Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Learn Along With Werner, part 9: Ko Lute & LSD

When I interviewed Mytee G Poetic not too long ago, he was surprised I was a fellow Jerseyan.  In fact, people often assume, based on my Hip-Hop moniker, that I'm actually an Austrian or German, if not Latverian, who grew up loving Hip-Hop culture from far afield.  In fact, what I don't know about German Hip-Hop, to use an NJ expression*, can just about fit in the Grand Canyon.  But when the opportunity came along, learning more sure sounded like fun.  If you think so, too, why don't you join me?

Up until now, I was only vaguely familiar with LSD, a long-running group that got their start all the way back in the 80s, existing.  I think I heard one or two songs... I used to have a compilation of Hip-Hop from around the world, with one song from each country, where the USA's crew was De La Soul Does anybody remember this?  I looked and it's not on discogs.  Anyway, I think LSD might've been on there.  I've definitely heard one or two of their early songs, but that's it.

So LSD stands for Legally Spread Dope, it's a 4-man group consisting of lead MC (and later producer) V.O.C. Ko Lute, producer Future Rock, DJs Rick Ski a.k.a. Black Vinyl Master and Defcon.  They released their first 12" in 1989, "Competent," and the full-length Watch For the Third Rail followed in 1991.

A major potential concern right off the bat with exploring any German rap is the language barrier, but happily everything we're about to look at, apart from the rare vocal sample, is entirely English-friendly.  With that said, though, I should probably give a quick warning about accents.  Ko Lute and co. aren't hard to understand... or, well sometimes actually yes, but less so once you've trained your ear to recognize words even when they don't stress the expected syllable.  And no, our guy doesn't sound like Colonel Klink or anything; but I've had enough schoolyard debates about rap music to know that a lot of state-side listeners would tune out as soon as they heard the non-native voice.  So to the stubborn stick-in-the-mud traditionalists - it's cool; you know who you are - just bear that in mind before I talk you into investing in a ton of these records.  But there's no way even the staunchest of you could deny this incredible production.

The projects I'm looking at today can be pretty cleanly divided into three eras, starting with Third Rail that contains most of their late 80s and early 90s material.  It has exactly the kind of sound you hope for when discovering something new from that time period.  You'll recognize a couple samples on this one... "Change the System" uses the same main loop as 2nd II None's classic "Be True To Yourself."  And "Watch This Event" uses the Soul Searchers sample made famous in TDS Mob's "Dope For the Folks," though in this case they add some extra spice with new sax.  Yeah, one really interesting note is that several of the songs feature live saxophone, you know, like Mix Master Spade's "Sexy Lady."  Most of it's done by their own guy, Martin "Junkie" Adrian, but "Watch" features Maceo Parker!  But most samples you won't recognize, or if you do, they'll just be little pieces or classic vocal samples used to concoct tight, original compositions.

The bio in their first CD booklet cites The Bomb Squad and Ced Gee as key inspirations, but I've been around too long to get excited over that kind of thing.  Too many artists wind up just duplicating superficial trademarks or make sloppy sound-alike tracks.  But these guys have their own sound, that's at once polished and raw, an action-packed collage of top choice samples and killer scratching, intricate and carefully constructed.

So Watch For the Third Rail was released on CD and LP on Rhythm Attack Productions in 1991, but I referred to it containing "most of their late 80s/ early 90s material" because the version I've got is a 2008 reissue called The Dope Beat Edition 2CD and 2LP on Melting Pot Music.  It adds all the instrumentals, and a bunch of bonus tracks, including several that were originally exclusive to their vinyl singles: the original version of "Competent," their 1991 single "Mind Expansion," "Offense Of the Dope Overlords" from their I Don't Care a Rap EP, etc.

And actually, technically, that '91 EP was their last record.  But they kept making musically separately, and Ko Lute and DJ Defcon continued to work together as LSD Proton.  They had an EP in '93 followed by a sci-fi themed instrumental album in 1998 entitled The Galactic Adventures of Captain Kolute, surely inspired by Dr. Octagon and the like... though it's worth pointing out this preceded Deltron 3030.  Yeah, Ko Lute's not rapping here, but he's taken up the main production duties.  And there's not much cutting on this one, though Defcon is credited with mixing.  If the cosmic vibes of the production don't sell you enough on the concept, there's a track-by-track story you can read along with in the booklet.  So, when songs like "808 Lightyears From Home" or "Virgins of Zephyr" don't sound as spacey as you might expect, you can read up that it's because Zephyr is the planet Captain Kolute and the crew of his ship, the Heart of Wisdom, stop to look explore where beautiful virgins bask in the suns and ensnare men.  It's like a little opera, apparently made with a comic artist named Tatsuya Sekimoto?  The credits are pretty vague, though they do cite an "Asian story-translation" in the booklet.

Tying the old and new together we get "Relaxation '97," an expansion of a short instrumental track from Watch For the Third Rail.  And to tie that to the even newer, we got a "Relaxation '98" on their next album, Flash Back: The Return Of the Allschool, where Ko Lute is back on the mic, and Defcon gets full co-production and credit.  Most importantly, he's back on the turntables; the cuts on these albums are one of the strongest elements and were sorely missed on Galactic Adventures, so this is an extremely welcome return.  Even Adrian is back to blow some more sax.  And my favorite song on Galactic Adventures wound up getting vocals here (though they don't tie into the story of The Heart of Wisdom).  The tracks are a little slower and calmer compared to Third Rail, you can absolutely feel the later 90s influence, but it does make Lute's rhymes easier to track, though I'm not sure if that's the tempo or just him relaxing into his skills.

There's still a slightly offbeat feel to the rhymes, though, betraying that English probably isn't Lute's first language.  Like "Keepers Of the Funk" starts out, "Yes, I'm in a gumbo, when I see Defcon deliverin' his new rare grooves with a jumbo to feed my power tool called the TX, which I depose on any 4 the 5 the rex - with the flavor the Ko put in for those who chew our wax."  And okay, I get that the TX is a sampler (I think!) and the gist of what he's saying about Defcon laying down the dope grooves for Ko to rhyme over.  And making gumbo is the metaphorical aspect where Defcon's combining musical elements and Ko's adding the lyrical flavor.  But when you're just sitting there listening to the album, it's hard to parse the syntax without seeing it written out like this.  Is he just saying "the rex" like he's the king, or...?  I'm still not sure.  Fortunately, they print out all the lyrics in the booklet, so that really helps.  It always sounds good, but I'd often pause like, waitaminute, what is he saying?  And quickly look it up.  I wish Third Rail's booklet had that.

Anyway, "Mad Scientist" is a stand-out track with fresh samples, smooth cuts and some of Ko Lute's most engaging deliveries, and the title track has one of the nastiest instrumentals, cutting up the "Slaaaaaaaave" scream from DJ Chuck Chillout and Kool Chip's classic single.  The DJing is super proficient on all these projects ("Competent" was always selling themselves a little short,  haha), but he really steals the show on this album.  "Defcon Goes Excalibur" is a sick DJ cut in the tradition of "Behold the Detonator" and "Premier In Deep Concentration."  But some of the other songs on here drag a little.  90s enthusiasts may prefer this whole album, but I'm not sure it quite reaches the hyper heights of their first era.  The slower pace of songs like "The Forgotten Poet" don't do him any favors in my opinion, although it does introduce a kind of cool, west coast jazzier element to their sound.  I don't know, it's probably just a matter of personal preference; I like the earlier, more kinetic stuff.

