If you’ve spent any length of time around the music scene in Charleston, West Virginia -- be it at the Empty Glass, the Boulevard Tavern or the Blue Parrot -- you’re bound to have come across the hip-hop act Dinosaur Burps.
Fronted by B. Rude and DJ Sqweazle , Dinosaur Burps are cerebral, yet goofy and endearing -- with raps that flow so quickly you might miss something deep while being distracted by your own laughter.
Growing up in South Charleston, B. Rude first became interested in hip-hop as a kid, finding influence from the tapes and CDs his older brother, Mike, would have around their home. It didn’t take long before his affinity for the genre led him to compose raps of his own.
“We would steal cassette tapes. They were singles. It would have the song, the edited version and it would have the instrumental,” B. Rude said. “My buddy had a karaoke machine that had two tape decks on it and a microphone. We would put a blank tape in one side and we would put the single tape with the instrumental, hit record and we make our own little tapes.”
When one conjures media portrayals of hip-hop culture, the Kanawha Valley of West Virginia or Appalachia may not seem like a place that translates perfectly to that particular art form. Yet B. Rude argues that perceived cultural divisions and stereotypes of musical styles are just that: perceived.
“To me, it was for everybody. It’s music -- you know what I’m saying? It’s not just for them or just for us, blah blah, blah. It’s for everybody,” he said. “Nobody ever really told me I couldn’t do it. I was always encouraged to do it. It was never really ‘You can’t do that ’cause you’re white, or whatever, or you’re from West Virginia.’ I do what I want.”
Eventually, B. Rude teamed up with Sam Harshbarger, another Charleston-area MC known as Meuwl, to form Rabble Rousers. The group added DJ Sqweazle to the mix and quickly gained quite a lot of momentum around the region.
“We started off -- we would record stuff with our buddy L-No. We would make albums where we would just throw together whatever random songs we had and just name it whatever,” he said. “And then we actually decided to record a full-length Rabble Rousers album. Recorded that, released that and then Meuwl passed away in 2009. After that, me and Sqweazle decided to keep making music but change the name.
“The name Dinosaur Burps actually came from Meuwl, me and him were driving around in a car one day and I burped really loud. He was like, ‘It was like a -- it was like-a dinosaur burp.’ It kinda stuck with me and I always wanted to use it for something. We both agreed it was a good group name and now we’re Dinosaur Burps.”
The group’s debut full-length album came in the form of the 18-track “Mother Nature Wants You Dead.” Heavy on pop-culture references and samples by producer and beat guru Ben Coll, known in the group as Kroosh Dogg. As for B. Rude’s lyrical subject matter? It mixes everything from a sharp sense of humor to keen observations about the struggles of life in Appalachia -- including unhealthy lifestyles and other issues related to poverty.
“You know, I grew up hanging out in the city and in the country. I’ve seen a lot of stuff. I’ve seen lot of the bad stuff. I’ve seen a lot of the good stuff,” B. Rude said. “My main goal, usually whenever I write a rap, is to make somebody laugh or be like ‘Ah, I know exactly what he’s talking about.’ I don’t really try to downplay my state but I do talk about the darker side, the underworld, you know. There’s a lot of bad stuff that goes on. But there’s a lot of good stuff that goes on, too, you know?”
B. Rude says Dinosaur Burps has sometimes been described as conscious rap, a sub-genre of hip-hop that focuses on creating awareness and imparting knowledge. But he also admits his inclination to weave in self-deprecating -- or self-effacing, rather -- observations about life around him in Appalachia. There’s no question, B. Rude is reflecting on what he knows about the place he’s from. At least part of the time.
“I rap about what I know about. I also rap about stuff I don’t know about, too," he explained.
When asked about those raps in which he knows "nothing about," B. Rude points to some of the subject matter found on Dinosaur Burps' sophomore release titled Awesome Stuff We Did When Nobody Was Looking.
"Sometimes I say big words and talk about space travel and aliens and stuff," he said with a laugh.
The group is working on material for a third release, although no release date has been set. Charleston-area hip-hop artists -- including the Dinosaur Burps -- will celebrate the life of their late friend and member of the Rabble Rousers during Meuwlfest Saturday, April 23, at The Empty Glass.