In Autumn 2005, the three Point Loma High grads of the original Defamation League started their band as a tongue in cheek, horror-core trio.
After releasing their album The Anatomy of Grit-Hop in January 2006, the band was nominated for a San Diego Music Award as Best Hip-Hop Group.
For awhile, the band called itself “the official band of the Bryan Barton for Congress Campaign.” The onetime Arizona Minuteman volunteer hoped to win a 2006 seat to represent California’s 53rd District. “Barton's opponent is [incumbent Democrat] Susan Davis," said singer/guitarist/keyboardist Nick Sleezin (aka Nicky Sleez) at the time, “and she’s sponsored by the Anti-Defamation League, so it seemed like a good fit.”
Barton, a self-described conservative Christian, earned headlines in 2005 for allegedly detaining a Mexican man at the border and forcing him to be photographed with a T-shirt that read, “Bryan Barton caught an illegal alien and all I got was this lousy T-shirt.” Authorities eventually decided that Barton didn’t hold the man against his will.
“We don’t necessarily align ourselves with his political positions,” says MC Khemicle Ali (sometimes spelled Khemical, his real name is Chas Lomack). “I mean, it’s not like we endorse pro-life and shit like that. We think the guy’s cool, though.”
The band was tied to Barton via campaign supporter Steve York, who gained notoriety in 2005 after he used UCSD’s closed-circuit campus TV channel to broadcast video of himself having sex. The controversy that erupted earned York an appearance on MSNBC’s Scarborough Country.
“A lot of the instrumental tracks on our first CD were used in the soundtrack to [York's] porno, Rising Fees and Popping Bs,” said MC/singer Dune Murderous.
York himself says “After my 15 minutes of fame were over, I decided to come back with another production…I wanted something professional and fun.” York, banned from UCSD’s TV studios, said his Stevie Why Productions released a 35-minute DVD that features his skin and the music of Defamation League.
The trio says its “grit hop” is a mix of hardcore and punk guitar with hip-hop beats and lyrics.
“When we [have sex], it’s not to Yanni,” says Ali. “When I think of porn, I don’t want to hear some cheesy ’70s porn guitar track.... If it weren’t for Steve York, I might have taken a job at Legoland or Chuck E. Cheese. Porno shouldn’t be such a taboo. America was founded by Puritans and Quakers and shit like that.”
The band was also involved in a controversy over their scheduled appearance at the 2005 Rock ’n’ Roll Marathon. “We knew we would not be allowed to play, so we decided to take it over and do our own thing,” says Dune Murderous.
The group arranged to set up their own unapproved performance in the parking lot of the Barnett Avenue adult superstore, run by the same company that operates the nudie club Jolar near College Avenue and the nationwide Déjà Vu Showgirls chain.
Porn star and onetime gubernatorial candidate Mary Carey was to appear with them during their show.
When contacted about the plans six days before the event, marathon entertainment director Shauna Buffington was not pleased. “A hip-hop band playing in a porno is probably not appropriate [for the Rock ’n’ Roll Marathon],” said Buffington. “Normally, [unauthorized bands] get shut down.” She said permits are secured by the city for each band to play at each site along the run. “People play in their own front yards, like in Crown Point, and that’s fine. But if they play on public property or at businesses, we’ve made them stop.” She said she wouldn’t necessarily call the cops herself, but she said the authorities are usually successful at getting rogue bands to stop.
Two days before the event, the band and Carey appeared on 91X to talk about their plans. That was a big mistake, says band manager Sam Elhag. “Mary was not supposed to talk about it [on the air]. She was only supposed talk about [another promotional event] we were doing Saturday. Two hours after we were on 91X, the cops came to the store and told the manager as soon as anyone plugged in an amp, the store and everyone involved would get cited. We wanted to continue and move it to the roof, but the bookstore said they can’t take the risk, because of the kind of business they are in.”
Elhag doubts the SDPD issued the warning of their own volition, after hearing the statement on 91X. “Cops aren’t that proactive. They don’t give a crap about this.”
Their 2007 album League of the Living Dead was nominated Best Hip-Hop Album at the 2007 SDMAs.
Defamation League singer/MC Ali, was arrested as part of the 2007/2008 SDSU drug enforcement project. The band has worked around his various legal hurdles. 2008 saw change come to the band with the the departure of MC Dune Murderous.
In 2010, the band released their full-length No Sympathy. As of 2012, the lineup includes Khemical Ali (vocals, trumpet, MC), Nicky Sleez (vocals, guitar, keyboard), J-Remy Martin (bass), DJ Skybeatz (turntables, guitar, vocals, percussion), and Zoomer B (drums).
In late 2012, the OB-based band released three singles previewing an upcoming 2013 album.