Saturday, November 29, 2014
Demo Week 2, Day 5: Classic Unknown
Pretty much what you see in the photo is all the info I have on this one. On the tape itself, underneath "Fertile Crescent," it also says "sampler." No date (though I know I picked this up in the late 90s), no label, no phone number with a helpful area code. Just the fact that this is, like any demo, meant to represent a varied sample of the kind of music these guys were making.
BUT, thanks to a couple of the guest artists on this tape, I was able to gleen quite a lot about it, though. Evidently, this is some Pittsburgh shit. That first guy, Davu Ayomi, is a Pittsburgh graff writer and he's described as a slam poet online. But he just rappity raps on here (thank goodness). He blends in perfectly with FC, to the point where I can't even tell which verse is his. And Rhesun a.k.a. Sha-King Ce'hum? He's from the Classic 1824 crew; and he's actually still active - he put out a mix-tape as recently as 2010. It could very well be that Fertile Crescent were part of 1924, or at least a directly connected off-shoot. They certainly have a similar sound and seem to share artistic ideologies.The other guests I don't know; but I can tell you Anna Kalantari is an actual female MC, not a hook singer; and she comes off really well. And Stretch, I dunno; he didn't stand out at all; but that's a good thing when working with artists of this caliber.
So if you like Classic 1824, I'd say this will definitely be up your alley. I mean, I actually liked this a little better than some 1824 tapes I heard... Or, at least, you'd really have to break down the comparison song-by-song. FC definitely has some songs that are stronger, but the reverse is also true.
And if, like most of the world, you've never heard Classic 1824? Because that's actually a pretty obscure, underground reference to expect people to get. I know about them myself because some Pittsburgh guys went to a lot of trouble to document a lot of that history online, including interviews and tape uploads, several years ago. Unfortunately, I think their site's dead now. :/
Well, then, I think they can be best described as a group that completely lives up to the backpacker, underground intelligentsia of hip-hop that most indie groups talked about but never managed to live. it's definitely heady stuff, but despite a couple science fiction related titles ("2001 Space Odyssey" and I'm sure "Strange Days" is meant to reference James Cameron's goofy little sci-fi flick from the 90s), it's not just a bunch of nerdy comic book references strung together. It's real, substantive, and grounded in reality. And unlike a lot of their contemporaries, their stuff has aged well.
And the production is great, too. East coast, indie sounding... think Rebel Alliance, with some nice samples you haven't heard other places. The low budget does show through a bit. I'm sure a major label could've polished a lot and beefed up a few thin moments. But that indie vibe helps as often as it hinders. The only thing they're lacking is some sick Skratch Piklz-style DJ to just go berserk on the turntables at the end of every song. It certainly would've sounded right at home amidst this material.
I really want to give this a strong endorsement and recommend everybody seek it out, except, frustratingly, it's Demo Week. Hard to find is one thing, but this shit's never been released in any public capacity as far as I know. And googling around, I can't find a damn thing about these guys or what's come of them (it doesn't help that "fertile crescent" is a ore-existing phrase, referring tot he area of Africa generally considered to be the "cradle of civilization," so it generates tons and tons of hits that have nothing to do with Pittsburgh rap). So I don't know what I can do here but hope maybe somebody who knows more about these guys, or the artists themselves, might possibly come forward and let the world in on the music they've created by releasing it on the indie tip or something. Anything.
Anyway, a lot of my "Weeks" end on Day 5, but not this one. I'll be coming back one more time, with a known group, and in video so you guys can hear it. It's a group I'm quite fond of, have blogged about a couple times before, and backed by a very major hip-hop producer. Ciao!