When it comes to the story of Denver, there are many different versions. For the members of hip-hop group Fed Rez, the tale of the Mile High City is all about the west side — and food. Lots and lots of Mexican food. Its latest track, "Danver," name-checks Tamale Kitchen and Tacos Rapidos as the dudes cruise by Paleteria Chihuahua, Casa Bonita and Davies Chuckwagon Diner on a virtual green-screen tour of the Denver metro area.
From Westwood and Athmar Park to Park Hill and Green Valley Ranch, Fed Rez reps Denver, the city that raised the three MCs. "In the very beginning of making the track, it started out with me messing around with the 'Call me queso blanco, call me white cheddar/ caucasian, Chicano MC trendsetter' line. It was just throwaway lyrics," says Kyle Bacon, aka The B.I.Z. "But [the verse] went with the beat. You know, all of us went to Kennedy [High School], and for me, this song was all about capturing that vibe of where we grew up — but in a satirical way." B.I.Z. says that when he travels outside of Colorado, he spreads the word about Denver's Chicano-influenced culture, with food as its cornerstone.
Fellow emcee Sean Higgins, aka Higgz Boson, agrees with this notion that one of Denver's biggest selling points is its tried-and-true Mexican joints. "I train parkour and I meet so many people from all over the country who come here to train, and I take them out for tamales," he says. "But if people come from Cali, they try our Mexican food and are like, what the hell is this? [Laughs.] They don't think our Mexican food is as good, and I'm like, you're crazy."
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Some people prefer the wet burrito in California; others like theirs smothered, Colorado-style. Then there is the argument about chile. "Green chile in California is like salsa; Denver's chile is basically from New Mexico," says B.I.Z.
Naturally, all this talk of Mexican-influenced cuisine is taking place at a table on the bar side of Lechuga's, one of the Northside's favorite Italian joints. B.I.Z. and Higgs — along with the rest of the Fed Rez crew, Tom Quintana, aka MC Oliver Tomwell, and Anthony Kunovic, aka DJ Who? Tony — slurp up spaghetti and share slices of Lechuga's supreme pizza, complete with green-chile strips.
Content-wise, "Danver" was a bit of a departure for Fed Rez. When the group originally started playing shows, in 2014, they weren't singing about a love of their city and its Mexican cuisine. The MCs wore suits and shot dollar bills into the crowd; they rapped about money, corruption and power, calling themselves the Federal Rezerve. The idea was to speak from the perspective of fraudster and all-powerful bankers.
"I've always been kind of a conspiracy-theorist dude," says B.I.Z. "I was reading The Creature From Jekyll Island, which is about how the Federal Reserve originated from a meeting of the most powerful bankers on a little island off of Georgia in 1914. But [the name] had a double meaning for us, too: We were like an Army Reserve stationed off of Federal [Boulevard]."
The act eventually wore thin and the group ditched the get-up and shortened its name to Fed Rez. "I don't think that anyone got it," DJ Who? Tony says bluntly. "I don't think anyone understood the suits." While the sport coats and pinstripes still come out of the closet from time to time, Fed Rez has honed its act, with the MCs focusing on being themselves — or, rather, hilarious, amped-up versions of themselves — on stage while their DJ goes hard.
As seen in the "Danver" video, Fed Rez's collective personality is large and goofy. B.I.Z. takes a "ride" on his motorcycle through Black Bart's Cave at Casa Bonita while DJ Who? Tony kicks it at Adventure Golf and Higgz and Tomwell take a jaunt through Voyage to the Center of the Earth at Water World. The video was filmed and directed by Kyle Gray of Clown Cake Productions (Gray is also the frontman of Denver band Rubedo), who rode around Denver on a skateboard, catching hours of footage that play out against the colorful and animated backdrop of "Danver." The finished product is not only a wild, don't-try-this-at-home boozy tour through the Mile High City, but documents some of Denver's iconic places. It captures the timeless tradition of cruising Federal and Sheridan boulevards and Colfax Avenue while sharing glimpses of the skyline from the driver's seat on I-25.
The song itself wraps up with a skit, something not found on many hip-hop records these days. An amalgamation of friends or fools (as a term of endearment, Fed Rez pronounces it "foo") from growing up on the city's west side, a character named Gino shoots the shit with B.I.Z. — and Gino has a full-on "Danver accent." Which also sheds light on title of the song.
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"In our circle, that's just the Denver accent like, 'Whaddup, bud. I'm from Danver,'" says B.I.Z. "We're sort of parodying those people you overhear ordering at Chubby's. I think that sums up the whole vibe of the track: [It's about] us and the knuckleheads we grew up with in Denver." He pauses. "It's not Denver. It's Daan-ver."
"It's just that Denver steez," Tomwell chimes in.
As the leftover pizza is wrapped up and plates are cleared, talk turns to Denver's current growing pains. Lechuga's on the Northside is close to where these dudes called home for so long — but Fed Rez's current living situation is far east now, still in Denver but on the border of Aurora. "You know it's bad when you get priced out of Westwood," B.I.Z. says with a half laugh. That's just the way it is now in Danver, bud.
Catch Fed Rez live Thursday, September 15, at Globe Hall, for the group's annual Summer Soirée (The Classy Turn-Up Vol. II.) Joined by Planes, TYPHY, 52AD and host DJ Timmy OC, tickets are $8 in advance, $10 at the door. This event is 21 and up. To purchase tickets, visit Ticketfly. To hear more from Fed Rez or purchase the group's 2016 album Folk Rock, visit the Fed Rez Bandcamp page.