Beats and Eats

by Mike Beltran

In this edition of Beats and Eats, I got an opportunity to sit down with two of my favorite MCs in San Diego, Robbie and Burkey of Vokab Kompany, at a mutually enjoyable sandwich shop – The Rubicon Deli – in Mission Beach, CA.

 Beats: I first met you I believe in 2000-2001. (Looking at Burkey)

 Burkey: You were bouncing at Sinbad’s. Is it cool that I still have the same crew?

 Beats: Yes, actually you do still have the same crew. But to touch on your crew, that was the unique thing about you, your crew. You stuck together and wherever you guys went, you brought this vibe and that rolled over into Vokab Kompany.

 Robbie: Kind of like a snowball that keeps getting bigger.

 Burkey: That’s funny that you say that. It does get bigger. Originally, it was Reno/Tahoe kids and I was this little connector, bringing the Nor Cal snowboarder love / gangster rapper / weird hip-hop vibe thing to So Cal when we all moved here.

 Beats: How did you two meet?

 Robbie: Burkey and I had been connected since high school.

 Burkey: Yeah, Robbie rapped forever and we always knew him as Little Rapping Ass Robbie, he was like 12 rapping on the street corner and we were all influenced by Bay Area Rap.

 Beats: How was Vokab formed?

 Robbie: In 2004, I started it just with a connection. (Pointing to Burkey)

 Burkey: Yeah, so the guy that moved into my room when I moved back out to Reno was a producer named Buck.

 Robbie: Our mutual friend, Shane Dolan introduced me to Buck the Rabbit Killer, and said we should go record over there.

 Burkey: Shane got me writing raps back in Chico because he loved hip hop music and Shane also got Robbie into the San Diego scene too. So while Shane and Robbie were working with Buck, he produced a beat for my band called “Native Root.”

 Robbie: It was a cool beat, but then his band made it into an actual song, which was pretty dope and that was the first time I had heard of that concept of making a beat and then a whole band playing it live.

 Burkey: I was coming down here with my band and Shane asked if they could open for us and they packed the place. Robbie was a good ass rapper.

 Beats: So he then became Good Ass Rapping Robbie? (Laughs all around)

 Burkey: Robbie asked me to collaborate on a track with he and Buck called “Soul Sister.” We really liked working together and right away there was chemistry between us. I have this high voice and I’m full of energy and Robbie is like chill and kinda cool with the swagged out low voice.

 Robbie: It’s because instantly we have that chemistry.

 Beats: You’re the ying to his yang.

 Burkey: It’s true, even in our voices and our styles. And you’ll notice that Robbie and I finish each other’s sentences all the time. It’s like that on the mic. That’s why it works so well for us. I came back to San Diego, met my wife, started working with Robbie and we had a sick single and this whole Vokab thing came together in November of 2007. I love having a band. My experience was there. His experience was in the studio recording. We combined those elements and the natural progression developed.

 Beats: Your fans, do you have any particular name for these people? Because I swear I can spot Vokab Kompany fans from a mile away. They have a dapper look. Is the crew called anything?

 Robbie: Well even though people do dress kind of similar, anytime you hang out with people…

 Burkey: …you share interests.

 Robbie: Exactly. What we have come up with recently is this thing called Good Kompany.  And we hashtag on Instagram, Facebook, etc. I guess if anything, that’s it.

 Beats: Where did the Vokab Kompany name came from?

 Robbie: I thought we have such a big company and big crew we roll with…

 Burkey: …the point of calling it the Kompany was to encompass everyone. Think of it as the company you keep. Like, they are Vokab Kompany…

 Robbie: …so the name came from just our crew, our company. Vokab, because I thought we were trying to talk about different stuff, a little more substance in our lyrics then normal rap.

 Burkey: I used to be an English teacher. My Vokab is long.

 (The Beats gets interrupted by the Eats as our food is placed before us)

 Beats: Ok Robbie, what did you get?

 Robbie: I got myself a Whale’s Veg on bleu cheese bread and it’s a nice cool day today so a little tomato bisque soup. Half and half. The combination is delicious.

 Beats: That looks yummers. And what did you get? (Pointing at Burkey’s meal)

 Burkey: French dip. Moe knows exactly what I like to eat, he knows my palate like nobody. I trust him. I’ll have him order for me when we go places. Especially when we’d go to fancy restaurants. When his parents would take us out, Moe did all my ordering.

 Beats: I also got The Whale’s Veg with the jalapeño cheese bread but I add bacon to my veggies. That’s how I roll. This is fan-freaking-tastic.

Robbie: It’s pretty nice you have your own Sriracha bottle here Beats.

Beats: Ha, that never gets old. (Pointing to the Sriracha bottle with my name and logo on it)

The interview lags as lots of slurping noises come from Robbie and his soup mixed with pallet smacking from Burkey and veggies being ripped apart by me. Moe, one of the shop owners, sits down and a conversation starts among us.

 Beats: Rubicon originated in Tahoe?

 Moe: Yup, the west shore of Lake Tahoe.

 Beats: So you’re a part owner?

 Moe: Yup, of only the San Diego locations.

 Beats: How many partners is it?

 Moe: Three partners: Evan, Oliver and myself.

 Beats: How many Rubicon’s are there?

 Moe: There are three Rubicon’s total. There’s a Rubicon in Reno, which was originally in Tahoe owned by Evan’s mom. She’s the creator and started as a Ma and Pa, had a great product. We’ve taken it down to San Diego and branded it and made a name for it. There are two Rubicon’s in San Diego.

