If knowing is half the battle, then Boogie Boy Metal Mouth is off to a good start. Having spent years forging their individual paths in music through hip-hop in the early aughts (initially through the group Awkward Landing) the duo of J. Ring and Emoh decided to build their new band based on what they knew they didn’t want it to sound like: everything they did before.
You wouldn’t guess it from the inside of the Watertown apartment they share, where countless posters and stickers from rap acts cover the walls of the makeshift second-floor studio they use to record almost every day. Inside, instead of guitars and drums, there’s just enough room for Emoh’s turntables, his drum machine, and a mike stand. The sounds that emerge when they start rehearsing are arresting: Their music rumbles forward like a distorted, echoing force of nature, with a large dose of punk, some garage rock, plus touches of blues and dub. You could call it almost anything, but hip-hop would be pretty low down on the list.
“One of my friends labeled us as ‘hip-hop noise punks.’ I like that,” says vocalist J. Ring, who performs with Emoh on June 30 at the Middle East Upstairs alongside Moe Pope and GreyScale. “Once you give your music out, people want to label it, and when they can’t, sometimes it gets pushed aside. A lot of good music gets disregarded that way. I think that indie kids these days aren’t worried about stuff like that, though.”
Aside from their respective backgrounds in hip-hop, J. Ring and Emoh, who still DJs and produces for rap acts in the Fameless Fam artist collective, have tackled Boogie Boy Metal Mouth as an entirely different project. Both make it clear that their band isn’t another attempt at crossing the rap-rock divide over the crumbling bridges built by acts like Limp Bizkit or Rage Against the Machine. First and foremost, regardless of whatever label it eventually would receive, it was about rediscovering their inspiration.
“I decided to do whatever was in my soul. I didn’t care what it was, I was going to do it,” says J. Ring. “As an artist, I was just trying to evolve and feel excited about the stuff I was doing when I was bored to death with rap. Emoh comes from a similar background to me, he was on the hardcore scene and we have the same aesthetic and idea of how we want our music to sound.”
For all the aforementioned labels attached to it, BBMM’s sound could best be described as simply dirty, which should be taken as a compliment. Each song on their self-titled debut album, released by Maine-based cassette-only label I Had an Accident, was recorded with Emoh playing the beat, often constructed from sampled recordings of his friends’ bands, live for each take. Second and third takes were used for stacking additional layers of cuts, echoes, distortion, and sound effects, and the recording process was spontaneous and quick.
The resulting album captures that freewheeling spirit, tumbling with reckless abandon through Ring’s howling vocals on the bluesy, Black Keys-esque “LoveYouToDeath” to a ska-inflected beat on “Long Bad Feeling” to “Eat It in Your Face,” a party jump-starter that recalls the Beastie Boys’ “Check Your Head”-era punk aesthetic. Although there’s not an overtly hip-hop moment on the record, the group’s versatility and roots in the rap scene have opened alternative routes toward winning new fans.
“We can go anywhere and rock with the audience,” says Emoh. “We did a basement show in Lowell and we fit right in and it didn’t feel weird doing it. The kids who were there were under the impression that we were a rap group. They didn’t expect the sound that we had, which is why they loved it, I think.”
Later that same night, the band is in the reverse position, headlining a show at O’Brien’s in Allston on a show bill filled with hip-hop acts. By the time they take the stage, the crowd has thinned out, but the glitchy, dusty drums on “It Ain’t Nothin” draw their attention, as does Ring’s performance, his voice punching the chorus with authority when it comes around.
“We didn’t care about this album while really caring about it,” he explains. “That’s been the best part of this, and that’s the best part of it still. I guess that’s how you're supposed to make music, but I didn’t know that before. I didn’t know you were supposed to have a lot of fun and do what comes naturally. I got wrapped up in myself too much. This is a much better time.”
WMBR-FM's (88.1) weekly hip-hop program MUSENOMIX ended its four-year run this Wednesday, with no word as of press time about its possible future on the station. Host Dana Scott, who was profiled in Globe last year for his archival work on the landmark local rap show “Lecco’s Lemma,” is moving to Los Angeles. . . . Action Bronson makes the short trip north from New York for a XXL Magazine sponsored performance at the Middle East (alongside Big K.R.I.T.) on June 27. No word on what he’ll be driving into town, but his Harry Fraud-produced EP “Saab Stories” was released this Tuesday. . . . Worcester’s Rite Hook teams up with Philly’s Reef the Lost Cauze and Jaysaun (of Special Teamz) for “The Lion’s Den,” the lead single from his forthcoming album “From the Wrong,” now playing at his SoundCloud page.Martín Caballero can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @_el_caballero.