Hip-hop collective pools resources at Lake Tahoe
The MC pronounces “iD” like the part of his psyche rather than the piece of plastic you don’t have to show to see him Saturday at the Tahoe Underground.
Nevertheless, to know what you’re getting into, you might want to ID iD and the crew he’s joining for the all-ages Winterfresh Tour show Saturday, because iD appears in different forms in different places.
The MC iD is the alter ego of Kurt Kohnen, part of two San Diego hip-hop collectives: Tidewater and Genius of Soul. In Tidewater, iD joins forces with two other MCs, LEIF(kolt) and Dr. Nickel, and one DJ, OpenOptics. The DJ and iD are also two of the six players in Genius of Soul, which adds live instrumentation to the mix.
“Separately, we’ve been doing it a good amount of time, and Genius of Soul is about two years old, and Tidepool is a year,” Kohnen said.
Kohnen’s ties to the area go back even deeper: About 10 years ago, he attended school here, rode Kirkwood and played in a South Shore punk band. Now, after stopovers in Santa Cruz and Alaska, he has transformed into a polyglot poet-turned-MC who cites influences ranging from Run-DMC and Gil Scott-Heron to Bob Dylan and Operation Ivy.
“I always listened to hip-hop and listened to it more and more as I came here,” Kohnen said.
“We appreciate classic hip-hop, but we’re trying to push it — we’re trying to be ourselves, period.”
Part of the inspiration for the group’s loose format came from the likes of the Freestyle Fellowship in Southern California and the Heiroglyphics in the Bay Area.
“Cats like that came out, and when you heard it, it was like hearing a new sound,” Kohnen said. “That lit the fire even more.”
The loose arrangement of both groups allows each individual to shine as all take the stage together. Kohnen characterized himself as a writer who started putting his poems to beats and hailed the lyricism of Dr. Nickel (aka Dustin R. Nickels) and characterized LEIF(kolt) as a very pronounced, very clear MC. OpenOptics provides the beats.
“He’s one of the illest DJs down here, if not the illest,” Kohnen said. “He’s kind of the DJ Shadow style, where he’s a composer as well as a DJ.
Tidepool will be without Dr. Nickel for its appearance at the Tahoe Underground but is undaunted in trying to expand its envelope.
“We’re putting in the work and we’re going to just keep getting it down a little more,” Kohnen said. “It takes time, you know – it takes time.”
After playing many shows around San Diego, solo and with the group, iD and Tidepool are headed to Tahoe and mountain towns beyond — and they think they’ll find a receptive audience in Aspen and Breckenridge, Colo., as well as the South Shore.
“We’re all avid snowboarders, and that’s part of our life as well.” Kohnen said. “That reflects some energy. That’s one of the main other expressions.
“When they go out there, and it’s snowing, they’re going out on a mission, and they’re going out to have a good time.”