Humboldt Hip Hop mic check

by Lila Salinas

To be an emcee is to tell a story, an experience, or use words to express your feelings. I’ve been writing songs and poetry in Spanish and English since I was 13 years old. Writing helped me get through the times I spent at Juvenile Hall and during my young adulthood. Through Hip Hop, I found the calm to my storm. The evolution of Hip Hop is everlasting. I remember hearing about Humboldt’s Hip Hop scene and how a lot of Hip Hop artists gravitated towards the area for its abundance and quality of Cannabis.

I came in as a transfer student in July 2023 I researched the scene for Hip Hop events and even asked around but was told Hip Hop is dead and non-existent. I came across a flier promoting a concert with Talib Kwali and a Cypher (open-mic). I was thrilled to see Hip Hop was still alive. I caught up with the promoters, Hip Hop Hum- boldt (HHH) to get a feel of what had happened to the huge hip hop that once dominated Humboldt nightlife.


Hip Hop Humboldt is a collective of artists and hip hop enthusiasts coming together to produce events and spaces for other hip hop artists to express themselves and share their music. David Haynie, of HHH, began producing a bi-weekly hip hop podcast in October 2021 with the mission to give unknown artists a platform to
introduce themselves to the world.

Humboldt’s Hip Hop Movement Being a part of the Humboldt Hip Hip scene for over 10 years, David is familiar with the fluctuation of the Hip Hop genre within the Humboldt community. “20 years ago, Potluck was here throwing shows with the support of the cannabis industry” which used to fuel the economy and its hip hop shows, now it’s supported by artists,” said Haynie.

According to Haynie, after the legalization of marijuana, the hip hop scene dried out. “No one was doing what HHH is doing. Hip Hop brings unity and love not violence. Same thing that reggae and spoken word brings,” said Cameron “Hiet” Ellis, member of Hip Hop Humboldt. Z

ach “Zigzilla” Lehner of Hip Hop Congress (Humboldt Chapter) and DJ Burnt Reynolds contribute keeping hip hop alive by throwing the “Fatbol Cypher”, an open mic event hosted monthly by Humbrews. Creative spaces like these allow Humboldt’s aspiring artists to shine and be heard. “For 90% of the artists, this is their first media exposure.” added Haynie. Events like these are unique. It’s rare to see an all-ages hip hop cypher that is welcoming to novice rappers. “The youth out here need that therapy and outlet”, added Ellis.

Cameron “Hiet” Ellis of Hip Hop Humboldt | Photo by Lila Salinas

“There’s different artists from different genres. We have Fire shows, Burlesque dancers, graffiti artists. We’re curating shows because there is a lack of opportunities for new artists. We are a real community. Our last show was flooded out. We still came together afterwards and got together as a community.“ said
Ellis. HHH takes a three-pronged approach. Aside from their podcast, they offer video production services where artists can get the visuals they need for their music projects and throw local hip hop shows featuring prominent artists like Talib Kwali and Planet Asia. Notably, HHH habitually collaborates with other groups to produce hip hop showcases where artists get the opportunity to perform their songs backed up by a live band.

“Hip hop comes in waves in Humboldt. With students coming and going, there is a lot of music coming and going moving in and moving away,” said Hiet. Another group in the area is Hip Hop Congress, an international non-profit organization geared towards the evolution of hip hop culture while inspiring activism and social action.

According to Fresno native, rapper Albert “Al.Bear” Aguilar of Hip Hop Humboldt, “There’s a lot of acceptance here. Back home, there is more violence. I do music to escape the streets. In SoCal, you’re constantly looking over your shoulder, here you don’t have to”. Arcata is a small community but it offers different outlets for music enthusiasts to enjoy events from genres like EDM, Yoga Sound Baths, jazz and now hip hop, once again.

Albert “Al.Bear” Aguilar and David of HHH | Photo by Lila Salinas

Humboldt’s Premiere Producer

Humboldt native, Eli “Juice” Kalis, is a Mexican American artist who founded Juicebox studio. He learned the bulk of his skills by being mentored by Blake “Blakebleezy” Harden, a Los Angeles Music Engineer whose music catalog includes major artists like, Travis Scott (Birds in the Trap sing McKnight Album) and Kendrick Lamar (Damn Album). Juice is currently engineering music for singer, Emani Etrnl of Humboldt.

Juice at Juicebox Studio in Arcata, CA | Photo provided by Juice

Emani Etrnl is an RnB artist with jazzy catchy melodies that hold a Humboldt essence in her music videos. Juice explained, “I want to offer professional studio where Humboldt’s artist can come and get an industry standard recording. Before Juicebox opened, there was a lack of recording spaces for Humboldt’s artists. There are studios in town but they’re very exclusive,” added Juice about other recording studios in Humboldt.

For more information on hip hop events in our community, please visit HipHopHumboldt.com and juiceboxaudio.square.site or @juice.engineer and @juicebox.audio

My music is also available on all streaming services under “Squinkla” and HHH’s music can be found @hiet887 and @albear93

Squinkla | Photo provided by Lila Salinas


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