Sunday, December 30, 2007

Here I Am, R. A. W.

So here's a cool, seriously overlooked record by an artist who's actually been struggling in the game for, like, ten years now. Raw (Linguistic Ventriloquist) dropped his "Comment #3 (Family Of the Continents)" 12" sometime around 1997 (there's no date on the label, so I'm just working off of personal memory), the only record put out on the label, Tetrahedron (if you sucked at math like I did in high school, I'll just throw ya a quick reminder: a tetrahedron is the three-dimensional shape of a four-sided pyramid… like the ones in Egypt). But it was mad nice, and thanks in part because of that and probably more because of his artistic associations, this 12" managed to make the rounds and got picked up for distribution by Land Speed.

Now, you'll have to go back in time with me a little here. Before Ikon the Verbal Hologram became Vinnie Paz, the embarrassing thug rapper; Jedi Mind Tricks was an exciting new group that had just come out with an incredibly impressive EP and LP. They'd pretty much come out of the blue, totally independently; and while Ikon seemed to be the lead, JMT's releases featured a slew of totally unknown, crazy lyricists with names like Yan the Phenomenon, Apathy the Alien Tongue, El Eloh, Subcon, Shadrach, Chico, Breath of Judah and the The Sun Pharaoh. Who the heck who were all these guys? Damned if anybody knew, but according to the liner notes, a lot of them were members of a crew called The Lost Children of Babylon.

Now again, this is before we were all disappointed by Heavenly Divine and what-not (though the production was hot, I admit - Stoupe actually became an even better producer than we heard on those initial releases) and everything since. And while we're all on the edges of our seats, the next release from any of these cats to come out was this debut 12" from Children of Babylon MC, Raw. I picked it up without even having heard it.

The production (by someone named Paul Ki-D) is cool, kind of simple, a little jazzy… and Raw has a clear, relaxed flow in the vein of Last Emperor. The song is a wild tale of countries and continents personified-cum-political allegory. Here's a sample:

"You see, Europe knew Australia had sex with China,
Who pierced her vagina
Just to be accepted by Australia…
Who's now being labeled a failure by Asia,
Europe and Africa. After
Antarctica received a sex change,
He blamed Europe for it.
See, Antarctica and Europe used to flirt
Until Australia lifted up her skirt.
It broke his heart
To find out his sex partner used to have male private parts.
Drama starts
Between the two; I had an interview
With the Earth last night;
And this is what she said."

Kinda bugged out, huh? The next song on the 12" is more in the vein of what us Jedi Mind Tricks fans were probably expecting… atmospheric production, with Raw performing the lyrics twice, in two different voices overlapped on top of each other (it's not as annoying as it sounds haha). He gets into the really out there, inventive sci-fi/religious lyrical territory as he narrates some essentially freestyle rhymes in the persona of the "Distant Traveler:"

"Intergalactic communication
Implanted by enchanted transcripts,
Engraved in Sanskrit,
Interpreted by…
Crystal translators!
I swarm through the storms
With a crown of thorns as my uniform.
My staff transforms
Into a unicorn,
In search of the promised land…
Guided by the pineal gland.

I built the sphinx.
The reincarnation of Ramses!
Protector of the holy relics,
Born in the subterranean
Level of the pyramid;
My eyelid
Resembles Osiris,
Bearer of the scepter.
My mind is a replica of Mecca.
Egyptian philosophers
Politic in verses with the alchemists.
Archangels walk from the seventh plain."

The final track, "Balancement (720°)" is the jazziest, with a collection of sax and other samples, over a snare-heavy beat. Sonically, he ventures into Raw Produce-type territory, but the lyrics stay advanced, with the heaviest use of multi-syllabic rhyming wordplay. Then, on the B-side, you've got instrumental versions for all three tracks. Definitely a must-have for anyone into that illustrious, innovative scene of independent vinyl that flourished in the late 90's.

Today, you may be surprised to learn, Raw is still doing his thing. He's still with The Children of Babylon, who've put out a couple albums and aren't shy about touting their loose affiliation with The Wu-Tang Clan whenever they can. Raw himself - going by the name Richard Raw - is gearing up to release a solo album soon, sensationalistically titled Rich Raw Vs. Nas… you can read all about it at his myspace. In his "top friends," you can find the CoB's page, which also has links to the other members' pages, so you can catch up on everything they've done since Jedi Mind Tricks severed its ties with them almost ten years ago. Interesting stuff.

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