Whether or not these Park Hill natives rode the short bus to school is irrelevant, because there is no doubt that these crazy bastards are the ones your mom told you not to play with. This eclectic group of MCs, producers and DJs use Shortbus as their outlet for their outlandish and truthful expression.
The collective has extended well beyond its namesake East Denver neighborhood, now reaching overseas with artists from all over representing. In 2009, the outfit released a three-disc mixtape, Us, the Motherless Children of the Petri Dish, that showcased an impressively diverse array of talent.
Though some members such as Yonnas, Ichban and Deca have gained more notoriety with their other projects, Shmeeze holds his own in the group project with an almost deranged style and rugged flow that make him impossible to ignore. We recently caught up with Shmeeze and spoke to him about the collective's origin, performing in Europe and what's next for the crew.
Westword (Nicole Cormier): First, introduce yourself and the other members of Parkhill Shortbus?
Shmeeze: This is a difficult question to answer with much clarity, but I'll attempt to do so anyway: We have been the Shortbus for about thirteen years now. Originally, the Shortbus was comprised of a group of us that grew up together in Park Hill. Myself [Shmeeze], Yonnas, Deca, Geezle Shakti, Ichiban, Pablo Key, bdb, Jaam C and Jagwire -- who didn't grow up in the Hill but was always around.
Initially we all would use Shortbus as a forum beyond our side and solo endeavors to compete against the dopest rappers we knew -- which happened to be each other. Every song was a carnivorous whirlwind of wordplay, cadence and melody, with every word trying to top the others that were also fighting to out rap everybody on a track. That's always been the Shortbus way. Go hard or go home.
Shortbus, however, goes beyond music. There a lot of people not involved with the music at all, who sit at the heart, driving the pulse of this beast just the same as us. We are a family, without the similar DNA. We have, for a majority of our lives, lived a tribal existence, depending on each other for help and support in various aspects of our lives.
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Shortbus has, over the years, expanded far beyond our little east Denver neighborhood. Seattle, New York, Cali, Texas, Florida, Louisiana, Germany, Australia, France, Sweden, Brazil, England and Chile all boast a Shortbus presence. Due to an insatiable appetite for travel and a very diverse melting pot of cultural origins we have been able to expand our brand by feeding off the artistic abilities of some extremely talented people all over the world.
Basically, I guess, the answer is Shortbus is a group of people too large to mention individually. Everybody plays a vital role in whatever their talents encourage -- clothes, art, photography, movies and video, music, dance, poetry, promotion, sports, etc. If it's created from the mind, imagination, vision, voice or soul, we have our fingers in it.
Ww: Why shortbus?
S: [Laughs] Ahhhh ... I'm pretty sure Yonnas can be credited with the Shortbus name. Many years ago, in an underage drunken frenzy, he said we were and odd group of people worthy of the Shortbus. He was referring to our unique and bizarre mix of personalities. We have never been considered "normal" people. That's probably what has kept us close all this time.
So somehow sprouting from a drunken statement made for laughs at a party was the Parkhill Shortbus. I guess we all identify with the concept of being different and embrace that. [Laughs] I wouldn't be shocked if a couple Shortbusians actually did ride the Shortbus to school! [Laughs]
Ww: Tell us about you European tour last year and the upcoming one in November
S: With the release of our three-disc mega project [Us the Motherless Children of a Petri Dish] last year, we hit Europe. We did Europe because of all the European contributions and influence on the project itself. All DJ work was done by a bad ass mofo out of Berlin [Chinch 33]. All the artwork was done by a German graphic designer [Soulseller]. We also fucked with another German graphic designer who is one of the most amazing artists I've ever seen [Neo Judas]. He will be doing all art for the new project as well.
We have some cats doing large things in Paris on there as our French connection -- two simple mortals made up of Odyo, Mista Uze, and Dime. We collaborated with a very talented, and very beautiful, Swedish pop singer [Emine Bahar]. Two German uber sick rappers [Any 1, and Basti] and an insane German producer [Damian Calhoun].
We also had a couple contributions from an English producer [Lee @ rocstar]. So given the nature of our associations in the albums construction, Europe was a no brainer. We did Berlin, Prague and Amsterdam. Shit was fucking wild! YouTube footage of our Berlin show is available using the key words "Parkhill Shortbus in Berlin."
Our goal is to travel with every release of a new project. We plan on taking the project currently under construction to either Thailand, Brazil, India, Costa Rica or Europe again. Our decision will be based on timing. Unfortunately, we again underestimated the magnitude of our project, so what looked like a November release is now looking like a March 2011 release.
Global expansion and fan base has always been our main focus which is why we don't do much in the spotlight locally here. We turn down most shows we are offered or just use the venues for solo performance with our other projects outside the Shortbus. It's just too large a group of people to consistently organize proficiently enough to rock tons of shows. So our trips give us an opportunity to get away from life and come together to perform. It also gives us an excuse to go dumb in foreign lands [Laughs]
Ww: What projects are on the burner right now?
S: As I said, we are in the process of another epic undertaking. To follow the three-disc, in early 2011, we will be releasing a double-disc album in CD form, along with a gigantic mixtape on a custom Shortbus flash drive. The mixtape will also include a music video and some other surprises.
The project, as of now, is about one-third done with appearances by FOE, Karma, Catch Lungs, Mane Rok, Xencs and Whygee, along with the entire Shortbus roster. Yonnas will have produced one entire disc for the album. The second disc will have a couple international producers, as well as highlighting some local talent, with tracks by Kidhum, Shae Money, Selko, S O, Psky and more. Stay tuned for more details as the release gets closer!
Ww: What sets Shortbus apart from the rest of Colorado Hip Hop?
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S: Ah ... a lot. We just do music that's distinctly us. Anybody who has put the Bus on their lobes -- love it or hate it -- recognizes the originality and unique sounds and flavors. We approach music from a place most don't journey to. Not to mention, we are a group of some of the most talented artists you could pack into a room. The sheer number of people involved allows us to cultivate and combine ideas to form an elixir of sweet eardrum fuckery.
It's not an ego thing because we also have a ton of respect for a handful of local Denver talent. These are the folks we have been collaborating with for this new project. We recognize there is some super filthy dudes doing real shit out here. So when I say different, I mean just that. The better argument would all be a matter of preference and opinion.
Unfortunately there are also a lot of homo rappers out here that I wouldn't piss on if they were on fire. These cats know who they are and how we feel, so there's no need to name names. Wack music speaks for itself. Shitty people speak for themselves. Point is: What separates us from other hip hop in the D is the music itself and the personalities behind it.
The music is truly a one-of-a-kind experience, full of unexpected twists and turns with venomous raps. We are different without trying to be so. We are us, and that is enough to make the sound unconventional and fresh. The people making it are some pretty amazing human beings too. The combination is a sound completely our own.