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Living Legends

West Coast hip-hop collective Living Legends are a staunchly independent rap institution that dates back to the mid-'90s. Made up of an expanding lineup of solo artists, the group has made a point of rejecting the corporate side of the music industry for the entirety of their decades-long run, self-funding their recordings and live shows with a grassroots ethic that also comes through in their music. Though they went through a bit of a lull after a wildly productive stint in the 2000s, Living Legends remained intermittently active and in 2023 released their first studio full-length in almost 20 years, aptly titled The Return. Mystik Journeymen, a duo composed of BFAP (later rechristened Sunspot Jonz) and PSC (later Luckyiam), formed in 1992 and became legendary for their underground tapes and parties in East Oakland. The founding nucleus of the Living Legends, the two met the Grouch in 1995 and soon after embarked on the first of a long series of self-funded tours abroad, this time only to Europe. Upon their return, they met up with a trio called 3MG or Three Melancholy Gypsies (MURS, Eligh, and Scarub) who had broken off from their Los Angeles-based group Log Cabin and reunited in Oakland. The sextet officially formed Living Legends in 1996 (along with Aesop, Elusive, and Bizarro) and gained national renown with appearances on 1997's Beats and Lyrics compilation and 1998's Rules of the Game. As the internet and their developed, the Legends were able to reach a new audience worldwide. They took the street hustling mentality of selling tapes and CDs on merch tables even further with world tours, enthusiastic self-promotion, and an organized business plan, which made their slogan "Control Destiny" ring very true. Living Legends served as an inspiration for other Bay Area heavyweight crews like Hieroglyphics and Hobo Junction, who along with hip-hoppers nationwide in the late '90s, decided they could live without major-labels. As their fame grew, the Legends toured Europe, Asia, and Australia, and went on a total of eight world tours in two years. Their membership also grew in international proportions after they linked up with Japan's Arata and DJ Quietstorm and Belgium's Krewcial. While home in California, they released a continuous stream of albums and tapes through their imprints Outhouse Records and Revenge Entertainment, produced their own magazine, Unsigned and Hella Broke, and released annual Broke Ass Summer Jam albums. In 1999, Living Legends moved their base of operations to Los Angeles and added Basik to the group. Following several less official mixtapes and other music collections, Living Legends released their studio debut album, Angelz wit Dirty Faces in 2000. They went into overdrive from that point on, releasing subsequent albums Almost Famous in 2001, Creative Differences in 2004, and Classic in 2005. Various other releases followed, but the group members largely focused on their solo work as the 2000s wound down. After a period of semi-dormancy, Living Legends reconvened in 2016, consisting of the Grouch, Sunspot Jonz, MURS, Luckyiam, Scarub, Bicasso, Aesop, and Eligh. In 2023, the collective released The Return, their first proper studio album since Classic, released 18 years earlier. The album included guest appearances from Nate Curry, Pep Love, Del the Funky Homosapien, and others.
© Luke Forrest /TiVo

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