Bringing Hawaii hip-hop to mainland markets
Ever since his debut album, "Rhyme and Punishment," was released in 2003, Tassho Pearce has served as the de facto face of hip-hop in Hawaii.
While not the first local boy to pick up a microphone and rap, his abilities as a wordsmith and entertainer — plus a ruthless work ethic — have opened doors to opportunities other artists can only dream of. After years of opening show after show in Honolulu for various mainland hip-hop artists, Pearce (formerly known as Emirc) is now reaping the benefits of the connections he made.
"This past year, I've been traveling and away from Hawaii more often than not," he said yesterday by phone from Las Vegas. "It's been a real blessing. I'm always working, trying to expand the music."
Along with major U.S. cities like Los Angeles, New York City, Chicago and Washington, D.C., Pearce toured in Japan, Australia and New Zealand in 2011. The traveling will continue in 2012, he said, starting with shows today and tomorrow with fellow Flip the Bird artists Creed Chameleon and DJ Jimmy Taco.
Pearce met up with Taco in Vegas yesterday, and the two plan to make the drive to Tempe, Ariz. and hook up with Creed (who now resides in Arizona and booked both performances) before headlining "The Blunt Club" at the Yucca Tap Room. They will then drive to Los Angeles on Friday for an appearance during "L.A. Got Aloha" at The Dragonfly in Hollywood.
"We're from Hawaii and we're proud to be from Hawaii, and we're grateful to represent our city," said Pearce. "I think the best way to push this music is to go into areas where the Hawaii presence is strong. But there haven't been a lot of Hawaii hip-hop artists who have been able to come out and tour successfully, so we're trying to build that."
'The Blunt Club'
» Where: Yucca Tap Room, 29 W. Southern Ave., Tempe, AZ
» When: 9 p.m. Thursday, March 8
» Cost: No cover (21+)
'L.A. Got Aloha'
» Where: The Dragonfly, 6510 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood, CA
» When: 9 p.m. Friday, March 9
» Cost: $8 (21+)
» Info: www.facebook.com/rsiwreckon
What continues to help Pearce cultivate awareness for both his record label and clothing line is the time he spent building relationships at home, he said. Pearce has hung out with (if not opened for) every major label hip-hop artist who performed in Honolulu for nearly a decade. Living and recording in Hawaii even allowed him to meet representatives of Kanye West's G.O.O.D. Music — including the "Louis Vuitton Don" himself — who continue to help him advance his career to this day.
"I was able to build these relationships (and) chill with some of my idols, and they embraced the music and Flip the Bird as a brand," he said. "To actually get to chop it up with them on a personal level and meet some of my icons and see how they work, it's been like, the biggest blessing.
"I feel like being in Hawaii is what allowed me to get to where I'm at. But now, I'm trying to do it outside of Hawaii. I think this is the year where it's important to get out there."
All the touring hasn't kept Pearce out of the recording studio, however. He makes a guest appearance on Florida-based rapper B. Wash's new album, "Thoughtful Therapy," and is getting ready to release his own single featuring Kid Cudi. He also spent time recently recording with both Fiji and J Boog. And then there's his work as the primary designer of Flip the Bird's clothing division.
"That's my 9-to-5," said Pearce. "When I'm not working on music, I'm working on clothes. I'm happy with the new season. People have said it's one of our best (and) a lot of the stores we're working with are top tier."
Although he hasn't been home in a few months, social media networks like Facebook and Twitter allow Pearce to keep in contact with friends and family, plus keep tabs on what Flip the Bird artists Prie, Wun and Ill Hill Society are up to here in Honolulu. And no matter how far he travels in pursuit of hip-hop stardom, he has a clear understanding of how important hometown support is to his overall success.
"I'm a Hawaii artist to the death (and) Hawaii is always going to be home," he said. "Knowing that gives us the confidence to step outside of our safety zone and expand into new markets.
Jason Genegabus is Entertainment Editor/Online at the Honolulu Star-Advertiser and has covered the local nightlife, music, bar and entertainment scenes since 2001. Contact him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.