Photo: Ruby Claire
August’s Localized brings two hip hop aficionados to the Urban Lounge stage on Friday, Aug. 12. Dusk One, who co-founded local hip hop group MindState, plays alongside DJ Knucklz’ newest project, Zebrafish. Masters of Death opens the show. A mere five bucks gets you in.
Dusk One - Ryan Worwood
In a state known more for green Jell-O than hip hop, all you have to do is look a little deeper to find artists who bring mastery of the genre to your local venue. More widely known as half of the local duo MindState, Dusk One has been rapping, writing, painting graffiti and generally living and sweating hip hop culture for over a decade. “I don’t know what I’d be doing with myself if I wasn’t doing this,” he says with a grin. Dusk is currently booking his summer tour and working on his first full-length solo release, which has yet to be named, but will be out soon. These days, he has plenty to keep his mind occupied, but it didn’t start out like that. “I didn’t have big plans for [hip hop] originally—I didn’t even tell people I did it,” he says. Having grown up listening to all kinds of music with his brother, DJ Honna (the other half of MindState), discovering Utah-based acts was somewhat of a revelation for Dusk. “It blew my mind when I discovered the local hip hop scene here. These guys are from Ogden, Provo, the East Side—I was like, ‘What?’” he says. After realizing it was possible, he and his brother got to work. Once they started making songs and playing shows, the public responded. Classic samples and gritty sounding beats provided an excellent background for Dusk’s trademark raspy delivery.
While MindState is currently on hiatus so Honna can focus on being in school full time, Dusk has been as busy as ever with his solo projects. He has been touring with the likes of local favorites MC Pigpen and Pat Maine, and making guest appearances over the beats of others. In the last year, Dusk has collaborated with Fisch (who produced Dusk One’s EP The Brady Effect last November) on a few new projects like Fisch Loops Presents Electric Shock. “It’s cool to be doing stuff with him—he was with The Numbs,” Dusk says. “We’d ride the bus downtown from West Valley just to find a copy of their record—it comes full circle.” Other artists who influence him include the locals Smash Brothers, Dumbluck, Burnell Washburn and others, as well as hip hop legends like Nas, the Wu-Tang Clan and the Beastie Boys. Dusk’s number one favorite artist of all time? None other than the King of Soul himself, Otis Redding.
Coming out as a solo act is like starting over, but Dusk isn’t worried. “I’ve put a lot of time into this [album],” he says. “More than anything else I’ve done.” Having recently signed with Punx Management has allowed him to devote that time to really doing exactly what he wants to do with his life. At one point, any job was a good job, and like many of us, Dusk worked some telemarketing, but wasn’t bothered by the daily grind. “Talking to old people all day, you gotta do it,” he says. Being freed up from a headset has given him the opportunity to flex his lyrical muscles and work on his performance. “This is where I found my niche,” he says. “My writing is like my journal, my life experience.”
You’ll have the opportunity to see a brand new Dusk One on Aug. 12, standing solo and ready to slay the crowd. “I’ve been sitting on all the new stuff,” he says. “I’m really excited to get it out locally.” This will be his first time ever playing for Localized, and even if you haven’t seen him before, he’s going to work to win you over. His favorite part of performing and touring, he says, is “watching people’s minds change.”
Sometimes the very best things can be entirely unexpected. Take, for example, Salt Lake dance-scene mainstay DJ Knucklz’ new project, ZebraFish. Lane Edwards, manager of Sidecar in Park City, introduced Knucklz to professional tour drummer John Olsen, and the result is a new club experience. “I had tried drummers before and it didn’t work. He’s really good—it meshed,” says Knucklz. The combo of a DJ known for playing his fan-favorite blend of reggae, dub and hip hop, while an expert drummer improvises over the songs is something new to Utah. “We started playing together and the response—even with hardly any people there—it worked,” says Knucklz. “I had done some drums/DJ stuff with a few different DJs, but nobody could really beatmatch or anything,” says Olsen. This wasn’t the first time Knucklz had thought about adding some more energy to his set. “I was in Costa Rica and there was this house DJ I ended up becoming friends with. He would play with a drummer and it added such another element—not a drum set like John, but hand drums and other smaller stuff,” says Knucklz. In each other, the duo found the skill set they needed to take their performance to the next level, and the response was unanimously positive. So much so that they were offered a weekly weekend gig at Sidecar.
Many know DJ Knucklz from his regular gigs at Jackalope and other venues, but Olsen is no less prominent in the scene. Born and raised in Ogden, he committed early to a life of music. “I got a drum set when I was 18 or 19, and was touring a few months later,” he says. Aside from ZebraFish, Olsen has played with Andy Frasco, Brian Jordan Band (Lauryn Hill, Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe) and others, visiting 11 countries and 37 states over the course of his career. The duo even opened for Denson at a recent Park City gig based on the strength of their live performances. Knucklz is originally from Baltimore, and even though he left almost 18 years ago, his roots still influence what he plays. “Baltimore club is my favorite type of music,” he says. “Everywhere has their own style and Baltimore club—that’s where I grew up.” The two dedicated artists with wildly different backgrounds come together to, as Olsen puts it, “get asses shaking a little harder.” The chemistry between them is the key to making the whole thing work. “The most important thing is the hang time,” says Olsen. Getting to hang out with someone so that you want to get on the stage with them later and crush it.”
The two musicians seem like they’re crossing proverbial swords, but they’re not competing—they’re collaborating. Olsen’s drumming fills in spots in Knucklz’ continuous flow of on-the-floor favorites while Knucklz accentuates everything with some scratches and turntable mastery. The songs themselves come from all over—when asked what he’s loving right now, Knucklz says, “Rick Ross, Gucci Mane and lots of reggae,”—but what ends up blasting out of the speakers is unique every time. “It depends on the crowd,” says Knucklz. “I want people to get up and dance, we feed off the crowd.” August’s Localized will be ZebraFish’s first Salt Lake gig and it will expose them to a whole new audience, so keep your eyes lit up for some club gigs around town. They’re always working on new stuff and they never play the same show twice, so every event is one worth catching. They’re even thinking of expanding the visual element of their shows. “We’re thinking about live artists, canvas and paint,” says Olsen. Check them out at Urban Lounge on Friday, August 12.