Of the variety of sounds emerging from L.A’s many music scenes, one group embodies the city’s sound especially well. The L.A.-based rap group Rogve Skuadron (known and stylized as RVSK) combines a plethora of styles into a chilled-out, fun, and at times even playful music that still retains serious integrity. The core of RVSK comprises Cameron Jordan, Ox Da Gawd, and J. Knyce, Stark Glory, DariTheSpaz. Young Frantz, Ubiquitous Love Tribe, William Feldman, and more, with beats spun by Bryan Skywlkr. In addition to these personnel, Cameron notes, “There’s other people just down with the squad who is fam. They don’t know it, but they know it.” RVSK functions as a collective filled with individual artists constantly motivating, inspiring, influencing, and supporting each other, as well as collaborating. “When I make a song, I send it to at least three people. Knyce always listens to everything to make sure it’s mixed well,” says Cameron Jordan. “It’s a big fucking family; we’re all weirdos.”
We met RSVK at Cameron’s house in Fairfax. Over the course of the day, friends and collaborators streamed in and out (most of whom were gathering for a video shoot that evening). The animated talk was about music, culture, and just sharing enthusiasm in general. Despite their aggressive sound, “they’re actually just the nicest bunch of chill-ass nerds.” said a member of Ubiquitous Love Tribe a few weeks after our interview (which explained the old school Spider-Man poster on Cameron’s wall). True to his characterization, our interview was spliced with long discussions about rap culture, video games, and anime.
The overall sound of RVSK’s music is very unique. In a true Los Angeles fashion, RVSK takes from influences across the spectrum, ranging from Southern rap like Bun B, to the insane trap sounds of OG Maco, to the wildly hilarious sounds of Azizi Gibson. Tracks concerned with serious themes are nonetheless laced with humor, without detracting from the music’s integrity. In “August 6, 1945,” the line, “Girls from the valley, working on their Bally Total Fitness, tryna stretch that pussy out like a gymnast” occurs in the same song with the line, “My niggas endure prejudice but we still represent these damn presidents.”
While the group as a whole is relatively new, everybody involved has been making music for quite some time. Cameron (who has two mixtapes released with a third on the way) got his start after hearing his dad’s beats made on a home desktop running Reason in his grandmother’s house. He recalled, “It was complete shit, and I knew nothing about making music, but I knew it was complete shit, so I said why don’t I start making beats.” Cameron started releasing music while at Penn State, recording in his dorm on his laptop mic using GarageBand. This is how he recorded his first E.P, The Bakestation (with an LP sequel coming soon). “I feel like today my beat-making process is simple, because I picked it up from just touching keys.” Ox Da Gawd (who released the third installment of his Top Rhymin’ series late last year) has been making music with J. Knyce since they were in high school in a group called Hollastars. Both Knyce and Ox Da Gawd have a classic East Coast propulsive beat combined with the euphoric yet chilled-out timbres unique to West Coast music.
Bryan Skywlkr (the most recent edition to RVSK’s performing crew) and Cameron met at a listening party for their friend/collaborator Rxdio. “Everyone was kinda mutual friends. We were just going around before everyone showed up, playing each other’s stuff and freestyling.” Their first musical collaboration happened during production of Cameron’s second mixtape Marceline, which Bryan helped produce and record skits on. Bryan is one of the most interesting additions to RVSK having backgrounds in both making beats and traditional DJing.
RVSK started to form around 2009. As Cameron recalled, “They called me one day while I was in school and said, ‘We need a clique, we need a group, we need a name though.’ So I thought Rogue Squadron because I like Star Wars, and they thought it was cool, too, but they didn’t wanna get sued so we spelled it weird.” RVSK has been performing since 2009, when Cameron would come home from college during the summer to play shows. “Since 2013 we’ve been consistently playing six shows a year. Now it’s starting to build up because we’re making our own shows at places like the Originator’s on Melrose.”
RVSK shows are both exciting and lighthearted. RVSK has an exciting presence, captivating audiences with juxtaposition of both relaxed and casual, and very aggressive vibes. “People think that since our music’s aggressive that we’re assholes,” said Cameron. “We’re not assholes, we just think our music’s better than yours. I’m joking, but people aren’t comfortable with that energy. That’s what throws people off. People aren’t comfortable when you bring people dancing, or when people move to your shit.” J. Knyce later added, “We have a habit of fucking shit up. Niggas think we playing sometimes, but we’re no where near that, it’s not a laughing matter, bro.” However, their music is also playful and fun. Whimsical lyrics and a laid-back style, however, do not detract from the serious themes within a cool and amiable ethos. “Even though we do some dumb shit, we’re not fucking around,” said Cameron.
Tracks like “Her,” off of Cameron’s mixtape Marceline, have this mix of sincerity and informally, almost like a conversation between close friends. The intimacy and personal character stems from the band’s methods: Cameron’s bedroom (with a patchwork quilt on the bed) doubles as a recording studio. “I like recording here, I’m comfortable here. I went to studios before, and I just felt like I’m in a box; I’m on display.”
RVSK takes the same relaxed and personal approach in distributing and performing their music. “Most shows are just ‘give me 10 dollars and you get in,’ then you go home and ‘we don’t care whether you liked it or not.’ Eventually we’ll wanna make money, but right now we’re not stressing it. Right now it’s ‘You probably don’t know me, but if you like what you hear, just come inside.’” When I asked Bryan and Cameron about the idea of labels, they seemed opposed only in an effort to keep their music pure. Bryan emphasized the importance of autonomy: “I gotta make sure I’m where I need to be before I sign with anything. I just want to perfect a certain sound.” The band holds a monthly show called Rooks vs. Kings as a play on their name. “We wanna throw our own events so we have the power. Keep it more grassroots, more organic.”
What makes RVSK so special is that despite the extremely high quality of their music, they are still a local, practically underground group. This is great coming from a city not necessarily known for it’s underground rap, despite its emerging rap scene. DariTheSpaz noted, “If people could just put their egos aside sometimes. . . There’s a lot of discord in the culture because people just don’t fuck with certain people for some reason, I don’t know why.” Groups like RVSK seem to be changing this, however. The love of music and enthusiasm they bring to concerts completely captures audiences, making their shows some of the best I’ve seen in the city. Guests I’ve taken to their shows love the welcoming vibe and the enthusiasm of the band’s fans. It’s groups like this, with a combination of talent, enthusiasm, and community that will help the most in putting the promising scene on the map.
RVSK will be performing at the 5 Star Bar in Downtown on Saturday March 7th
Cameron will be releasing The Bakestation 2 in the next few months
In July, Bryan will be releasing Dimensions 2.0, an experimental hip hop and drum and bass album.
The rest of RVSK’s music can be found at their individual soundclouds or here.