The story of Acid Reign began in 1993, when the duo of Gajah and Beond (named Nick Navarette and Rudy Moreno, respectively), both 14-years-old, met at a Christian youth group that just so happened to be led by a rapper. Gajah had been getting into a bit of neighborhood trouble and under his Uncle's insistence agreed to attend the youth class with his childhood friend and rap partner Prisk. Slightly hesitant about the idea of Christian rap, Gajah remembers how they "walked curiously and nervously into the room full of youths and immediately heard and saw someone rapping live at the podium, then another, trading off verses. It was Dax and Journey of a group called LPG. Dax was the head youth minister who taught us about the bible, the streets and hip-hop all in one."
Gajah quickly became a regular at the youth group, and the fortuitous meeting of Beond led to the formation of a rap group with Prisk called 3PM. After a few months, Prisk was dropped from the line-up, and the duo became known as Mellifluence until early 1997, when the release of a tape entitled The Swordfish led to the group changing it's name one last time to Acid Reign. Later that year, Acid Reign self-released a tape called Acid Trip: A Journey To The... produced by Dert and DJ ESP. The tape sold thousands of copies and continues to be one of their most well-known releases.
In the mid-1990s, Gajah and Beond began making the weekly Thursday night pilgrimage to Project Blowed, the legendary South Central open mic workshop. "Project Blowed is where we built confidence," says Beond. "We were not well-liked at first and it was hard back then. But after battling all the top MCs, we earned our stripes. Abstract Rude, Aceyalone, and J-Smoov took us under their wings." Before having an official album release, Acid Reign was a regular opening act for influential hip-hop groups such as Freestyle Fellowship, Hieroglyphics, Kool Keith, and Buck 65.
In 1998, Acidicompositions was released, featuring guests AWOL One and Global Phlowtations. A year later, Acid Reign released The Missing Link, featuring popular Angeleno rapper Neila, and introduced Olmeca, the newest member of Acid Reign. As cassette tapes and tape decks went into extinction, Acid Reign realized they had to embrace the world of CDs. Their first CD release came in 2000, entitled Paradigm Shift. It was their strangest release to date, a fusion of raw hip-hop with electronic sounds. Gajah explains, "We hustled so many copies on the street, it's ridiculous! For the next three years, we fell into a state of stagnation, recording songs here and there but never consistently. We were all doing our own thing, whether it was dealing with life, working, bullshitting or collaborating musically with others. In early 2003, we finally woke up us a group and got our shit together." A new label called Nomadic Sound System released their "first decent quality album" entitled Ready Yet? in 2003. "If it wasn't for [the label] and that album getting our name out once again and boosting our credibility up a notch, I don't know where we would be today." Ready Yet? was the last project with Olmeca as a devoted member of Acid Reign, who amicably parted ways to join another group.
The year 2005 would bring a series of serendipitous events for Acid Reign. They secured a music studio for the first time ever, and signed with Alpha Pup Records to begin work on their new album, Time & Change. Acid Reign's downtown studio (nicknamed "Acid Lab") became a focal point, a place for people with varying schedules to work and create the album they have always wanted to make. Poor music production and lack of direction were weak areas for the group in the past, but not anymore. Gajah confesses, "We were introduced to Paris Zax, who made the freshest beats we had ever rocked to. His beats were so ill that they literally brought the creative spirit out of us. The constant flow of top-notch production inspired us to write great songs, better than we could ever imagine. We definitely surprised ourselves." Other producers on the album include West Coast heavyweights such as Daddy Kev, Omid, Fat Jack and edIT. Time & Change also features guests like Abstract Rude, Ellay Khule, Pigeon John, Scarub, and D-Styles. The concept behind Time & Change was to create a sound that could appeal to all levels of the hip-hop world. Beond explains, "We made an album that mixes the feel of old school hip-hop with more modern beats. We created timeless songs, where there's a little something for everyone." The first track "You and Me" reflects this idea and sets the tone for the rest of the album. Other themes of the new album include non-conformity and anti-materialism ("Not Like You"), finding inner peace ("Comfort Zone"), love and sex ("Fantasy World" and "Forbidden Fruit"), a tribute to their hometown L.A. ("Heart of the City"), and a few feel-good party jams ("Here Comes Trouble" and "Party Tonight").
It is easy to distinguish the different styles of Beond and Gajah after listening to Time & Change, which also extends to their unique roles in the group. Beond's lyrical style and delivery can be characterized as conversational but with witty and clever word-play. His approach is straightforward, using layman's terms so everyone can relate to his music. Beond also handles the business side of Acid Reign. Quite the opposite, Gajah has a rapid-fire vocal delivery style reminiscent of Project Blowed's finest. He favors the avant-garde, creating patterns and lyrics with hidden meanings. "Gajah sets the artistic standard and is a huge creative force in our group. It's the team that works," says Beond. Future plans for Acid Reign include a project called Diversity, where the concept is to show their ability to rock to any style of beat or music. Both members are also working on solo albums. Gajah's solo project is entitled Hair Off My Chest, and Beond has named his album Everything's Backwards. After 13 years together and still going strong, Acid Reign has proven to be true to it's name. As Gajah succinctly concludes, "We're young and determined to keep growing as artists. Our hunger will never die, and we will continue to evolve and put our all into our music until the end."
(photo: Daddy Kev)