The Return: Living Legends Are Back With First Group Album Since 2008

The Return: Living Legends Are Back With First Group Album Since 2008

Published Thu, October 26, 2023 at 2:00 PM EDT

Living Legends are somewhat in the middle of a career resurgence.

It’s been roughly 15 years since the group released their last album, The Gathering, but that will all change on October 27 when Luckyiam, The Grouch, Eligh, Bicasso, Sunspot Jonz, Scarub and Aesop drop their aptly titled new record, The Return

Despite the long hiatus, the members of Living Legends have stayed active—whether The Grouch and Eligh are making music under the G&E moniker, The Grouch is linking with former member Murs for Thees Handz or they are simply reconvening for live performances. But along the way, they grew up—some became parents, others got sober and at least one got married. When asked about the long wait between projects, Luckyiam explained it best. 

“Life happened,” Luckyiam tells Rock The Bells. “We are a group made up of solo artists and inner crew groups. People did their own things. We went on a long hiatus, some one-off shows and tours/festivals happened, but we never stopped recording music here and there. We just never seriously focused on an album.”

But the music industry changed, too. The days of Living Legends slinging CDs from the trunk of their cars or doling them out hand-to-hand are long gone, and streaming has replaced the need to head down to your local record store. Every artist who’s been around to witness the industry’s evolution has had to contend with the every-changing business model. It’s partially why the Living Legends stepped back from making another album. 

“I think we needed a break and the industry was in a changing point with the advent of streaming and social media that didn't really vibe with what we were about back then,” Aesop explains. “In the end, I think the time off was healthy for those who pursued solo projects and those of us who started families and living that family life.” 

The Grouch is much more matter-of-fact, saying, “ When we sat down to make this album, I asked myself that because I didn’t really know the answer. Eligh dealt with a serious drug addiction, Murs signed to other labels and was busy with music festivals like Paid Dues, then he moved out of state. Meanwhile, I moved to an island and was focused on family. We had some disagreements, everyone had life shit and we focused on other things.” 

“I went back and listened to all the albums—there is no best,” The Grouch says. “It’s like choosing a favorite child. I’d never do that. Same characters minus one or two, some similar vibes, some new ones. We brought back our original photography/designer team, Snap Jackson and Corey Shaw. We’re using a new mixing and mastering engineer, Starski. I didn’t produce any beats on this one. We picked some of the topics out of a hat that we wrote down ahead of time. I’m writing as a single man and not a family man. Some of the other guys are writing as family men, who hadn’t on previous albums.”

Aesop adds, “This album just sounds new. I can't really pinpoint what makes it better than any other because, like Grouch said, all of our albums are dope in my humble opinion. I can't pick one, but I feel like we have evolved with this album. I'm looking forward to the honest critique of the music we made this year. I have a good feeling about this one."

"...The Legends vibe and feel is the same—just more refined and imperfectly perfect.” 

- Luckyiam

The consensus appears to be unanimous among crew members. As Luckyiam explains, The Return was not only created differently but also boasts a few surprise guests features. 

“It’s our most consistently dope record front to back,” Luck says. “What’s different is the way we crafted it. It’s not a lot of random raps about rapping. The structure is mostly eight-bar verses and the production choices are curated. It’s also the most guest features we’ve ever had on a Living Legends album. As far as what’s the same, I’d have to say the Legends vibe and feel is the same—just more refined and imperfectly perfect.” 

At the core of Living Legends is a brotherhood that’s been tested time and time again. Even so, they’ve survived every crushing wave, conquered every roadblock thrown in their way and still emerged as a unit. 

“We’re brothers from other mothers for real,” Grouch says with confidence. “These guys are my family and I can’t do much about that. I love these guys.” 

Aesop continues, “For me, it's because we started the crew living in Grouch’s mom’s house. We made some of the very first Living Legends songs in her basement. We were young and broke back then. We became brothers, and his mother and siblings became family to me. That has been the thread that binds us. After that, we all moved into the Out House and bonded even harder. That experience is what made me love Living Legends. It's also the reason I miss Murs so much. Nothing like the early days of Living Legends.” 

Living Legends remains an independent West Coast Hip-Hop success story. From their debut album, Angelz Wit Dirty Faces (2000), to Classic (2005) to The Gathering (2008), they’ve sold hundreds of thousands of albums—on their own. It’s perhaps what gives Grouch the moxie to adapt to the market. 

“It’s hard to reach the people who actually want to hear the music,” he admits. “In order to reach an ‘estimated number’ of people who actually ‘follow’ me on Instagram, it would literally cost $900 plus per post. It’s not realistic for us. Spotify is a bunch of politics and the algorithms do a disservice to independent artists there. We’re relying on word of mouth, which is a struggle, but I’m here for it and grateful.”

Living Legends have dropped three singles from the forthcoming album, including “Lettermen” featuring Reverie, the title track with Del The Funky Homosapien and production by Statik Selektah and “Break My Heart.” 

“I feel like the world needs this,” Lucky concludes. “It’s Hip-Hop’s 50th. I’ve seen people online complaining about the state of music, and it’s time to reconnect with our fans & time to introduce ourselves to the world who doesn’t know we exist. We have been making timeless music for a while now so it makes sense to push it forward.” 

The Grouch adds, “I looked around and was taking note of how many of our Hip-Hop brothers had passed in recent years. I thought about how some of the members of Zion I, Blackalicious and A Tribe Called Quest are no longer on this plane of existence and how all of our members are. It made me realize we’re blessed and need to keep creating.” 

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