Oxnard rapper MED and DJ Battlecat stage a free hip-hop festival

by Michael Aushenker

His name is MED, but if you’re into 805 hip-hop, you already know.

Saturday, the Oxnard-based rapper, with the support of DJ Battlecat (and a special surprise guest), brings the noise to Ventura Harbor with the daylong rap festival Bottoms Up. “This is a celebration and a time when local artists and the 805 community will come together and just have a safe, good time,” MED said. “It’s good music for people who don’t want to hear [just] one genre.” 

“It’s great to be teaming up with MED, who is an icon in the game and a hometown hero,” said event organizer Mark Spencer. “When anyone has success and gives back, it’s terrific to see.”

MED corresponded with the VCReporter earlier this month while touring Europe and Russia, where he was promoting albums Bad Neighbor and the BangYaHead 4 compilation (released on MED’s own BangYaHead label). “The shows have been insane,” MED said. “I just rocked with EPMD in the Netherlands. Those are the coolest OGs.”  

Born Nick Rodriguez Lewis to a Hispanic mother and an African-American father, MED (formerly Medaphoar) grew up in Oxnard and has always had a passion for music. “I mean, to have that much voice and demand the world to take notice of the things going on in your mind was amazing,” MED said. “To be able to express yourself through music was a gift that I knew I possessed.” 

Before he hit his teens, MED was already freestyling to entertain his parents. By junior high, he started writing his own rhymes, and became something of a local celebrity by high school. “Once I entered Fremont Junior High [now Fremont Middle School], I was already in love with hip-hop and music in general, entering every school talent show and winning,” MED explained. “Oxnard High School is the original campus where I really learned how to perform better by doing rally and homecoming performances,” MED said. 

Not everything there was “peaches and cream,” however. “What I didn’t like about that situation was the tension between blacks and Hispanics, especially me being of both ethnicities. Didn’t make sense since we come from the same struggles.” Such drama informed MED’s worldview and rhymes. 

His career got a boost when he met Otis Jackson Jr., better known as Madlib. “Madlib is my mentor; big homie, perfect way to put it,” MED said. “We met when I was shopping for beats. He asked me to rap for him and the rest is history.”

Madlib was so impressed by the MC’s skills, he invited him into his Lootpack crew. After hearing his appearances on the group’s 1999 album Soundpieces: Da Antidote!, the Stones Throw label also welcomed him into the fold. Before long, he appeared all over Stones Throw releases, including albums by Quasimoto, Madvillain and, of course, Madlib. 

In 2005, MED dropped his solo debut, Push Comes to Shove, followed by 2011’s Classic, which featured such special guests as Talib Kweli; and 2013’s The Burgundy EP with Madlib and rapper/producer Blu. Last October, the Burgundy trio created Bad Neighbor, with lead single “Rappcats.” 

MED takes much heart and inspiration from several of today’s emerging rap talents, such as Curren$y and Kendrick Lamar, who do their music on their own terms. “Honest music,” MED said. “I also admire people like Tyler, The Creator for his bravery of being an artist who just paves his own way and understands the value of brands.” 

And then, of course, there’s his mentor. “Madlib is not only a pioneer in Oxnard but worldwide,” MED said. “I feel he somewhat changed the sound in L.A. underground hip-hop as well.”

MED’s values are likewise being appreciated. “He’s literally bringing people to the table and building,” Spencer said.

The L.A.-style rap festivals MED experienced have inspired Bottoms Up. “I’m just bringing that flavor back home,” MED said. “Good music, two dance floors, food and fun under the sun, right on the harbor, overlooking the water. I love my city, so I’m just letting everyone in for free.” F

Bottoms Up takes place 2:30-10 p.m. on Saturday, June 25, at Blackbeard’s BBQ, 1591 Spinnaker Drive, #115, Ventura. Admission is free. For more information, visit www.bangyahead.com.