No idle worship 

Dissecting the theological roots of Hip Hop’s Makeshift Gods

Before I dive too deeply into the Ft. Collins Hip-Hop Trio Makeshift Gods, I want to get it straight what I mean by “Hip-Hop.” Indeed, Hip-Hop lives among the ranks of American musical styles that are hard to pin down. How would you describe the taste of chocolate? How would you describe the flavor of jazz, funk, or folk?

Hungis Production Group is dedicated to promoting and enhancing Hip-Hop culture in Missoula and making it accessible to all, including the young. Hungis Productions has scheduled the Makeshift Gods for two shows, an all-ages show on Feb. 8 at Higgins Hall, and one on Feb. 9 at the Ritz. I cornered Alex ‘JACo’ Kast, of Hungis, with the question, “What is Hip-Hop?”

“That’s a rough one,” Kast admits. “That’s the toughest question. Hip Hop is a feeling. There’s a whole culture behind it. Breaking, graffiti, DJ, Rap, block parties...I mean, there is no standard form of Hip-Hop, no iambic pentameter. If it’s rhyming to a beat, then it’s Hip-Hop. But a lot of what you see today of Hip-Hop in pop culture—fancy cars, jewelry, girls in bikinis—isn’t coming from the soul of Hip-Hop. It’s sad. For Hip-Hop to be good, it has to have a message.”

So, what’s the deal all of the sudden with all the Pimps and the Hos? Everywhere you turn, it’s Pimps and Hos. Says Kast: “I don’t really get that part. I’m not into the misogynist side of Hip-Hop.” Kast speculates that the flamboyant costumes of the Pimps and Hos phenomenon are a legacy of George Clinton and P-Funk’s influence. Perhaps the feather boas of the late ’70s, when P-Funk was experimenting with electronic music and when Hip-Hop first appeared, have evolved into the furry collars of the Pimp outfits.

The Makeshift Gods consist of Sentence and Effort on the lyrics, and DJ Thought takes care of the turntable side of things. The words of the two singers flow like a lyrical river, winding in and out of the syncopated beats. A rushing river, because these boys talk fast, so fast that you can’t possibly catch all the words, but you don’t need to. Keywords and phrases trickle and permeate into the mental membrane, painting a picture of their vision. The scratching turntables are the vehicle for another fundamental main ingredient of Hip-Hop: Sampling other recorded music and incorporating it into your own. (Kind of like what Stephen Ambrose did, only in a good way.)

A lot of what gets sampled is surprising to hear on a Hip-Hop album, such as the watery orchestral sounds that kick off the song Audio Movement. As the sound ebbs and flows, a voice explains, “It’s not about money, and all the records and success and desires that you have, it’s about using the music to bring...” (At this point, the sharp beats begin), “this is expression it’s the breaking point of chicken scratch calligraphy.”

The music of the Makeshift Gods invokes a feeling of tension near its breaking point, the American Dream threatening to collapse under its own weight. Against a backdrop of classical guitar, a disoriented male voice observes, “I don’t know, I mortgaged my whole life for a few moments of freedom...” Concepts such as gateway drugs, 15 minutes of fame, school segregation, cowboys and Indians, and mechanized society all get treated in their music. The song “Outcastaside” laments, “I wish I was indoors, but that’ll never happen, but I can only imagine what it’s like to be accepted because I’m an eclectic bastard.”

The Makeshift Gods have shared the stage with such acts as Atmosphere, Eydea & Abilities, Sage Francis, the Visionaries, Awoi One, Circus, Beat Junkies, Buka One…and the list keeps going. Josh Long, of Hungis Production Group, reports, via Effort, that a Makeshift Gods show is “Like a new pair of socks and shoes, fresh out the box, kid!”

Makeshift Gods play an all ages show at Higgins Hall on Thursday, Feb. 8, starting at 9 p.m. Local crews will be featured as well. $4. Then on Friday, Makeshift Gods play the Ritz. Price is $4, showtime TBA.

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