The Galactic Adventures is CD only, but Flash Back is available on both CD and double LP, the latter of which includes some bonus remixes on the fourth side.

Happily, though, this isn't the all too common tale of a slow decline, because I think the third era might be the best yet.  We Came To Dominate is a brand new, 2022 Ko Lute EP on Sounds Dope Records, this time in collaboration with Maze and DJ NAT.  The previous booklets really helped you out with detailed credits, but the label here leaves us guessing.  Ko Lute and Maze seem to be sharing MC duties, and NAT is presumably doing all the cuts, but as for the production, is it all Ko Lute, or...?  Who knows.  But it's all great, whoever actually did what.  "Slay Ride" is the most hardcore and yet impressively able to make use of its holiday-themed titular pun without coming off corny.  It's actually a great Christmas rap record!  My favorite track, though, is "1,2,3... Forget It," which has a dark, ominous UBC-style instrumental, but makes great subtle usage of the guitar samples from Magic Mike and MC Madness's "Dynamic Duo" and Professor Griff's "Pawns In the Game," plus a ton of hype cuts and some of the most energetic deliveries by both MCs.  I loved every second of it.

This 12" EP is comprised of four songs, plus two instrumentals, though two of the songs are shorter, mostly instrumental tracks anyway.  There are actually additional instrumentals and acapellas on their digital version, but the full version of "Our World of Hip-Hop" is only available on the vinyl.  If this is your first introduction to Ko Lute and Co. and you want to jump in (which I recommend!), I'd suggest this EP or The Dope Beat Edition of Third Rail.  But it's probably going to make you want to collect all the rest of their stuff regardless.  It has for me - at least whatever else is in English.  I'm glad I took this educational dive, but I fear for my wallet whenever I do this.


*I don't know; I heard Kevin Smith use it in Chasing Amy or something.

Wednesday, April 13, 2022

What, You Thought Natural Elements Would Release a New Record and I Wouldn't Cover It?

Natural Elements are back with a new album.  Even though they first came out in 1994, this is almost kind of their first full-length album, if you want to get kind of arbitrary and pedantic about how you count 'em.  You know, if you were super strict about discarding EPs and compilations.  My point is: we don't get nearly enough from these incredibly talented guys, especially all working together, so it's a big deal when this happens.  A full-length album of all new music by the full crew on vinyl (and CD).

That also puts them in a tough spot.  By releasing just the rare killer 12" every once in a while, and continually re-releasing their best known songs, it kind of puts them in competition with their greatest hits.  Your average artist may release an project every year or two, and we look at it and say, okay, this one's a little better than their last one, or maybe a slight step backwards or whatever.  But when I first put this one on the turntable I'm asking myself how it's going to hold up against "Paper Chase" and "Magnetic."  It's not a deliberate challenge I'm posing; you just can't help it.

So honestly my first listen was just a relief that the magic is still here.  The slick way they ride the rhythm, the clever way they pack complex and original series of rhymes into their bars.  The same way they got you geeking off of their style on tracks like "Lyrical Tactics" and "2 Tons" they do here.

Not that it's a total surprise.  They have been releasing dope music online and various side/ solo projects.  So it's not like we haven't heard from these guys since their heyday and we're wondering what they were capable of now.  In fact, that's largely how this album came about.  The title is Death Comes In 3s, well partially 'cause there's three of them, but really because they've been releasing a series of 3-song digital EPs.  Three EPs.  And now that they've put them all out, they gathered them together into one complete LP.

Another thing that makes a great Elements record, of course, is their production.  They're brilliant MCs, but the fact that they keep marrying their flows to the seemingly perfect tracks is essential.  And thank goodness, that's back, too.  About half of it is, yes, produced by Charlemagne, who's been behind them for so long, so consistently, for all their greatest hits that I honestly feel he's the fourth member.  So I would've been pretty bummed if he wasn't on board here.  In fact, it's a slight disappoint that he only produced half of these tracks, leaving the rest to be handled by relative unknowns J. Armz, Haydn3000, Joe Nights and GxBxT.  But it's only slight, because these guys manage to live up to the expectations Charlemagne set for them.  Joe Night's "Royalty" feels like a traditional NE track, and while Haydn3000's "We All Kings" and his Wu-Tangy "Feel" do have a different vibe to them, they're still really good, and bring a slightly less polished, street energy back to the crew that they used to have back when KA was a member.  Though I'm glad they let Charlemagne close it out with "Cream Of the Crop," which even with an R&B-sung hook really brings back their pure sound.

Not that it's all pure perfection.  There's the occasional creaky punchline like, "she treated me like a Garbage Pail Kid.  (How's that?)  She blew my head off."  "#Tribevibes," a track dedicated to A Tribe Called Quest, using some of their famous instrumentals, is a cool, fun track.  But they don't do Tribe as well as Tribe did Tribe, so it makes you just want to go back and listen to their originals.  So it's an amusing experiment, and fine as album filler, but comes off a little neutered compared to NE doing their own thing on all cylinders.  Honestly, that's one they could've left on Youtube and given us a crack at something like "Competition is NoNE" on vinyl instead.  But oh well.  It's still a good song, I can't really complain.

So this is a nine track album, but the physical versions include bonus tracks.  Both the vinyl and CD include the most exciting one, "Vroom (NEMix)."  "Vroom" is a Swigga solo track he released back in 2017, and just included it on his latest solo album, Sunset Mindset (which Hip Hop Enterprises has also released on both CD and vinyl).  It's a heavy Charlemagne track, and this remix uses the same beat, but turns it into a posse cut with all three Elements getting busy on there now.  I remember being excited by it when they first put it out online, and I'm excited to finally have it on vinyl now.

Then the CD also has one more bonus track, "DroNEs."  This one has them spitting over "Clones," one of The Roots' hardest hitting instrumentals that proved they were more than just a short-lived flash in the pan back in '96.  When I first heard about it, I thought it might be another dedication song like "#Tribevibes."  Then A-Butta starts it off sounding like it's going to be a topical song about paranoia and surveillance.  but in the end, it breaks down into just three freestyle verses.  That's okay, though, because these guys flexing skills over a great Hip-Hop track is more than enough.  But it's one of those where you also don't feel like you've missed the boat if you copped the vinyl instead of the CD.

Hip Hop Enterprises is behind the two versions, both of which are limited.  There's only 350 copies of the CD and 500 copies of the LP, which is split into 150 split black and white (white) vinyl, 150 black and white (white) splatter vinyl (exclusive to HHV.de) and 200 classic black.  All three come in a full picture covers with hand-numbered stickers.  Mine is #94/200.  Overall, it might not quite reach the peaks of its singles, but I'd say Death is even stronger than their unreleased Tommy Boy album, and as much of a must-have for any proper Elements fan.

