The Alaskan music scene is popping with folk, rock, and alternative music, but something that we don’t have a ton of is hip hop. But thanks to the Anchorage-based group Live From The North, our thirst is about to be quenched. Having just released a mixtape on Tuesday, Live From the North has been active in the Anchorage area for years.
“Live From The North was actually an idea that started in 2012, right after I graduated high school,” says the group’s founder, Irwin Torralba. “I wanted to create a hip hop collective. I’ve worked with other people in the past but I didn’t really get serious about performing until around 2015.”
Their new release, “We Live” is a collection of songs that these five young artists have been working on since August 2017.
“For me it’s a lot of self-reflection,” Irwin said. “A lot of the verses that I have on the mixtape are kind of like I’m writing to myself. I’m trying to explain things to myself. I feel like when you write it out in a rap it makes it more transparent, to where those jumbled thoughts are crystal clear.”
The collective came together very naturally, introduced by mutual friends and all frequenting the same restaurant — Papa Murphy’s. All four rappers in Live From The North have been writing since youth, but performing their work was not always a goal.
“I first started as a young kid; middle school, high school,” said David, producer for the group. “I was always the kid beatboxing, or had the nickel and the pencil on the tabletop during cafeteria. I spent a lot of years just doing the writing part and recording. I never thought about actually performing until I met Daniel.”
Daniel Harder, writer and producer for Live From The North, has been performing music since his high school days.
“I was in a couple bands,” Daniel recalled. “We didn’t have a lot of shows because we were underage and all that but it definitely got me used to being in front of a lot of people, or not a lot of people, whatever the case. After those dissolved I didn’t really do anything, as far as performing, until I met Irwin.”
For many songwriters, writing is a healing process, and hip hop is no different.
“For me it’s just always been a sort of spiritual catharsis — a way for me to relate things back to myself or be aware of how I feel about life and things,” Daniel said. “A lot of it can be digging through the pain and picking up the pieces there. Or if you’re feeling happy, then focusing on that.”
For the other members of the group, it seems to be a bit more casual. Isaac Melvin, who the rest of Live From the North refer to as “The Master of Metaphors,” said, “The reason I write music is to see what I could come up with; what could happen.” Another rapper in the collective, Nolan Thompson, said, “I like to challenge myself with lyrics that I can come up with. Sometimes it comes out ridiculous but other times it’s fun to hit major points, things such as our existence or social politics. Above all I like to have fun when I rap. That’s how I get the most enjoyment out of it. It’s gotta feel good for me.”
Regardless of how serious the content of their writing is, making music has been very important for the personal growth of each member of Live From The North. For some, it is a conduit for communication.
“Before I started writing music I was a super introverted kid,” Irwin intimated. “I hardly spoke up and sometimes I felt like I wasn’t being heard. One way for me to express myself and have my voice be heard is to actually rap and make music.”
“It’s medicine; It’s a way to express yourself,” Nolan added. “It’s a really good way to show how you truly feel about things.”
For others, it seems to be almost spiritual.
“Music is vibrations,” Daniel said. “For me, that’s how the universe speaks to itself. That’s how we speak to each other,”
“Music is therapeutic to me,” Isaac said. “I find it easiest to write when I feel the song. I can’t really imagine not being involved in music.”
The group is looking forward to performing again after taking a brief hiatus to focus on producing and recording.
“I’m trying to take this time right now to really create as much as I can,” Daniel said. “I have a reason now, or I don’t have a reason not to. Even if it’s just to make a bunch of projects and release them later, I’m trying to put in work now.”
Live From The North is continuing to release singles and music videos surrounding the release of “We Live” and are taking business seriously.
“We have a shit-ton of merch, tee shirts and hats and stickers that we’re sitting on. Come through, hit us up on social media and get a shirt or something. I need to get them out of my house. We’re excited to perform and we live.”