They have their own brand of condoms and brew their own beer, so if you are looking to party with a live band before a night of drunken sex, open your mind and make it easier on yourself by heading over to the latest performance by the Defamation League —a trio of defiant, free-spirited, right up in your face San Diego locals whose innovative, no holds barred musical hybrid has given rise to a whole new genre: grit-hop.
Those local tastemakers at The San Diego Reader call Def League's swirl of assaulting rhythmic and verbal intensity “a mix of hardcore/punk guitar with hip hop beats and lyrics.” All of which can be experienced via the 12 tracks on their full-length debut The Anatomy of Grit Hop . When Khemicle Ali (vocalist/producer), Dune M (vocalist) and Nick Sleezin (vocalist, blazing punk rock guitar, drummer)—performing over the turntables, mixes and production of visionary and secretive SoCal artist and DJ LucidOne--display their “True Grit,” they're not talking about John Wayne.
When they rap about “The Sound of Violence”—a track that has gotten local airplay on San Diego indie station 94.9 and on 91X--it may be real or inspired by their favorite comic books (Johnny The Homicidal Maniac, Preacher, The Avengers, Milk & Cheese) or video games (Contra, Counterstrike, Goldeneye, Manhunt). “Cellulite Disco” is a little lighter, but fat chicks better watch out. “The Wrath, Pt. V”? Nick calls that a “brutal ass fucking song”—so maybe we best take it seriously.
And when they go off about “Bombin' Fools At The Compound,” it might be an act of war…or just a winking reference to the creative explosion that happened at The Compound, the name of their “studio” built in Ali's 3 ft. by 6 ft. closet. You just never know with these guys, and that's the way they like it.
But back to those condoms. Khem works at a porn shop, so it's easy to customize these things with all three of their faces, the band's logo and a line from one of their songs: “If the jimmy's too small to fit this, go bareback and risk it.” “Yeah, that's right. We give away and sell these condoms while encouraging people not to wear them,” says Dune.
Last year, Def League took this advice straight into the porn business when they gave a bunch of tracks to producer Steve York for his student porno film “Rising Fees and Popping Bs.” The adult film was aired on the student TV station at UCSD and broadcast over the internet, where it received 30,000 unique visitors a day. The conservative anti-free speech thought police were all over it, and Khem, Nick and Dune's music was played all over the country as talk radio stations (including Los Angeles' KFI ) discussed the film on the air. Def League's involvement with the production was discussed on the national news circuit, including on The O'Reilly Factor, Inside Edition, and Scarborough Country.
The good news for open-minded listeners is that seven of the tracks from “Rising Fees” appear in full form on The Anatomy of Grit Hop . The album is a follow-up to last year's more crudely recorded EP This Shit's The Shit , featuring more fully produced versions of some of those same tracks.
So Def League is stirring up controversy (both by design and by default) and doing SRO shows at San Diego hotspots like Dreamstreet in Ocean Beach, as well as for crowds of thousands at Golden Hall and UCSD's annual rock festival. The Def League is currently planning a college tour for 2006-2007. Yet, the Def League members who all went to Point Loma High School together, have varied interests and real life day jobs (like Nick at his neighborhood pizzeria). They've got wild body piercings done by Ocean Beach 's Cathan, who makes his guest rap debut on the CD. And that beer Dune brews? He even calls it “Grit-Hops.”
But what the F*** is grit-hop? Let SamSkillz, aka the group manager who appears on the opening track “Leagurz Anthem,” give it a shot: “It's a fusion of hip hop, punk, and rock. Nick has a punk flavor, Dune has more of a rock feel and scream, while Khem is more of a hip hop guy. Def League is trying to bring a diverse collection of music together, where each track sounds like a really great collaboration. They listen to all kinds of music, with influences ranging from Wu Tang Clan, Necro/Non Phixion and The Misfits to Parliament Funkadelic and NWA. A lot of their lyrics are motivated by their equal passion for violent comic books, video games and porn.”
Nick, who was previously with a hot local band called Freshe Pepper and was working on a self-titled punk album when he joined Def League, adds, “We're about three friends who realized we had a lot of musical talent and take inspirations from everyday life. So there's lots of violence, comic books, video games, a hint of porn, and all of that is thrown in with years of listening to lots of rap. I've been playing guitar in all sorts of bands since I was twelve, punk, metal, everything…and me and Dune were friends all along. He was always rapping. We're up there rappin' over hip hop beats and then I break into some crazy guitar stuff. I think our fans are ahead of the curve. They are just recognizing that we're creating a sound that's fucking awesome and that is honestly original.”
According to Khem, Def League's greatest asset is its diversity: “On The Anatomy of Grit-Hop , there's a track for everybody, no matter what style of music you like. There are comedy songs, hardcore rap tunes, slow jams…That's what grit-hop is, bringing something for everyone. Then there's the personal connection. After the show, all the girls want to have sex with Nick. And they're afraid of me…and Dune, well nobody knows what to think. Our goal is just to put on a great show and get onstage, kickin' it every time.”
Dune always wants the last word: “Me and Nick grew up on punk, where the band and the crowd are really one entity, which is different from the vibe of mainstream hip-hop shows. We really wanted to do a project where all our three backgrounds were represented. Like a good movie or comic book, we try to be brutally entertaining, bringing a lot of over the edge violence. So musically, we're not a full on horror movie but we are, without a doubt, exciting, amusing and…insanely attractive.”