The dynamic duo from Portland, OR (a.k.a. Razorblade City) who go by the name of Lifesavas – emcee / producer Jumbo the Garbageman and emcee Vursatyl – couldn’t be any more separate in terms of vocal style, point of view and even appearance, yet what they bring as a collective is timeless.
Early on, the two pursued parallel hip-hop careers but promised to eventually work together. When Jumbo’s best friend, one of the emcees that Vurs worked with, was murdered in a gang-related shooting, they had the impetus they needed to finally make it happen; they collaborated on a track inspired by the incident called “Stop the Madness”, and this ultimately led to the formation of Lifesavas. The pair’s initial recorded work ended up on cassettes at local record stores where Chief Xcel discovered the group.
Vursatyl was then invited to tour the world as a part of Blackalicious’ live performance, covering emcee / backup vocals and adding to their sound with his vocal style of lyricism and soulful singing, abilities he honed as a youth, partly in gospel choirs and partly on the streets of Portland. Shortly thereafter, Chief Xcel offered Lifesavas a record deal from Quannum Projects.
Lifesavas released their widely-praised debut, Spirit In Stone, in 2003. Vursatyl and Jumbo’s powerful songwriting over beats provided mainly by Jumbo, with contributions from DJ Shines and Chief Xcel, delivered memorable anthems. The album’s blend of soulful, hard-hitting beats, spiritual consciousness and De La Soul-influenced verbal discourse immediately struck a chord and marked the duo as one of the Native Tongues predecessors. Lifesavas became an immediate live favorite with their captivating showmanship and endless high energy, only paralleled by artists such as Busta Rhymes.
Spirit in Stone quickly rose to classic underground status; the album shot up to #1 on the CMJ hip-hop chart, and singles “What If It’s True”, “Hellohihey” and “Head Exercise” all hit #1 on the CMJ singles chart. The critically acclaimed “Hellohihey” is now considered a hip-hop classic in the minds of many, showcasing Vursatyl’s astounding lyrical ability.
Lifesavas made an explosive impact with audiences during the Quannum World Tour in early 2004, overwhelmingly regarded as a highlight of the sold out shows throughout North America and Europe. They’ve gone on to play around 100 shows a year, crisscrossing the world and further adding to their massive fan base.
While recording the follow-up album to Spirit in Stone, Jumbo and Vursatyl kicked double duty with guest appearances on numerous recordings and independent films, including an unexpected contribution on the Portland edition of the acclaimed Burn To Shines DVD project. Jumbo remixed the Lyrics Born standout “Pack Up”, highly praised by KRS-ONE who collaborated on the track. He produced Automato’s “Walk Into The Light” and scored a track on the soundtrack to The Fast and The Furious: Tokyo Drift. Meanwhile, Vursatyl released Mr.Gusto: The Style Junkie Chronicles was the only featured artist on Gift of Gab’s solo album Fourth Dimensional Rocketships Going Up.
At the core of Lifesavas’ artistry is their passionate commitment to preserving the culture by focusing on lyrical integrity and signature beats. Lifesavas’ vibe is immersed in soul and futuristic funk, with dazzling tag-team rhymes and impeccable production. With each song they recall defining moments in hip-hop history, while also offering a progressive view of hip-hop’s future. Lifesavas’ sophomore album Gutterfly is the embodiment of their passion. The duo’s songwriting skills are showcased in the arrangements of a collection of daring concepts and subject matter.
“With this album we thought ‘let’s just go back to me and Jumbo, the things we liked back in the day, the way it was when we first started out’”, says Vursatyl. "The opportunity was there for us to say something really human with this record. And we tried to use the umbrella of the story to play with identity a little bit – it gave us the freedom to say things we might not have, otherwise”. “Being able to talk about these issues, in character, allowed us to get real free with it”, Jumbo relates. “Vurs calls me the visionary cause I can see things before they happen, when we creatin’ ya know?”. “I thought it would be fly just to jump into this character to show you who I am in my real life, then merge that with the movie script. We ended up doing it backwards, but you still get both sides of the coin that way”.
“Jumbo’s funny, he thinks about everything in reverse”, laughs Vurs about his partner. “Sometimes it’ll be the complete opposite of what I’m thinking, and I’ll just have to pick up on what he’s laying down and go with it. Gutterfly is the story of our deprivation: the ghetto is desolation, it’s poverty, and me and Jumbo have been around each other all our lives, and were like ‘how can we make it up outta here?’ We wanted to do something just for us, something we’d dig, that would make the second record more interesting to do. We threw caution to the wind”.