Friday, November 30, 2007
(Werner Necro'd) Shadow Government (UMC's interview)
It's 1999. The UMC's hadn't released anything together for five years since the lackluster response to their more hard-core, follow-up album, Unleashed. Kool Kim had made a few waves since then with a guest spot on a spoken word compilation in '96 and a hot independent 12"… but even that was two years past. But I caught up with them in a small studio in New York, working on a new full-length project called Shadow Government.
FG: I'm the artist formerly known as Kool Kim... rather be known as FG: Feel Good, Feel Great. Found God. Fly Guy. It just represents the growth and change... The name is just an attribute to describe who a person is at that stage in their life, so at this stage in my life, I call myself FG because those two letters embody what I'm feelin' at this juncture in my life. And maybe one day I might call myself something else.
Hass: This is Hass G the Phantom of this. The Phantom. It's the new and improved me. It's all good. When we came out with "Time to Set It Straight..." I'm not gonna say I regret comin' out with that joint, 'cause I thought it was hot. I thought it was very hot. And all it did was just, I guess, reflect what we were feeling at the time. And us, in our ignorance, didn't understand that we let emotions take control and blanket our creativity. We weren't able to get that out to the heads and to the fans. We just let the emotional part come out of us and kick it, and that's not what we hit them with first. But, still, I don't regret it; that's just a reflection of how we were feelin at the time. Like this Shadow Government situation is gonna be a reflection of what we're feelin' right now. It's gonna be the bomb.
FG: But you know what I wanna say, to like, expand on that thought? You know, that's what we experienced. And that's one of the greatest things about life, to go through change. And it's sad that in this game of rap, artists are so stagnated that they just have to follow trends or just be whatever it is they were, for however long that's gonna let 'em shine, and then it's over for them. You know, we're growin' people. That's why it's scary. Because if you say that character can't grow and change... That he can't mature... That means that you can't mature in this music and what that means is, what? When you reach thirty or forty, you won't be able to listen to rap no more? You're still gonna like it. You're still gonna be feelin' it. But you gonna grow. I got three kids and a wife. I can't be listening to some of this shit in my house that cats is rockin' now. I just can't go for it, B. I just had a little party the other day for some of the little kids in my community. I had to turn that Funkmaster Flex off, cause there was too much cursin' in it, and I just could not endorse that, be no twenty-seven year-old parent of three kids on the street playin'. You want stuff that's conducive to your lifestyle. So, with that said, when we did that 'Unleashed' album, we were doin' something that reflected that little bit of growth we were goin' through, like Hass mentioned. But, if you listen to the first album, we said, yo, you know, like on the song, "Morals": "The cats that talk about how they know you so well, but they don't really listen, though. Existence is a game of chance, l took my chance, and now I'm winnin'. But, then again, my life is just beginnin'." In other words, there was things to come for us, you know what I'm sayin'? And, in this joint, I go on to say... on the last cut on the first album, I said, "I keep on movin' like the hands of the clock. Persistence is the movement, mechanism will tic-toc. My goals is every number on the clock that fits. And Kim becomes successful when the stroke of twelve hits. It's twelve o'clock now." But it ain't twelve o'clock right now; it's another time now. It was twelve o'clock then. So time is changin'. And in the change of time, I'm dealin' with an all new aspect of life, and I just gotta respect and accept it.
Hass: Personally, I don't think we paid attention to the times. I just think that, at that time, there were a lot of artists that were out there probably frustrated, so we just fit into the same type of situation. And that's why we probably delivered the same type of situation. But, I know, personally, I was really mad. What I delivered, that's what I was feelin'. I just felt, "Rah, rah." I felt, "Fuck it. They can't appreciate any of it, we comin' that other way. Fuck it. I'm hitting them like this. I don't give a fuck no more."
FG: That's the truth, cousin. I'm not Jesus, B. Even when Jesus was getting' put up on the cross, he made his prayer to Allah, like, you know, "I don't wanna dothis." He said it, right before he was gonna be crucified- he didn't wanna do it. And I ain't nowhere near that, so how you think I'm gonna be out hear representin' just positive, and make a whole album full of positive shit, not one curse on the album? Yo, enlightenment, yo sciences. Yo, there's stuff on there that cats still ain't picked up on, 'cause they thought we was clowning. `Cause the devil likes to do that shit. He puts you out there, you be positive, he try to make you look like a clown. So, we was doin' stuff that was positive and people read that as soft and all.
