Shadowhuntaz: Deadly Effects

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The Parabuthus transvaalicus, responsible for five percent of all deaths in North Africa, is considered the deadliest of the entire scorpion species. Their tactic: to move in stealth and attack in darkness. Their victims never see them coming until it's too late. Revered and feared, they are mystical predators of legend, known as "shadow hunters."

Then there's Breaf, Nongenetic, and Dream–three battle MCs spitting lyrical venom at unsuspecting bystanders within listening distance. Reppin' America, Shadowhuntaz is a national affair, with Breaf residing in Chicago, Dream in Atlanta, and Nongenetic in LA. Though their only form of communication is via broadband and Nextel, distance hasn't kept them from causing an underground ruckus worldwide with their unpredictable style. Lyrically, they string words and thoughts together like poetic freedom fighters staging their final war cry. Meanwhile, their music pushes the boundaries of electronic music and hip-hop, and they recruit new collaborators who long to pit their rhymes against the funkiest of basslines.

The group came about by "simple luck," says Non. "Breaf approached me on the streets here in LA and asked me if I made beats. That was in '96. Then he moved, brought Dream in; we got along from jump and things fell in line." In late '97, the crew cut a 12" that got the attention of LA electronic label Plug Research. The label gave the group considerable exposure (and popularity) in Europe, which attracted the ears of Manchester's Skam Records. Skam released Shadowhuntaz's critically acclaimed debut, Corrupt Data, in January 2004, and its follow-up, Valley of the Shadow, last year; both were produced in collaboration with Dutch electronic outfit Funckarma.

"We are all from an age in hip-hop where doing things differently [gets] you attention in Europe," states Non. "Nothing wrong with hip-hop in the US, but people here don't really dig [us]–[we 're] too weird." Weird indeed. Once scouted by Def Jam South, the label considered signing Shadowhuntaz if they could prove that they sold 5,000 units. "We didn't, so that was that!" says Non.

"We like to do things that are risky to release," he continues. "What we do is underground lyrics on IDM [tracks] and we're cool with that. I mean, to this day, we don't know nothing about electronic music–we're hip-hop heads but we know what we like."

When asked if the Shadowhuntaz plan on being electronic music's ambassadors to hip-hop, Non demurs. "This is a task we dare not to take on, but to just be ready when it breaks is enough for now," he says. "We are having a ball doing what we do now. Three deep inner-city kids getting to travel the world and influence kids in other cultures is dope enough."