Specializing in sharp-tongued delivery, wry humor and a healthy dose of skepticism, South County hip-hop trio Rock Bottom thrive on cultivating the image of the “Everyman” in their rhymes. Whether you’re broke, sussing out answers to life’s deepest questions or just getting wasted with your friends, these guys have a track for you. San Clemente/Laguna Niguel MCs Elephant Pelican (Tony Diggs), Innate (Nate Wolvin) and Bumps the Goose Got (Eric Fernandez) are currently recording a follow-up to their 2009 album, Expanding the Cage, on OC/San Diego label Raw Poetix.
OC Weekly: Do you think the OC hip-hop scene has changed for better or worse since you started in the early 2000s?
Nate Wolvin: They used to have a lot of hip-hop shows over at Hogue Barmichael’s [in Newport Beach]. They had Tuesday-night freestyle battles and stuff. And they don’t have anything like that in Orange County anymore.
Tony Diggs: It’s easy to be bummed about the shift in [popular] hip-hop music. But I have to kind of remember that hip-hop did start off as this party-based thing. I’ve seen it subjectively get worse, and I’m hoping it’s gonna start taking a turn for the better.
How did you guys get affiliated with Raw Poetix Records?
Eric Fernandez: The guy who runs Raw Poetics, Bijan Ewalt, is my homeboy from back in the day. We’ve had this idea since high school to start a label. I started rapping, and he started running the label.
What are some of the techniques you use to write songs as group? Do you collaborate on one another’s rhymes?
Fernandez: We’ll start with a hook or a concept, and we all write our verses, and then come up with a [revised] hook after our verses are done.
Wolvin: We’re trying to give [our new] album more of a crew vibe, as opposed to three MCs rapping on a beat. It’s a different writing process, and I personally think it’s a lot more fun.
Is there a title for your new album?
Wolvin: We haven’t figured out a name for it; we’re kinda just seeing how it plays out. But our friend O-Jay is producing the album. He’s from Denmark.
Are there any bigger acts you’ve opened up for that you’ve been particularly psyched about?
Diggs: Our homie Qwel [from Chicago] has been super-good to us as far as taking us around, letting us get on his tours and stuff. He’s been kind of like a big brother. He has a new album with Maker called So Be It. We just jumped on the end of their [West Coast] tour this past fall.
What kind of music do you get influenced by aside from hip-hop?
Fernandez: A lotta rock from the ’60s.
Diggs:An American Prayer [by the Doors], Neil Young’s Live at Massey Hall . . . [sighs] There’s so much, dude. The Beatles make you wanna make a beat.
What’s the last thing that inspired you to write a rap?
Diggs: We wrote a super-dope track, really upbeat, called “Chillin’” that’s pretty fresh.
Fernandez: It talks about how you look at your days from a past perspective, from a present perspective and from a future perspective.
Diggs: Then we did a song called “Strong.” It’s about the world shrinking, and everyone’s being crammed in this really small space, and there’s nowhere left to hide eventually. It’s really optimistic [laughs].
Fernandez: We try to approach every track with a general purpose and just approach it from three different angles. We have three MCs in the group, so we might as well.
You guys have pretty interesting individual hip-hop names. What’s a key thing to remember when picking a moniker?
Diggs: Don’t take it too seriously [laughs]. Don’t become your alias.
Rock Bottom perform with C-Rayz Walz at Malone’s, 604 E. Dyer Rd., Santa Ana, (714) 979-6000. Fri., 9 p.m. $10.
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This column appeared in print as “Everyman Rhymes.”