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Rappin' Rockers : Once a funk-and-punk outfit, Ku-De-Tah carves a new niche with a blitzkrieg blend of musical genres.


Just often enough to make the truly stubborn musician not give up, craft, originality and downright weirdness occasionally blossom into the Next Big Thing. Usually not, but sometimes. Remember Elvis with the hip and the lip? For a while the Beatles only wanted to hold your hand. It wasn't the End for the Doors until later. It's hard to imagine anything stranger than Tiny Tim and a ukulele. Madonna proved that sex still sells. Prince put Minneapolis on the purple map for a while, and then the Seattle scene inflicted grunge on an unsuspecting world.

Everyone has a plan that will not work--musicians seem to have more than that. The Valley-based Ku-De-Tah may not have any spellers, but they have a plan that just might work: Combining rap and rock with a combative format of street Angst and sufficient attitude to make Clint, Chuck, Dolph and Ah-nold evacuate the slam pit like polite mice. The band will be showcasing its blitzkrieg bop Monday night at Cheers in Simi Valley.

Ku-De-Tah used to be a funk and punk outfit, sort of like the Red Hot Chili Peppers on steroids, and they released a tape in 1991. Now they have a new singer plus a rapper and his DJ. The seven musicians who have been together since November still don't know any slow ones. The current lineup includes Dave DiNardo and Don Calhoun on guitars, Davi Rivas on bass, Greg Priest on drums, Dave Thomas on vocals, D Rock D raps and DJ Transe is well, you know.

Sometimes you have to sacrifice for your art, but Rivas may be biting the bullet for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The Oxnard local has actually relocated to Van Nuys, thus far igniting no discernible social mobility trends. In a recent phone conversation, Rivas talked about his favorite band.

So you actually moved to the Valley?

Yeah, but it was hard, man. I lived in the Colonia, went to Channel Islands High School, then Oxnard College. But the band was happening and there was a lot of pressure on me to move out there. I was driving to the Valley four times a week. But I hate L.A.!

Even the Dodgers?

Who cares about the Dodgers? Actually, our drummer works at Dodger Stadium as an usher, and he's totally into them.

OK, so now the old singer who wrote all the lyrics on the last album is out, right?

We had problems, personality difficulties. It was political. He's doing his own thing now, but I think we're better now than we were then. Now we've got D Rock D, who used to be signed with Geffen, and his DJ, DJ Transe. D Rock D is not your typical gangster rapper; he's from Brooklyn and he's got a lot of things to say. He's like me--he's done some time. Plus, he's got a phenomenal voice, sort of like Eddie Vedder. I think we're a lot heavier musically, and now with a DJ, we've got a whole new vibe.

So how has the music changed since the last tape?

It's pretty much rock 'n' roll and rap. It's sort of like the Public Enemy-Anthrax crossover, but there's a lot more to it. We're taking it beyond; it's something different.

So has the world been waiting for the rap/rock marriage?

Yeah, I think so because the first sign is the way people are dressing these days. The metal and the hip-hop scenes are crossing over; it's hard to tell them apart. What they're saying is becoming more and more similar. Metal and punk are real political but getting mellower when you see bands like Ugly Kid Joe making it. Rap used to be just freestyling, a couple of guys just trying to see who's the baddest. We're just taking the best of both.

So is Ku-De-Tah just the soundtrack for drive-bys?

Sometimes we get some gangbangers at our shows, but they don't come to cause trouble, and that's the point. I have a musical talent to exploit. My whole thing is to project an image that the system can be beaten. Two months after I joined the band, I went to jail for a year for two felonies. When I got out, it was hard to get a job. I started playing with a band called Thought Festival, and one night, my old band saw me. They told me they kicked their bass player out, so I came back to Ku-De-Tah.

Do you mind talking about what you got busted for?

No, I want people to know about it. Some friends and I stole a boat in Channel Islands Harbor and crashed it. I did a year in the Ventura County Jail, had to pay $16,000 restitution, plus I'm still on probation. The system is designed to bring you back. I can name about 12 to 15 guys who got out of jail then came right back. There's a lot of kids standing in line behind me. The problem is not just on the street but with the system itself. Pete Wilson wants to build more jails and fire more teachers. It's long past time for the youth to take it back. This generation is not like a bunch of drugged-out hippies, and, hopefully, we will be taken seriously. Music is the only thing youth can agree on, and sometimes not even that. But everyone needs their heroes, and most of them seem to come from music.

How is Ku-De-Tah going to get signed?

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