By JC Poppe Special to Published Dec 18, 2011 at 5:24 AM

There is a mock Latin phrase that states "illegitimi non carborundum" or "don't let the bastards grind you down," which is the sentiment of the unofficial Harvard fight song. This is exactly what the Milwaukee hip-hop group KingHellBastard hopes to do – but in a good way – with their music.

For the last several years the group that's also known simply as KHB has done their part to create gritty, underground hip-hop while touring when they can, something that has led them to several different states across the country. Often lumped into the "college rap" pot, KingHellBastard is much more a group made up of '90s hip-hop diehards that seek to embody and embolden the culture they love so dearly.

That love is so deep that it also manifests itself in a jaded manner as they look back over their personal run-ins with harsh criticisms and critiques from people they feel are unjustified.

KHB members DNA, Dana Coppa, Shemp, Reason and White Russian discussed the making of their new album, "The War Room," and where this latest effort leaves them. After releasing projects like "Remember The Name" and the ATCQ mixtape, which are on the lighter side of KHB's spectrum, "The War Room" is noticeably angrier and darker. What led to the attitude strewn throughout the new project?

DNA: I would say that it's a result of the cumulative pressures of being an active group for over seven years. That's a long time to be engaged in any enterprise. When you start out it's all fun, because everything you do is new and exciting. As time goes on you find yourself in the same situations, having the same conversations with the same people, and it just wears you down. At least it does for me, personally. They say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results, so yeah, underground hip-hop can definitely make you go nuts and start to resent the very culture you love. Add that to the fact that we seem to live in a world where the truth is consistently perverted and whored out for the sake of petty, ego-driven agendas and soon it feels like you're just drowning in assh*les and their endless bullsh*t parade. That's all on a macro level and it's hard to put your finger on precisely what's making you so angry.

On a micro level, there were a number of potshots being fired in our direction during the recording of the album and that sh*t ends up bleeding into the lyrics and the overall tone of an album. The title of the album refers to that feeling of being under fire. Honestly, I don't feel like it's all that dark. It could have been much, much bleaker. Dark days we're living in, you know?

Shemp: You know if you go back and listen to the first KHB album it's grim as all hell, pun intended. This is our second album and (it's) exactly what we expected from it. I don't think it's that gully. We got some heartfelt stuff on this album, we got some new sounds, we kind of really got open artistically on this project. It's a really good listen.

OMC: You guys had been working on "The War Room" for quite a long time and it was supposed to come out awhile back. What led to the delay?

DNA: Well, the eight songs that made up the "Remember The Name" EP were originally supposed to be on "The War Room" but when we looked at the final track listing it just seemed overloaded with guest appearances. I've never liked albums that do that, since it seems to disrupt any continuity of voice that builds over the course of an album. An album needs a vibe, but an EP can exist as just a collection of songs, so we put all the features on the vinyl. In the interim we toured the East Coast and Midwest behind that record, tried to push it as hard as we could, then came back and recorded a new crop of songs to finish the full-length album.

Dana Coppa: A lot of songs that are on "The War Room" were recorded around the same time as "Remember The Name." As DNA said, we didn't want to put out an album featuring a bunch of rappers. Around this time we were hell-bent on doing some vinyl – well, I was hell-bent. We were just going to put out the singles off "The War Room" at that time on vinyl because we thought some of those features would do good overseas and help get our music out there in other countries. Then Kid Millions dropped some advice on us saying that basically a traditional vinyl single would be a waste of money and that it would probably be in our best interest to do a vinyl EP. So, we changed up our game plan behind his advice.

After tour we came back home and recorded like five or six tracks to fill the void that was left on "The War Room." Also, the ATCB mixtape happened too. We felt like we should put out something to kind of keep the people's interest until we dropped "The War Room," which was meant to drop a few months after the mixtape. So now here we are, a little over a year later.

OMC: "Remember The Name" was your most cohesive project as a group. Where do you feel you are as a group on "The War Room?"

DNA: That's funny you say that right after I get done talking about how EPs don't need to be as cohesive as full-length albums. Anyways, I feel like we're in a good place as a group right now. This album is probably the most democratic project we've ever put out, by which I mean that Dana, Shemp and myself all brought different elements to every song, whether it be a hook, a concept, a beat idea, etc. Everything was very collaborative as opposed to us all coming in with pre-written material and seeing what fits where. We're all pretty different personalities so that could also be part of the reason why this one took a bit longer.

Dana Coppa: Technically, "The War Room" and "Remember The Name" were meant to be one project, so to speak. I really felt in tune with the crew on this one. I think this our best work and the most cohesive project ever. Everybody really put a lot in to this project. Shemp is on production and doing cuts, 1L was on point following the ATCB mixtape and we really tried to tap into our unique skills besides just being rappers. The thing I liked about this project is that we just didn't show up with our pre-written raps, throw them together and call it a song. I mean we were voting on concepts, helping each other out on verses to try to make the song more cohesive with themes. Even down to the art work was a crew affair – my first official photography credit!

