Photo By: Michael T. Regan
(CLICK IMAGE FOR LARGER VERSION)
While all the chatter about whether hip-hop is dead adds a shot of excitement to the culture, the debate can be a drag when all you want to do is sit down and listen to good music.
With his debut, And You Are? (Karma Response Unit), released in late 2006, Jake Lefco (pictured, left) answers the question without addressing it, harking back to the days of head-nodding beats, classic scratches and entertaining lyrics.
"I took a personal approach to this album and got down to the nitty-gritty being honest with myself and listeners. It's a good balance of comedy and seriousness," he laughs. "I'm not afraid to look uncool."
Although Lefco has been around awhile, dropping guest verses here and there, And You Are? is the first proper introduction to the Conshohocken-raised MC. He gives his offbeat perspectives on everything from music to politics without taking on a gimmick or adopting a false identity. (See, he leaves that job to Fake Rightko, a persona that sometimes shows up onstage during Lefco's sets wearing a ridiculous amount of gold and an obnoxious baseball cap twisted to the side. "He's my total opposite," says Lefco.)
The first single off the album, "Headphones," shot to No. 2 on national college radio charts. Since then, Lefco and executive producer Happ G have become fixtures on underground Web sites. "I was friends with Jake's older brother in high school and he urged me to listen to him spit. I was initially attracted to the fact that Lefco was himself. He had incredible lyrics and was consistent," Happ G says.
Once Lefco decided to pursue music on the serious tip, Happ G offered up the services of Karma Response Unit Records (KRU), an independent label he founded in 2000. KRU has gained a reputation for issuing quality products by the likes of The Hogan Fam and 40th Dimension, and keeping things creatively fresh and professional.
Promotion tactics have included printing shirts with a picture of the Hogan Family cast from the '80s sitcom (for The Hogan Fam's 2003 self-titled EP) and distributing personalized KRU dental floss for Lefco's forthcoming follow-up, Missing Trooth (partially to poke fun at an obvious gap Lefco sported during recording, but has since had repaired). KRU also opened up an online store that offers downloadable songs from their catalog for a Philly-themed $.76. KRU got lucky when MTV decided to use their music in several of their not-so-reality shows. Cha-ching!
Besides Lefco's Missing Trooth, which is due out this spring, KRU's got an MC collaboration in the works (already confirmed are Reef the Lost Cauze, Briz and Side Effect) and an all-female release (The May Smolder Project) currently being mapped out.
"There are many goals that Jake and I both want to accomplish so we continue to challenge each other," says Happ G. "I don't have a backup plan I'll make this work. If you stick with anything long enough, eventually something will break."