Alumni is an immortal hip-hop collective that sprouted from the head of boom bap’s commercial apex at the turn of the twenty-first century. The four personalities that comprise the group emerged from a brain stew of drum kits and soul samples. And—not unlike the Athenian myth—they emerged fully formed, armed and armored, and emitting their lyrical war cries.
To this day, Prhyme Suspect remains the skinny white kid who floated around the basketball courts at lunchtime. As he has come of age with the crew, the latticeworks supporting his rhymes have evolved. Now whenever the shadow of his verse hangs over the lyrics of his collaborators, you can be sure the feat was achieved with a poem. In the summer of 2014, Prhyme famously lied and said he believed Royce da 5’9” would take Eminem to task in any rap battle. But he is redeemed from his deceitful nature by his biding respect for folk musicians like Fiona Apple and Tom Waits—an appreciation that helps him spike Alumni’s music with a pleasurably bitter undertaste. That’s right: we’re saying Prhyme Suspect is the dark chocolate of the group.
M.I.Geezus began his career with Alumni as the cybernetic beat-smith, donning a vintage Nintendo Power Glove in time and eventually embracing the Dominican-hair-salon aesthetic of his outfits and his beard-grooming routine. Often, his soundscapes recall either Old Kanye soul sampling or New Kanye mad alchemy. He raps in a decidedly East Coast cadence, and the breadth of his lyrical output vacillates between images of cinematic violence and earnest odes to love and familial life. Every third song, however, his bars remind us of that time he was a professional model in an Anchor Blue magazine ad when his hair-do was peak Caribbean Cool. Still, if GZA was the head of Voltron, M.I.Geezus remains the rhythmic head-bop—or heartbeat—of the Alumni crew.
KelCz was coming through with his veritable Athenian armaments “to stick up the game like Genesis cartridges” as early as 2008. Alumni’s diminutive muscleman is brass and bombastic on the microphone. His written rhyme patterns are nostalgic and rimmed with a pop sheen, but his dragon’s tongue flips battle raps and punchlines like a Fist of Fury. KelCz’s delivery is so fierce that he doesn’t even need to be able to spell or properly pronounce some of the words in his own artist bio—let alone the ones in his rhyme book. For, in his arsenal, he knows he holds a curated dictionary that draws influence from the very best of hip-hop across its many eras.
In the 2010s, Mahtie Bush emerged as Sacramento’s most vocal champion. Already one of the city’s more prolific solo artists, Bush’s allegiance to Alumni only expands his redoubtable hip-hop portfolio. The self-proclaimed salesman of the collective, Mahtie Bush may also be the group’s most ambitious member. He is certainly its most decorated. And after all these years, he remains a powerful engine under Alumni’s hood. One might characterize his drive as Jordanesque—a distinction evidenced, perhaps, by the fact that he has insisted on wearing the same pair of basketball shorts for all 267 of his music videos. Regardless, he’s always ready to don the Athenian armor for another ride alongside his brothers. With Mahtie Bush in tow, these four horsemen are aiming their steeds at another Big Gold Belt. (Woo!)
So, Alumni has returned. And Alumni was always there. The music now spans three decades. They can’t not do it, you see. And this time—like the song says—they’re coming for blood.
May 29th, 2020
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