Eugene hip hopper Gums got a tough lesson in the commercial hip hop life tonight. The 23-year-old showed up with his DJ (one Peter Trees), a sound guy, his uncle/manager (from Kuna) and an adolescent looking Best Buy employee with a digital video camera, thinking they'd open up the Unite the Mic tour at Knitting Factory Boise.
They didn't make it past the VIP entrance.
"That's the world of hip hop," a gray hair, who manages KF-Boise, told the crew. (He told them they were late for sound check; Gums said they hung out there all afternoon and returned before they were supposed to go on at 8.)
Gums was on the billing and I planned to review his performance, at the urging of Manager Steve Hubbard, who dropped off a CD and a copy of his cartoonish sticker earlier this week. Gums was on the billing, set to open for B-Real, formerly of Cypress Hill and Bizzy Bone, still best known from his Bone Thugs and Harmony days, though he has produced lots of solo albums in recent years.
We're not going to front here. At one point in my life I listened to The Crossroads hundreds of times trying to make out the melodic, rapid fire lyrics. I've got some of the words down, but I have not kept up with Bizzy over the years and left the Friday night show before he took stage (if he ever took stage; there seemed to be some, uh, technical difficulties back there).
Cyprus Hill I never much dug, and though B-Real is a technically proficient rapper, and the small crowd at Friday night's show was into him, his themes did not impress.
But I followed Gums and his crew out to the alley in front of KF to chat.
Nick Niskanen, who goes by Gums almost because he couldn't come up with anything better, said people in Eugene just respect local artists.
"I've never had anything like this happen to me," he said, smoking a cigarette and trying to figure out what to do with the rest of his night.
Gums grew up in Corvallis, Ore. where he started rapping. But he said Corvallis was more of a party scene, whereas in Eugene, his music is taken more seriously.
His mother raised him on 80s hip hop—Young MC, Ton Loc, Bel Biv Devoe—and he easily memorized the rhymes. He calls that music, "silly shit but stuff with a beat and rhymes."
Gums' mother sewed him a pair of Hammer pants and shaved his name into the back of his head for him.
Now he is working on a serious album (he's got studio time in the AM with Steve Fulton) and moving to Portland. There's not a lot of places to check him out online, but Hubbard says they are working on that. On first listen, Gums' album shows some mature musicality and interesting rhymes, and he incorporates cartoon art into his covers and video. We'll try to do another review if he makes it back to Boise and actually gets to perform.