Rahzel's been thinking.
And when ideas come to the emcee, perhaps most famous for his three-year stint in the mid-to-late '90s with hip-hop act The Roots, he always has his cell phone he's not willing to upgrade to a PDA at the ready. Example: He already knows what he wants his biopic to be titled. Except, right now, he can't find the information on his phone.
After a few seconds of searching, he gives up and suggests Brotherhood. That's not his first choice, though. Maybe it'll be the title of the sequel.
Fittingly, that's exactly where Rahzel is in his career, looking for a sequel of sorts to bring him back from semi-obscurity into mainstream hip-hop.
But how exactly does this beatboxing, old-school rapper fit into today's Hurricane Chris and Soulja Boy universe?
"Most of the sounds today are more keyboards and more sound samples, whereas most of the earlier hip-hop kind of took a lot of samples from other records," says Rahzel, calling from somewhere in Maine. "I'm pretty much trying to keep that. You have Kanye West, who kind of touched on that particular style of hip-hop Lupe Fiasco and such."
Four years since Rahzel's Greatest Knockouts, Rahzel is currently recording his third studio effort, Greatest Knockouts The Album, Vol. 2, which is due out this summer.
He's now road-testing the new material, which includes new tracks "Come Fly with Me" (featuring a guest appearance by singer Mike Patton) and "Ring the Alarm."
So far, if anything has defined Rahzel's career, it's been his dedication to old-school hip-hop. In fact, he wears this influence like a badge on his chest. Aside from being inspired by '80s acts Biz Markie, Doug E. Fresh and The Fat Boys, the likes of which are just punch lines to younger generations, Rahzel's youth was spent watching the Furious Five and GrandMaster Flash in action.
But what purpose does it serve to keep one foot in the past?
"That's what I do," says Rahzel, who, aside from rapping, has dabbled in acting (he appears in the upcoming feature film Doorman) and voice-over work for movie trailers, commercials and video games. "I don't make down South records, I don't make West Coast records. I make East Coast records. That's what I do.
"I'm not trying to remind anybody, I'm just doing what I do naturally. It's like tradition. You just continue it on. You don't change just because one thing is popular at the time."
It's his hope that tradition in hip-hop will one day translate into the multi-generational scene he witnessed in the '90s when The Roots opened for The Who. He says concerts filled with kids, parents and grandparents are unheard of in the rap world.
"That's the big difference, they're pretty much passing that music down," Rahzel says. "To me, that's tradition. So I'm not going to change."
For now, he just heads back on the road, one gig at a time, with the hope that an underground swell will lead to another ride on the wave of relevancy and respect.
"That's what we do," Rahzel says. "We've been doing that for over a decade. The tradition continues."
Rahzel and DJ JS-1 with The Pack, Sweatshop Union and Trigga
The Black Sheep,
2106 E. Platte Ave.
Sunday, Jan. 27, 8 p.m.
Tickets: $13 in advance, $15 day-of-show, all ages; visit ticketweb.com or call 866/468-7621.