There is a common misconception about conscious hip hop. “I don’t give a fuck, you can call us conscious, but rappers hit the stage spitting fucking nonsense,” Aaron Harris raps on the latest Eastern Sunz EP, Filthy Hippie Music, a sly retort on being labeled as environmental hip-hop artists. “I think of it as a compliment in some ways,” says Harris, a UO grad student studying urban planning.
Harris, who goes by the moniker Courage, and Travis Taylor (aka TravisT) create hip hop according to their own standard and definition. “Hip hop for me has always been a medium for addressing social issues and injustices and trying to find solutions to the problems in the world,” Harris says. “There are severe problems in the world but rappers want to talk about cars and clothes and shit like that. And that’s fine, I’m not saying that there isn’t a market or a place for that, because there very clearly is.”
In 2012, Sunz’ Oregon-bred social brand of hip hop caught the attention of the Eco Arts Awards — nabbing them the grand prize. March 2, Sunz will deliver their message — with a newly added band — at the WOW Hall for the Civil Liberties Defense Center (CLDC)’s annual Solidarity with Earth Defenders party, part of the Public Interest Environmental Law Conference (PIELC) line-up. “The band makes the show way more dynamic,” Harris says. “Travis and I have done a lot of growing up in Oregon, so that gives us a very different slant on things.”
However, Harris acknowledges reality; many people don’t perceive music to be the medium for these charged messages. “We try not to alienate the casual listener,” Harris says. “There are a lot of circumstances where if you’re talking about the condition of the world, people will want to flip the channel.” But in solidarity with PIELC and the CLDC, Eastern Sunz should find no trouble delivering their message to a ready and conscious audience.
Eastern Sunz perform, Beat Crunchers and Samba Ja play 7:30 pm Saturday, March 2, at WOW Hall; $8 adv., $10 door.