On a typical evening, Open Mike Eagle is probably at home, enjoying some much-needed family time with his wife and son between a full day of recording and a long night of live, underground hip-hop. Psychosiz, Mike’s clean-cut compatriot, might be cruising arcades for a cutie to ask on a date of milkshakes and video games. Dumbfoundead, the Korean-American MC who completes the trio, could easily be delirious from a days-long party as he prepares to again lead a delegation of friends from hipster bars to swanky clubs in pursuit of further excitement.

If you met them all individually, you wouldn’t expect Mike, Psycho, and Dumb to be friends -- in fact you might wonder how they would ever even meet -- but when they come together as Thirsty Fish they are one of the most promising rap groups to emerge from Los Angeles' independent hip-hop scene in years.

The trio met at Leimert Park’s already-legendary Project Blowed -- a weekly rap night that spawned artists such as Freestyle Fellowship, Abstract Rude, Chillin Villain Empire, Hip-Hop Kclan, Of Mexican Descent, Jurassic 5, Dilated Peoples, and Busdriver. For almost two decades, Project Blowed has nurtured an alternative version of hip-hop, where brains, flow, and street smarts combine together to create music that makes you think about the world and smacks you in the mouth, often in the same verse. It was this pedigree of intelligent, nuanced and fearless underground rappers that drew the members of Thirsty Fish together.

Psychosiz was the first to become a Blowedian. Obsessed with comics and video games, he was identified as gifted and talented as a kid and bussed from his home in South Central to a school where he could stretch his intellect. Although he connected with mainstream hip-hop, as he defined his rap style, the wit and sensibility of Project Blowed was more in tune with his mindset.

It wasn’t long after he discovered Project Blowed that Customer Service was formed, a group whose battle skills were impressive even in a scene known worldwide for its fierce battling. Rapping alongside Nocando and Kail, Psycho brought to the table a style that is alien, offbeat, and uniquely his. His exuberance caught the eye of Project Blowed co-founder Abstract Rude, who asked him to host a national tour in conjunction with Blowed’s tenth anniversary


“You start to think your circle is the strongest in the universe, and then someone like Mike shows up. There’s nothing to say other than 'let me show you to your quarters. Tomorrow there is work to do.'” - Psychosiz

As Customer Service was rising in the ranks, Psycho was in a position to identify new talent as it came to the club -- enter Open Mike Eagle, who arrived from Chicago in the later half of the 2000s. “I knew as soon as I met Mike,” he says. “You start to think your circle is the strongest in the universe, and then someone like Mike shows up. There’s nothing to say other than 'let me show you to your quarters. Tomorrow there is work to do.'”

Mike, who asserts in one of his rhymes that he’s “at a perpendicular angle” with “hipster rap,”  came to Project Blowed because of its reputation for grooming intelligent young wordsmiths. In Chicago, he learned about it through records by alums like Acelayone and Abstract Rude. He left the Midwest for LA, and his life became an exhausting balancing act between his career as a teacher and his nighttime participation in Los Angeles' underground hip-hop scene. He gained a reputation as a clever and worldly lyricist, and bonded with Psychosiz over rap and their shared love of a plethora of nerdy interests including video games, comics, and professional wrestling. Soon they were at work on an album under the name Parts Unknown -- a reference to the birthplace of the WWF’s Ultimate Warrior.

In the meantime, Dumbfoundead was starting to make a name for himself. As a child, Dumb fell in love with the hip-hop beats he heard blasting from the stereos in the electronics store next to the Downtown shop owned by his mother. He first attended Project Blowed when he was 15 and never looked back. He quickly grew into a hilarious and vicious comedic freestyler and started to get attention within the scene.

After nearly all of Parts Unknown’s recording sessions were lost to a corrupted hard drive, they asked Dumb to guest on one of the tracks that they were feverishly rebuilding for their project. That song, “Snuggleberry Bushes,” was a total success and remains a fan favorite to this day. According to Mike, “once we began to take the stage as Thirsty Fish, the new energy was undeniable.” Parts Unknown began to morph as Thirsty Fish was born.

The first official product of the new group’s impressive chemistry was the Thirsty Fish debut, Testing The Waters. They sold the record at shows and hustled it around town. The album gained traction amongst the hip-hop underground, and they exposed themselves to an international audience with a barn-storming video game themed performance on G4TV’s Freestyle 101.

The success of Testing The Waters caught the attention of much of Los Angeles' underground hip-hop scene including Busdriver, who saw something special in the group. He brought the group to Mush, the label that had helped him develop his career with the album Fear Of A Black Tangent. Mush had a long list of artists, both in and out of hip-hop, who had either issued their debuts, or the first records to get serious recognition on the label, and seemed like a perfect fit to get Thirsty Fish some added attention. A deal was quickly struck with Busdriver on board as executive producer.

As they worked on their follow-up, each member branched out from the group and made solo strides.

Dumbfoundead went on a tear, beginning with bigger Grind Time battles and a formidable appearance at the World Rap Championships. Jamie DeWolf, a judge at that contest, took note of the “eerie wit” and “dirty, extra evil punchlines” that would soon be highlighted on 2009’s self-released Fun With Dumb. He parlayed the buzz about Fun With Dumb into organized tours around the US with plenty of shows in Southern California, trips to perform in Korea, and the launch of a popular Youtube channel -- quickly building himself into an Internet sensation via expertly crafted music videos and improvised ciphers. Hooking up with Knocksteady only increased the exposure of the MC they describe as a "walking bag of charisma." Dumb's also released a handful of collaborations, digital singles, and the free mini-album, Cut + Paste with DJ Zo -- all to universal praise.

