The beats go on
The Hooliganz make big hip-hop in little Chico
Even after the loss of Club 96.7, Chico proves it has the audience for hip-hop with the rising popularity of the Hooliganz. The group plays to sell-out crowds, and its debut full-length, Welcome to Hoolywood, is set to drop in November.
Hard work, along with a clever hook that exemplifies the group’s dynamic nature, have led to the group’s single “Stevie Wonder” being played on radio stations as big as Sacramento’s 102.5. (Chico’s only mainstream hip-hop radio station gave prime airtime to the group before turning into the more Chico-friendly KPIG in June.)
The origins of the song offer a unique look at the characters that call themselves the Hooliganz. B-Lee (Brenton Lee) heard a DJ in Sacramento tell his listeners to take off their stunna shades when they go into the club, or risk running into walls. For some reason it stuck in the back of his mind.
After Jason “J-Pigg” Pigg picked out a beat from local producer Dana Hocking’s collection, they started to brainstorm. In the small bedroom/digital do-it-yourself recording studio, J-Pigg and Hocking turned in unison to B-Lee, who was sitting on the carpet bobbing his head.
They both heard him, even though it was barely more than a mumble. Hocking started the beat over and they waited for what they thought they had heard: “Step into the club wearin’ stunna nunna nunnas.” The words rolled out of B-Lee’s mouth. “Walkin’ into walls like Stevie Wunna nunnas.”
They were onto something.
“You can tell B-Lee said it ‘cause none of us would say that about Stevie Wonder,” J-Pigg said from his house in Chico. “But that’s B-Lee—and he says some funny-ass shit that nobody else will.”
From there, the idea of walking into clubs sporting big glasses put Kevin Hoganson, aka i2K, into a fantasy space world.
“Kevin walked in and was like, ‘What if we were walking into a club in outer space and everything is changing?'” Pigg said. “Us being a silly group, we rolled with it.”
C-3PO tends bar. The alien with dreads used to be a parole officer. Darth Vader takes a shot of Jäger. Someone’s thizzin’ on the floor spinning his light saber. It’s the hyphe movement meets Chico meets a galaxy far, far, away. Even Sy Snoodles, the lead singer in the bar scene of Return of the Jedi, gets her name dropped. “i2K actually went home and looked up space characters,” Pigg said.
The Hooliganz, rounded out by DJ Marvel (Joe Cissney), have fun at what they do, and they don’t try to be anyone they aren’t, even when it means rapping about Star Wars. Hocking, who’s currently working with the group on Welcome to Hoolywood, says he appreciates the group’s genuine approach to a genre plagued by egos and posturing.
“I don’t understand pouring Cristal on my bitches,” Hocking said. “They talk about girlfriends and not having guns; that’s what I love about hip-hop—it’s honest.”
The 25-year-old producer has worked with other local artists such as recent Pleasant Valley High graduate Chris Kenyon. And even though Hocking (a PV grad himself) says it’s ridiculous that a college town doesn’t have a hip-hop radio station, he remains optimistic that the Hooliganz’s music will make its way to people who don’t necessarily listen to hip-hop.
“There’s always going to be someone who doesn’t like the music,” he said. “Still, this town is relatively open.”