 Beats: As soon as this place opened up, I was here eating. When you opened up, you had the who’s who of the SD bar and club industry standing in line out the door. That speaks volumes on the product alone. You also had a unique style that you brought down to the beach area, you guys cook your own breads.

 Moe: Yes, that’s all in house.

 Beats: Gotcha. Fresh ingredients. Back to The Whale’s Veg. Can you just go through the vegetable medley? And what’s the spread?

 Moe: Yes, hearty blend of spinach, kale, baby carrot, chopped up red bell pepper, red and white cabbage. The spread, we usually use Dijon hummus, called tarragon Dijon and house made hummus. But you like to switch it up to the habanero. There are also cucumbers, tomatoes, onions, lots of avocado.

 Beats: And I saw a gluten-free sign over there. What is gluten-free here?

 Moe: We have a bread that is gluten-free. We don’t make it in house, we import it. Yeah for the gluten-free revolution going on, we have to stay ahead of the game. They told me it’s the best bread around, so it definitely costs a pretty penny but people come back for it. And we do usually have gluten free cookies that we serve with gluten free sandwiches.

 Beats: Every sandwich you serve comes with a cookie?

 Moe: Yeah.

 Beats: A little treat there for you after a delicious Eat. Back to Vokab. So, 2007…

 Robbie: We were rolling down the Grand Avenue bumping our track called “Mood Walkin’”, off our album The New Kong. We were just thinking ‘we’re the shit’ because we have this cool new track, and that’s when you get these glimpses, these small little glimpses thinking ‘man, we could really make it.’ You get those moments where you’re like ‘this could be something.’ It keeps you pushing that much harder.

 Burkey: It’s not even about it actually being like ‘we’ve made it,’ but believing in it and making yourself work harder because of that belief.

 Beats: Big question. What is Quit Sleep? And how is that affiliated with Vokab Kompany?

 Burkey: We were up all night making music and we were like, “Quit Sleep,” that’s pretty catchy. So we went and made a song called Quit Sleep.

Right around that time, my wife had our kid and we were both working two jobs and making music, so we were literally sleeping 3-4 hours a night. Conceptually, it means work hard and if you’re going to sacrifice something, you’re going to sacrifice sleeping on it, sleeping on life. People like it because obviously some people like to party, and that’s a party term. But it’s also for people who work hard that quit sleep.

 Our friend Ian Xavier, he was throwing shows and wanted to use Quit Sleep to throw the shows, he and GianCarlo. We helped with some of our resources, we had connections and knew tons of traveling musicians that needed places to play because we had been touring around.

 Robbie: We got together with them and sat down, had a couple meetings and then started an events company called Quit Sleep.

 Burkey: GianCarlo is such a sick graphic designer. He branded us as Vokab.

 Moe: Guess who made the Rubicon logo?

 Burkey: Exactly. GianCarlo. He does all San Diego creative media. All Vokab. All Quit Sleep. All Rubicon. Everyone in our crew is done up by GianCarlo.

 Robbie: Ian, we have dubbed him ‘The Killer’ because everywhere he goes, he pretty much kills it. We tell him to get backstage and talk to so and so, give them one of our albums and a T-shirt. We’ll be like “Killer, go kill.” He’ll kill it and come back and go, “Yeah, you’re set up.” We’ve been throwing a lot of independent shows and cool art style things with the Quit Sleep events company. We have this gig coming up on December 21 at the House of Blues which will be presented by Quit Sleep.

 Burkey: We are playing with Minnesota and Diego’s Umbrella. Do you know who they are? Diego’s is like gypsy funk. Like Gogol Bordello.

 Beats: Oh yeah, Start Wearing Purple.

 Burkey: We like to work with Minnesota and Diego’s Umbrella. We put a show together like this with Quit Sleep and use our resources, get a good deal and do a collaboration that benefits everybody.

 Beats: How many releases do you have to date as far as EPs or LPs?

 Burkey: We have The New Kong, Quit Sleep and the VKCE album. Those are the three studio albums since we’ve combined forces. Our last album was a collaboration with Crush Effect, VKCE. That album, we were super fortunate, one of the tracks, “Back to the Past,” was in a Blake Griffin KIA commercial. So that was pretty major for us.

 Robbie: Our other track, Burn it Down was in a Southern Comfort commercial.

 Burkey: Back to the Past was also in Franklin & Bash, that TV show with Zach Morris. It got picked up by a new movie called Sins of our Youth that’s coming out. So that song has done really well for us. It was produced by Crush Effect, our saxophone player for Vokab Kompany, Jessie Molloy and Dave Vieth’s electronic project.

 Robbie:  We have our fourth album coming out this month which we call V-sides, which is our version of B-sides. We’ve done a bunch of collaborations in the last year, so we chose the best 13 out of 25 collaborations and we’ll be releasing it probably at the show on December 21.

We’re also releasing a single this month called “Where’s My Delorean.” That won’t be on V-sides but it will be in our album in May.

 Beats: So that’s why your e-mail signature says ‘Sent from the Delorean,’ I was wondering, I like that.

 Burkey: As far as future, we’ve toured a ton in the last five years. Like crazy amounts. Now we’re doing real festivals. We were at Michigan at Electric Forest with Pretty Lights. At New Years, we’re doing Snow Globe with Snoop Dog and Tiesto. We owe so much to our management who manages Hieroglyphics, Collie Buddz, Zion I… Amazing people. Our other half of management does Iration. So we’re on such a solid team. We’re just in the perfect set up, doing all these amazing shows and tours. We couldn’t be happier