Local Band Vokab Kompany Talks Hip-Hop Origins and Their Love of San Diego

Robbie Gallo and Matt “Burkey” Burke are the Duo Behind Vokab Kompany

Written By: Jordan Ligons
Photographed By: Nick Isabella

With a little over a decade of upbeat, funky, hip-hop and electronic music under their belt, the “two-headed monster” that leads the live band Vokab Kompany isn’t slowing down anytime soon. MCs/singers Robbie Gallo and Matt Burke, aka Burkey, came together first on Robbie’s Liquid Language album where a mutual friend felt like they were a match made in hip-hop heaven. Robbie spilled on a possible re-release on that rare-to-find album as sort of a 10-year anniversary gift to us (praise hands emoji). Since, our eardrums have been blessed with albums like The New Kong, VKCE and The Good Kompany and collaborative singles like “Back to the Past” and “Burn It Down” notably known for being the soundtrack to Kia Optima and Southern Comfort’s national commercials.

“Everybody’s been so supportive of us in all of our communities and that’s kind of why this thing has had legs for so long,” says Burkey about the ebb and flow of fans up and down the coast from San Diego to Washington. Here in SD, radio station 91X FM, San Diego Music Awards and Music Box have been in their corner all along. “We’re a little social phenomenon of NorCal meets SoCal. We’re just really grateful at this point that we’re able to do this for so long. We’ve been able to climb new goals and that’s really rewarding within itself,” adds Burkey.

But before there was Vokab Kompany, there was Lake Tahoe’s “Rapping Robbie” winning rap battles at 12, who was a product of the Bay Area Hyphy Movement, and young Boston-born Burkey sitting on his mom’s coffee table nodding along to Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder. Music was imprinted on them at a very young age and it stuck. Burkey recalls memories of a 1984 “I Feel for You” Chaka Khan concert and a Beastie Boys Licensed to Ill experience in ‘87 to what fueled his love for hip-hop. Robbie was naturally drawn to the genre for the drums, the rhythms, the East Coast word-play versus West Coast beats and for the culture.

As we know from hip-hop history, the rhymes have reflected what was currently going on at the time—whether that may be police, people in power, or politics altogether. Vokab Kompany aims to do the same with their upcoming seven-minute single “Politrix”: “This is a crazy ass time right now,” says Burkey. who is “losing his mind” and in a can’t-believe-it attitude with the current news cycle. “I literally felt cleansed from this song after I wrote it. For me, it was therapy.” The soon-to-be-released track includes two other local MCs, gangsta rap artist Mitchy Slick and local poet Alfred Howard, to spit on systematic oppression and other reality-driven topics. “It’s cool that we have this medium as an artist to express ourselves,” Robbie said and Burkey chimes in, “I’m so proud of this song; it’s so focused. Not one word is out of place.”

Vokab’s most recent show at Music Box in November was surely a crowd pleaser; people were movin’ and groovin’ all night long. With half their set dedicated to their love and admiration for Outkast, this marks their second run with remixed beats of their idols. In 2015, Vokab teamed up with Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe for a funkified Run DMC tribute tour (yes, adidas sweat suits and all) and that’s what sparked the idea for a “Hey Ya!” show.  “We’ve been able to stick it out, through all of life’s trial and tribulations,” Robbie says about his partner-in-crime Burkey. “It’s been cool; a journey for sure.” This traveling, Spotify-sharing, best-friend, dynamic duo seems like they’re in this forever, forever ever, forever ever.

Rapid Fire

Dream Duo to Link up With: Outkast
Favorite Place in SD to Grab a Bite: Sandwiches from Rubicon Deli
Last Song Played on Your Spotify: Mickey Slick’s “Gas”
Looking Forward to in 2018: Primal Energy EP, a personal project that will be a fun and a different style than what they’ve ever done.

Band Together: Vokab Kompany’s Live Band Members

Tyler Olson (Drums)
Geoff Nigl (Keyboards)
John Avery (Sax)
Richard Galiguis (Bass and Guitar)

Native Knowledge: Based off their first album The Big Kong, Vokab has branched out into the apparel realm of creating hats and t-shirts to spread their “big sound” with a larger-than-life Kong symbol inspired by the San Diego Zoo. “Who doesn’t love a gorilla listening to music with big headphones on?” Robbie asked. I know I do!

Vokab Kompany@vokabkompany

Photoshoot Location:
Music Box
1337 India St
San Diego, CA 92101

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