Friday, April 1, 2022

Kowebunga! The Original Ninja Turtle Dance Rap

If you were a kid in the 80s or 90s, you're more than familiar with the smash hit "Turtle Power" Hip-Hop theme song to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movies.  And, of course, Vanilla Ice scored one of his few post-"Ice, Ice Baby" hits with "Ninja Rap" from the sequel.  The third one had a song called "Turtle Jam" by house rapper Loose Bruce.  More recently, Juicy J, Wiz Khalifa and Ty Dolla $ign recorded "Shell Shocked" for the Michael Bay reboot.  Oh, and one of the animated movies also had a rap song called "Shell Shock" by the NY band Gym Class Heroes.  But before all of that, there was an earlier ninja turtle rap, an unauthorized entry into the canon: Jonny Chingas' "Kowebunga."  Yes, this is an April Fool's Day post, and yes this is a silly record, but this is real.

Jonny Chingas is behind half a billion records or so over the decades out in California.  Most of them were self-released on his own label(s), but they were occasionally picked up by CBS, UA or Columbia.  He started out in the 60's, releasing stuff under his real name, Rulie Garcia and a variety of band names.  As you can safely surmise, none of this was Hip-Hop.  But for the 1980s, and into the 90s, he came up with a new persona: Jonny Chingas.  As Chingas, he started releasing a lot of disco/ techno music, and he slowly worked his way towards actual rap.  He had an LP in 1984 called Break Pop Lock, which is obviously leaning into breakdance and street music, but he still wasn't really rapping much.  "Hey Mother F*****r" is sort of a proto-rap about getting pulled over by the police, and he was using vocoders and everything.  So it was only a matter of time.

Oh, and lest I forget to mention, A lot of his material is dirty, humorous stuff (even his earlier material consists of songs like "Horny Lover," "Hairy Situation" and "I'm Horny"), so it all kind of dovetailed into a natural fit by the mid 80's when many of his records had become definitively Hip-Hop.  He had a song in 1986 called "Night Stalker" where he was rapping pretty slick about, you guessed it, Richard Ramirez.  1988's "Mini Truck Lover" is a Miami bass-influenced sex rap with lines like, "she pulled down my khakis down past my ass, and by that time I had to pass a little gas."  His 12" "I Wish" has "A COMEDY RAP" handily printed right on the label and features a (hopefully!) ironically intended litany of extremely racist lyrics like, "I wish my skin was black, so I could make a lot of money, honey, selling crack."  That's not even one of the most offensive lines.  So you get the idea: sort of a cross between early Arabian Prince music and Blowfly shock-value humor.

And now you know I had to jump on it when I discovered one of his final records was, as the sticker cover boldly proclaims, a "NINJA TURTLE DANCE."  Actually, 1990's "Kowebunga," featuring The Turtle Soup Company, is surprisingly tame.  The joke, if there is one, is that the bold TMNT quotes shouted out for the hook "Cow-ca-ca-ca-ca-cowabunga!  Hey dude, what's happening, compadre?" are all so inauthentic-sounding and glibly betray their Mexican accent.  Or maybe it's just meant to be an earnest dance track (as are many of his recordings).  It's certainly a funky, high energy track with a cool bassline and an enthusiastic electric guitar solo at the end.  The raps are strictly perfunctory, straight-forward urges to dance, "shake your body and make your move; pump it up, baby, get in the groove."  The fact that there are rap verses at all feels like an afterthought, which is a little disappointing if you went in expecting rude rhymes about Donatello fingering April O'Neil.  But it's a catchy, low-fi dance tune in its own right, and certainly a novelty just by virtue of its existence.

The concept is credited to Ray Mejia, who executive produced one or two of Chingos' other records, but otherwise I believe all the music and everything is by Garcia, and Billionaire Records is his own label.  The few artists they've had that weren't him, like The Unbelievables, seem to have been at least working for him, if they weren't just aliases.  The 12" has three versions of the song: the Long Version on the A-side and then the Short Version - Vocal and Instrumental on the flip.  The B-side is practically the Long version with a fade out/ in halfway through.  If the next Ninja Turtles movie wants to impress me, they'll pay the (surely nominal) licensing fee and include this on their next soundtrack.  And if they really want to make some waves, they could find a way to work "I Wish" in there, too.

Saturday, March 26, 2022

Drasar's Lessons In Advanced Terrorism

(It's been a long time, sorry I left you without a strong video review and interview to step to. Youtube version is here.)

Drasar Monumental: The Interview

Here's my interview with Drasar Monumental, an artist I've covered here a couple times now, including of course my new video review of his latest EP, which I'm posting simultaneously.  Over the course of those past write-ups, I'd only grown more curious about Drasar's story, with his unique creativity and how this west coast artist wound up getting his start with such definitively New York-rooted heavy hitters MF Grimm and Ayatollah.  So when the opportunity came up to interview him, even though I've sort of eased off of doing interviews these last few years, I was compelled.  So no more adieu, this interview's already rather lengthy, so let's just jump right into how he seemingly jumped into the game from nowhere:

I'm a DJ and I've made beats and rhyme since I was a child. So people hadn't heard of me, but I was already putting out mixtapes and doing different shit. I had demos, been in studios since like '93, '94, but nothing ever came out. It was supposed to have, but shit just didn't come out. And I'm thankful because it was just too one-dimensional: all battle rap with no concepts. And I like battle rap. I still put that shit in there, obviously, but it was all that and like nothing else. Just, "get you, get you, get you, I'm better than you, I'm better than you," you know what I mean?

Yeah, there's a definite variety to your work, where in one sense you're writing in different styles, but it's very cohesive. There's always been those cornier groups like K-9 Posse, KMC Kru or whoever, where they'd jump around from hardcore to house to new jack to sappy love songs, but that's definitely not your vibe at all. Somehow there's a consistency to your variety.

It's just a representation of who I am, you know. I deal with all types of people, all types of backgrounds, and it's just about keeping the balance there. Because there's some guys out there where it's just, "one color, one color, one color." I get it, but I get bored of that shit, honestly. There has to be something else.

It's all balance man, and you do a great job, bro; like your your website is like a wealth of information for people. You're like the last of the fuckin' Mohicans, bro. I didn't reach out to you for no reason. I don't just do that to anybody. Because I'm a Hip-Hop head, I'm a Hip-Hop fanatic, so when I see certain shit, I'm like, "yo, this dude's thorough. And I appreciate that because you just don't see too much of that around. There's not there's not enough critical analysis; there's not enough deep going into people's projects or anything. It's just all surface shit. And that's just that's sad because Hip-Hop is worthy of study. It's worthy of a deep fucking analysis. Like, I don't know what's going on; there's no magazines anymore. It's just like, yo, come on, man. Obviously dudes don't have a journalism background is what it comes down to.  But dudes like you are going to continue to win and continue to garner praise and attention because of how you approach it.  It sticks out like a sore thumb now, you compared to just some other microwave blog posts.  I'm like, wait a minute, this dude is actually taking time into this shit. Like, I went to school for journalism. That was my major, with a minor in cultural anthropology. So that's kind of how I write my rhymes: stay on topic, approach this shit like a lawyer and have different points. And then you end it, wrap it up with some kind of synopsis.

Something that really tripped me out about your site, what really got me open, was years ago I saw the Big Nous shit that you had, some fuckin' limited edition Big Nous fuckin' CD. And I was like yo, what the fuck? 'Cause, dude, I'm a Hobo Junction fanatic. I remember seeing those dudes on the avenue right by Amoeba here in the Bay area. And they would be posted out there like 30 deep, selling tapes and this shit was all dope. One of my favorite crews from the west is Hobo Junction, and I've met Saafir several times. He's an ill dude in real life. So for you to know about them like that and even have that release? I never knew that Big Nous shit had even come out! So when I saw you put that up, I was like what the fuck? How the Hell did he get this shit, you know what I'm saying?  Where the fuck is he? What happened to him, dude?

