Indulging in the Inland Empire’s hip-hop community with Bread N Butta

Bread N Butta Interview

When you think of independent music festivals or event companies, you think Camp Flognaw or Brownies and Lemonade; grassroot events that grew from best friends talking big to popular events with a huge following. The next name you’ll want to know is the Bread N Butta.

Story | Zara Hurtado

Images | Courtesy of Bread N Butta

Bread N Butta’s DIY hip-hop shows and collaborations with local brands and artists work together to create a vibrant artist collective that’s picking up buzz across Southern California. Created for the love of music and a passion for local artists, the group is all about community. Piled onto a couch together, the creative minds behind the Bread N Butta talk amongst each other as rapper and co-founder Jayellz tries to reach the rest of the crew over the phone. “I’m not trying to be like ‘it’s me, me, me’ because I couldn’t do none of this shit without them,” he explained with a nod to the rest of the group.

This kind of fierce loyalty between the members of Bread N Butta is a strong factor in the group’s identity. Everything is done for the sake of the group: decisions are made together, disagreements are talked out, and all opinions are taken into consideration. Ever since their first show in Pasadena up until their one-year anniversary show this year, Bread N Butta has shown integrity which translates into their shows. “I feel like people are attracted to cohesiveness,” said graphic designer Niice Johnny. “When people see things working how they’re supposed to, people not only want to go to that, they want to be part of that. People are attracted to progression and success.”

Each show is a fully imagined event with each member of the crew pulling their weight, from the custom graphics and live art done by Niice Johnny, to DJ Cheese spinning live. With shows in Pasadena, Rancho Cucamonga and Riverside, Bread N Butta is becoming a destination for people seeking underground shows. The group only has six shows under their belt including their one year Anniversary Show and Picture Party, but they’ve already received a ton of supportive feedback and picked up a following of regulars. “It was amazing when we turned one. I’ve been around these people for a while before BNB and it just so happens that the universe transpired in that direction where [BNB] manifested,” Jayellz said. “Just seeing that we came this far and in this amount of time, it’s like ‘oh, we got this.’”

Bread N Butta Interview

Their hard work and influence has become noticed by local brands, particularly Rancho Cucamonga-based streetwear brand Bokiso. The brand was originally a sponsor for No Room For Us, a group who performed at Bread N Butta’s first show. Since then, Bokiso jumped on board and has been providing each show with their aesthetics.

A look at Bread N Butta’s website will show you an impressive roster of artists with names like Mickey Taelor, Abyssinian Gold, Cam Gnarly and AG. Getting artists to play each show is a community effort, much like everything else the group does. “50 percent of the time people will email or chat with us and send their music out. It’s not just myself who’s listening to it, I’ll send it out like ‘hey, how do you feel about this?’” said Jayellz.

One artist out of the Inland Empire to link up with Bread N Butta is rapper, City James. The collective reached out to him on Instagram and invited him to play at their one-year anniversary show. “It was a dope vibe seeing the community I’m from come and show love,” City James said. “Creating culture and energy in neighborhoods that don’t necessarily have it is very important to the growth of that area.”

Bread N Butta Interview | City James

With a lot of their shows in the Inland Empire, Bread N Butta is relieving an artistic drought caused by the lack of venues. While the indie and punk scenes thrive in the I.E., the popularity of their events show promise for the area’s hip-hop scene. “When people think California they think the Bay or Los Angeles. We’re 40 miles out but we’re doing shit that’s up there!” Jayellz said. “If we’re in competition, someone’s going to make it. But what’s the fun in going jet skiing by yourself?”

According to the group, some of their best shows have happened in Riverside, the most notable one being an impromptu alleyway show. The way Niice Johnny and Jayellz tell it is this: the show was supposed to take place at Mission Tobacco Lounge in downtown Riverside. After finding out last minute that the venue was 21 and over, the group decided to take it outside to make sure the show was open to everyone. They pulled out all the stops, buying a stage, adding lights and paintings in the alley next door to make the Bread N Butta experience accessible to music lovers of all ages. “It was honestly something about making something good out of a bad situation. Everything seemed so against us, but we kept on progressing and focusing and I think that’s what made it poppin,” Niice Johnny said. “That closeness made people interact with each other because we were really in an alleyway. It was one of the most crackin’ shows we’ve had,” Jayellz added.

Bread N Butta Interview

Although they’re currently hosting shows in warehouse spaces and the occasional alley, the group has big dreams for where they want to be in the next year. “I feel BNB can be bigger than the Observatory. It’s developed off independent artists and we’re all working together as a collective to make an avenue for upcoming artists,” Niice Johnny said. “It’s something really big, something a lot of people don’t have the ability to really execute and build the way we do it.”

Crowds have been receptive to the artists, vibes and message Bread N Butta is putting out. Regulars attend the shows, events are spread through word of mouth and even artists from out of state are starting to look at Bread N Butta as a group they want to get involved with. “I used to just go to their shows before I met them and it’s cool to see what it’s become,” said Bread N Butta photographer Mario Robles. “They don’t have the same artists every time, so you aren’t seeing the same faces all the time.”

Bread N Butta Interview

Ultimately, the end goal for Bread N Butta is to become an open space for music fans and artists of all mediums to vibe off each other and create a passionate community all their own. “Bread N Butta is for the people, it’s all about community and bringing lovers of music, lovers of art, all under one roof,” said Bread N Butta graphic/web designer Johnnae Harkey. “It’s all about positivity and we work with a lot of different artists doing different things. We want to grow, have a good time and be a place where people can go and experience together.”

Bread N Butta is for the homies, the newcomers, and even the people who don’t know about them yet. “If you’ve been to a show, you know it’s way more than anything you ever expected it to be,” DJ Cheese explains. “You go in there and you’ll see so many artists putting their own perspective on the mic. In a year from now though, I don’t think you’re going to have a choice but to tell somebody about our shows.”

With one successful year and a good reputation behind them, Bread N Butta is ready to take on 2017. Don’t miss out on their next show, see upcoming dates on their website here. Make sure to follow them on Instagram @thebreadnbutta and as always, see you at the next show!

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