When Los Angeles-based MC Scarub raps about the birth of his daughter during the song “Dreams In Indigo,” his detail-oriented style is on full display.
Backed by a swaggering hip-hop beat and Flamenco guitar sample, Scarub describes the euphoria of the experience: “Your mama pushed you into this world/I pulled with all my might/You came through harder and healthy/hungry for life/I couldn’t hold down the tears of joy that flooded my eyes/So much potential within the wrinkles of an infant/So much time and preparation for one particular instant.” Juxtaposing this affection with the developing friction between himself and his daughter’s mother, by the song’s end, Scarub turns tension into separation and begins his foray into single-parenthood.
Scarub, aka Armon Collins, says he’s never one to vaguely skim over the minutiae of a topic he writes about.
“I want the details,” he says in a recent telephone interview. “It’s kind a like in law. With a good lawyer, every detail is written out so that there’s no mistake as to why I said what I said.”
Besides etching out the particulars of a topic, Scarub possesses a clever rhyming style that’s swift but easy to understand, rapping to reward the attentive listener and leaving behind those just passively engaging with his narratives. Scarub’s material on 2006’s One For The Road Vol. I—a collection of B-Sides and outtakes—and 2004’s A New Perspective reveal an artist engaging with his own experiences, chewing on a variety of topics when he picks up pad and pen. One minute Scarub might be rapping about a steamy sexual encounter, and the next he’ll be spitting rhymes about trying to deal with the stresses of everyday life.
One of the stresses he deals with is trying to make a living as a full-time underground hip-hop artist. Even though touring and recording help him make a living, Scarub admits that his career can be a struggle. But the struggle also keeps him hungry.
“Anything you put 150 to 200 percent into, it’s got to work for you if that’s your focus,” says Scarub. “Because I don’t have a part-time job, I’m not saying, ‘Whoa, if this doesn’t work at least I can work at JoJo’s diner for X amount of hours and at least make rent, or make ends meet.’ It’s more like, ‘Man, I’ve got to grind. I’ve got to make this record the best that I feel I can, so that hopefully…my fans, the people out there, will feel me and pick it up.”
Scarub started rapping around the time he was in the fourth or fifth grade when assigned to write a rap about not using drugs or alcohol for his school’s DARE program. Inspired, he continued writing and rapping in various groups throughout his teens, releasing his first official solo album, The Answer 2wo The Meaning, in 1998.
But Scarub’s not just a solo artist. He’s also part of California’s Living Legends hip-hop collective, a group of nine rappers and producers who made a mark on the underground hip-hop world with their first studio album, Almost Famous, in 2001.
Founding members Sun-spot Jonz and Luckyiam.PSC created Living Legends in 1996. Scarub joined the group in 1998 as its final member. Others in Living Legends, including Murs and The Grouch, have gone on to successful side projects, including Murs’ collaboration with Slug of Atmosphere (the duo is known as Felt), and The Grouch’s recent work with California duo Zion I. And though the collective hasn’t released anything since 2005’s Classic, Scarub says the individual efforts represent just a phase for the group.
“We come together, we love each other, we make music, and then we need our breathing time, our breathing space,” he says. “And as many of us as there are in the group, a pie can only be split so many ways. So in order to eat or survive you still have to make your own solo something… so I think we’re in a period right now where we’ve branched out to other things and now, it’s like things travel in cycles, and now we’re thinking about what the next step is [for] coming together and creating something together before we bounce off again into the universe and make our own energy.”
Living Legends Scarub, Eligh and The Grouch perform Wednesday, April 25, at The Other Side. 9 PM. $16.