Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Still In EFEK (2AWK) Interview

Not too long ago, I posted an article called The Definitive 2AWK, on an underrated crew on Luke Records known as The 2AWK. But if you know me, you know that wasn't gonna be definitive enough for me... I was left with questions unanswered, dammit! Not to mention the siren call of compelling, unreleased hip-hop music is notoriously too much for me to resist. So fortunately, I was able to track down 2AWK MC EFEK, who was nice enough to grant me the following interview.

To start with, where are you from?


Well, I’m from St. Louis, the Illinois side. Actually, I grew up in a town called Lebanon, which is about thirty miles east of St. Louis.

And, growing up, was there a hip-hop scene back then?

In St. Louis, there was always a hip-hop scene… it’s kinda changed over the years. I grew up in a very integrated town… we have a large niche of culture because we have military and also there was a large black population. So hip-hop was always in the undercurrent. And that time, when I was coming into my own in St. Louis, they weren’t quite into the bass music yet. They were still more inspired by the New York hip-hop. Then later on you could see it really went more into the Southern style, that bass music type of thing, and that became the predominant type of hip-hop music. But I always aligned myself more with the east coast kind of hip-hop.

Yeah, I mean, despite being on Luke Records, you guys weren’t bass music at all as 2-AWK.


It’s pronounced like "talk." I can actually give you the whole science of how we were given that name.

Okay. You say you were "given" it; does that mean Luke Records came up with "2AWK" [which stood for 2 Average White Kids]?

Yeah, actually they did, and that was on them. Luke wanted us to be, in the record stores, next to 2 Live Crew. His whole thing was marketing, and he figured, if you’re in the record store looking for 2 Live, you’ll see, oh here’s another group on Luke Records, maybe I’ll pick ‘em up. But you were right on with your commentary; we always hated our damn name! It’s weird, because there was six of us, and one of us wasn’t even white (because Baby G is like Mexican and Korean).

[Interestingly, Luke also had a group called Two True on his Hitmen for the 90’s EP… I suppose the reasoning was the same there. He was building an army of 2’s!]

Originally, it was supposed to stand for Too Advanced With Knowledge; it wasn’t too exploitive. That’s what it was supposed to be. But the record comes out, it says, "2 Average White Kids" on there.

And was that one of you guys on the "Psychotic" cover, or just like a model…?


Yeah, I don’t know who that is; he’s not one of us. It was a complete surprise to us when the cover came out like that. Luke really wanted to push the whole white thing. In fact, if you want to point to a reason why we didn’t get support from the label after our record dropped, mainly, we didn’t sound white enough for him. Or his idea of white. We know we were what Professor Griff had in mind. "Cause you know, anytime you see that name Kavon Shah, that’s really Griff.

Oh really? I knew they were both Soul Society, but didn’t realize they were actually the same person.

Yeah, that was an alias used for certain things like publishing, writing credits and also production credits and things like that; but it‘s the same person. In fact, he was the person who came up to us about being on the label. Because after he left Public Enemy. He not only was an artist with the Last Asiatic Disciples, he was an A&R guy.

See, I’ll tell you how we came together. There was three separate entities in the group. There was the two dancers: Boardwalk and Park Place; those guys were from Louisville, Kentucky. Myself and Hype were from St. Louis, Missouri. In fact, he grew up in South City, St. Louis and I grew up on the east side. And we were put together by a guy we met at a studio; he thought we’d be a good blend. We became really good friends and performed together for a couple years before we got into The 2AWK.

And what were you guys known as?

Hype N Effect. EFEK as I became known as was basically from Effect. And that’s how we were billing ourselves, doing little shows. We’d both done things before that… I’m 43, so I got into hip-hop back in the late 70’s. My first… when I used to rap, I’d take Kurtis Blow and The Treacherous Three records - those 33 twelve-inches - and turn ‘em over to the instrumentals… Kurtis always called them the "Do It Yourself Versions." That’s how I learned to rap. ‘Cause I used to DJ and then started rapping parties. I won this contest at a skating rink, and wound up recording with this one guy. We did some real cheesy stuff with this other group of friends I had at the time. And in ‘87, I opened up for LL Cool J - that was my prize for winning this contest. And after that, this guy named came up and asked us to open for The Fat Boys, Salt-N-Pepa and Heavy D & The Boyz. That was The Disorderlies tour, if you remember…?

