I’ve been absorbed in Krush Love for a week. The 11 tracks buzz with electricity, but the musicians keep the energy tightly controlled, unspooling it meticulously. It’s tense. In a good way. The lyrics are clever and the rapping is precise, with multiple voices flowing smoothly around each other. Under the beats—involuntarily head-nod-inducing ones—melodies conjure hints of soul and jazz.
Two of Zoology’s five members—Flux 451 and Dahhm Life—agree to meet in a café to discuss the group and its work. They almost talk over each other in a rapid give-and-take. It’s easy to see how the two make songs together. “We can start at the beginning if you like,” says Flux. That’s a good tick back for these veterans of the hip-hop scene. Each person in Zoology has DJed, MCed or generally made music for years. Flux started hosting the Wednesday-night Vinyl & Verses hip-hop gathering at Burt’s Tiki Lounge in 2003. He says Albuquerque’s hip-hop scene is inclusive; you just have to stick around.
In 2007 Flux was performing with a DJ and a break dancer, and he released an album—Animal Instincts. The idea was brewing in his head, but Zoology didn’t formally exist yet. “Personally, I always wanted a hip-hop band,” Flux says. “I just wanted to be involved in instrumentation. I just love that feel. So we were at Dahhm’s house and we were just talking about the idea, and—”
“No, you saw me drum,” Dahhm interrupts. They were at Stove, the east Nob Hill venue that later became Black Market Goods, having a freestyle cypher, when he picked up some sticks. “And I was playing on a stove and a refrigerator door and a bucket,” Dahhm says. Flux came up and asked him if he really played the drums. Then he asked if he wanted to be in a band.
The two recruited other friends who had the skills they needed. One of them was Audiyo, who worked with a sampler but took on other instrumental duties. “I knew this guy Jaime and I knew he made beats, hip-hop beats,” says Dahhm. “And then our friend Travis told us that he played the bass, so I approached him after one of our shows and he ended up playing for us. That’s who’s on the album.” After some experimenting and changeups, Zoology emerged in its present form: MCs Wake Self and Flux 451, DJ Audiyo, drummer Dahhm Life and bassist Nate Rappel.
Krush Love sounds incredibly smooth considering it was made in a whirlwind. Dahhm says the group was scoping different places to record and even thinking about shelling out big bucks. Then a friend in Tuscan offered to make the album for them. The group drove to Arizona and worked in his house. “We recorded it all live,” Dahhm says. “It was like we play it at shows. Like Audiyo was set up in there next to Jaime, and I was in the bathroom with the door closed, and we were just playing everything at the same time.”
Zoology recorded for three crazy days and performed gigs every night. But the mania helped forge the album for the better, they say. Flux and Dahhm agree that the tracks contain the same high energy as their live shows because of the frenzied atmosphere.
Now that the group has a true representation of its sound, Zoology hopes to tour more. The group has done one-shot gigs in nearby cities Tucson and Las Cruces, but it has never gone on an extended trip. Dahhm says he’d like to “just travel, doing shows out of town.” But even if they tour, these talented guys want to keep it local. All but one of them are native New Mexicans (and Flux has been here 11 years). “I love it here,” says Dahhm, “and I would like to stay here as long as I can.”