Move over, Lil Jon'. Step on this meteor, Linkin Park. How's this for a collision course, Jay-Z? This is the ultimate mash-up: the world of EL PUS (pronounced "El Poose"), the Atlanta-based band fronted by vocalists and producers Cufi and Cosmo, and also featuring lead guitarist C.J. (aka Johnny Rock), bassist "the Woodchuck," and drummer Young Pete. Their debut album, Hoodlum Rock (Volume 1), is a hodge-podge of musical styles fluently expressed with hip-hop attitude and punk-rock energy.
Some bands enjoy the formulas, the labels and the predictability. But EL PUS defiantly shun the categories, smashing the rules and regulations of what music should be with a bold disposition.
"We like to mix sh** up," explains Cufi, succinctly.
Cufi and Cosmo first formed EL PUS in the late 90’s. Their friendship - as well as their musical foundation – was built on a mutual love of a wide variety of music from N.W.A to Led Zeppelin. Above all else, they were bonded by a desire to create music that was progressive, energetic and uncompromising.
Both Cufi and Cosmo wrote, rapped, sang and produced beats on early EL PUS songs until their musical curiosity also led them beyond the traditional instruments, turntables, samplers, etc…of Hip-Hop. "We started to mess around with the guitar and the bass," says Cosmo. "We'd know how to play just enough to play into a sampler and loop it."
EL PUS started to play around the city of Atlanta, a place that embraces musical mash-ups. Soon, they caught the ear of Speech, the former front-man of Grammy-winning rap group Arrested Development. Speech believed in Cufi and Cosmo, urging them to record a demo and setting them up with studio time, money and resources.
But then something happened that would change the group's sound and direction forever. "We had booked a studio session to record our demo," Cufi recalls. "We had all our equipment in there and also some of the instruments we used. But mainly we were just working with the sampler." When they entered the studio, they had discovered their sampler had been stolen. "They left the guitar and the bass and just took the MPC," he says. So the boys of EL PUS did the only thing they knew how. "We just said F*** it. We had booked the studio time already. We called up a guy we knew to be a drummer and started to jam, me on guitar, Cosmo on bass. When we started adding vocals over it, we knew we had something."
Those sessions would lay down the foundation for EL PUS. They went on to record over 20 songs in that time period, rumbling jams that mixed a rock aesthetic, a soul groove, rap lyricism and punk energy. "I don't know what happened but it really worked," says Cosmo. "All of our songs are meant to be played loud and when we got the instruments in the mix, it translated that attitude that was underneath our songs the whole time."
That versatility in sound starts with Cufi and Cosmo, who still write lyrics and music for their songs on instruments they play themselves. They recruited the Woodchuck on bass, C.J. on guitar and Young Pete for the drums, and the young virtuosos opened up a new dimension for the band, both in sound and attitude.
It certainly comes across in EL PUS' raucous live show, which has earned them acclaim, accolades, no less than half-a-dozen citations for noise violations and several proposals of marriage. "We get buck wild on stage," proclaims Cosmo. With a band of rambunctious musicians locked and loaded to fill out their sound, EL PUS was finally able to deliver their songs with all the unbridled electricity that they were intended to be.
That energized spirit also comes across on Hoodlum Rock, the group's debut album. The dozen songs include some of those songs recorded during their initial sessions, mixing brashness and humor and rebellious attitudes. While Cufi and Cosmo are of the Hip-Hop generation, the genre is only one variable in the EL PUS equation. They are not an MC-fronted band, nor are they a slick rap-rock hybrid. They intricately stir their influences together, arming their weapons cache with as many styles as possible. Mostly, EL PUS rocks.
On "Suburb Thuggin'," for example, the group pulls the card of those who front - the ones who act tough but aren't - weaving their irreverence over a big, thrash-funk track. "We make fun music, it's not always being serious all the time." "Days of the BK's" finds Cufi and Cosmo reminiscing on the innocence of their youth. "It's just us remembering things we did as kids, the finer moments we had growin' up." Another song, "Thing Thing," extols the virtues of individualism wrapped in the sugary sweetness of a catchy pop ditty. "It’s about doing whatever you want to do - do your own thing," says Cufi.
Of course, there is the lingering question of the group's name, which Cufi and Cosmo address with a welcomed simplicity. "EL PUS? That just means, 'The Sh**!" exclaims Cufi. Well, of course. EL PUS does their "Thing Thing."