I remember the movie and all, yeah.

Right, so I opened up two dates for them. I opened up St. Louis, and also Atlanta. The St. Louis one was at the old Keil Opera House here - that was the first really big show that I did. Everything else was just nightclubs and things like that.

And Hype was doing his own thing during that. Hype was probably the most talented of the group, because he was a really good DJ and producer. Mostly he would do the music and I would rap, but Hype’s a good vocalist. The best vocalist of us was Cold Chris, but the one that I would say was the most talented over-all was Hype.

So, what happened where we met Boardwalk and Park Place was, we were at a contest for this soul and hip-hop station here in St. Louis, in the late 80‘s/early 90‘s. And we saw these two guys who were in the contest who drove all the way from Louisville, Kentucky. And I don’t know if you’ve seen pictures, but they would take their hair and they looked like Kid ‘N’ Play. But they could dance, they really could. We were surprised. So they asked us for a demo and we said sure. Then, a few weeks after, we get a call from them saying, hey, you’re probably gonna get a call from Luke Records ‘cause we gave your demo tape to Professor Griff when he was doing a show out here.

And sure enough, next thing you know we’re being flown down to Miami. We met up with them and they gave us two other guys for the group: Chris and also our DJ Baby G. And he was the 1990 DMC champion and 3 in the world. The next year, he defended his title against Q-Bert who won the year after that. He was the US champion, so he was no joke. So we had a good bit of talent there.

Yeah, all of your songs always seemed to feature some nice scratching on them.

Yeah, you really should’ve seen us when we did the New Music Showcase up there; that was really a time when you could see more of G’s skills. He was good and just a real nice guy. He always had some good input and he and Chris were a group, they’d performed together before The 2AWK in Dallas. In fact, I’m not sure if he still does it, but I know for a while he was doing a late night hip-hop radio show in Dallas. He’s an encyclopedia of it, just like most of us are.

So that’s how we all came together. And we all stayed and recorded down there in Liberty City. They were building a new studio at the time in Miami, but we recorded at the old Liberty City place. And that’s the hood of the hood, down there. We stayed at the Howard Johnson’s in Northern Miami Beach, and every day we’d take the van - they’d give us a van - and take the van down to Liberty City. It’s the same studio 2 Live Crew were always at, Poison Clan. In fact, Poison Clan and us were always down there at the same time, and we did shows with them, ‘cause we joined Luke Records at the same time. And then there was also Jiggie Gee. And also, we used to hang out in the studio - I don’t think she ever put out anything with them, but she was down there a lot - Queen Nefertiti, Elijah Muhammad‘s granddaughter. She was down with Professor Griff, so I don’t know if she ever did anything to really be recorded, but she was in the studio a lot, learning her craft.

Did you ever record with any of the other Luke artists? Was anyone meant to be on your album, or you guys on theirs?

Well, we were meant to do a song with the Poison Clan. In fact, a couple times in the studio, we did some stuff messing around with them. There was some talk of Mr. Mixx wanting to put us together. We had this one song, that originally just Hype and I had done ourselves called "Doin’ the Nasty." You remember that old Hollywood Shuffle movie with Robert Townsend, "I like doin’ the nasty?" We did like that and it was a funky beat that Mixx laid down with it. We had dome it ourselves, but he was gonna have us record it with Poison Clan later on, but it never materialized because of everything that went down. Of all the artists, the guys we hung out with the most were Poison Clan.

Was that Poison Clan with Debonaire, or post?

No, no. That was with Debonaire. That was back when they were basically really just starting out, before they blew up. They were on the New Music circuit with us. They were alright guys.

