The Ninth annual Emerald Cup Saturday at the Mateel Community Center in Redway not only boasts an expansive lineup of medical cannabis competitors and prominent pro-marijuana guest speakers, but the event's musical headliner is one of the most talented alternative-hip-hop emcees on the West Coast.
Chali 2na is known by the masses as a founding member of the now defunct alt-hip-hop staple Jurassic 5 (J5), a frequent collaborator with the Latin-tinged group Ozomatli (Ozo) and as the “verbal Herman Monster” -- his famed opening line in the J5 hit “What's Golden.” With his staple baritone voice, he and the hip-hop-funk-soul fusion band House of Vibe will perform at the all-day shindig along with live-electro performer Irwin's Conspiracy.
Audiences may hear some of his newest work.
”I've been working on a five-part series of releases titled 'Against the Current',” Charles “Chali 2na” Stewart said.
After almost 19 years in the music industry, he said his aim for the new releases is to include every genre he has been influenced by in his lifetime. The first installment, released Tuesday (Dec. 11), leans in the electronic direction with styles like house, techno and dubstep. The second will be more steeped in jazz, salsa, reggae and dancehall. The third will boast live instrumentation, the fourth will be solely rooted in hip-hop and the fifth will be a book -- a compilation of paintings, photos and stories of
The newest release can easily be accessed via chali2na.com. It's released in pledge style where fans can contribute what they want monetarily for the music -- ranging from a free download to various degrees of merchandise packages and more.
”It's dedicated to my father who just passed away,” Stewart said. “It's hard to listen to sometimes because I feel like he's still sitting next to me when I listen to it. But I'm just happy about the effort, and I hope people enjoy it.”
Stewart said it's fair to say he called the new material “Against the Current” because of his experimentation with new genres.
”I'm 42 years old right now,” he added. “I enjoy music -- bigger than I enjoy hip-hop nowadays, I enjoy music. And I feel like the current things that are happening are not necessarily things that I'm a part of. I may be a distant relative of it all, but, in the end, it is just that, a distant relative. I'm not knocking anything, I'm just saying that the music that they call 'hip-hop' now is more based around what's happening with the children -- with the kids. The 12-to-19 crowd. I'm like: 'I'm their father.' Not to pull rank or anything, but I fell in love with this music because of the traditional value of it all. Hip-hop gave me discipline in my life, and I don't know if that is the same way these kids are looking at the music.”
The catchy and repeat-listen-worthy title single has been available for free download via SoundCloud for some time now. The chorus features the melodically talented Ming Xia, a member of the Philadelphia hip-hop group The Spooks.
”She has the voice of an angel and is an amazing writer,” Stewart said. “She's come to my rescue creating songs on many occasions. If I can help her become the star she's supposed to be, so be it, because she's amazing.”
Since J5 broke up in 2007, Stewart has put out two solo LPs: 2009's “Fish Outta Water” and 2010's “Fish Market Part 2.”
He has collaborated with beatmakers like Scott Storch and Jake 1 as well as musicians like Slightly Stoopid, Ivan Neville, Yasiin Bey (Mos Def), Damian and Stephen Marley, Talib Kweli, Rusko by the endorsement of Diplo and Anthony Hamilton. The list goes on.
Stewart grew up in Chicago and moved to Southern California in his late teens to escape a situation where he was in poverty, being evicted and watching friends die.
On Dec. 6 Stewart shared the stage with Cut Chemist, a fellow founding member of Jurassic 5 -- the guy behind J5's beats and a former member of Ozo.
”(Lucas 'Cut Chemist' MacFadden and I) have been friends since he was like 14 or 15 years old,” Stewart said. “He's been one of my closest friends in California since I moved out here to LA. It's been a cool situation to be connected to Cut Chemist -- that dude is multi-talented, hilarious and a good person as it is. It's really easy to stay in touch with someone like that.”
In addition to the flow of upcoming “Against the Current” releases, the rhymesmith recently collaborated with Oxnard emcee Roc C on a project they first called Ron Artiste, in homage to the Los Angeles Lakers basketball star Ron Artest (also known as Metta World Peace).
”The project was out a day or two and we sent the new music to (Artest's) assistant to see if he liked it,” Stewart said. “Two days later we got a cease-and-desist letter. “Now we're changing our name to Metta World Cease and Desist.”
Tickets and more information about Saturday's Emerald Cup can be found online at theemeraldcup.com. Tickets are also available at the outlets listed on the website.
If you go
What: Chali 2na (Ninth annual Emerald Cup)
When: Noon (doors) Saturday
Where: Mateel Community Center, Redway
Admission: $40 in advance, $50 at the door