Humboldt County's Potluck may have spent the last decade building a rap rep closely associated with their Northern California home county's best known export, but below the surface of this talented, hard-working, hip-hop duo is a lot more than blunts and weed smoke, insists member UnderRated.
"Our first message might appear to be the weed because we are from Humboldt and our name is Potluck," said the rapper/producer backstage at BB Kings in NYC recently as part of the North American End of Days tour with Twiztid, Boondox, and Prozak. "But what we really try to do is spread a message of peace and to show that everyone can get along for real." Proof lies, he says, in the fact that a comparatively small Jewish white guy born in the small town NorCal Humboldt area and his partner in rhyme, the SoCal born African American 1 Ton, who lives up to his name, can get along so well. "We are totally different people but we get along great. We have learned from each other, coming up from completely different backgrounds. He's not from Humboldt. He's from San Diego. So he came up north and learned a different way...a Humboldt way, which is laid back, cool, you know be cool to everybody. And then I learned from him like this world ain't all cool and easy."
Further proving that Potluck is a lot more than just stoner-anthem makers, are several fantastic songs on the new album Pipe Dreams like "Computer Love," a hilarious commentary about the perils of online romantic connections, and the serious, heartfelt "My Dad," which is an ode to the pair's respective fathers. "That's really a very personal song to both of us," said 1 Ton. "You see, my father is really sick right now, so that is why I start my verse with 'Some thoughts that you deserve to hear before you pass away,' because a lot of the reason why I am who I am is because of him. So it's like a tribute song but in the same way a celebration of the relationship we have. I just hope that now with my kids that I can have the same relationship."
The two members of Potluck, neither of whom were rappers to begin with, first met at a DJ audition. "We both started out as DJ's," recalled emcee 1 Ton, who, despite his intimidating Suge Knight-like presence, is nothing like the Death Row figure. "We met at a DJ trial for a club and we started DJ'ing [together], four turntables, ya know, rockin' underground house parties and all that stuff and we started making beats. And then reluctantly at the very end we started rhyming, you know just due to people flaking and not coming over to rap and stuff like that. So then it just kinda snowballed into what it is today. But we reluctantly got into rap." That was a decade ago. Since then, the pair have worked hard at honing their craft and equally as hard at building their careers, mostly through tireless networking wherever a door opened for them. All of their hard work has paid off.
Coming up in Humboldt, an area not known for hip-hop, turned out to be a blessing for Potluck. "I was probably in the eighth grade before I really knew what rap was, because there's not really any rap [up here], so I got into it because no one was into it," said UnderRated. "So I think it made it easier that people weren't doing it [already]." Consequently, as a new, up-and-coming hip-hop group in Humboldt, "We were able to start selling out shows locally," added 1 Ton. "We were Northern California, Bay Area, and all that stuff, but still separate [enough] from them too, being far north...so we were able to really lock down the hip-hop scene up there and we were selling out shows. We were really making moves." Not only that, but the industrious duo became experts at networking and getting their name and music out there up and down the West Coast. "We were getting to the Bay Area, getting up to Oregon and Washington, Southern California and all that, we always had good tradeoffs. Like 'Hey man, you bring us down there for a show, we'll bring you up here.' So being from Humboldt initially really helped us in locking it down first, and then getting all the way and spreading our message to, like, Denver before we even got a record deal," said 1 Ton.
The pair released their first three albums (Humboldt County High, Tha Lost Koast Kollective, Harvest Time) themselves on their own small Lost Coast Productions label. By their fourth album, Straight Outta Humboldt, released three years ago, they had connected with Suburban Noize Records -- the Burbank, CA label founded by the Kottonmouth Kings' frontman Brad "Daddy X." "Kottonmouth Kings came to Humboldt and did a couple of shows and got to witness our hometown love...that's how we originally got hooked up with Suburban Noize," said 1 Ton. They also impressed the rap artist Tech N9ne, with whom they've also forged an enduring relationship, when he first played in Humboldt. "He came to Humboldt and we did a show with him way early on, before when Tech N9ne was literally drawing in California like maybe 200 people. He came to Humboldt and did a show with us and we sold out and drew 800 people. So he was like, 'These guys got a good thing going' and based purely on that show he took us on two semi national tours with him. And that was before we even got on Suburban Noize."
Constantly touring (they are out on the road more than they are at home) and closely associating themselves with (for touring & production) such artists as Tech N9ne, Kottonmouth Kings, and notorious Detroit horrorcore duo Twiztid, who they are currently on the road with, Potluck have proven how adaptable they can be in hip-hop as a whole. "We are lucky in that we can perform on a bill with just about any act," said UnderRated, noting how they tailor their sets to who they are playing with, whether it's the Juggaloo fans at a Twiztid show or they are on a bill with E-40 (who guested on their last album).
Potluck, who played Denver tonight, play Salt Lake City tomorrow, Wednesday, night (May 13), Boise, ID on Thursday (May 14), Spokane WA, Friday (May 15), and Portland OR on Saturday (May 16). Look for their albums at Amoeba Music. For more tour dates and further info on the group hit up Potluck's MySpace.
Humboldt County High -
Lost Koast Productions (2000)
Tha Lost Koast Kollective -
Lost Koast Productions (2002)
Harvest Time -
Lost Koast Productions (2005)
Straight Outta Humboldt -
Suburban Noize Records (2006)
Pipe Dreams -
Suburban Noize Records (2009)
Potluck feat. UnderRated - "2 Minute Drill"
Potluck - "Fire" (from Straight Outta Humboldt)