By Ashley Zimmerman
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By John Hood
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By David Von Bader
By Sayre Berman
By Steve Brennan
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It's probably not a typical assumption that pirates and hip-hop have anything in common. Rap music started in the Bronx back in the mid- to late 1970s, and by most accounts, pirates — those pesky thieves of the high seas — pretty much faded into obscurity almost a century ago.
But one local crew of musicians sees a common thread that most of us do not. Meet Captain Dan and the Scurvy Crew — five jocular men who have spent most of their lives enamored with all things pirate-related. The group's affable frontman, Dan Dolan, has no problem admitting to his fascination.
"Even when I was a kid and my parents used to take me to Disney World," he says, "I had to go on the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at least twice or I'd cry."
The Boynton Beach resident has spent the past ten years working in studios as an audio engineer and developing a disdain for landlubbing ghetto rappers. He was never a fan of the lyrical content, and eventually, he started wondering if he could do better — especially as a pirate.
"All these rap acts I was recording were hooorrrible," Dolan says during a recent chat. "And I'm like, 'Jesus, everyone is a rapper, aren't they?' Now, at the time, I was no rapper, not even a little bit — but one thing I am is a pirate. I've always been a pirate. So I started to think, 'These rappers are so shitty, I bet I could rap like a pirate and still be better than them'... so I started brainstorming, researching, and writing."
After putting together his Scurvy Crew, consisting of DJ Syko, Sea Dawg, Scott Free, and Aziz, Cap'n D, as he's affectionately known, began piecing together songs. Within 30 days, he'd written, recorded, produced, mastered, duplicated, and shipped his first album, Authentic Pirate Hip-Hop, which helped the band grow into a mini YouTube/MySpace sensation.
"Within the first three months of releasing it, I had 8,000 MySpace fans," Dolan says. "It was a huge response right out of the gate. To put it in comparison, the other bands I'd been performing in my whole life and worked really hard at only had 3,000 friends on MySpace."
The market that the band has managed to tap into is called nerdcore — essentially hip-hop for fun-loving dorks. The possibilities within the genre are endless, and the fan base for nerdcore is growing exponentially.
"I'm actually really popular with nerds," Dolan jokes. He's got a sense of humor about all of this, and with song titles like "Flint Lock Glock," "Black Beard's Treasure," and "Sea Monster," all performed in authentic pirate lingo, how could he not?
As for what comparisons the group sees with modern-day rappers: "It's basically that they had the persona of being gangsters and bad people," Dolan says. "They were gangster in a different era. If pirates were to come back today, they wouldn't be rock stars; they'd be rappers. I'm sure of it. They both love gold and custom hats. They're all about the booty, they have guns and murder people, they got hos, or 'Sallies,' as I coined them. They both make up words and speak in broken English. I mean, the list goes on and on."
As a part of their act, when the Scurvy Crew performs in public, they all dress like pirates, yell "Aargghh" a lot, and party like it's 1492! It's common for folks in the audience to be dressed like pirates as well (eye patches, peg legs, fake hooks) to keep the party atmosphere alive.
Of course, the group's music, on all levels, is corny and ridiculous — almost carnival-like, like a scene out of a Hunter S. Thompson book. That's not to say the lyrics aren't tight, because they are, or that the production isn't taken seriously, because it is. With pure buccaneer swagger, Captain Dan and the Scurvy Crew are more lyrically savvy than a lot of the rappers on the radio today. But if you walked in on their show unsuspectingly, you might think somebody had just dosed you with a few hits of acid and the music group on stage was a figment of your imagination. Judging by the group's popularity however, that's not the case. This music is real, and Dolan doesn't see any reason why the party should stop.
"I think we got great beats, the words are witty and funny, and we're pirates," he says. "In 2006 alone, pirates were a billion-dollar industry, if you count the movies, videogames, bars, et cetera. Pirates are hot right now!"