So we got to work with Professor Griff, Hype produced a lot of our stuff, and Mr. Mixx had some cuts. He had some stuff we recorded for our album that was really good. In fact, Mr. Mixx… he was the coolest, as far as I’m concerned anyway. He had the most business sense and he just had a lot more diversity of talent to him. I think we were a good respite for Mr. Mixx, because he liked the opportunity to do something different, You know, he used to have us every Sunday We would go over and his wife Felicia would hook us up with the soul food. He was a nice guy, always treated us well and took us under his wing. Both he and Griff did, but I would say he was the one who cared more and got involved, you know?

But Luke didn’t think too much of our stuff. When it came out and he heard it, he felt it should be more of a…

Like a dance, Vanilla Ice kinda thing?

Yeah, Vanilla Ice was definitely what he wanted, ‘cause Vanilla Ice was blowing up around that time and he really wanted us to sound like that. Luke wanted pop. There was a couple things. First of all, we didn’t have the Vanilla Ice type of thing. And then also, even if we had done a little bass music, we would’ve had half a shot with him, but uh… Professor Griff, he said you guys are good and you underestimate that people will want to hear you guys rap. He was looking for something to be really huge and blow up. That’s what he was looking for, and we weren’t nasty enough or white enough for him I think at the time.

I think Griff got behind us initially because, you know Griff got kicked out of Public Enemy… and you remember Young Black Teenagers, that white group? I think we were gonna be like his competition for them. I really think that he wanted to have us like that because I guess he saw that they were pretty much legit. And thought he’d get some guys. I can tell you who he used to relate to the most of the group was Chris, Cold Chris, because he used to have him writing stuff for the Last Asiatic Disciples.

Oh, really?

Yeah. But anyway, like you say, I guess we could’ve been contenders. I noticed that thing you wrote about "Down To the Nitty," but that was supposed to be corny like that. I’ll tell you why they put out "Psychotic." "Psychotic" was one of the cuts, along with a cut called "Leviathan" and a few others that Hype and I brought down ourselves. We used to do it, and they just added a verse for Chris.

So you guys already had the beat for that? Because it’s credited to Soul Society…


Yeah, actually "Psychotic" was produced by Hype. He is responsible for "Psychotic." That’s his.

Did Griff do any of the beats?

He really more organized things. The truth is, the only one who offered beats in addition to Hype was Mr. Mixx. In hip-hop, production is kind of a messy thing, but I don’t think there’s anything that Griff ever really laid down. He might’ve been there to help and say you might wanna do this or this, but the people really responsible for what the sound was Mr. Mixx and Hype.

So, when you see his production credits on any of your stuff, the music was really by Hype?

Yeah. "Psychotic," "Vacate the Premises" and "Static" was Hype. I mean, it was a combination of all of us, and by then Baby G was more involved; but it was really Hype who put together the beats and everything. He was gifted.

We were actually together until ‘94, but we didn’t really do much after ‘92. Luke gave us our manager… they didn’t even let us have our own manager. It was really wack; there was no way they were gonna let us make any money off the whole thing,. So we didn’t really do anything after ‘92, but we were still under contract with Luke until ‘94.

Yeah, I know in ‘92, Luke put out that Hitmen for the 90’s EP. At that point, do you think he was still intending to put out your album, or…?

He seemed like he was. I think there’s a lot of things that came together. First of all, he had a lot of acts at that time. And also he had just gotten a distribution deal with Atlantic Records. That was huge for him, because he didn’t have nationwide distribution really. In fact, that’s how we got on the Hangin’ With the Homeboys soundtrack. One of the agreements was they were gonna be involved with that project, so he submitted a bunch of music and they liked ours. So he just had so much going on with all that, plus I think he just didn’t know what to do with us.

When you’re signed to Luke Records like you were, would you see Luke much? Like was he around every day, or more or less behind closed doors?


He was around. Not daily, like Griff or Mixx, but once a week or every couple weeks, plus meetings. There was a time, too, where we got in trouble at the hotel. There was an incident with a bunch of water balloons, and some old ladies got hit. We didn’t instigate it, but we were kinda caught in the middle of this party that got out of control. It almost got us kicked out of the hotel, so he dragged us all in front of them, and we blamed Luke.

(Laughs)

But he really wasn’t that hands-on with the music. Like he hadn’t heard what we recording right away. But he was a nice guy and we talked to him, but he didn’t really understand where we were coming from.

