Norman has a wealth of red dirt Americana, indie rock and modern folk musicians. What’s uncommon is hip hop and we’re fortunate that void has been filled by ADDverse Effects since late 2012.
Led and conducted by Senior Diplomat of Beat Boyd Littell (drums and vocals) his remix consortium includes Joshua ‘Fiji’ Rehanek (vocals), John Calvin (guitar), Benja Farber (bass), Michael Stafford (keys and vocals) and Justin Duprius (back-up guitar). They’re headlining a recital at Opolis Friday night.
Littell unquestionably deserves the Senior Diplomat of Beat title because of a history spearheading other projects involving genres often neglected here. Latin jazz, reggae and Cuban roots music come to mind, recalling outfits The Method, Cojunto Clave and The iLLs. A comprehensive list of bands Littell has formed or played in over the past decade-plus is around a dozen different ones. He was part of another memorable hip hop combo organized by Matt Hart in the late 1990s called Stereopimp.
“ADDverse Effects has a DJ named Timmy B lined up for the Opolis show,” Littell said. “As a teenager he moved to Bed-Stuy (Bedford-Stuyvesant), Brooklyn and was present for the scene that Mos Def and KRS-One were part of.”
He’ll be opening, playing set breaks and adding to the band’s set. Timmy B should be a terrific supplement to an already potent line-up of musicians carefully chosen by Littell.
“Our lead MC Josh Rehanek goes by ‘Fiji’ because he’s a native of the island and was adopted by a Tulsa family and raised there,” Littell said. “He’s doing just about all the lyrics including some of mine and it just feels really good. I discovered him sitting in with Captain Comfy and Saucy Gentlemen’s Club.”
Fiji had mighty stage presence at the 2013 Norman Music Festival where the rhymes rolled off his tongue with articulate eloquence. Bassist Farber has played a key role in successfully learning and executing music from the extensive Littell back catalogue. Much of that music has been little-used or not played at all in past projects.
“Michael Stafford on keys is the youngest one in the band at 22,” Littell said. “But he’s also the most golden one and the least of my worries.”
He described a player who naturally does a lot of things right.
“Michael reaffirms my belief in the musical collective consciousness,” Littell said. “Fortunately he artistically agrees with these parts I’m giving him but also has a little more freedom to contribute. He’s really good, classically trained and teaches at Sonder Music.”
Stafford plays a Fender Rhodes electric piano that Littell deemed absolutely essential for the band’s vibe.
“It’s a classic sound and completely significant to the music,” he said. “Rhodes just stands out. The first time I played one it hit me like a brick; this is The Doors, Herbie Hancock and the Jazz Crusaders. As opposed to a regular piano where I have to work at it, I touch one note on a Rhodes and it plays me, there’s no shortage of ideas.”
John Calvin is well-known on the Norman scene but generally it’s hayseed hipster music that comes to mind.
“Working with John is great because he has actually listened to a lot of hip hop,” Littell said. “From playing a lot of styles of music he knows that some of the best hip hop is sampling classic music or world music of different kinds.”
Calvin and back-up Justin Duprius have both proven to be adept at guitar improvisation that works well into Littell’s overriding compositions.
ADDverse Effects’ songs aren’t thug anthems.
“They’re mature, witty and pretty playful,” Littell said. “A lot of it still is about partying and girls.”
Some of it he describes as “Outright battle lyrics” or the braggadocio usually associated with the genre.
“It’s a totally legitimate part of the art form,” he said.
Littell is having fun but admits there’s a lot of hard work.
“I have to crack the whip on these kids quite a bit,” he said. “There’s a good bit of resistance to some of my ideas.”
From the start Littell told each of his players in no uncertain terms what the big picture was for ADDverse Effects. Although open to artistic input, his greater age and experience doesn’t allow for compromise whatsoever.
“If I don’t think someone’s idea is better than mine, I’m not going to allow it in my band,” Littell said. “Some players have ideas I’m more likely to use than others.”
Shooting down the unacceptable ones is just part of a band leader’s job description.
“I’m diplomatic about it but essentially it’s ‘Listen guys you just have to trust me,” he said.
Littell has studied and focused on what makes people get excited and dance. Sometimes the dynamic demands that a player cut-out periodically and stop making music during the song.
“That takes some arm twisting with younger and greener musicians,” he said. “But then they hear how phat it is when their instrument drops back in.”
It’s all part of the responsibility that goes along with being Norman’s Senior Diplomat of Beat.
If You Go
What: ADDverse Effects in concert.
Where: Opolis: 113 N. Crawford Ave.
When: 10 p.m. Feb. 7
Senior Diplomat of Beat Boyd Littell
ADDverse Effects at 2013's Norman Music Festival.