Recently there has been an influx of hip-hop artists outspoken about their battles with addiction and subsequent recovery. Macklemore got real on the track “Otherside,” while Eligh of The Living Legends devoted an entire album to his recovery process in 2010’s Grey Crow. Los Angeles native Eligh Nachowitz has been an integral part of the underground hip-hop collective, The Living Legends, since the crew emerged in the ‘90s. Although his rapid-fire delivery is impeccable and always has been, behind the scenes, he had been wrestling the disease of addiction for years. It’s been a long time since he made that fateful decision to get clean. He’s still diligent about work, but there are a few differences between the “old” Eligh and the polished version.
“I don’t think my songwriting process itself has changed,” Nachowitz says. “I just think the channels, so to speak, are way more wide-open. Things flow way more easily and quickly. The topics and what I’m talking about has changed. I always talk about what’s going on with me in my music, which includes being clean and that whole process.”
At least one other member of the eight-man collective feels the same way about writing lyrics these days. Corey Scoffern, better known as The Grouch, has been a part of the now defunct Living Legends for decades. He has a healthy solo career, but has made eight records with Nachowitz under the name G&E. In fact, they just released The Tortoise and the Crow, the duo’s ninth collaborative project. Somewhere along the journey, Scoffern’s playful lyrics gave way to more introspective content.
“I just rap about what I know about, what I’m going through and my experiences,” Scoffern says. “I’m spending a lot less bars trying to convince people that I’m cool. Be yourself, go for yours, believe, be thankful, and be a kind to others; those are some of the messages or themes in my music today. Most of those have been around since my music started and will continue for as long as I’m making music. I feel like I’m truly creating for myself first. I’m talking to me and reminding myself. After that, if other people can get something out of those words, that’s just icing on the cake.”
The Grouch and Eligh have also teamed up for “The Grouch Stole Christmas Tour,” which has been an annual event for the past six years. It’s become something hip-hop fans look forward to around the holiday season. Nachowitz has been on five out of the six and every year, the lineup grows.
“I feel we do a good job of keeping the lineup interesting and different from what it was in the previous years,” Scoffern explains. “Obviously since it’s a Grouch event, I’m going to always play a role. There’s a lot of thought that goes into choosing the songs for our sets. We always include well-established artists and artists ‘on the come up.’ A definite requirement is that everyone involved must have a dope stage show! I feel like everyone has a voice and the more we support each other, the faster the world will advance as a whole.”
For The Tortoise and the Crow, Nachowitz put on his producer’s hat and while there may be a hint of doubt in his voice as he talks about the record, deep down he knows it’s a banger.
“It’s a monster album,” he says. “That’s all I have to say. I did 90-95% of production. I took a break from producing since Amp Live did the last one and I have another solo album that was produced entirely by DNAE out of San Francisco. Every day I’ve been making beats again so it’s on, so to speak [laughs]. It’s a little more pressure I guess because when the album comes out and people are like ‘oh the beats are weak’ then that’s on me. It’s my fault if it’s whack. But I’m really confident that’s not going to happen. Oh and if all else fails, there’s definitely some good bass [laughs].”
As far as Nachowitz’s new path in life, it’s going well. He has a new solo record in the works, too, but this one won’t be centered on recovery like Grey Crow. Any mention of his struggles are deeply rooted in metaphor, but it’s forever a part of who he is.
“I am proud of that shit,” he concludes. “I will profess it to everybody. I like to lead by example. People are inspired by it. I just tell my experience and live it in front of people. Hopefully it influences people in a positive way.”
The Grouch and Eligh with Sweatshop Union and Pigeon John, March 5, at Aggie Theatre, 204 S. College Ave., 8 p.m. Tickets are $15/ADV and $20/DOS. Visit www.therealgrouch.com for more information.