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Custom Made

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Diverting from the G-funk blueprint followed by many West Coast rappers, Los Angeles street-rap outfit Custom Made draw their inspiration from the cold, grimy soundscapes of East Coast groups like Mobb Deep and the Wu-Tang Clan. And like many New York hip-hop acts, the five-man crew earned their keep dishing out their own grimy, hardcore mixtapes, selling over 100,000 units within only a few years of their formation. Still teenagers, four out of the five original members -- Sinister Six (Michael Brown), Bluff (Briceson Loving), Element (Oliver Johnson), and Skandalous Scoobs (Aaron Umanoff) -- founded the group in their high school in L.A.; fifth member Aneek (Charles Newton) officially joined the crew later in 2002. While still high schoolers, they offered their first straight-to-street album, L.A. State of Mind, in 2004. The following year, they stepped up their mixtape hustle with a string of more mixtapes and gained popularity particularly with their Street Cinema series. But, with the arrival of the series' third installment, Street Cinema 3: The Blackboard Jungle (2006), Custom Made enjoyed their most success and began receiving many offers from several labels. Brushing off the majors, they decided to go the independent route and chose to sign with Babygrande in 2006. That same year, Babygrande issued Sidewalk Mindtalk: The Best of the Custom Made Mixtapes, a synopsis of their best seven mixtapes plus some newly recorded songs. Their proper debut album was intended to be released very soon after their signing, but was delayed for a few years because the project's architect, Sinister Six, landed in jail for counterfeiting. The material was then converted into the Truth Be Told EP, which was released digitally by Rawkus in 2007. Their Babygrande debut, Original Dynasty, finally appeared in 2008. ~ Cyril Cordor

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Los Angeles, CA

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