MCe's studio sessions out of his own pocket, but has big plans that will need some Kickstarter crowd sourcing help. In addition to the album, he wants to put out a DVD, print t-shirts and plan a big release party. "They're all excited about it so it's pretty exciting to be in an environment where I can actually produce tracks for them. It's pretty dope."
Ghosthouse sound engineer Dr. Carter drops the beat as Mendes rhymes lyrics off his notebook. They stop whenever he gets tongue twisted and go through a few takes before getting something clean. Then come the overdubs where certain words are re-recorded and emphasized. The finished product is played back and everybody's head is nodding. They come up with "New Era" as the song title in agreement. The all around vibe is youthful, energetic and promising.
"I didn't always dedicate myself to hip-hop, but once I got older, I learned to appreciate it more as a movement, a culture," says Jazmine Hernandez. She flosses an attitudinal flow in taking a page from Reverie, one of her underground hip-hop heroines. So far, Carmona is the only member to have completed a track. "Crash" showcases her natural abilities on the mic."I started rapping about a year ago. Every since I was little, I'd always be writing poetry and stories in my notebook," she says.
When asked if they had femcees they looked up to, the answers were emphatic! "Snow Tha Product! That girl!" said Carmona. "Oh hell yeah! Gavyln and Reverie, they got it!" added Hernandez. During the studio session Miss Char, noted by the Weekly as the top femcee in OC, made a surprise visit introducing herself to everyone. Hernandez gave the rapper props on her YouTube entry to the Anthro & Eskupe Bars Over Bullshit Contest.
Sanchez notes Kendrick Lamar among his faves and enjoys the opportunity to spit rhymes in a studio. "It's a new thing for me. Obviously, I've seen it in music videos and stuff like that. I knew that if I was going to be a rapper, I would have to be in the studio. It's a great experience," he says.
"SOY gave me that hand. It helped me meet other people and know more about hip-hop. School wise, it keeps you off the street."