A sweltering July sun beats down on Long Island’s South Shore. The parking lot of Jones Beach’s Nikon theater simmers in the heat, cooking away at the crowd arriving for the annual Rock the Bells hip-hop mega-concert. Stage right, under a pop-up canvas tent, sit two large, intimidating figures: Slaine, sweat dripping into the American flag draped around his stout shoulders, and Ill Bill, dressed in black down to his untied Jordan 3s. The two members of La Coka Nostra quietly converse as the rapid-fire lyrics of Tech N9ne cut through the ocean air. The day’s mile-long billing, which includes household names like Nas, The Roots, and Busta Rhymes, has already begun, yet the two seem almost oblivious.
Minutes later, Everlast and Danny Boy stroll in. The ex-House of Pain members and most recognizable faces of La Coka Nostra have been wandering the show’s vendor village, shaking hands and meeting fans. INKED asks who they’re excited to see perform. Everlast points with his chin to the stage. “This was the only dude I was really interested in checking out, and I’m missing it for this.” Bill agrees, “Yeah, Tech N9ne is it, man. After him I really don’t care about who else is here.”
The grumble in the La Coka Nostra camp is loud and clear: Rap is not well. It’s hard to argue: Cut down in its prime by manufactured tales of street life and inexcusable abuse of voice-manipulating Auto-Tune, the genre that for so long has represented struggle and frustration has, quite frankly, gone soft. While gritty cocaine rhymes still push on through artists such as Clipse and Young Jeezy, absent are those bash-a-face-in jams from crews like Onyx and Cypress Hill. Call it generational, call it evolution, but the faith and following of many have been lost. Luckily, the team of veterans in LCN saw this as a call to arms.
LCN currently comprises Boston MC Slaine, Brooklyn’s Ill Bill, Everlast, DJ Lethal, and L.A.’s Danny Boy (the latter three are the regrouped members of House of Pain) and is one of the latest in rap supergroups attempting to shake up the scene. The crew, which first gained notoriety through leaked songs and mix tapes, has finally released their debut full-length album, A Brand You Can Trust, after three years of operating in true underground fashion. And, as you might guess from their black garb, bandannas, fitted caps, and tattoos, they aren’t here to feed you more ringtone rap.
Quietly regarded as the mastermind behind the formation and success of House of Pain, Danny Boy, like Everlast, never rested after the group’s disbandment in 1996. Choosing to concentrate more on his graffiti and graphic arts background (the hype-man was also HOP’s graphic artist), he quickly found success through his involvement with clothing labels like Dissizit. But subsequent music ventures A.T.F. and XSupermodels were scrapped before takeoff. He didn’t stop, and after a face-to-face meeting with Slaine in Boston, the two wasted no time jetting to L.A. and hitting the studio. “I was like, Oh my God, this kid is bonkers,” Danny says. “I was so blown away when I heard him spittin’ that I didn’t even want to get on a track with the dude. Instead, I figured I’d get him out to L.A. and get him working with Lethal. I told [Lethal], ‘We need to make a record with this kid now.’”