The Wu-Tang Clan are synonymous with their home base of Staten Island; Portland-based Lab Seven have the same sort of relationship with Maine.
“So many people that are into hip-hop are trying to sound like guys from down south, or from out west,” said rapper and producer Autonomous. “We sound like guys from Maine. We’re all originally from Maine, and that’s what Lab Seven is based out of.”
Though Wu-Tang and Lab Seven share certain other characteristics – both are large groups composed of longtime friends with distinctive personalities – the similarities end when you start comparing the music.
Lab Seven, who are set to perform with Boston-based rap collective Audible Mainframe on Wednesday, Oct. 25, at Ushuaia in Orono, combines wildly diverse influences into its eclectic, thoughtful take on indie hip-hop. It owes as much to blues and metal as it does the usual hip-hop touchstones.
The band is composed of Autonomous and rappers Mello the Verbal Wonder, Hectic, J.J. King and the Reinstatah (no real names, please), who have all been together as a group since around 1997.
“All five core members all went to high school together,” said Autonomous. “We just started making music in our early years. We’ve released a lot of albums, probably seven or eight by now. We’ve been working on stuff for a long time.”
But the group’s brand new album, “North Winds,” released just two weeks ago, is the first one that all five members agree is the best, and the first “real album.”
“Everything has been practice up until now,” he said. “Not that that we weren’t taking it seriously, but this is just a completely different level.”
In the works for nearly two years, “North Winds” is a collection of minimal beats, bluesy guitar, melodic hooks and the tag-teamed vocals of the five MCs, all of whom have their own unique style.
“Mello sings a lot on the album in a kind of bluesy style, but he does very classic hip-hop rhyming too. Then there’s Hectic, and he has kind of a crazy flow. He’s also in a metal band, so he brings a unique style to the table,” explained Autonomous. “J.J. King is in a band called Boombazi, as well being in Lab Seven. He’s the official hype man, because he’s just got a lot of energy. And then Reinstatah is a band called Bluffs, and they’re based out of Brooklyn.
“Everyone is really an individual,” he continued. “We’ve all grown so much over the years. Everyone’s had their own experiences and developed their own styles and skills and roles within the group. So we felt like now was the time to make a real album.”
Live, Lab Seven performs with DJ Shade, as well as with a guitarist and drummer.
“So much indie hip-hop is watered down and boring live,” said Autonomous. “We’re trying to do something different, and have our own sound. We don’t just stand there and bob our heads. We have a lot of energy. We’re really musical.”
Lab Seven will perform with Audible Mainframe on Wednesday, Oct. 25 at Ushuaia in Orono. Doors open at 8 p.m.; tickets are $8 and can be purchased at www.eye9d.com. Check out Lab Seven at www.myspace.com/labseven. Emily Burnham can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
WMEB 91.9 FM, the University of Maine’s radio station, is throwing a Halloween bash tonight at the Blues Cafe in downtown Orono. “It Came From WMEB 2: A Nightmare on Mill Street” features DJ Clarity spinning progressive house and trance, Alien Journalism providing mash-ups of hip-hop, pop, noise and funk, and the local black metal band Shadar Logoth. Live interactive art and a best costume contest are planned, so come dressed in your Halloween best. Doors open at 8 p.m. and admission is free, though donations are accepted. For information, visit www.wmeb.umaine.edu.