Rising rappers who roll deep

The 10 members of MyNorities have stuck together since 2016 to boost each other’s hip-hop careers

The members of MyNorities, except for Dre // photo by Gavin McIntyre

The members of MyNorities, except for Dre // photo by Gavin McIntyre

Check out sets by Tavis (featuring Dom P.), Igwe Aka and Saevon, with Lefty DJing sets for Tavis and Aka on Saturday September 16, at 3 p.m. at HOFDAY 2017 in Old Sacramento. Tickets are $31.50. For more information go to www.soundcloud.com/mynorities.

Tavis laughs when I ask him about the most braggadocious song he’s ever recorded: “Top10.” He’s not the first rapper to brag about being the best, while simultaneously dissing all his haters (“Heard they mad / what for? / let ’em be”), but this one goes a bit over the top. The thumbnail image for the song even has 10 different pictures of himself inside the number 10, the implication being that he’s all 10 of the top 10 rappers in town.

That’s not what Tavis actually thinks, which is why he’s laughing. He wrote the song after he and a couple of guys in his MyNorities collective got named among the best local rappers on two separate lists earlier this year, one on Discover Sacramento, the other on Lgndvry just a few weeks later. That set off a bunch of shit-talking on Twitter by other rappers in the scene.

At first Tavis ignored the smack-talking—it wasn’t like he asked to be on those lists. But it didn’t stop, so he decided to address it, in a song.

“It’s like, ’You crying for something, so I’m going to give you something to cry about—I’ma talk some shit to y’all,’” Tavis says. “I made the song out of my own asshole-ness. Not out of real anger. It was like ’Fuck you guys. I wrote that song so quick. I didn’t take too much time on you.’”

It was a solid track, and once it was released, the shit-talking went oddly quiet, a point that particularly cracks him up. He didn’t need a dis track to prove himself. Tavis and everyone else in MyNorities are some of the most talented up-and-coming artists in the Sacramento hip-hop scene right now. Their music has a street vibe with honest depictions of their lives and, on the whole, positive messages. And they’re just getting started.

I sit with the crew outside Identity Coffees in Midtown. The first thing I’m struck with is how different they all are. They range in age from 19 to 29.

Earl sits in front of me, mostly quiet the entire interview. He has the air of a Buddhist monk.

“He’s the quiet assassin,” Lefty leans in to say.

Meanwhile Igwe Aka is in the streets, stopping cars just to get a laugh, and freestyling for women passing by on the sidewalk in a way that’s juvenile, but oddly brilliant—he deserves a show on TruTV.

Dre wanders in and out of the coffee shop, while Lefty, MANiK tha MC and DJ Steve are off to the side cracking jokes to each other, like old college dorm-mates. Dom P. leans against a lamppost with the laid-back, goofy vibe of a skater and casually refers to the snickering threesome as the O.G.s of the group—“the old guys,” and they laugh some more.

Tavis is off to the side, observing and occasionally clarifying pieces of the collective’s history. Sitting next to me is Saevon, who’s hunched over while the others crack jokes. When he has something to say, everyone stops talking and listens to his thoughts on what they’re all doing.

And what are they all doing? What binds the MyNorities together? They don’t share a sound or a look. MyNorities is an evolving thing that started officially last July, though most of the individuals have been rapping much longer than that.

Members are asked to join if their music is deemed authentic, whether it’s something with commercial potential or not, and they’ve also got to be willing to support one another. Oh, and they need to be someone that the other members would want to hang out with.

“A lot of the reason why it’s good to have a collective is because you’re not out here winging it alone,” Aka says. “For the most part, regardless of what we’re doing, we’re winging it. But when you have more heads put together, it’s a little bit more calculated.”

As the collective has gelled, members have taken it on themselves to assume roles that fit their skill set. Manik has been doing much of the graphic design work for album and single covers for everyone. Lefty and Ugo have been DJing for folks at their live events. Up until recently Tavis and Lefty have been making most of the decisions, but that’s quickly changing as they emphasize the importance of the team.

“The collective was formed for support and to—as a united front—take over and turn the scene on its head,” Lefty says. “A team effort is always better in the long run than the individual.”

The energy and music that each person brings is wildly varied. Lefty’s tracks are raw and hard-hitting. Aka’s are eclectic and mix in elements of soul, Afrofunk and reggae. Saevon’s “Checks” is a thought-provoking, bouncy track that rides the line between underground and radio hip-hop. They’re representing all these varied subgenres of rap in the same collective.

Any semblance of crew began with Tavis (originally known as TeavyOso) and Dom P., who started rapping together after Dom graduated high school and Tavis was finishing his senior year. They recorded several tracks, eventually releasing a mixtape, under the moniker TheKamp, called KampGrounds. Dom’s laid-back sound complemented Tavis’ fiercely honest expression of his struggles, something he attributes to a crash course in growing up by having his first kid a week after graduating high school.

“When you have a baby at that age, you don’t have a lot of time for being indecisive,” he says.

The duo met Lefty in 2013 at a cypher he held on K Street for Second Saturdays, using his own car for the boombox. With windows rolled down and instrumental tracks blaring out of his stereo, rappers in the circle took turns spitting verses. Lefty was blown away by Tavis and Dom and tried to get them to form a crew with him, along with his buddies MANiK tha MC, DJ Steve and a few other guys who’d been rapping together since 2012 as The Piff Dawgs.

It didn’t pan out, but the guys all stayed friends and hung out a lot. They revisited the idea in 2016. Working together meant everyone working for themselves, promoting each other, and bringing as much attention to the MyNorities brand as they could. So far, Tavis and Aka have gotten lots of attention in the scene with show offers like HOFDAY this past year, with other members like Saevon just behind them.

“I want to focus on getting everyone’s individualism out. I don’t want people to get confused that it’s a rap group. We’re not trying to be the Sugarhill Gang,” Tavis says. “We all in together supporting each other. That don’t mean we have to be in the studio every day rapping on the same songs. That shit gets old. You’re not adding no dimension to anything.”

The name of the collective was taken from a song Tavis released a year earlier. It was appropriate because the song was all about doing more with the support of his friends.

“I wanted to have a way I could say ’My Niggas’ without actually having to say ’My Niggas.’ If you look at the way that MyNorities is stylized, it’s My capital N-orities,” Tavis says. “I was saying that I couldn’t do it without my friends.”

There’s a lot of talk about what’s coming next, but the truth is that they’re still figuring it out. What is clear is the seriousness of their drive.

“I think the city needs something like this. It needs a unit of movement. As long as everybody’s doing their shit and still putting out dope music, I feel like Sac itself will get the light it needs,” Saevon says. “The individual aspect of what we doing is good because everybody can shine, and we can all shine together.”