Erick Bergloff will tell you straight up; he was the last guy who wanted to see an Upper Class Racket reunion.
It’s something the loose-cannon emcee and eccentric beatmaker has been resisting for the past two years since his punk-funk hip-hop band broke up.
“I thought it was stupid. I didn’t want to end the band in the first place. It hurt too much to go out and pretend for a night,” said Bergloff, aka Erick Beats.
So why is Bergloff and his band getting back together for two reunion shows in one night on Thursday at The B-Side and Mootsy’s?
“I realized these guys are my friends,” Bergloff said.
“It’s not some kind of artistic crusade. I love these guys. They’re my friends, and it’s nice to celebrate the idea of expression with comrades. Instead of animosity and regret, I feel excited about it.”
Upper Class Racket – lead emcees Bergloff and Synthetic (aka Jason Corcoran), guitarist Brad Delay, bassist Kelly Delay, and drummer Doug Tobey – was well-known for high-speed danceable punk instrumentals supporting spitfire hip-hop vocals.
The band split when Brad Delay moved to Portland. They have only recently begun rehearsing in town for their reunion show.
This weekend they’ll shuttle to Portland to practice with Delay.
“It’s like riding a bike,” Bergloff said of the practice sessions.
“The instrumentalists are like Swiss watches, and they still have that fire.”
Upper Class Racket stood out in the local music scene during the mid-‘90s for a couple of reasons.
The mix of hip-hop and punk remains a rare and intriguing pairing, and having two white emcees in pre-Eminem hip-hop was still taboo.
“Two white guys rappin’, that was a whole other thing we had to get over. We always felt like we had to be better than anyone else, that’s why Synthetic’s rhymes are still sharp as knives,” Bergloff said.
More so than the trivial race factor, Upper Class Racket struggled most to find other bands to share gigs with.
“People didn’t know what to think of us. We weren’t rock enough, we weren’t punk enough, and we definitely weren’t hip-hop enough,” Bergloff said.
“We ended up playing a lot of shows with (Chinese Sky Candy’s Jeremy Hughes’) band No Contest. They were mellower, more melodic emo-rock. That wasn’t supposed to work but it did. It was hard to find bands we gelled with.”
Since moving into almost exclusive hip-hop producing and emceeing, Bergloff said he doesn’t miss having his vocals compete with amplified instruments, but he definitely sees the energy live instruments provide that can’t be reproduced by sampled sounds.
“After five years of doing the punk-rock thing, I know the beauty of the soft air of hip-hop. It naturally compensates for lyrics. Punk-rock vocals are there for texture, along with the rest of the instruments. In hop-hop, the main ingredients are beats and rhymes. But live instruments make people move.”
Bergloff said Thursday’s shows will include a surprise super-secret weapon, along with lots of friends sitting in with UCR.
They’ll perform at Mootsy’s and The B-Side during the night along with a host of special guest bands. The joint cover for both shows is $6 in advance, $8 at the door.
Emcee vet Spice-1 has seen the ups and down of the rap game.
He was one of a slew of successful artists on Jive Records, along with the likes of A Tribe Called Quest and Souls of Mischief, that was lost in the shuffle when Jive shifted to cater to pop bands like Britney Spears and the Backstreet Boys.
The self-described East Bay Gangsta has since struck out on his independent label, Thug World, and he is sticking to his marketing strategy of flooding the market with enough Spice to keep the pot hot all year round.
“We’re not getting enough recognition, so I decided to smash on the market. Master P did it with all the wack music, why can’t I do it with something good,” Spice said during a telephone interview from Seattle.
By the end of the year Spice said he will have released three albums – January’s “The Ridah,” “The Pioneers,” a duet album due this month with Compton’s Most Wanted’s MC Eiht, and “Dying To Ball” a solo effort due in August.
While “The Ridah” features an unreleased duet with 2Pac (is there anyone who doesn’t have one of these locked in the vault), Kurupt, Dru Down, and production by Battlecat, the other two projects highlight mostly unknown talent.
“It’s ridiculous these other artists are charging $20,000 for beat. My first album sold 900,000 copies with no features and hardly an airplay. The money and politics is doing damage to the hip-hop industry that can’t be repaired. Now you have fake gangsta rappers who look the role getting a record deal, and they don’t even know how to rap,” Spice said.
What used to be reality rap is slanted toward selling illusions.
“Now all we hear about is material things. It’s cool to shake your booty at the club, but we need to attack real issues that are affecting black men and entrepreneurs – the crack epidemic, poor housing, police issues and employment issues,” Spice said.
“They don’t want us as artists to attack these issues on the radio.” You can hear more from Spice-1 when he performs tonight at 9 at The Grail in Coeur d’Alene.
The cover is $5.
• Local funk-ska-reggae band Civilized Animal is putting the final touches on a CD, aptly albeit tentatively titled, “It’s About Time.”
The album is set to be released at Pig Out in the Park in September.
This is Civilized’s third album, recorded at College Road.
Civilized performs tracks from the new album along with old favorites on Saturday at Capone’s in Coeur d’Alene. Zander Mack opens the show. There is a $5 cover.
• Bellingham indie-rockers The Pale and Seattle’s Rocky Votolato (Second Nature Recordings) appear Wednesday at 7 p.m. at The Shop, 924 S. Perry. There is a $5 cover.
As always, the show will be recorded live and, a new feature at The Shop, CDs will be sold immediately after the performance.