Everything has been said. A phrase which, by merit of repetition, has certainly and ironically become a cliché by now. The late 20th century is a beautiful junkyard, fusing together that which is dismembered and disremembered, with any attachment a mere mind trick deferring imagination from sharing the collective human experience.

What's left is what's left, in the form of the Los Angeles-based futuristic primate Circus. In flat, atonal vocals and a highly developed stream-of-consciousness compositional pattern, Circus comes off as half a prophet, half rambling lunatic-closer in spirit to a schizophrenic bum reciting obscure Biblical passages to himself than your average underground cipher rat.

Circus became part of the famed graffiti crew CBS in the early '90s, and was soon after inducted into the first incarnation of the hip-hop outfit known as the ShapeShifters, consisting at the time of CBS members Meck, Realm, Perk and RobOne. Though the shape of the group has since shifted to include the scrambled poetry of Radioinactive and AWOL, the unifying force, according to Circus, behind both ShapeShifters' molds is that, "We were all wanting to do something else. We were tired of the music that was coming out, like DJ Quik, N.W.A. and Ice Cube."

Turned on to the LA underground scene by Meck around '92, circus became a regular at the Good Life Café (former open-mic spot in LA and home to such local luminaries as Freestyle Fellowship, volume 10, C.V.E., O.M.D. and the Hip-Hop Klan). While so many others were content to bite the advanced, wide-open stylings of Good Life MCs, Circus, inspired by their freeform approach, avoided one specific sound and instead developed an "interpretation of what they were doing. I don't think I thought I sounded different, it was just how I heard it."

From animal songs to Jane's Addiction covers, there's an underlying theme of disparate ideas and influences in circus' music. He explains, "Everything we come in contact with is a piece of the puzzle... If you start to notice the coincidences, then it snowballs into something larger, maybe closer to the truth.

During the course of the day, I usually come across several thoughts. I'll write all these things on little notes and when I have enough for a verse, I try to piece them together. All my lyrics are things that people tell me, my ex-girlfriend, somebody off the street, a brochure, anything."

In a time and place where rhyming is synonymous with representing yourself and your immediate environment, circus and the Shapeshifters are out to symbolize nothing less than the sum of human experience and thought. "There's a lot of conflict in our ideas, but we're all speaking about the same thing, so to an audience it probably spells out something we don't even see," explains Circus. "We've tried to take everything that's negative out there and balance it out with something that has light."

Witness the full philosophical and aesthetic manifestation on Circus' forthcoming album (as-of-yet untitled). Self-described as "heavy-metal-techno-reggae-hippie-hop," this is not hip-hop for Beatnuts fans. "My music is as if the drummer from Def Leppard got a robot arm with a drum machine attached to it and started a group with Debbie Gibson, Bushwick Bill and Joey Lawrence," he says. Amid the glut of generic indie hip-hop records, Circus is a reminder of what the underground is truly about - ancient wisdom and subconscious ramblings buried in the beckoning drums of the millennium coming to a dancing star near you.


Mush Records