The Grouch feat. Scarub
Saturday (November 13), 9:45pm, Casanova, Makawao; $20 (21+ only)
by Sara Tekula
When I was a college kid back in the ’90s in Los Angeles, there was a swirl of activity in the independent hip-hop scene. With the revolutionary ’80s firmly on record, the next generation of up-and-coming hip-hop hopefuls was emerging all over the country with a new confidence—and a new sound. I think back fondly to those years, when I saw soon-to-be-big name groups like a pre-Fergie Black Eyed Peas and Jurassic 5 in small, dingy clubs.
At the same time, further up the coast in the Bay Area, another independent hip-hop group was creating a big buzz. The Living Legends, like their peers in L.A., soon grew to fame—with a strictly “DIY” business approach. In the span of a decade-plus, the eight-man crew has collectively recorded over 100 albums and cultivated a die-hard grassroots following without ever signing to a record label, a fitting trajectory given their slogan and rallying cry: “control destiny.”
Fortunately for Maui hip-hop fans, a couple of years ago a founding member of the Living Legends made the Valley Isle his permanent home. Cory Scoffern (aka The Grouch) is best known for his straightforward approach as a writer, producer and bona fide independent music hustler. (His stage name is credited to a crewmember he often butted heads with.) Despite what his pseudonym may suggest, The Grouch struck me as friendly and affable, and ironically he’s played an integral part in building the Living Legends’ positive brand, sound and image.
Showing up for an interview at Market Fresh Bistro in Makawao looking healthy and relaxed in board shorts and slippers, Scoffern recalls falling in love with Maui at first sight when he came here on tour.
“I remember getting to Hawaii and being like, ‘you know, all these hotels are cool, but take me to the waterfalls and the snorkeling, take me to all of the natural stuff’,” he says. “Ever since I hit Maui, I was like, ‘oh that’s the place’.”
Soon after, all eight members returned to record an album (Classic, which reached number 38 on Billboard’s independent chart in 2005) in a big house on West Kuiaha in Haiku. Scoffern says the album has a “peaceful, Maui vibe—as much as our group of eight guys could get on together.”
Between the grueling tours and festivals that brought the Living Legends widespread fame, Scoffern and his wife would take breaks to find sanctuary on Maui. Eventually they brought a daughter into the world—a game-changing event—and they couldn’t think of a better place to raise her.
“The longer we stayed on Maui, we were just feeling better, day after day,” Scoffern says. “Our daughter just loved it and we started meeting families and people who are raising their kids here, and we liked the natural way of life. The way that kids are just freer, the adults are friendlier. The whole ‘Auntie’ and ‘Uncle’ thing that we do out here makes it that much more like family.”
Since beginning what he calls a “more responsible, more conscious lifestyle” as an Upcountry family man, Scoffern has performed a few solo shows on-island and is now committed to bringing over his friends and collaborators—a veritable who’s-who of independent hip-hop.
“I notice there’s a lack of a hip-hop scene on Maui, [but] I know there’s a lot of people here who love the message that the positive, independent hip-hop is putting out there right now,” says Scoffern. “I feel like I’m in a good position to help, because I know a lot of people who want to come to Hawaii who happen to be good artists.”
True to his word, this Saturday night at Casanova he’s sharing the stage with Scarub, a Los Angeles native and founding member of the Living Legends who has a faster, more driving lyrical style. (The show will also feature, among others, local slam poet Mountain.)
“It’s a great time for independent artists spreading good word,” says Scoffern. “We’re in a crazy time as far as the world goes, a lot of stuff is happening, [but] I feel like I know some people who can help other people with coping.”
Scoffern says it’s a win-win for fans and performers: Maui audiences get to see artists they aren’t normally exposed to, while the artists get to enjoy the island and connect with its beauty and our community’s aloha spirit.
“That’s like a dream that I have, to see some of these rappers with egos, or dressed up in all of these cool clothes, come out here and free up for a couple days,” says Scoffern.
“I brought [rapper] Aceyalone out here, and I took him to a waterfall,” he continues. “He’d never been to one so he was scared to get in. He stood there for like 20 minutes sizing up the waterfall—these guys are from South Central L.A.—and they’re scratching their heads like ‘I don’t know…’ Then I watch them finally get in and say ‘Whoo!’ and really love it.”
In other words, conscious hip-hop fans, watch out for your favorite artists on our local stages—and at a waterfall near you. And when you spot them, you’ll know who to thank: a positive dude named The Grouch.