Open Mike Eagle also released celebrated solo music, including the 2010 album, Unapologetic Art Rap and its companion EP, Art Rap After Party, both on Mush. As the titles suggest, both releases are intellectual affairs that pit the rapper not only against commercial hip-hop but against the cannibalistic elements of the underground and the frustrations of sustaining a 9-5 job. Mike’s goal on Unapologetic Art Rap was to make music “for adults,” and his maturity is apparent on standout tracks like “I Rock.” The release led to features in LA Weekly and the Los Angeles Times, and a strong online following through his website and youtube channel.

“Once we began to take the stage as Thirsty Fish, the new energy was undeniable.” -
Open Mike Eagle

Some members of Swim Team
Alpha MC (bottom left), Psychosiz (middle left),
Open Mike Eagle (center), Sahtyre (bottom center),
VerBS (right), Dumbfoundead (back)

Staying true to his roots, Psychosiz would again travel the US with Project Blowed, this time on Abstract Rude’s Awful Truth tour. Weaving skillfully between working on Thirty Fish's new material and his own solo work, Psycho managed to find time to re-unite with Customer Service or the Free Y-Not EP. He also continued to take note of the new influx of talent into Project Blowed, recruiting Alpha MC, VerBS, Sahtyre, Lyraflip, Rogue Venom, Kuest One, Dos Tres, Uhuru, and DJ Zo to join the Thirsty Fish members in the formation of the super-crew, Swim Team. With a series of live and recorded guest appearances and a viral video cypher featured by Urb Magazine among other outlets, Swim Team made a mark for itself at the same time it boosted the careers of all three Thirsty Fish members.

Because each of its members is so different and in demand, finding the time and right outlet to work as a group can be tough, yet each rapper is positively influenced by the other two forces in Thirsty Fish. Project Blowed prides itself as an open-minded, welcoming community for anyone who wants to get involved. Thirsty Fish is the embodiment of what that idea actually means in practice: a three-headed beast whose members gravitated to each other not because of their similarities but because of their differences. Alone, each member has a singular voice and a powerful personality. When they combine forces, something completely unique is produced.

For Dumbfounded, working with lyrical heavyweights Open Mike Eagle and Psychosiz provides the kind of multi-level writing challenge that he doesn’t see in his worldwide battles. For Open Mike Eagle, the group provides an opportunity to balance his art rap persona with more straight-forward humor and punch. For Psychosiz, Thirsty Fish provides a consonant context to ground his brash, cynical rhymes.

"When I work with my Thirsty Fish brothers, they definitely make me experiment with sounds and style a lot more than I normally would when I work solo," notes Dumbfoundead on the group's studio work. “I write verses for Thirsty Fish that I wouldn’t rock without Mike and Dumb,” says Psychosiz. “There is interplay between us. On some tracks we don’t even have defined verses; each of us raps on every other bar.” When the rappers do have distinct verses, they don’t handle them the same way that they handle their solo tracks, leading to some of the most witty and subversive writing you will find anywhere in today's music scene.

"When I work with my Thirsty Fish brothers, they definitely make me experiment with sounds and style a lot more than I normally would when I work solo" - Dumbfoundead

Thirsty Fish - Watergate (Mush, 2011)

Over a year-plus, the group recorded and discarded a slew of songs, finally settling on a concise ten completed tracks. Naming the album Watergate, as Open Mike Eagle notes "to symbolize that you're listening in on sessions that you might not have ever imagined were taking place," the album captures three individuals, all on the verge of independent success, coming together to make something special.

Watergate kicks off with a mission statement in "Sound Like Rap" -- a track that lists everything the group wants to "make it sound like" in order to "get laid, weed, paid, clothes, hoes, shows, and dough." Whether daydreaming of winning the lottery in "Working The Numbers," expounding on the benefits of a tearing it up with a big girl on "Grind It Out" or debating the value of the Project Blowed rap style during the mock auction on "Antique Blowed Show," Thirsty Fish prove themselves lyrically peerless. Things get truly twisted on “Girls... Or... Like.” Psycho, of course, uses the platform of a song about girls to take listeners on a tour on the weirdest ladies from his comic book collection. Mike drops his Serious Rapper hat on the same track, turning in a verse that uses sexual metaphor to describe his love-and-hate relationship with online file sharing -- while Dumb spits a relentless verse about the ladies of reality television that references shows from Judge Judy to Road Rules. The album wraps up with what may be the groups magnum opus, "The Like Song." By the time Open Mike Eagle is telling his latest "like" that he's made her a mixtape titled ‘The Sentiments That I Dedicate To Her, So Long As She Only Listens To Every Other Word’ it is clear that Watergate is a near perfect album.

Executive Producer: Busdriver

Thanks to the expert guidance of Busdriver, the album’s executive producer and professor emeritus, Watergate's music quality is every bit the equal to the vocals. "Busdriver has been like a big brother through this whole process. We always respected his beat choices on his solo projects," notes Dumbfoundead. The production team includes a mix of established and up-and-coming electronic composers including Daedelus, Tokimonsta, Para One, Loden, and Exile providing beats that are heavy, elastic, whimsical, club friendly, and urban.

Dumbfoundead, Open Mike Eagle, and Psychosiz all have bright futures ahead them. Yet Watergate is more than just a souvenir of where they’ve been -- it’s an impressive accomplishment on its own.

Dumbfoundead and Open Mike Eagle each have solo records dropping this June -- Dumbfoundead's Growing Young on Knocksteady, and Open Mike Eagle's Rappers Will Die Of Natural Causes on Hellfyre Club. Psychosiz continues to work on his solo debut, which will be released by Mush Records.


Mush Records