I guess in those days the major labels still gatekept everything, and The Junction were just never going to break mainstream enough to hold a label's interest.  Maybe Whoridas, but that's also what made them the least exciting members.


Damn, it's sad what happened to that crew, because they did something special. They were different than Hiero; they were more dusted out, more street, and they had their own thing. It was unique, man, because they had that street shit but they could still rhyme their fuckin' asses off. And it was kind of abstract and unorthodox, how I like my shit. They were dope, man. That was a critical time in west coast fuckin' history right there, and I can't believe you have that fuckin' CD, dude.

So getting back to you; you're saying you're a DJ, and I see the mixes you've posted and all.  But now I'd say you're much more known as a producer and MC...

Yeah, I always did it; I always DJ'd, rhymed, made beats and graffiti. I never separated them. I don't know how to compartmentalize that, I just always did them all. And I could honestly say that I'm pretty proficient in all of them. Not to be egotistical or nothing, but if you're doing something for many decades, obviously you figure certain things out; and I've always dabbled in all of them.

I grew up in Santa Barbara obsessed with with Hip-Hop shit because I had a couple radio stations by me. K-Day was by me. I would have to stick like a clothes hanger in the antenna and hold that shit to hear it sometimes because it was the AM station, right? But I would hear so much crazy shit like '86, '85; and I would record it. And if I couldn't stay up late enough to record it, my father would record it for me and give me a tape in the morning. Back then the tapes would flip over to the other side so you'd have like sixty minutes of all this crazy shit on the radio, and it sparked me off, even though there was B-boys in my neighborhood, DJs and all that. And my dad is a selector. He's from the Cayman Islands, so I grew up around records and shit, even going back to Cayman Islands and all that sound system fuckin' wild shit. But K-Day was a big part of it, and also KCSB, the University of California Santa Barbara. They had different shows, kind of equivalent to what the Mixmaster Show was like on K-Day, where they were just live mixing. It wasn't just playing joints, it was like dudes was fuckin' going ham doubling up on shit, cutting up crazy, playing old four-track tapes where there's so much fuckin' shit going on, you know you what I'm saying?

Do you remember Shy D's DJ, and like those crazy four-track type joints with dudes just going bananas? These dudes are going fuckin' berserker mode, man. I'm talking about the Real Roxanne "Bang Zoom! Take It To the Moon" era. They were going fuckin' crazy, and I would hear that, so I would try to emulate it with pause tapes, because you know my dad had equipment and shit. So I'd do my little pause tapes, loop up breaks, take a fuckin' record and just kind of start layering until I got a four-track. And then I just kept at it, rhyming at the same time. So I started just cutting a lot of demos around '93, '94. And they sounded good. I was in a crew with a couple other dudes that I still deal with today, and things just never came out. It cost a lot of fuckin' money back then, you know what I'm saying? Like studio time I think back then for us was like 80 dollars. And the engineer was using the first version of Cakewalk and barely knew what the fuck he was doing, all on drugs and shit. It was like everything was so spendy in those kind of environments; I just didn't have the money to facilitate manufacturing a record. So we did talent shows; we battled all types of fuckin' dudes, ran up on dudes, yelling on them and all that. And I still have the tapes. We have ill shit; it just never came out, man. I just didn't have the money, I was crazy young, too; I was a teenager.

But I never stopped, though, and that was the key. I just kept making more and more beats, digging, digging, digging, practicing all my scratches. I was just DJing out a lot. I moved to Sacramento for a while, and we were DJing like three times a week. I had like reggae weekly, you know, and I was just tearing places apart, you know like literally. So I never stopped; it's just things didn't come out commercially until people heard the stuff with Grimm in 2011, 2012. But there was a bunch of mixtapes I did that came out before that though, you know, and I had a blog - and I still do - called Hip-Hop Battlefield where I promote a lot of other people. And that's why I give you props, too, because it's not all about you on your website. In a social media world, everybody's narcissistic: "this is what I'm doing; this is where I've been." We're promoting people for 10 years, you know what I'm saying? I sprinkle my shit in there a little bit, but the focal point is always just promoting fly shit.

So that's one of my big questions.  You're in Sacramento, yet we first hear you with Grimm, and then Ayatollah, who are like dyed in the wool Queens guys.

People ask me about that. How it went is a graffiti dude that I deal with was in talks with Grimm at the time about a comic book called Sneaker Ninjas or something. He's a good friend of mine, actually; he helps me with layouts to this day. He's an ill dude, like a fuckin' powerhouse actually. But he was negotiating with Grimm about that, and he's like, "I'm a slide Grimm your beats," and I'm like what? Because I never really submit beats to people. I was like, "don't bother that brother," you know what I'm saying? And he's like, "no, no, he'll fuck with it, dude. He'll like this shit!" And I'm like, "are you sure, man?" And he's like, "yeah, watch, bet." So he sent Grimm the fuckin' beats, and it just so happened that one of the beats I had used some Grimm shit, so it was like already ready to go pretty much. Because I'm the kind of guy that makes beats all the fuckin' time. Or I'm scratching or writing shit down just for the sake of practicing and staying sharp. Not just when there's some money on the table or some quote/ unquote deal coming my way, you know what I'm saying? I'm always doing that shit, so I don't really have to scramble around when shit pops off.

Which is kind of the opposite of that mentality you see so much where everything has to be off the cuff.  You know how guys like Erick Sermon would brag about laying down a song in one take or Kool Keith bragging he wrote his whole album in 24 hours?  I'd be like, "yeah, I can tell!"

You could tell, man, if you've been listening to Hip-Hop as long as we have. Like, "I came out with five albums this year." Yeah, it sounds like you didn't put no time into that shit. Like, dude, I don't care how ill you are, bro, every beat you make ain't gonna be dope. I don't care how ill you are on the rhymes, not every rhyme you write is gonna be dope. So you know what? Amass a bunch of shit, edit that fuckin' shit and just pull out the nuggets, the fly shit.

And Keith's one of my favorites. But you could hear when he took some time, and you could hear when he didn't. And that's no slight to him at all. Like he has his own ethos at this point. One of the last Kool Keith projects that I really liked a lot was Masters of Illusion with Motion Man. I love that record, bro. Something about that record with Kut Master Kurt, the way you could tell they were hanging out around each other. There was a chemistry there.

Yeah, I own that album but haven't listened to it since it was new.  I gotta revisit that one.  The last Keith stuff I really went all in for was The Cenobites.


Yup, I like that shit, too. "Rhymes I sniff, nigga, I'm dope, man." They were going crazy, bro. Keith could still do it; it's just what kind of beats is he gonna rock over? Like, I could listen to Kool Keith all day long, honestly. A lot of it comes down to production and the marriage between the rhymes and the production - the chemistry, bro. All those classic albums that people talk about is because they were in the studio together. They knew each other very well and they created some kind of fucking moment, like a vibe. You could hear it in those fuckin' Enta the Stage records, you can hear it in the Four Horsemen record. You can hear it with NWA's fuckin' shit. You could tell those dudes was around each other; there wasn't e-mail then. You can hear it.

