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Len

Len

Pop/hip-hop group

For the Record

Selected discography

Sources

Canadas Lenfeaturing chief songwriter and singer-producer Marc Costanzo, also known as the Burger Pimp, and his older sister Sharon Costanzo, as well as D. Rock, DJ Moves, Planet Pea, also called Kudu5, and Drunkness Monsterpresent a different take on the popular rap-rock hybrid. Rather than adopting an abrasive gangsta style, Len has instead opted for old-school hip-hop beats and tape loops mixed with catchy pop and rock. Hip-hop is hurting, the Burger Pimp says, as quoted by Billboard magazines Carrie Bell. All you have these days are your Master Ps with all their hard gold chains, tanks and camouflage. But rap isnt about that. Its about brotherhood and elevating your consciousness. Old school brings everyone to the party and feels good. People act like rap started three years ago, but it has history. Our music pays homage to that. Still, Lens image is not entirely void of the present-day hip-hop nation, given the members nicknames and streetwise fashion sense.

Although Len seemed to appear out of nowhere in 1999 upon the release of their infections hip-hop/pop single Steal My Sunshine, which became a top ten hit in Canada, the United States, and Great Britain, the group had been building a name for themselves for nearly a decade. Prior to securing a relationship with EMI Publishing and signing a major-label record deal with Sony/Work Group, Len released music on their own Four Ways to Rock Records (founded by Marc Costanzo), designed their own album covers, and directed their own videos. Additionally, Costanzo founded a national urban/skate magazine titled Vice.

Len is a self-contained unit that does everything and does it well , Jeff Ayeroff, a former co-president of the Work Group, told Bell. That kind of act is usually the most rewarding to work with, but theyre also a big risk. We had faith, and it turns out theyre brilliant.

Based in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, Lennamed after a friend who happened to wander into a rehearsal studio just as band members were trying to decide what to call themselvesemerged in 1991 as a mainly noise-driven punk band led by Marc Costanzo, who had recently moved with his family to the Toronto area from Montreal. We would smash our instruments after five minutes onstage, because we didnt know how to play, he admitted to Steve Appleford in the Los Angeles Times. Sharon Costanzo joined a year later when her younger brother pulled her onto the stage at one of the bands gigs.

Already a fan of hip-hop, Marc began recording other artists free of charge at his home studio and came into contact with various Canadian DJ talents, among them future Len members DJ Moves and D. Rock, who inspired the punk rocker to begin experimenting with beats. Thats what we all grew up with in the late 80s and early 90s in Toronto and Montreal, he said in an interview with Washington Post writer Richard Harrington. In my early teens, I got into the punk rock scene, and then, like everybody else, I got into Run D.M.C. and the Beastie Boys. I just love it because rap then was still innovative and creative. That old-school feel has got so much more depth, its so much more diverse. You can head so many different places with it, have so much funyou dont have to be so serious.

Gradually, old-school rapviewed by the group as a classic period in American music, similar to how other generations looked at the big band era, rock and roll, and Motowncrept into Lens overall sound as Marc Costanzo plunged into the local hip-hop scene. The community became known as the Cryptic Souls Crew, later dubbed the Len Crew. There are about 40 of us and were all headed in the same direction, Marc explained to Harrington. Len is us six, the people that represent the crew and go on the road, while the Len Crew is the 30 people behind us.

Between 1992 and 1996, Len released their first EP and two albumsincluding Get Your Legs Broke on Marc Costanzos Four Ways to Rock label. Issued in 1996, Get Your Legs Broke led to self-directed independent videos for the tracks Smarty Pants and Trillion Days. Meanwhile, Marc Costanzo continued to release hip-hop records for other acts on the side and claims to have sold between 10,000 to 15,000 copies every time Four Ways to Rock released a record. Although Len is now signed to a major label, Marc intends to release a follow-up of sorts on Four Ways to Rock, not by Len, but by the entire Len Crew.

For the Record

Members include Marc Costanzo (also known as the Burger Pimp), vocals, songwriting, producer; Sharon Costanzo, vocals; Drunkness Monster; DJ Moves; Planet Pea (also known as Kudu5); D. Rock.

Formed in Canada by Marc and Sharon Costanzo, 1991; released one EP and two albums on Marc Cos-tanzos Four Ways to Rock label, 1992-96; released Cant Stop the Bum Rush, which contained the hit Steal My Sunshine, on the Work Group label, 1999.

Addresses: Record company Sony Records, 550 Madison Ave., 31st Fir., New York City, NY 10022, phone: (212) 833-8000, fax: (212) 833-5780. Website Len Official Website: http://www.lensite.com.

Also, DJ Moves plans to record a disco-inspired album with Sharon Costanzo.

Lens indie releases and videos, as well as their exuberant live shows, eventually generated record-company interest, and in the late 1990s, they signed to Work Group. In the spring of 1999, the group had a surprise hit with the song Steal My Sunshine, which was included on the Work Group-released soundtrack for the teen action film Go. While most thought tracks by No Doubt, Natalie Imbruglia, and Fatboy Slim were to receive the greatest radio play, stations unexpectedly latched on to Len. Everyone was gung-ho about No Doubt, but Len is what really grabbed me, said Aaron Axelson of San Francisco, Californias Live 105 (KITS), as quoted by Bell. Not only is it fresh and connected with a hip movie, the song is a great balancer in a sea of Kid Rock and Korn. Lens profile was further enhanced when MTV and VH1 aired the Steal My Sunshine video on a regular basis.

However, Len could not understand what all the fuss was about. We have a lot of songs like Sunshine, Marc insisted to Harrington. Im not saying that theyre all hits or are going to be hits, but we have 30 songs like that lying around, and that was one we just picked out of a bunch. And it was recorded on eight-track! Thats a really low-quality format to have a Top 40 single on.

Because of the response to the song, Work Group released the groups major-label debut, Cant Stop the Bum Rush, months ahead of schedule in the summer of 1999. A mixture of various genres, the albumalso containing Steal My Sunshinewon high marks from the music press. Highlights from Cant Stop the Bum Rush included the Kraftwerk-style techno track The Hard Disk Approach, the pop/soul ballad Crazy Cause I Believe, and a heavy metal tune featuring an appearance by Poison guitarist C.C. DeVille called Feelin Alright. However, the heart of the album centered on old-school hip-hop. Using the pull of a big label, the group enlisted contributions from original players Biz Markie, who guested on Beautiful Day and Man of the Year, and Kurtis Blow, featured on the track Cold Chillin. Besides Feelin Alright, engineered by John X, who has worked with Ice Cube and Korn, Cant Stop the Bum Rush was mixed in Los Angeles, California, by the Dust Brothers John King, known for his work with the Beastie Boys, Beck, and Hanson.

In October of 1999, Len embarked on a five-week tour of North America. Following the tour, they traveled to the mountains of Nova Scotia in Canada to begin work on a new album by the expanded Len Crew.

Selected discography

Get Your Legs Broke, Four Ways to Rock, 1996.

Cant Stop the Bum Rush, Work Group, 1999.

Sources

Periodicals

Billboard, June 26, 1999; July 31, 1999; October 14, 2000.

Los Angeles Times, September 12, 1999; November 1, 1999.

Melody Maker, December 8-14, 1999.

Rolling Stone, September 30, 1999.

Washington Post, October 8, 1999; October 11, 1999.

Online

All Music Guide, http://www.allmusic.com (March 12, 2001).

Hip Online, http://www.hiponline.com (March 13, 2001).

Len Official Website, http://www.lensite.com (March 13, 2001).

Laura Hightower

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