We weren’t the best, but we weren’t the worst either. And our best stuff was never heard. There was some stuff, too, that never made the album. But it was probably better than what was on the album. And the messed up part is I wish I had more access to it, at least digitally.

Well, let me ask you: what’s the status with your album and other stuff in the vaults?


Yeah, that I don’t know. I know it was intended to be pressed, because it used to always show up in catalogs. I just don’t know why it never came out; it’s really weird. Because there really were some good cuts on there.

Was it also around the time of MC Shy-D’s lawsuit? Was that part of the problem?

That might have, because I can tell you, too, right after that, Mixx had some huge issues with Luke. And Brother Marquis, too, had issues with getting paid and things like that. I know he had burned a lot of bridges and there was a lot of problems. In fact, the fact that a lot of our stuff was produced by Mr. Mixx, and they were starting to have some issues… that might’ve had something to do with it. But I still think it was the fact that we never fell into a mold that he felt he could work with. His thing was just that he felt like there was a certain way to do things; and if there was controversy, or if it was like an all-out party song, that was his ticket. Because I remember we were up there in the hotel with him at the New Music Seminar… we had performed and gotten really good reviews, you know? He said yeah, but you guys need to get some dance music and talk about some obscene stuff. Then he started us what we had in mind, and it just wasn’t on the same page.

Also, I don’t know if you know Mad Flava…If you know Funkdoobiest, Cypress Hill, House of Pain, that whole crew was all connected. And Hype, Chris and Baby G actually were Mad Flava. There stuff was really good. I don’t know why the Mad Flava stuff never kicked off, because if you ever catch a video or anything, it was pretty tight. And if you know Sylk Smoov, Hype did all of his production for a long time.

I stepped out of it because I kind of saw the scene for what it was, and it kinda lost its appeal to me on that level. I also got to a different spiritual level and cooled my heels for a little while. I don’t know who would have copies of the DATs now. Somebody probably has tapes somewhere, but I just gave up caring a long time ago. It would be nice, but I am 43 now. It’s in the past, but it was a good time in my life. I met a lot of good artists. And just hanging out every day with Professor Griff was like really cool. In fact, I used to cut his hair for him. ‘Cause he likes scissor cuts and I used to do scissor cuts all the time. It was just a cool experience to hang out with him and see how different he is from what his persona is.

I know you’re working in a different field now, but have you ever thought about getting back into it, musically?

Yeah, for a while I actually spent some time doing some nightclub stuff with this guy, we call ourselves Face the Buddha ’cause they call me Paleface now. Anyway, he does Jamaican toasting, it’s pretty fly. And I also do some stuff with this one guy, we call ourselves Phatal Burth, just to do local some local stuff. We had some nice little cuts we could’ve done some stuff with if we wanted to. But I’ve had a family for a while now, and you know I’m a software developer. But I still play around… just the other night, actually, I was at a party where I was on the microphone with a band, freestyling. ‘Cause I still like that, and align myself with that. I still think that whole time period in the 90’s was the pinnacle of hip-hop. I still love the old school, don’t get me wrong, but I just think the late 90’s especially is when hip-hop was at its apex. I just think culturally and musically it’s just reached its summit, and I don’t know if it can ever really go back to that. I’m hoping that there’s a revolution like Chuck D always says and people get back to the roots of it.

Unfortunately, there's not much else out there on the internet about 2AWK; but one of them, Hype, has a Youtube channel which includes some great rare footage of the crew rehearsing and performing. So be sure and check that out.

3 comments:

  1. This is boardwalk from the 2AWK. I have much more info on the group as well as footage on my Youtube page. "erickrassle" is the tag. I also have very rare hip hop videos and live performances of the pioneers of hip hop. i would like to speak to Werner von Wallenrod myself if is possible.

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  2. @Erik - Cool. You can get my e-mail from clicking Contact at the top of the page (nav bar). I tried messaging you on YouTube, but you have it blocked to friends only.

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  3. Damn, Mad Flava??!! That "From Tha Ground Unda" album was pretty tight. It's crazy reading this and all the association to that bass stuff and that mid 90's joint coming out of it haha.

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