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30 And Over League

Salute the Stripes

A Bio-Commentary by Dom Pinelli of Public Axis Rx

Sometime shortly-after the turn of the new millennium, when “21st Century Hip-Hop” was too infant of a classification to even use; when the tragic, post “east/west beef” deaths of Big L, J. Dilla, Proof [D12], and Big Punisher dumped salt all over wounds lingering from Tupac Shakur and Notorious B.I.G. tragedies, Mr. Nasir Jones sent shockwaves through music industry and rap-aficionado circles with the declaration that “Hip-Hop is dead…”

Perhaps deliberately served-up as a conversation piece, into bridge the dissenting generations of backpackers and trappers- Nas’ words are food for thought, and should exist as a mantra for kids whose understanding of Hip-Hop culture resembles a popularity contest, where prom kings are crowned in strict proportion to their degrees of “swag,” (otherwise known as “thetin levels” to scientology pop-tarts… or as “overcompensation” to grown-ups).   In retrospect, for the countless blind followers of the bubble-gum nymphomania monopolizing high-profile media outlets and undermining the livelihoods of starving artists for well-over a decade, squeezing the soul out of the Hip-Hop lifestyle I suppose a mass collision with the scrappy, blue-collar connoisseurs of grassroots Hip-Hop across the entire age spectrum of global rap fans was inevitable… Who’s more appropriate to provoke the debate than the mastermind of Illmatic? It’s not unreasonable to ponder whether Nas intended to move rap’s backbone (its longtime fans) to action, and retake the culture from the Hollywood machine that exploited rap artists’ commercial value at-will for years… If this was- in fact- even just a fleeting thought upon making the controversial remark, it’s working well in my opinion.

More than ever since 2000, the glass ceiling for independent/underground Hip-Hop artists has been removed.  A wave of long-overdue “personnel changes” in the rap game are placing individuals capable of bridging the vast divide between rap’s teenage and adult enthusiasts in positions of substantial influence…  Generations that grew up with Hip-Hop are coming of age, into positions of influence and blurring the line between “mainstream” and “underground” by the day, so-much that neither term is a reliable descriptor of an artist’s style anymore…  A brief look at many of today’s most-popular rap artists will (in-part) yield a collection of eccentrics that- collectively- have defied the entire music industry book of standards, abolishing stereotypes for how a rapper should dress, and how they carry themselves; for how their music should sound, and how they should distribute it to the public…

With growth comes change, and the genre’s musical parameters have expanded quite a bit in the past twenty years.  I’ve met many grown, certified purple-heart Hip-Hop heads- fathers, and even grandfathers- who are still enamored with Hip-Hop, but are reluctant to accept today’s endless, revolving door of free mixtapes by dudes in sunglasses and sleeve tats, thus opting to cling to the classics they know and love.  Nonetheless, fans old and young ache for fresh faces dedicated to the preservation/progression of the Golden Era boom-bap sound.  From my experience, the demand is becoming overwhelming, and Philadelphia’s 30 and OVER LEAGUE is on deck to fill that void.

For me, the foundation of 30 and OVER LEAGUE was summer 2013, at a show in Orange, New Jersey. Nico The Beast (League Founder) was booked for a Friday night at a longstanding dive venue, known for its impressive concert resume… as well as its strip club in the adjacent room and bottom floor… “Fuck it.  Lets kill this s#it tonight!”

Allotted a wealth of stage time for a solo performance, Beast split the limelight with League brethren, Rec Raw and Blessa, with each emcee round-robbing solo material with the support of two equally-dope hype-men.  Especially considering the speaker issues that persisted throughout the set, I don’t think any of us were expecting one of our most memorable road trips ever… Each of the three emcees seamlessly finished-through their speaker-blown verses without music, improvising with intense, charismatic a cappella bars at least once- with each instance immediately followed by a rumbling ovation from the crowd…  During the ride back to Philly- the look of fulfillment apparent on each of us- Nico interjected, “Imagine how much doper that set would’ve been if we also brought Al [Mighty] and Slim [DSM] with us tonight?”

We did imagine… and that’s all it took to green light a “super-group” experiment that caught like brush fire throughout the Philly underground.  Urgency to register trademarks followed the blooming demand for more logo-based apparel within six months.  Even Mark “Mr. Cooper” Curry copped a t-shirt during a random elevator encounter at the Shade45 studios for Sway Calloway’s program, (to-which the League has already been invited for a second appearance).  Also recently, they had the opportunity to open for rap legends M.O.P; Fizzy was so impressed with each member’s lyrical prowess that he invited Nico and AL Mighty back onstage to spit for the audience during M.O.P’s set.

All five emcees- each individually acclaimed for their live onstage presence- performing together was a whole [powder keg] greater than its culmination of individuals… As I learned first-hand at the release party for Dinner is Served II in May 2014, the individual emcees’ animated flow displays were amplified by each member’s mere onstage presence, and the time-tested bonds between them.  with specific regard to the dynamic between the five emcees and [more importantly] loyal friends, combined with a crowd-contagious, rowdy comradery- an aura achievable only with the truly organic, time tested bonds of loyal – as the emcees bang their heads to each other’s verses, and spend as much time rapping among fans in the crowd as on the stage- is a staple of their live shows, a reputation making them known for their own flavor of organized chaos.   In short, the five-man brotherhood is a handful of the east coast’s most-elite lyrical geniuses and live performance professionals; the concert experience of 30 and OVER LEAGUE should be on every hardcore hip-hop fan’s bucket-list… I recommend not waiting that long.  In just over a year, what started as a rap group [experiment] evolved into a regular [main] undercard for many of Philly’s biggest rap concerts, as well as a full-fledged brand, and even using their talents for philanthropy.  Through their periodic charity events for children with autism (organized primarily by Mrs. Beast and Mrs. Raw), 30 and OVER LEAGUE is more than a trademark; it continues maturing into a legitimate subculture all its own, (regardless of whether the rap industry is willing to keep up), and with a newly-expanded roster of *official rap artists* to include representatives from regions as far-reaching as Greece… My only advice is to STAY TUNED… ALWAYS!      

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