Shemp: I feel we are on the cusp of something great. I guess I've always felt that way. I feel like we are a stone's throw away from creative genius or the loony bin. "Remember The Name" was basically a side project that stemmed from creating this album. Dana is a workaholic when it comes to the rap game and he pushes us constantly as artists to step up our game.

OMC: You added producers Reason and The White Russian to the group, but in the background. What does it mean to have producers like them on board with you guys?

DNA: It means we get dope sh*t and we don't have deal with people who don't know us. I mean, we collaborate with a lot of people and it's all love but I've always been proud that KHB has maintained a crew mentality. More than a crew even, it's a family. Dima (The White Russian) and Reason have both been down with us for some time.

Dana Coppa: It's great to be honest. They are both great producers by themselves and they have a great vibe when working with each other as well. It's definitely a plus for us since they are pretty much the soundscape for our world. I'm in the studio at least once a week with these guys so they are like brothers to me. It's just crazy that they are so different but yet so focused on the same thing. They are down to earth with no egos at all. I mean even while we were arranging "The War Room" they were helping each other with the beat breaks on tracks they didn't even produce. Nothing but a family thing over here.

Reason: The process for White Russian and I was to create as many beats as possible and add them to the pot. Doing that gave them more to choose from during the sessions to start with ideas. From just building "songs" based off ideas we all had. Even after vocals were laid we were still adding to the beat, re-laying drums, breaks and all. We probably started out with 60+ "war room" beats before recording started. Even after that we were still creating.

OMC: What was the best part of making this album and what was the worst?

DNA: The best? Probably getting to sit and drink while watching Evan Christian play guitar in the studio for the track "Have You Scene Her." That guy has wizard fingers. He's magic. The worst? All the wolf tickets I sold online telling everyone the album was coming out, then having to keep repeating myself for damn near a year when it took longer than expected.

Dana Coppa: The best part is, wow, so many! Getting Joell Ortiz on a track, seeing Evan rip that guitar to shreds, being able to record a week after throat surgery, the countless Wednesday night sessions filled with gonzo consumption. Oh how I miss those. Everything about making this project is the best part as far as I'm concerned. The only bad thing was the wait to put it out. Other than that it was some of my greatest memories. I just want to thank Elle Razberry, Pezzetino, the LMNtlyst, White Shadow, A-Biz, Evan Christian and Joell Ortiz for making it so memorable.

Shemp: There was no worst part, except for maybe the wait for it to release, as DNA mentioned. The best part? Sh*t, where to start? Working with such talented artists, you can only expect good things. Getting Joell Ortiz on a track was pretty dope. Having Evan Christian lay some ridiculous guitar riffs was pretty hot. Getting together and working on good music with good people on a weekly basis was the highlight of my life for a good part of the year. It was an enjoyable year creating this album and I feel like we did what we set out to do – make a dope album.

White Russian: I think the best part of the process – and not just this album but the projects prior – was the consistent meetings – at least once if not twice a week – to keep pushing the ever-developing songs, concepts and ideas. It became a sort of a job/school-like feel that kept us consistent and relevant on our own level. Even though the meetings were filled with sh*t talk and sometimes getting sh*t faced, we really did become family where no one's voice went unheard and no comment was too crazy. With each meeting there was always a new mix-down or a new beat to take home and review before the next session, even if not everyone could make it every time.

OMC: What's next for the Bastards?

White Russian: What I see now for the Bastards is a few things. The group as a whole will stay relevant by working on songs/projects individually, getting the sounds out that they feel without having to wait on four to five other people to make the idea complete. As a group, I think this is the time where they fall back on the oh-so-many prior works and really concentrate on performing as KHB and individually everywhere else but Milwaukee. This city is stale, and time waits for no one. What we want is to find our audience, and for this we need many more shows in front of many more new people. It's getting more and more difficult with families – KHBabies – and jobs, but that's what it will take so there is no doubt in my mind that that's what we'll do.

Reason: Keep making hot sh*t!

KHB's newest effort, an album called "The War Room," is available for free via local Uni.Fi Records through KHB's new website. Uni.Fi Records will also release limited edition physical copies for the collector.

JC Poppe Special to

Born in Milwaukee and raised in the Milwaukee suburb of Brown Deer, Concordia University Wisconsin alumnus Poppe has spent the majority of his life in or around the city and county of Milwaukee.

As an advocate of Milwaukee's hip-hop community Poppe began popular local music blog Milwaukee UP in March 2010. Check out the archived entries here.

Though heavy on the hip-hop, Poppe writes about other genres of music and occasionally about food, culture or sports, and is always ready to show his pride in Milwaukee and Wisconsin.