And that Grimm shit that we did is gonna stand the test of time because we were around each other a whole hell of a lot, and we recorded it together. We were there for every session; it wasn't no big fuckin' party, no paparazzi, it was just me, him and the engineer for everything we ever did for eight years. There was never anything else. There was no mailed in tracks; we never did none of that. If we had gone to different studios in different cities, you could hear it in my opinion.

Yeah, there's a really rich, layered sound to what you're doing.  It doesn't sound like that typical: here's a beat with hopefully a catchy sample, now write a quick rhyme to it and maybe we can agree on a hook that gives it a fancier concept.  Everything informs everything else, like back and forth, as opposed to where usually one element sounds like it's been completed and locked before they started on the next one.


Thank you. Yeah, I know exactly what you're talking about. Obviously, I'm heavily influenced by that era stacking breaks, EQ'ing breaks and getting the poly-rhythms going at specific times in the song. That's my shit. I grew up B-boying, so when you hear certain breaks and shit start really stacking, motherfuckers start spazzing. And I'm a DJ, you know what I'm saying? So that's funny you said that, because I try to do that; but I wouldn't use a typical drum break that everybody used. I apply that same dynamic you're talking about, but just on some bugged out shit with the composition, you know, I mean layering.

Yeah, another part of what I'm thinking of, I guess, is how your songs often change up mid-instrumental, switching loops and all.  If you're not following the lyrical theme, it can be hard to even tell what song you're on.  Like, if you're just listening casually doing other stuff, and you look at the track-listing, it's like, "is this still track 3 or are we on song 5 by now?"  But if you're paying attention, it's clear because each song is about something distinct.

Yeah, and that's on purpose. Other people do it, but they do it in the nonsensical kind of way that doesn't really tie in with the theme or the concept, or the ebb and flow... or crescendos of certain aspects of the song. One of my DJ homies is really close with Q-Bert; he's a scratch maniac and one of my closest friends. We scratch together, all the new patterns and shit. And when shit started first coming out - I think it was the first Vietnam - he heard it, and he came up to me like, "yo, I like it, but you know it kind of sounds like a mixtape." And I looked at him and I was like, "exactly. You get it." I'm trying to keep an ebb and flow going, and keep the BPMs different, the pulse different, and just have different bridges and shit take you on a ride, like so you don't get bored of the shit, you know what I'm saying? That's just how I look at it from a DJ standpoint, keep the flow going and keep it seamless. It has to make sense; it has to be in key. It's not for the sake of just bugging shit out; it's because I'm a DJ and I'm trying to lay it out in like a transportation fashion, where there's movement with the shit. And when there's switch-ups with the arrangements, there's things to support it, strengthen it, the point of a song. It's not just half-assly thrown out like a corny chess move. When you throw something out there, you have to have something else to support it, so it still stands strong and it just doesn't sound like it's sloppy. The composition is important, how I lay all that shit out.

Yeah, Hip-Hop instrumentals tend to be really loopy, because I mean, one that's just all pop music.  But raps are more complex and require more concentration to follow, so making a track busy can turn feel too noisy real quick, where different parts are fighting each other for attention.  There's a lot going on in your stuff, but it all still supports the vocals.


Right, and that's funny you said that because I read somewhere that you're not really into beat tapes and all that, and I get it. I know a lot of people that they're not really into instrumentals that much because they're boring. But you mentioned Ayatollah earlier, and if you listen to the Box Cutter Brothers shit, the shit I did on there, I kept it unpredictable. I didn't just take a loop and run it for 10 hours and act like I'm doing something, you know. It's thought out, with the scratches, different changes and samples from all over the fuckin' place, and just making it to where there's movement with it, so it's not just stagnant. You know, I get bored of shit, too!

Yeah, possibly my all-time favorite song is "The Symphony," but just the instrumental, you're like, how many times can you just listen to "dun da-da-da-dunn, dun da-da-da-dahhh" over and over again over the break.  And then further in, he even breaks it down to just the last piano notes in each bar, so it's like, "dun .... .... ... dah.  Dun ... ... ... dah."  That's a real challenge Hip-Hop has with its instrumentals that you didn't get with old Bing Crosby and Andrews Sisters standards that your grand parents could hum all day.


Yeah, but see when DJ Shadow came out with Entroducing, he showed that you could stand alone just with beats and movement. You could do different techniques, and that was an interesting one. I think that opened up the floodgate at that time for a lot of production albums, not just like "The Symphony," which was made for someone to rap on it, obviously.

And I don't listen to too many instrumental albums either. There's some that I like, and Entroducing was one of them. But I don't sit around just listening to beats all day from other dudes. I check for dudes, though. There's a lot of dope dudes and I do put some time into just seeing what cats are up to. But unless they're doing some DJ shit with it: scratches and layouts and stuff. I get bored of that shit honestly.

Oh yeah, when a DJ is doing some real turntablism, that's different.  I love Return Of the DJ, or mix-tapes where they're really mixing and beat-juggling instead of just doing radio blends between the latest records of the day.


Yep, I agree. Have you heard D-Styles' Phantazmagorea record? It came out probably like 12-15 years ago, and it's all his beats. So it's technically a beat tape, but he's scratching fuckin' like a damn maniac over the shit, and laying things out.  I'm more prone to listen to that type of shit than just somebody  with some boring ass beats all day.

Yeah, or even like when the Skratch Picklz would just release their practice tapes, and it was like twenty, thirty minutes of them just scratching over a single break.  That was a bit much, but I also miss that.

Yeah, I remember like Shigger Fragger Breaks and all that type of shit, Pumpkin Squeeze Music, yeah. I'm still into scratching, man, and cutting. And not no stiff shit sounding like Eric B; I'm talking about full-blown cuts like whylin'. All the new shit with the old foundation cut together. I'm practicing that all the time.

I definitely appreciate that you keep scratches on your records.

Yeah, every record I ever put out there are scratches on it, and I did them. Everything that's ever came out, there's always some scratching on some shit. Not every song but there's always some on something.

Isn't there also someone named DJ Fooderz credited on one or two joints?

Oh yeah, Fooderz' the guy I talked about earlier. He's on Good Morning Vietnam, too, scratching a little bit. But I did the rest.

And okay, so he put you on with Grimm, but how about Ayatollah?  I mean, I guess it shouldn't come as such a surprise that east and west coast guys are connecting in the days of the internet, where everybody's even working together internationally...

It wasn't the internet that did it, though. What happened with Ayatollah: Grimm introduced me to him. He was like, "yo, you two are crazy with the beats. You guys should fuckin' link up and just chop it up." He connected us. And me and 'Tollah were around each other at that time, and he was talking about it. He's like, "yo, we should just start a group. Let's just put out some shit." I'm like, "what? Like some instrumentals or something?" He's like, "yeah, like our beats are fuckin' crazy. Let's just get some shit out there." This is like 2014, 2015, and he's like, "come up with the name." And I was all, "Box Cutter Brothers," and he's like, "that's it."

