From rapping on street corners outside venues that once excluded them to performing at protests on the steps of the Capitol, local underground hip-hop crew The Cuf have always been ready to battle.
The group celebrates the 20th anniversary of their album “I Love This Game” with a show Saturday at Holy Diver.
The album marked the crew’s first major distribution deal with Tower Records, and featured a track with underground rap supergroup The Living Legends and Soul Clap.
The group’s music is a medley of philosophical, mob hoppin’, wordsmithin’, vocabulary-addicted lyricism from MCs Pete Bettencourt, Robert Hollins, Nate Curry Sr. and Marc Hayes.
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“We felt we were underground because we still made music and did it even though we didn’t have the avenues like everyone else did,” said Curry, 46, the crew’s producer.
Curry, also known as N8 the G8 and Sbvce on his productions, said there weren’t many opportunities for hip-hop acts to perform in Sacramento during the ’90s but that didn’t stop the crew, who linked up with other musical genres like punk and ska bands to perform sets.
“It was an attitude of just being against the system and just trying to make your own music,” said the group’s DJ, George Loera, 44, also known as Mad G.
The Cuf initially stood for “California Underground Funk” and later on “Country Under Frustration.”
Today, “It’s more like Cousins Uncles and Fathers, “said Loera. “It’s family now.”
Band members said making music people that evokes strong feels, along with building a passionate fan base, motivated them during the 90s and still provides inspiration today.
A reunion performance they gave a year back at Press Club – a dance party anniversary for DJ Larry Rodriguez – resulted in people waiting in the rain to get into the packed venue.
The crew took it as a sign to throw their own anniversary party, one that bridged the new and old school sounds of Sacramento.
“It’s not really about us the group, but about our offspring, about newer artists, newer MC’s and musicians in the city and arts,” said Hollins, also known as Brotha RJ.
Saturday’s show will feature a performance from Curry’s son, Nate. Nate Curry Jr. has rapped with the crew since he was three and is considered a member of The Cuf.
“They would take me to shows when I was little – and I would be at the bar – and they would hide me behind stage,” said the younger Curry, “I couldn’t move or do nothing, but then I would get up there and I would rap.”
Saturday’s show will also include musical acts from The Philharmonik and reggae band, The Scratch Outs.
“It’s all ages, meaning bring your teenagers, bring your kids too because everyone needs to see the show,” said Marc Hayes, known as Crush. “It’s gonna be a historic event.”
With the anniversary show underway, the elder Curry and Hollins are already in discussions to host a Cuf Day, much like the Bay Area hip-hop Festival Hiero Day, which celebrated its seventh year Monday.
“Cuf Day is something that’s inevitable,” said Hollins “It’s gonna happen.”
Will Sacramento be ready for it?
If you go
The Cuf Anniversary Show
When: Saturday, Sept. 8; doors open at 7:30 p.m.
Where: Holy Diver, 1517 21st St.
Cost: $17 advance, $20 at the door
More information: bit.ly/sac-the-cuf