Whatchall Know About Hip-Hop? 

Kamphire Collective takes what you think you know and turns it on its head

I've discovered that even when writing about music I probably wouldn't load into my iRiver, if I study its history, I get a better appreciation of the sound. Sometimes, though, even without further investigation I'll find I like a song in a genre of music I don't usually listen to. Good melodies, harmonies, lyrics and beats will always draw me in. If I'm lucky, I'll not only find a song I dig, but get to meet the people behind the tune (the way cool part of my job). And, if I'm really lucky, the musicians are as amazing as the music they produce.

Five such folks I've been fortunate enough to befriend are drummer Todd "Rudi" Belcher, bassist Stephan "Big Bwoy" Hagstrom, emcee Tim "Timbuk 2" Hammes, guitarist Jake "The Jake" Albrethsen and emcee Marcus "Origin" Hunter, known together as Kamphire Collective.

For my interview with the band, I was invited to Hunter's small, comfortable North End house. The members of the band all sat in a half-circle around the living room, leaving me a space on the couch. They seemed a little anxious about the interview, but also seemed at home in the space and with each other. They told me that twice a week, they push the furniture against the walls and write and rehearse in that room. The result is a great sound.

Kamphire Collective hit the Boise music scene about a year ago. As a simple hip-hop group, there may not have been much cause for celebration: Hip-hop often includes begged, borrowed and/or stolen sounds under an emcee's words about ladies, luxury cars and livin' large. What makes this band special is that each member plays an instrument, and rather than performing songs about money or performing just for money, their lyrics are thought-provoking and spiritual, and all five of the band members have a drive and a love for the music that pushes and prods them every step of the way.

After they told me they'd been together for just over a year, Hunter immediately added, "Our first show was at the Bouquet on May 18 of 2005." From that first performance to their most recent in the finals of the Big Easy's Quest for the Best, Kamphire Collective gives everything they have every time. Albrethsen said that the Quest for the Best performances were especially important. I asked them if, right from the beginning, they thought they would win. Collectively, they said, "We wanted to." Hagstrom added "We were humble about it ... but we were hopeful. There was no point until [it was announced] we won that we thought we had it. There was a lot of really good talent that night. We were just thankful to be a part of it." Albrethsen said, "We went out there and we gave our all. We decided that if we couldn't win with that performance, we just couldn't win."

When first meeting the members of Kamphire Collective, it's pretty clear that they have different tastes in everything from their looks to their musical influences, which include everything from Parliament to the Pixies. Dig a little deeper, though, and their commonalities begin to surface. "We all like anything with a good groove," Belcher said.

Another thing they clearly have in common is that they all like each other. With all the pressures of day-to-day life, it's hard for just about anyone to stay together. Add wives, children and day jobs, and the odds against success start to stack up. I asked how Kamphire Collective makes it work. The answer from each was, "Communication." It is this factor, as well as their instrumentation--in a genre not really known for that--they believe sets them apart. They also have a firm belief that faith and spirituality play a large part in their success, and their musical message of integrity, humility and compassion is what draws people to them.

All of this is well and good, but it is Kamphire Collective's musicianship that truly puts them on a higher level. I listened to a recent jam session KC recorded in Hunter's living room and it gave me goosebumps. It was damn good.

And after an hour or so of just hanging out and talking to the these five creative men, I learned they are as much a pleasure to know as their music is to listen to. When I made a remark about rock T-shirts, Hunter walked across the room and then, smiling, handed a Kamphire Collective one to me. I was informed that, outside of the band, I was the only person who owned one (for the time being). "You're family now," Hunter said quietly.

These five well-spoken, friendly guys clearly love what they're doing. It is this love of their work and their respect for each other--combined with their musicianship and ability to write and perform really good songs--that guarantees a long and evolving life for Kamphire Collective. When asked what comment they get most from people, Hagstrom said, "The one I always hear is, 'I don't even like hip-hop, but I like you guys.'" Me, too.

To hear Kamphire Collective, check out their myspace site at www.myspace.com/kamphirecollective. They are currently working on a CD.

Questions or comments? E-mail music@boiseweekly.com.

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