“I made a new record with Talls from the KneeHighs that we’re releasing December 6,” says Edgar Alminar, aka DJ GarGar, one half of the Beautiful State. The duo builds multilayered hip-hop tracks from recorded snippets of artists one might not expect would inspire rapping. “I sampled some of my favorite groups with reckless abandon, like No Knife, Radiohead, Modest Mouse, Coldplay, The Beatles, Pretty Girls Make Graves, Greg Laswell, the Flaming Lips, Black Heart Procession, and Ben Folds Five.”
Alminar has long favored unconventional musical blends, going all the way back to the early 2000s, playing keyboards and percussion for rockers Irradio (who once recorded with Alan Parsons) while also DJing for hip-hop quartet the KneeHighs, along with three MCs: Talls, DaDa (onetime KUSI news editor Dave Drury), and Dalton. The KneeHighs earned kudos and respectable sales for their releases Global Warming (2005) and Rise and Shine (2007), with the latter winning Best Hip-Hop Album at the 2007 San Diego Music Awards (they were nominated again two years later). They opened for big name headliners like Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, Talib Kweli, DJ Quik, Pigeon John, and Blowfly, but Alminar says live performances became increasingly annoying.
“We played 5ifth Qtr in downtown, and some guy claiming to be a famous rapper’s cousin came onstage and insisted on freestyling in the middle of our set. He basically killed the vibe for the rest of the night, and he wasn’t even good.” By 2012, recording commercial jingles had become another way for the KneeHighs to help pay the bills. They were one of five local artists asked to record a 60-second spot for “Movin’ and Groovin,’” a TV and radio ad campaign created and paid for by the Metro Transit System (MTS) to get San Diegans to appreciate public transportation (Vokab Kompany, Buck-O-Nine, Ron Fountenberry, and Todo Mundo also participated).
A new KneeHighs CD was announced for release in 2016, but Alminar and MC DayDay left the band to form Jumbotron. Their 2017 album Carefree Coliseum came with a video shot on local beaches for the track “Big Booty Butt Cheeks,” helping them to score Best New Artist at the 2018 SDMAs.
For Visitors, their debut as the Beautiful State, Alminar and MC Talls recruited guest appearances from No Knife’s Mitch Wilson (“Challenge of 6 Iron Ingots,” built from a No Knife sample) and Marquez! singer Jared Wardle (“Halfway to Zero”), as well as Tim Atlas (“Below the Surface”), Lauren Torres (“Bradus Kato”), fellow KneeHigh MC Dalton (“Gray”), and a full-fledged KneeHighs reunion took place with all four members on “The Myth.”
“We’re working on details for an album release party, not a show, but nothing is confirmed yet,” says Alminar. He’s hoping that this will be the band that guarantees he’ll never have to make ends meet with another rotten day job. “I’ve only had four but, if I had to pick one [worst], it’d be working at the front desk at Billeting at the Marine Corps Air Station at Miramar. It was a bunch of rigid people trying to pull rank on a civilian with no rank.”