From Apt. 505 To The Stage: Meet Hip-Hop Collective Coast Contra (Hotstar)

Coast Contra: Taj Austin, Ras Austin, Eric Jamal & Rio Loz. Photo by Jarrod Bloom 2022

Coast Contra’s Taj and Ras Austin are the children of esteemed rapper Ras Kass and R&B/soul singer Teedra Moses, but they are far from nepo babies. Rather, the LA-based hip-hop collective — which features the twins along with Eric Jamal and Rio Loz — have built up all the well-deserved buzz and landed some big looks by refining their craft while working as waiters.

The group has been praised as following in the footsteps of giants in the genre like Wu-Tang Clan, A Tribe Called Quest and De La Soul, while making a name for themselves with their impressive bars, enhanced by the strength of the group’s live show.

As co-RA’s Callender and Lauren Marker at Wasserman Music put it, “Coast Contra is reminiscent of the hip-hop we grew up on but with a fresh take of the world we live in today. Their lyricism and music is reflective of how true they are.”

A friend introduced Max Alcabes of Also Management to Coast Contra in early 2019 and though the group didn’t have any songs on Spotify at the time and only about 425 Instagram, Alcabes said he was “instantly inspired by them. I’d never met a group of guys, especially that young, that were that intentional and purposeful.”

In addition to sharing a studio apartment, the guys all once worked at the Los Angeles restaurant My 2 Cents LA and got the chance to show off their skills by hosting a weekly series called “Cypher Sundays,” featuring music, poetry and more. The series helped Coast get a distribution deal and an introduction to Ethiopia Habtemariam, then president of Motown Records, which led to the group getting the chance to compose the title track for the soundtrack to the 2019 film “Queen & Slim.”

Last February the members of Coast thought they were going to get the opportunity to join Cordae on his North American “From A Birds Eye View Tour” and so they quit their jobs. Then the opportunity fell through – or so they thought. Coast Contra released the track “Never Freestyle,” it went viral and a few days later they got a call to join the tour, leaving that night.

Coast Contra’s big year continued with the release of their debut album, Apt. 505, inspired by the address of the apartment they once shared.

The songwriting process for Coast is both a collaborative and solo endeavor for the members. Austin explains, “We first put our heads together for the initial spark then once we have an idea down we recede to the four corners of the studio to write our individual takes on the concept.”

Other highlights from 2022 include opening for Dave Chappelle at the Hollywood Bowl and the Coast’s late-night TV debut on “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.” The group also played a run of headline dates including a sold-out show at Baby’s All Right in Brooklyn.

“Intentional,” track No. 14 on Coast Contra’s debut album, sums up their ethos, from turning down a chance to license one of their songs to a soda company, while they were still working at the restaurant, to the way their agents approach booking dates.

Coast Contra especially shines when it comes to their live show, which Wasserman’s Callender and Marker describe as “full of engagement and storytelling. What’s most impressive to us is how locked in the four of them are on stage together.”

Alcabes explains that the guys incorporated choreography after studying clips of Method Man & Redman to see how their steps were perfectly aligned on stage.

Austin adds, “The live show is the bread and butter so we take a lot of responsibility in making sure spending money to see the Coast is money well spent. Plus, as artists, we want to give the music another form on the stage. The people go from hearing the music to experiencing the music when we add choreography and hype ad-libs.”

More tour dates are planned and new music to come, which Alcabes promises is “definitely pushing the envelope, with different production.”