San Diego has a long way to go before it's recognized as one of the country's great hip-hop scenes, but that doesn't mean the talent isn't here. In fact, it's been incubating since the mid-'90s with open-mic showcase The Improv and the prolific output of influential performers such as Orko Eloheim or The Icons. The Icons have been one of the region's longest running hip-hop groups, having risen up in local the hip-hop scene back in the '90s and even winning a San Diego Music Award in 2001.
The Icons took a five-year hiatus in the mid-'00s and subsequently got back to beats and rhymes, but Audiograff finds the group's emcee Frosty stepping out on his own as a performer. Separated from a group dynamic, Frosty more than holds his own. The EP balances a classic '90s aesthetic with a contemporary sensibility, still thematically and sonically tied to his work with Icons. In fact, Frosty more than a few times nods to being part of San Diego hip-hop history, put best in one great line from the EP's title track: "For nearly a decade we created a monopoly, and for that/ You know what?/ No apology."
Frosty doesn't necessarily distance himself from his work with Icons, but he makes a strong effort in establishing himself as a solo performer. Teamed up with producer Steve Vicious, he makes a journey through six concise but rich jams told from his unique perspective. And that perspective is ultimately an earnest one. Frosty's lyrics are mostly autobiographical, occasionally dabbling in braggadocio between lines that touch upon his life, family, and the blood and sweat he pours into his passion: Hip-hop. In other words, this is rap music from the perspective of a grown man who lives and breathes his craft.
All earnestness aside, though, Audiograff is a lot of fun to listen to. Frosty's deep raspy voice and fluid delivery is well matched by Vicious' soulful, hypnotic production. It's almost dreamy in its densest moments, but it's hard not to be captivated by Frosty's wordplay when he's at his best. As he says on EP highlight "Get It," "I kill it onstage every time that I spit it." The man's not lying.