Hass: So, we gave them the same message, but we changed the tone of the message. It wasn't like we were trying to be hard, but it was like. "Yo, son, listen to what we're sayin'." But, like I said, we've moved to the point now, we're gonna bring that message to you in all sorts of forms. Shadow Government rules the world. We just got an understanding of the global situation that we're in and how to take advantage of that.
FG: Yo, I'ma do this thing, break it down, do the knowledge. Boom, '91, UMC's come out, we drop a positive album. Somehow we're made to look like pure idiots. They tried to make us look, in retrospect, like bell-bottom pants or something, you know what I'm sayin'? They'd be like, "Yo, I can't believe that video that they did." But those that listened to the lyrics, had knowledge, were like "Yo, these cats are ill! Did you hear what they were sayin'? They was madd before their time. Listen to the beats. It's phenomenal. Listen to the precision in the beats and the lyrics. It's nuts." Ay-ight. My contention is this. This is what I offer to the rap intellectuals. Ready? '90, '91, '92, the government, the CIA, Counter-Intelligence Program infiltrated rap. I think that was their retroactive move for the next generation after crack. See the whole idea was to get up into rap, change the art-form where a cat... See, I learned the preamble of the constitution of the United Stated off the 'School House Rock' shit. I learned how a bill became a law from off the 'School House Rock' shit. I understood verbs, adjectives, nouns, and I passed tests because of those songs. Now, you got rap, where you're really talkin' out what you're sayin'. I could teach you - I'm a good enough MC, straight up and down - I could write a rhyme and teach you how to do DOS with my rhyme. And, yet, at the same token, though, you hear these rhymes now - it's pure idiocy. Why? Because, somebody, somewhere, decided that shit was not gonna be about nothin'. And what they did was, they leaded kids that was fly and talkin' about real shit and tried to turn them into clowns and appear soft. 'Cause that's what the devil likes to do... likes to make God appear soft. Look at movies, and look at TV, he tries to make the power of evil amaze you so you won't want to have nothin' to do with bein' positive. Make ya think, positive is faggot or sissy or somethin'. I'm not disrespectful to nobody, I'm just sayin' that's the truth. My feelin' is that the government took that over. Why? 'Cause they wanna keep cats ignorant. 'Shadow Government.' 'Cause we in the shadow of this government. The government is actively trying to put us in a situation that we remain the sheople. And I don't wanna be one of the sheople. And we don't wanna be one of the sheople. We cumin' to find projects in Paris, cats in Australia, suffering the same suffering we're suffering, loving the same lyrics we re lovin' but havin` thev same trials and tribulations to the backdrop of a whole other land and a whole other government. But the government still doin' the same things and making us the sufferer's plight, and we understand that and we're bringing that forth now. We ain't glamorous. We're men. We're men and women in this situation, trying to survive and trying to make this happen for ourselves. And that's why Shadow Government rules the world and that's why we're here doin` it. Otherwise we wouldn't be here, 'cause we'd probably be still struggling in the other shit. But we got the understanding. That's why we're in the capacity to say that we're about to rule the world. Because we bring it to the world like the world already got. And what they just need somebody to be the harbinger, the truth of the matter. Basically that.
So, how did y'all get caught up with Wild Pitch?
Hass: Real quick, first we was doing that independent joint thatKim was talkin' about, "Party Stylin"' and "Invaders of My FruitBasket." Off of that, we ran into Premiere and Guru. Then they turnedus on to Wild Pitch, 'cause they were on Wild Pitch. Little did we knowthat they were gettin' off the label when we signed on!
And what was the thinking behind the earlier material like "Blue Cheese?"
Hass: Basically, then, everything was abstract. A lot of the groups that were comin' out were speaking in a lot of metaphors. But they were crazy, they were out of this world. And there was a lot of symbolism and all that type of craziness. And we came with it at the same time, the same thing. So, on "Blue Cheese," we was just basically sittin' around vibin'.
FG: Like the phone call. You remember the phone call?
Hass: I don't even remember that, son. You're gonna have to handle that one.
FG: RNS came up with the skeleton of this beat, and the shit was nuts. Hass hipped me to the beat, we was rhymin' to the beat. Lemme tell you how it was. We'd get on the phone and be writin' the shit. And we were like, "How were we gonna come with it? This beat is so banging, kid, we gotta just flow over this, cousin. All we gotta do is just flow. Just call this shit, 'Blue Cheese' on 'em!" (Hass laughs) He was like, "What?" I was like, "Word is born, we're gonna call it 'Blue Cheese.'" "What's it gonna mean?" Well, blue is sad, and cheese is you frontin'. You're sad 'cause you're frontin'. Something about what you're Join' is frontin'. What you're doin' is not proper. And then we started, 'cause we're educated, we got knowledge of self, we started buildin' on it and buildin' on it to the point where it just manifested into, like...
