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All in the Fam

The Fameless crew spice up the underground
By CHRIS FARAONE  |  July 2, 2010

FRESH STUFF It’s appropriate that Fameless Fam — who represent six cities, four states, and two countries — convened in Boston.

Halfway through my interview with the Allston-based alt-hop collective Fameless Fam about their upcoming showcase at Wonder Bar this Tuesday, Will from the posse's glitch-minded duo Time Crisis mentions that he went to high school in Pittsburgh with rising rap sensation Wiz Khalifa. Will isn't boasting or blasting his former classmate — he's just naming heads who rep the Western Pennsylvania scene that schooled him. But what's interesting is that tonight is the first time he's ever mentioned this to all his crew members.

Although I doubt that any of these guys went to kindergarten with the Game, that wouldn't constitute bragging rights around the Fameless compound either. Social as they may be when ripping house parties, these guys are tortured æsthetic snobs, as misfit at their schools as they are in a genre that's mired in cliché and virtually devoid of metacognitive perspective. Made up of bright young cats with eclectic palettes, Fameless hover miles above the pine box that suffocates so many artists. Indeed, they're the products of El-P's LPs, Lif's life, Del's delights, and Aesop Rock's fables.

On the Fam's latest project, Entrapment, Calgary-bred MC Virtue (who is in the subgroup partyboobytrap with Exquisite Corpse and DJ Emoh of Blak Madeen and Deck Demons) rhymes: "All swagger is half ego/So swagger don't mean shit to real people/The other half is what you can afford/Which is so empty to those who are living in a storm." Virtue: "There are a lot of people in hip-hop talking about shit that is trivial to real life. And hip-hop, at least the way I see it, is supposed to be a portrayal of real life — not all that fluffy shit."

Although the scene here has hardened in the past half-decade, with the likes of Slaine, Termanology, and Amadeus out front, it's appropriate that the fringe-hanging Fameless Fam — who represent six cities, four states, and two countries — convened in Boston. After New York and Los Angeles, the Bean emerged in the late '90s as the home base for experimental boom-bap. This is where subterranean champions like Esoteric, Mike Ladd, and Edan blossomed, and where such imaginative East Coast roughnecks as Vinnie Paz and Planetary planted early seeds. Not that that came as a surprise to these guys, for whom Boston is what Nashville is for aspiring country singers.

"There are many reasons I live in Boston, but one is that I was talking to Mr. Lif one time when he was up in Calgary on tour," says ringleader Virtue, who, like Exquisite Corpse, will soon enter his senior year at Emerson. "I told Lif that I might want to go to school in Boston and do radio there, and he told me that stations here like WERS were what got him into hip-hop. His telling me about how great the scene was made me realize that I could bring my music here."

But dreams don't always mirror plans. Virtue's posse have, no surprise, found most of their campus contemporaries to be out of step with their progressive tendencies. Their shows at spots like the now-condemned Unit 11 in Allston clicked, but the Fam were all but ignored by the legendary WERS rap program 88.9@Night, and that provoked them to drop the dis track "Radiocean," in which Virtue goes so far as to say that (gulp) "88.9 and JAM'N 94.5 merged."

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