And we've done shows since then. We came out with like five projects, and on one of them, we're rhyming. He's rhyming on his side, and I'm rhyming on my side. That's Box Cutter Brothers part 4, and I think it was 2017 when that came out. And that shit flew off the shelves like hot cakes. I couldn't believe it, like it was even written up in shit like XXL Magazine. Chairman Mao wrote about the Box Cutter Brothers. And just like you, I don't read XXL, I just happened to be in the bookstore with my son. He was looking for some comic books or some shit, and I'm just flipping through it, and he wrote a piece about the Box Cutter Brothers. I'm like, what? You never know who's gonna hear this shit; you don't know how it spreads and fractals out. You put it out there and you hope it moves around, but you really can never tell how it's going to circulate.

Especially with physical releases.  There's a real disposable nature to digital music, I think.  So many digital releases by known artists just disappear, like Granddaddy IU had comeback EP before he really came back, Long Island's Finest, and it's just non-existent now.  MC Shan had one on mp3.com or something...  If someone isn't continually paying to keep it hosted, say goodbye.  But a record can pop up in a store, or yard-sale whatever, and be discovered decades later.  Unless you put in the effort to physically destroy it, it's always somewhere.

And you know that's why every release is a vinyl piece that we've done, man, not just because I'm a DJ, but it shows investment, man. It shows investment. Not just the money investment, it shows somebody was fuckin' serious about some shit. Like it's too accessible with the digital world. I don't knock these dudes - do whatever the fuck you got to do. Some people don't have money for a lot of shit. But I'm a hard copy person; I still buy books. I'm not into all that Kindle shit; like I want to hold the shit. I want something tangible. All that stuff is abstract; it could be taken down just like fuckin' MediaFire got taken down, just like YouShare got taken down, just like ZShare don't even exist, just like DivShare. Like, dude, everybody thought that shit was gonna rock. They're like, "oh yeah, DivShare, all these files!" Dude, all that stuff is gone, bro. If you didn't put it on the hard drive, all that ill shit that people were posting up back then, it's just gone. A lot that's never gonna be on Spotify. You got to think, bro.

Let's rewind. Let's get funky real quick. Let's keep it a fuckin' stack and let's be honest. Back in 2011, 2012, there was barely anybody pressing up any records, bro. Like everybody was selling their record collections and nobody was pressing up shit. Nothing except for One Leg Up Records, Diggers With Gratitude, fuckin' Six2Six Records and maybe one or two other little outfits, when we started putting out these records. No one else was really doing it like that. And that's not ego. I'm not trying to make any claims; I'm not trying to act grandiose about it. I'm just talking about reality. There was only like five or six people doing this shit. You could get your records back in two fuckin' months, you know what I'm saying?

And I like that it's broadened out, because at first it was just like the absolute pinnacle of the very best, most sought after holy grails could get pressed.  Now a lot of stuff that was getting passed over is getting a chance.  But the margins are so slim.  I hear about vinyl and even CD sales going back up in the last couple years, and I hope it holds out.


Yeah, people clowned me back then. Spotify wasn't ringing like that in 2011, 2012. Tidal and all this, none of that was ringing back then. Everybody was just straight Serato and file sharing. People weren't pressing up no damn records like that. Now everybody and their mom is pressing them up. And I'm not mad because I'm a DJ - if they're dope, I'll buy it. But a lot of these cats are using it as a gimmick. Vendetta Vinyl is a DJ label. We just use this as tools to fuck shit up, you know what I'm saying? To play ill stuff. It was never, "oh, I got this record; let me put it on a mantle so I can feel myself all day." It was a medium because we wanted certain shit to cut up. It's not some decoration. And some people might hear that, and they'll be like, "oh, who does he think he is?" But that's just the reality of it. It's DJ shit first.

And when you said, "too accessible," that's kind of a thing, too.  If you're not buying music anymore, it's all just fleeting.  Maybe you go back and relisten to a catchy song on Youtube a lot, but are people really rocking with albums and getting into music now like we used to?  I think of like that last major Wu-Tang Clan album, not counting the weird spin-offs or that thing they made one copy of, but Better Tomorrow?  Big expensive studio album with the whole crew, everyone was buzzing about it.  Or the Dr. Dre comeback album he did for the Straight Outta Compton movie.  Everybody was on it.  It was huge for like two days.  But compared to how everyone I knew would just relisten to the real Straight Outta Compton tape every day?  And those albums got rave reviews and all, it's not just like people aren't feeling new music.  But it used to be, when you bought an album, if it was great, it was a part of your life that I'm not sure anything is anymore...  There's so much stuff and no tangibility to it.  It sounds like most people just stream playlists now and let algorithms sweat the specific artists as long as it fits the tone they want.  Me, growing up, I barely even listened to the radio, because I had to go through my tapes and choose the exact song for each exact moment.  I don't know; I'm sure some people are still like that, going song by specific song on Youtube.  But I feel like less people take music as seriously now, outside of just the celebrity aspects.

Yeah, I know. It's a wild situation. I think about it a lot. I think about a lot of people in that world that were so big and you don't hear anything from them anymore, like strictly digital people. I don't know. Even someone like Lil Jon that came out in that little era, as jive as he is, he was huge for a second. But you don't hear a thing from him anymore.

It seemed like everything went digital around 2000, and it just ramped up and ramped up to what we have today. And I use it a little bit like anybody else: I stream stuff, you know, just to hear shit or whatever. But I think our generation is a powerful one, because it's the alchemy of the past, present and the future. Like we all have those kind of different ways of looking at it, but a lot of people were just stuck in the future. Or a lot of people were stuck in the present, or just stepped in the past. We know how to meld all three together to do what we need to do. In a way that's kind of unique really.

Yeah, now we have producers doing "digital digging," and I've definitely heard some producers laying into others for sampling off of Youtube and shit.

Yeah, yeah. When it comes to making my beats and all that, it's off records. But you know there's digital aspects to what I do as far as promotion, like bandcamp or whatever. But it's like you're taking a little bit of all three: past, present and the future, and making it work for you.

But, see dude, that's funny you said that about disposable music, because it's just like in the reggae world, there's 45s. I mean before they went digital, there were 45s coming out all the time, so it just got over saturated. And I used to believe that if you're dope, people are gonna find you and you're gonna blow up no matter what. I used to really believe that, and that still could happen for people, but there's so much dope shit that I'm hearing now that came out in the late 80s and early 90s that I never heard, you know what I'm saying? I mean sometimes they didn't get the distribution, sometimes it was beyond limited; it could be a myriad of things. But it's not true. Sometimes things just don't make it to you no matter what. Like shit could be fly as fuck. Like, for instance, you're by Philly and there's a group there called, uh, let me see... 2 Hard 4 tha Radio was the name of that album, "Puttin My Thang Down" - who was that? Legion of Doom! That came out like when Ice Cube started doing his thing, like early 90s. And I didn't hear that back then. That was a straight Hip-Hop fiend. There's things that do slip through the cracks. Sometimes things do get lost that are ill as fuck, and I'm still stumbling across a lot of treats from the 80s and 90s that somehow slipped past my radar.

But now you have, even though it took all that time, and that's probably thanks to people stumbling on a physical release.  Will a song some local rapper posted on his myspace page be able to pull that off ten years in the future?

