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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, August 7, 2002

Bold flavor, new CD taking local act to new level

By Wayne Harada
Advertiser Entertainment Writer

From left, Caleb "Red Eye" Richards, "Radical Rob" Onekea, Shane "Kid Dynomite" Veincent and Don "King Don One" Kawa'auhau compose Sudden Rush, a group rising to fame with the release of a third album and recent Mainland gigs.

Quiet Storm Records

Sudden Rush, boasting members from the Big Island and O'ahu, may be the most powerful and original of the bands in Hawai'i that mix hip-hop, rap and Hawaiian music.

Unlike most other new local bands, which affix reggae to Hawaiian rhythms to create Jawaiian sounds, Sudden Rush blends Hawaiian lyrics and chants with street sounds. Its stronger sound and appeal to young listeners, characterized by its second CD, 1997's "Ku'e," has given Sudden Rush an edge over its peers.

Now comes the foursome's third CD, "Ea," of "hip-hop from the Polynesian underground," due Tuesday on Quiet Storm Records. In it, Sudden Rush has retained its trademark sound, but the band has also incorporated resourceful commercial elements as the band attempts to carve out an artistic future.

For starters, the group has pulled a Natalie Cole, reviving Gabby Pahinui's hit song "Hi'ilawe" with instrumental and vocal tracks from Pahinui, the way Cole did a duet with her late dad on "Unforgettable." (Yes, the Pahinui family approves.) The new CD also liberally features other celebrity pairings, with Willie K, Amy Hanaiali'i Gilliom, Jon Osorio, Fiji and more.

"We've been working on the new album for more than a year-and-a-half," said Rob Onekea, 33, group spokesman and producer. "We hope this one will create a lot of noise; we feel we have enough crossover material that still remains true to what we do."

To help create a buzz, Sudden Rush has embarked on a string of pre-release out-of-state gigs, landing a slot last weekend in the 19th annual Reggae on the River Festival at French's Camp, in Piercy, Calif., rubbing elbows with Burning Spear, Lucky Dube and the Ghetto Youth Showcase, featuring the Marley Brothers.

The band headlines two more concerts Sunday at the Palace Station in Las Vegas.

"We're super-excited," said Onekea of the concert appearances. "The thrill is to appear with superstars we grew up listening to."

Local TV viewers can catch a glimpse of the band on the Fox channel at 8 p.m. Aug. 19. Sudden Rush was tapped to appear on the 2002 Fox Teen Choice Awards, already taped Sunday for delayed broadcast, on which the band presents an award for "New Artist to Look Out For."

Besides Onekea, also known as Radical Rob, Sudden Rush includes Don Kawa'auhau, 31, aka King Don One; Shane Veincent, 28, aka Kid Dynomite; and 27-year-old Caleb Richards, aka Red Eye.

The game plan, Onekea said, is to help boost exposure and acceptance of island music on a national scale. "We hope the exposure not only helps us, but others," Onekea said.

Clearly, the initial focus will be on the "Hi'ilawe" remake with the late master, Pahinui, himself.

"That was a tricky one to do," Onekea said. "We weren't sure if we could sing it and do it justice. But we got to talking to Panini Records about obtaining the Gabby track, and while they were initially hesitant, they let us proceed after we sent them a rough track of what we intended to do. They actually liked it."

Another hurdle was to get the seal of approval from the Pahinui 'ohana. "We contacted Martin Pahinui to help play on the song and yes, we got the family's blessing. That was important," Onekea said. "They loved the fact that we'd taken an older song, revitalized it, and developed a new appreciation of Gabby."

Kawa'auhau, who lives on the Big Island, where he does the morning drive show on KWXX-FM, said pairing the band's music with Pahinui's fits into the hip-hop ideology.

"With rap, it's all about collaborations," Kawa'auhau said. "Rappers like to team up together, mostly to get the chance to work with people you like. Our last CD, we had Keali'i Reichel and Willie K involved. This sort of thing breaks the monotony and creates diversity."

Along the way, Sudden Rush grew to appreciate more about Pahinui's talent.

"All I knew about Gabby was what I learned from my dad," Kawa'auhau said. "As I was growing up, I didn't think much about music or what impact Gabby's generation had, how good they were. Being part of the tradition now, my only regret is that oldtimers like Gabby aren't here to do it with us."

Onekea said that it was easy to get others to hop aboard their bandwagon.

"A lot of the artists are good friends," he said. "Sudden Rush did some stuff with Ho'onua previously, so they were happy to come in and hang out together. On other songs, we 'heard' different voices. So we worked on some songs together, like the Amy (Hanaiali'i Gilliom) thing, 'Messenjah's.' She happened to be in the studio one day; she wrote a hook for 'Messenjah's.' It didn't even feel difficult to do."

Kawa'auhau said that the CD's title came when he was home writing a song on the Big Island.

"'Ea' (Hawaiian for sovereignty, rule, independence) seemed like a good name and had a feel like 'Ku'e' (to oppose, resist, protest or stand differently)," he said. "It's a feeling you get when you say it."

Sudden Rush recognizes the prevailing appeal of Jawaiian but works at minimizing its influence on the band's sound. "Jawaiian, in certain areas, can be redundant," Onekea said. "On the new album, there aren't many (Jawaiian sounds). We've tried to make our sound a little more urban, truthfully relating to younger kids who can play it loud, blasting it in the car.

"Sure, we are a little more commercial now, but we don't go into the studio thinking we have to make it for radio or MTV. But we know commerciality is a factor in what we did; we've been wanting to do a major concert or show, working in our energy, visualizing how we can put it all together. In other words, we're trying to push the envelope and take it as far as it can go."

The prospects of going big time worries Kawa'auhau a bit. "It's starting to hit me now; I'm getting a little nervous with this (Mainland) tour," he said. "In the past, we took small chances, but nothing really came through. Now, we have the ammo; it's hard to push yourself if you have no product. But we're ready for this one, which is why it took so long. I think we're making good progress."

Onekea perceives the group as an underdog in a choppy recording scene. "There's not a whole lot of people doing urban island music," he said. "We're one of the first to put this kind of stuff together."

Moreover, the group has matured, and things have changed for its members since the last album.

"I was the only married one then," Onekea said. "Now, Caleb's married and Don's engaged to get married. Only Shane's not attached."

Reach Wayne Harada at wharada@honoluluadvertiser.com or at 525-8067.