By Michael Anderson
Change is on the horizon for one of Tucson’s top hip-hop groups. The CCS Crew is altering its course and morphing into Cultivate Creative Sound.
The CCS Crew has long been a staple of the Tucson scene, opening for national acts like Ice Cube, Tech N9ne and Nas, as well as frequently headlining their own shows.
They have built a large fan following and are known for their high-energy live performances featuring such anthems as “Smiley Green” and “Talk S##t Get Hit”. They are not only popular with fans, but other artists as well.
“The CCS Crew is an inspiration to me with their hustle and each and every one of them has always been mutually supportive of other artists” said Nathan “Dok” Billings, half of the rap duo Monstrosity.
The Crew has had a tumultuous journey since forming in 1999, experiencing several lineup changes and other challenges, chiefly the untimely death in 2005 of their spiritual leader, Joseph “Wobbly Pop” Hernandez.
The current lineup consists of Stacc Styles, Randy “Crookyd” Couzens, Michael “Jerse” Myers, and “Fat Tony” Barela. After years of grinding and hustling, they gained notice with their 2009 release “Lyrical Bartenders” and then were nearly signed to a record deal on the strength of their 2011 album “Mental Currency”.
After that near-miss, they were approached by High Volume Entertainment.
High Volume was interested in them, but they had one unpleasant request. They wanted one less MC and a female singer, in order to pursue a more commercial sound. They didn’t like Fat Tony’s image and suggested that he be the one to sit out. The Crew was understandably reluctant to work without their friend and valued partner and stray from their “underground” roots.
“When has hip-hop ever been about image?” Crookyd asked in frustration.
The Crew stood by Fat Tony and they reached a compromise with High Volume. The CCS Crew can continue on its own trajectory, and Stacc, Crookyd and Jerse would record an EP under the name Cultivate Creative Sound with a female singer.
After a few singers didn’t work out they settled on McKenzie Trueba.
This new direction seems to have revitalized the guys.
“It gives us new purpose,” said Crookyd, also known as “Capo Crook”
“It gives us something different, going against the grain, taking the path less traveled,” added Stacc.
That might seem like a strange sentiment from a group pursuing a “more commercial” sound, but it’s really not.
They aren’t trying to piggy-back someone else’s success or bite another group’s style. Cultivate Creative Sound has come to play by their rules, and pioneer their own music. Naturally they don’t like to compare their sound with another group’s, but when pressed Stacc described them as “like the Black-Eyed Peas with balls.”
They are scheduled to release their self-titled EP this summer. The release will be accompanied by a three city mini-tour of Arizona, with stops in Phoenix, Flagstaff and of course, Tucson.
They are very excited about the upcoming EP, which they recently mixed and mastered.
“I honestly feel that the Cultivate Creative Sound EP is by far our best work,” said Stacc.
Now that they’ve finished the EP, they have high hopes for the future.
“My hope for us is the ultimate goal of every starving artist. Tour the world and get paid to do what we love to do,” said Jerse.
They have definitely cultivated some creative sounds. Now hopefully these longtime Tucsonans can cultivate some greater success.