Yeah, that's the dope part about music. You don't have to blow up; it doesn't have to be next year everybody in the world knows about you. Twenty years from now if they stumble across you and they appreciate it, that's still dope. What's the last release that you heard from back then that blew your mind from the 80s or 90s that slipped past your radar? What's the last joint where you're like, "damn!"

Oh man. Hmm.  Well, it's not the latest, but the a big one that springs to mind is someone I only really discovered a few years ago named Shake G. I knew from like one guest spot in the 90s, but just threw the internet and ordering music off EBay and discogs, I discovered he actually had some great, rare stuff I was able to get my hands on and dig into.

What year was this?

Like early 90s.  He was down with Fresh Kid Ice and clique of artists he managed.  But he had this real, more hardcore and east coast lyrical sensibility to him than you'd think of in that Miami bass scene.

That's funny, no wait. Dude, you brought up Fresh Kid Ice. Mr. Mixx's brother's name is Scott Hobbs, and he was my football coach growing up. He taught me a lot of shit about programming and breaks. He would bring his shit over to my crib and I guess he was a mentor to me for a period of time when I was young as fuck. I can't lie. But yeah, 2 Live Crew before all that raunchy shit popped off, they were straight B-boyed out. Like his brother would be playing tapes before they blew up, you know, I'm like, "what the fuck?!" Like a lot of 808s and breaks; they weren't even talking all that raunchy stuff. It was straight B-boy frequency. Did Shake G put out a whole album?

No, but he had a bunch of songs on a rare compilation album, where you could hear his solo stuff and not just him as a guest.

Yeah, I mean it shows you what he really wanted to do, and Miami has a rich history of shit. Like do you remember Society? I like all that shit, man! And even the earlier shit like Tony Rock and all that. They always had scratching and they were always funny. They were always cracking jokes about shit. That's what I liked, too, they had a sense of humor. you know.

Society's another one who had a whole lost, second album.  I've tried to track it down, and I don't know if it's even finished, but I found a bunch of tracks on promos.

Wow, I didn't know that! That's crazy. That's dope because he was fresh. I liked what he was doing.

Yeah, he got signed to Slip-N-Slide and they advertised his album in The Source and everything, but then the label lost interest and just got caught up in Trick Daddy when he blew up.


Yeah, "get that B-boy shit out of here." That's what happened, right? Like Poison Clan. Dude, some of that early stuff is good; I was a fan. There was so much stuff that was coming out from all over the place, man. From Seattle, to Boston, to Florida. I mean everywhere. I didn't care where they came from, honestly, I could care less. All I cared about: was it dope? That was the only criteria, and that's the only criteria I use today. People send me stuff from all over the place, like Germany, and they're even rapping in German. I don't understand what the fuck they're saying, but it sounds so fresh. Like I can follow the patterns. You don't need to understand what the fuck they're saying; you feel what they're saying. I'm more into the feeling of things, you know?

Yeah, though the language barrier can be a bit of a tough one to get through when you're trying to appreciate rap, which is so much about lyrics and the way you put words together.  But getting back to your stuff...


My bad. We're we're talking about Hip-Hop, so you know brothers get charged up.

One thing I really wanted to get into was this Broadcast #10, which I think is the first one you ever pressed on CD, right?  Because I assume it's the first with like original remixes instead of being just like a DJ mix?

Yeah, that's the first one that's been put on CD. That's like a secret society remix project I only gave that out with the record. I might digitize it so people can hear it; I think they should. I just haven't done that yet. I have a lot of records, man; I'm a collector, and those are all acapellas that I have at my spot. And I was just feeling those, and I wanted to do a real remix, like make them sound completely different than the original version, where it's like just something else. I had a lot of fun doing that. I'm gonna put it up on Bandcamp or something, but I'm definitely not going to sell it. I'm just going to give it away to people. Like I've seen people do some snake shit with remixes and pressing them up and selling them, not giving a shit about the people that did the vocals. I don't do that shit; you're asking for trouble doing shit like that. The CDs, I gave out like a hundred of them just for free, but I'll digitize it and they can just download it for free. It was supposed to just go along with the record just to give people something extra. I was talking about taxation earlier, and people asking for a hundred bucks for a record and all this crazy stuff. I keep it street level price. They cost money to manufacture these things, but as long as I could get what I need to get out of it, I'm not trying to tax people. I keep it very B-boy price, you know what I'm saying? Because I want to keep it accessible. Not everybody has money out there like that. We're in a pandemic and you're asking fuckin' a hundred dollars for a record, are you crazy? I'm a people person; I keep it fair.

Yeah, that's the thing I always push for with the limited game - or any physical release, which is basically all the limited game now, unless it's Sony putting glossy represses in FYEs - is to press what you can sell at as reasonable a price as you can. The problem only comes in when they over-limit something so they can inflate the costs and play this FOMO game with collectors. I'm not mad at some indie artist who doesn't have the resources to press hundreds of LPs. Do mp3 only until you have a base. And then, if that base is still tiny, sure, do tiny runs. The last thing I want to see is some artist on the street stuck with boxes of vinyl they can't move.

See, we're doing 500 pieces, you know? We do 500 or 300, and it has to be reasonably priced because I want street level DJs to cut that shit up. That's not Hip-Hop taxing everybody under the guise of art and all this other shit people be saying. Like, obviously it's art, but you don't have to tax the living shit out of people to get it. That starving artist shit is wack; you gotta find a balancing act with this, something where you keep some principles intact. I wouldn't feel good asking someone for that much money during these times, bro, I just wouldn't.

Yeah, the worst thing is just pricing out the people who love your music the most and don't even have a chance to get it. It's probably also self-destructive career-wise to keep pissing off your fans, but even if you can get away with it, do you want to?  You want to grow. Like, when DWG started, it was like 100 copies at over a 100 bucks, because they couldn't count on moving more, especially back when it was a new untested venture at that point.  It's a huge cost to offset.  But gradually they were able to bump up the runs with each release: 150, 200 copies, 300... And at some point you hit a limit and that's what it is.  It's not a huge market, unfortunately.  But I think the goal should be to keep pushing that envelope for how many you can press, for how little, while still making some profit to justify the work and all you put in. But then you see releases where that's clearly not their mindset.

Right. Yeah, see, you know your shit. And I get they probably think I'm a dinosaur, and I don't know what I'm talking about. Like, yo, I get it. The resellers are going to sell it for way more, so why not initially charge them a lot up front? I get it, but I'm not with it. Somebody tried to resell Good Morning Vietnam 2 the other day on EBay for like 490 dollars. I didn't check up again to see if someone bought it or not, but on one hand, you're semi-flattered I guess. But on the other hand, you're like damn, that's that's kind of creepy, man. The main focus besides taxation has to be: is the music dope? Is this shit gonna stick to your ribs, is it timeless? That's what I focus on.  I think about all the selling points and shit way after everything is done, you know? These guys, it's a bunch of Ponzi schemes and they're thinking about all that shit before they even get in the studio! We do our due diligence. I do my best to get it out there internationally and domestically, but I'm not the kind of guy that's going to jump out of the bushes hunting people down to listen to shit.

Well, Advanced Terrorism definitely sticks.  And I want to be sure we delve into some of the specifics before we end this.  One very topical song you've got on here gets into... I guess the term would be "plandemic?"

I knew it was coming! Word, I knew it was coming.

