When you speak of underground Hip Hop acts from the city of Brotherly Love, you usually hear about The Roots, Bahamadia, Jedi Mind Tricks, DJ Jazzy Jeff the Fresh Prince.  You could probably hear them all name dropped in the same sentence.  Rarely does anybody mention the ground breaking trio that surfaced in the late 90's known as the Mountain Brothers.  These dudes were lyrically skilled and had quality production but the three man crew (Chops, Styles Infinite and Peril-L) had a hard time climbing the mountain known as the music industry. As the first Asian American Hip Hop group signed to a major label, the Chinese American trio were discriminated on behalf of ignorant label execs and a Hip Hop audience blinded by stereotypes.  It was hard for most people to overlook the yellow skin...and it still is.  Just read some of the disgusting comments on their Youtube videos.  So way before Jin was being called Mr. Miyagi on 106 & Park, the MB's were the first to really pave the road for Asian Americans to grab a microphone.


The name comes from an old Chinese legend of these three bandits who lived on a hill. Each one had their own special powers. Much like the legend, the concept embodied the 3 MC's. Chops, Styles Infinite and Peril-L were each gifted with lyrical styles that can't be duplicated. Each member had their own unique voice, style and ability to trade verses on tracks like seasoned veterans. Inspired by artists like Isaac Hayes, Bob James and Curtis Mayfield, Chops doubled up on duties as the beat provider. With respect to those who dig in the crates and chop samles, Chops chose to provide the crew's jazzy soundscape by playing his own instruments along with a little help from an ASR-10 for sequencing. And the forumula works. It's no question as to what attracted listeners. Just listen.

In 1996, the MB's made a demo tape and entered a National Singing Contest sponsored by Sprite. Everybody knows that Sprite used just about every Hip Hop act you can think of (From Pete Rock & CL Smooth to the Wu Tang Clan) to sell their lime flavored soda in the 90's. I remember trying to record all of them on cassette and VHS!


The Mountain Brothers ended up winning the contest. The reward? a chance to record a 60 second radio commercial. This is how the world first heard the MB's. I still remember when I heard the commercial on the radio and thought to myself..."damn, these guys are real dope!" The radio appearance was huge for the crew. The spot caught the attention of Ruff House Records who went on to sign the group in 1997.


At first, it was good news to be label mates with groups like The Fugees, Cypress Hill, Psycho Realm and others. After recording their first album titled Self Vol. 1, the label felt that marketing the Chinese threesome wasn't going to work out.  The label even suggested for them to dress them up as Ninjas while doing Karate on stage to embrace their "Asianess."  They thought rhyming ninjas would be a good way to sell them.  This is when the relationship between the label and the trio started to fold.  Despite being Asian, they didn't rhyme about that. Their first single "Paperchase" posed the question "Why does everything evolve around the penny?" "Galaxies" was a track about blowing up and rocking throughout the universe.

I mean, these guys were real MC's with something different to say and the skills to do it. Riding in on a gimmick wasn't an option. In fact, rhyming about their ethnicity was something they avoided completely. They were careful about their presentation. Doing so made it possible for them to be judged on the behalf of their music and not the color of their skin. Due to the artistic differences with the major labels, the MB's decided to go the independent route.


Going independent was a good choice for them. They were one of the first to level the playing fields in the late 90's by using the internet to expand their brand. Opening up for groups like A Tribe Called Quest, video appearances on MTV and building a loyal fan base were just some of the MB's accomplishments. They went on to gain respect from the Hip Hop community worldwide and til this day are given mad props for their craft. Self Vol. 1 is arguably a classic.  There are still folks that deny their music but there's no question that the tape was dope for a lot of people. There's really no debate there. We only got to hear two more albums (Triple Crown & Microphone Phenomenal.) from the group before they each moved on to bigger things. Styles Infinite and Peril-L have both entered the medical field and are now doctors.  Chops is the only one actively doing music. He went on to produce his solo album Virtuosity in 2003 while working with Bahamadia. He continues to rack up credits behind the boards. Acts like Kanye West, Bun B, Young Jeezy and Chamillionaire have hired Chops for his services. It doesn't end here. Word around the campfire is that a new Mountain Brothers album is in the works.  Will the climb back to the top be too steep for them this time?  Til the next episode!



  1. greetings from the philippines. i did came upon your site a bit while as i am searching for other people who are still into cassette tapes and to top it all hip hop tapes. i instantly become a reader and a fan of strictly cassette. see, i also do a blog that covers some of my collection. drop by if you have time. i have a broad taste to music from hip hop, hardcore punk, indie, rock and roll etc. maybe you'll get turn off by that? i hope not. anyway this post about mountain brothers is really well done and informative. since i can't have the physical copy of their album i did take the lame route which is downloading in the internet to listen to their music. that's all for now. this is joab by the way. i also hope you can feature more people to talk about their cassette tapes collection that is really good.

    1. Strictly Cassette6.1.13

      Dope! Thanks for the shout!

  2. Anonymous6.1.13

    The Mountain Brothers are still the Truth. They breathed so much creativity, virtuosity and energy into hip hop. Glad that Chops continued to shape hip hop over the years but I am proud that the MB crew has reunited. Their flows and tracks were meticulous and still stand the test of time. I look forward to it. --Real Time African

    1. The Wigsplitta6.1.13

      Thanks for checking it. I agree. They took their craft very seriously and raised the bar during that time!


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