Hass: Anything that's wack...
Hass: "Get out, get out, I don't love you no more."
Do you feel you lost the ability to appeal to the kids then, in `93, when you came out with 'Unleashed?'
Hass: I don't know what I felt back then. My mind was twisted. I was just, like, traumatized by the fact that it didn't do what I thought it was gonna do. I'm like, "Damn! Off of the first good album, and we come out with this, and it don't do?" After that I was like, "Yo, I have no understanding of the business. None whatsoever." We just fell back. I couldn't answer that. I couldn't call it. Was it because we changed, or...? "No, it couldn't be because we changed. Because motherfuckers like real people. We were bein real." Well, I was like,"We was bein real, but our shit ain't sellin'." What was the deal? "Yo, son, I don't know." That was it. I heard that (about tryin' to be too hard), but, then, again, at the same time, when everything else that was still sittin' in our genre came, it all failed, too. So, you can't say it was because they changed. Because what if we didn't change and we still did that? So, nobody ever knows. You don't know that. It wasn't because we changed. I mean, we did come with a different thing, but it's not because of that. We don't know what it was. And there were quite a few people that all had nice hot albums and didn't come back. Second time around - no good. That's because the industry said, "Boom. Check this out. I made my money off of you this first time around. Right now we're just gonna put you to the side. We don't need you. We can't use you no more. We're gettin' ready to change the whole direction of this year and, frankly, you just don't fit in." That's what it was.
FG: A lot of them cats just comin' back just now.
Hass: A lot of them cats just on their way back right now. Why? Because it's just evolution. It's all evolving; it's coming back. What was, comes again, B. And now, we're coming in a different light.
FG: A very different light, B. Now we're in a whole new... What? We're decade awav? A lot of shit in ten years has happened, son. The first joint we did was back in...'88. '88 or '89 we did, "Invaders of My Fruit Basket" and "Party Stylin'." We were always on some avant-garde shit... just be about something else. We just wanted to be different, have a good time. Not even so much want to be different, 'cause we're different, B. Because we're not scared, cousin.
Hass: This feels ill, to talk about our return. I have shit under my belt that we can talk about. "Yo, I was out before."
FG: Gettin' ready to come back!
Hass: 'Shadow Government' gonna touch them.
Didn't you have a DJ named Kid Magic back in the day?
FG: We still do. He's still down. I'm about to go out to Columbus, Ohio, and lamp with him in a minute. He just bought a house.
Is he gonna be on 'Shadow Government?'
FG: Yeah, he's part of the Shadow Government. Shadow Government in Ohio.
Hass: All those murderous cuts that he had, back then... What you think he's got now, for the future?
FG: And he's doin' production... He's got a studio out in Columbus Ohio, now, so he's doin' well. No doubt. We're about to go out there and we're gonna make that connection. The thing about 'Shadow Government' isn't about "me and my man." The Shadow Government is the sufferer's plight.
Hass: We are the rebel force that's about to come through. Representing like that. We're about to go, break them down. I feel like that. Mark my words, son. I'm gonna have the whole show goin', "Shhh..." That's representation right there. No music, just "Shhhh...."
So, Hass, are you still rhymin' at all? Or have you sort of hung it up for the production?
Hass: Uhhh.... Good question.
Because I noticed you weren't on any of the 'Shadow Government' tracks you were playin'.
Hass: No doubt, good observation. I didn't hang it up. My whole thing is I just learned a couple lessons out of life and I reevaluated a lot of things. I figure first time I came through, maybe that wasn't my nature, then. Maybe I didn't find my real foot yet. This time comin' around, there's a lot of chemistry happenin' with me rockin' beats and gettin' 'em out to people. I got something on Busta's joint, you know what I'm saying. That was the thing that "boom!" gave us the inspiration to go like, break down this door....But, back to the point of me rhymin' again, I gotta just wait `till my shit is sharp. And there ain't no harm in just waitin' it out like that, 'cause we got so much other shit that's about to blow.
Well, as you now know, Shadow Government never did wind up coming out (it's too bad, too… I heard some of what they were working on and it was hot), but Kool Kim at least, did finally manage to reinvent himself successfully. And as for the UMC's as a unit, well, they have some new tracks up on their myspace, so all is not lost. And with all this previously unreleased hip-hop that's been coming out this year, maybe there's a chance for Shadow Government still to see the light of day.