All the flavors

Energetic experimental hip-hop crew Pervert leaves it all on the stage

Pervert (from left): Trevor Whitney, Esquire Ali, Sean Raeside, Dorian Rohlfes and Rami “DMT” Rodriguez (lying down).

Pervert (from left): Trevor Whitney, Esquire Ali, Sean Raeside, Dorian Rohlfes and Rami “DMT” Rodriguez (lying down).

Photo by Cleo Tiu

Pervert is ...
Live on April 27, at 7 p.m., at Argus Bar + Patio (212 W. Second St.), with Steaksauce Mustache and Calvin Black as part of the Valley Fever festival.

The average musician wouldn’t introduce him or herself onstage by saying, “Hey, everybody! I’m a stupid moron with a big butt and my butt smells and I like to kiss my own butt.” But that’s how local rapper DMT did it during a performance at Cafe Coda back when his band, Pervert, was starting out about two years ago. And that’s just the tip of a very deep and strange iceberg, and a clue that this is not your average band.

In fact, there is no band in Chico even remotely like Pervert, a five-piece that hits the stage hard with a mind-melting mixture of experimental noise, punk, metal and signature aggressive off-the-wall raps courtesy of DMT (real name Rami Rodriguez) and co-frontman Esquire Ali.

“Me and this asshole go completely off the top of our heads,” DMT said of Ali in a recent interview. “We’re idiots when we get together, but I love his face and just want to keep talking to him.”

Pervert in its sweaty element during a Chico house show at the Raw Haus.

Photo by Bryan Hannah

During a group interview with the CN&R, all members of Pervert— rounded out by instrumentalists Sean Raeside (drums), Dorian Rohlfes (guitar), Trevor Whitney (bass)—took turns talking over each other, sidestepping serious questions and laughing hard at their own jokes. One member of the band claimed to be the actual Master P; another said that the band improvises all of its sets and plays “100 percent by feel”; there was a brief but agitated rant about Mötley Crüe as well as a suggestion for a double-blind taste test of butter and I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter!—with no stated purpose.

Playing it straight for a moment (or maybe not?), Ali spelled out the band’s aesthetic: “We’re just some dudes who don’t like a lot of stuff everybody else does. Here’s the thing: Have you ever tried to cook? And have you tried to cook with five people? It just gets messed up. That’s pretty much what [Pervert] is—every soda at McDonald’s in one cup, every color mixed together. And for some reason people think that’s cool and, like, avant garde.”

A mix of musicians from Chico and the Bay Area who met at Chico State, Pervert started as a hip-hop project that warped into something much broader. The band has one, self-titled, EP (with more recordings on the way), but the music is best consumed live. The band reaches hysterical peaks that are far more intense than typical angsty rock shows, and also dives into the subterranean depths of its members’ own minds. In place of popular song devices like verses and choruses, they plug in disorienting layers of vocal improvisations, free-form grooves, blasts of noise as harsh as metal on metal, and dissonant chords trailing off into the ether.

The instrumental trio of Raeside, Rohlfes and Whitney—who had been playing together for years prior to forming Pervert—is alternatively abstract, straight-up groovy and bone-crushingly heavy.

Pervert at the Chumbucket.

Photo by Bryan Hannah

“These three boys have insanely good chemistry as musicians,” DMT said. “They’ve just been playing together for so long, they’ve been friends for so long, there’s that deep bond. They’re all super technical and extremely fucking talented, and they know how to play together. It’s dope.”

DMT and Ali, meanwhile, somehow find head-nodding flows while rapping over the most abstract rhythms.

“I’m the greatest emcee alive, and [DMT] is the greatest emcee alive,” Ali said. “You can throw a fucking quarter on the ground and I’ll rap to it.”

Such a devilish concoction might be difficult to imagine as crowd-pleasing, but Pervert’s audiences drink deeply of the band’s all-flavor soda. There’s something for everybody in the cup, and the originality mixed with the band’s committed, sometimes unhinged, performance style has struck a chord with a wide range of local music fans—from punks and metalheads to hip-hoppers and indie-rockers. Even they can’t explain what kind of alchemy is occurring.

“It just kind of comes out,” DMT said. “We use our live shows as, like, a platform for community and togetherness. That’s basically the point of it all—we’re here to support each other and have a good fucking time.”