Well, no, I'm not trying to like get into it with you like that.  We may not be 100% on the same page, like I'm checking Twitter every day like, "when can someone my age get the next shot?"  But the song's still 100% relatable; I feel what you're saying in it.  Obviously some strong statements, but this is art; this is the place to go there.  There's a lot of political shadiness from all sides and everything that needs to be addressed. Not to drag you into a debate...

No, no, it's cool. I'll talk about it; we rockin'.  Man, just like everybody else, shit got creepy in 2020. And it really got creepy when shit at your job tell you that you can't come to your job, and we don't know when shit's gonna open back up. Everything was fucking hunky-dory and fine until they started telling the employees, "you ain't coming in," you know what I'm saying? Like that makes it a different kind of real for people. And it got real for me when my son wasn't able to go to school, and he was doing the Zoom shit at home. That's when it kind of hit for me. And we were driving by a golf course, you know, and he said, "why is everybody out here without a mask at the golf course but I can't go to school? And people aren't working but these guys are out here golfing?" And my son he was 10 years old at the time. And I was like, yo, that's the illest shit that I heard from anybody. You hear all these dorks talking about this, that and the third on the news and all this other weird shit. But a child saying that at a rudimentary level?

When I heard that, I don't know, it kind of ignited the fuckin' punk rock shit fuel in me. Because I listen to a lot of punk rock shit, man, a lot of 80s anarchic, crusty, wild, hardcore, insane shit. I have a lot of those records, and the the political ones always influenced me to where they didn't really care what people said, they they spoke how they felt. It wasn't about some robot mentality where you're following what everybody else is saying you should follow. They're going with their own gut on certain shit. And then that song just pretty much came out. Because I had to say something, but from my viewpoint, the average person that would talk about the Corona virus would do it in a corny way. Like yo, do this, make sure you walk around with hand sanitizers, you know, just some cheesy shit. I tried to give it a different spin just on some punk rock energy. And everybody feels how they feel about the issue, whether you get vaccinated or not, whether you think this shit's a hoax or not... I heard a lot of different things, but I generally don't talk to people about it, so I just recorded how I felt and just put it out there. There's people that try to bait me at work. I generally don't talk about that kind of shit with people, because it's kind of a private matter. If that's what you want to do, that's good; but don't infringe your beliefs on me. That's pretty much my whole take on all that shit. You could do whatever the fuck you want. You probably listen to bad music.

[Laughs]

That's none of my business. I don't want to hear about your politics; that doesn't have anything to do with me.  It's a real issue. My mom is vaccinated; I'm not going to crucify my mom, you know what I'm saying? It's a personal choice. But there's still a commonality, whether you got vaxxed or not, we all lived through these race riots and this fuckin' crooked cop shit that popped off. And then some of the worst California fires we have ever had. We're living through these unique times together; we still share this experience, and it's unique. They say there's nothing new under the sun. This is new to me. There's a new energy out there right now that I haven't experienced in my lifetime.

And actually I'm surprised more mainstream acts haven't been jumping all into. Like, Hip-Hop's supposed to be on the vanguard.  I'll see documentaries where there's these protest rappers overseas and think, didn't we used to do that?   I'm not saying nobody's mentioned it, but you'd think it would be widespread where practically everybody's talking about all these things.

Definitely not hardcore Hip-Hop, and that's the lane I'm in. A lot of hardcore Hip-Hop guys are trying to stunt on people during a pandemic, man. A lot of hardcore Hip-Hop dudes right now are talking about pumping drugs over and over, and jail-time stories over and over again, like that's their version of hardcore. To me, that has wrinkles of hardcore in it, but it's a dull hardcore. There's so much ill shit that can be talked about that's not the typical concepts, that are definitely intense and they definitely deserve attention. But people aren't touching on them at all. It's weird.

My goal at this point is to get more intense with the beats, intense with the rhymes, more scratches, more layering and just coming up with different stuff, man. Different time signatures, different approaches, but still hardcore Hip-Hop, you know?  Don't get me wrong, I don't mind reckless talk at all. If it sounds dope, I'll deal with it. It could be some of the jivest, street fuckin' maniac shit ever. If there's dope beats on it and it sounds a certain way, I can rock with it. But it sticks to your ribs differently when there's substance mixed with it.

That comes across just in the title, Advanced Terrorism. And the cover image.

You put those two words together and people's eyes go up. It basically means that the righteous people are under attack, and the church is one of the most advanced forms of religious practices. And it's on fire, so it's saying the righteous people, we're under attack, we're under fire in these days and times. Like if you try to speak up for yourself even, if it's your truth, a lot of people are gonna try to crucify you for it, or character assassinate you, or ostracize you, you know what I'm saying? Like people that are doing the right thing nowadays are the people that are having the finger pointed at them. It wasn't it wasn't always like that. The people that were doing the right thing would get bigged up, they would get accolades, they would get congratulated, they were on MTV Raps. People doing the right things were actually celebrated. Now they're under fire.

Even stronger than "Extinction," maybe, is a song called "Demonology Congregationalist."  What are you really saying with that track?

What it means is dudes are basically moving around like demons. They'll even say it. They say, "I'm on demon time." That's popular these days. Like they're on the lower frequency of shit and everybody's a hamburger to them. I know there's people in my life that are like that. They don't have any regard for anybody, bro, like it doesn't matter what their story is, it doesn't matter about their past. The politics of survival will rule out everything else in their dealings with them. And it's basically a snapshot into that mentality, which not I'm not a subscriber of, because I've been around that and I've seen the repercussions of that mentality. But I'm not gonna lie; there's friends of mine, or associates or whatever. I mean they they think like that. And the way I think is if you treat everybody like that, eventually you're gonna treat me like that, too. And that's what that song is about. It's a disdain for that mindset, where everybody's the hamburger to you. Everybody's a resource and what you can get from them.

But it comes off more like also presenting their perspective, in a way, or just more in the trenches somehow. Like, hearing you describe it now, it sounds kind of "Love's Gonna Get'cha" preachy, but it doesn't feel like a "message song," listening to it.  When you're like, "it must've hurt your soul to be treated like a simpleton," that's like the opposite of condescending.

That's exactly it. I'm talking to them. I mean, I've been that person. That's why I could write those type of stories. It wasn't always wins.

And a lot of people are on some demon time. They move like demons, and they don't really give a shit about nobody. So you really not only have to be a good judge of character out there, but you have to put out good energy, too, to make sure that you attract certain things. You know, because you go into a party screw faced, you're gonna attract that element where someone's gonna want to test you. But you go into a place, you respect the land and communicate like a fuckin' human being - you know, be halfway likeable and shit - different things happen. Different blessings open up for you. And you're out there stunting on people in the middle of a pandemic, you're gonna attract certain certain shit to you. So it was more of a third person story to keep your head on a swivel. It's it's one of the deepest songs that I made.

I started just channeling certain experiences that I've been through. I look at it like movie clips how I construct beats and rhymes and it's more scenes and angles how that that one was laid out. It was cinematic writing.

Speaking of cinematic, you've got this vocal sample on there. I feel like I heard that on twitter or somewhere, but I can't place it...

I'll give you a hundred dollars if you pull that out. As soon as I heard it, I sampled it immediately. I was like, "oh shit! I'm not even wasting no time, like stop everything! I got to get this shit." You know what, with all that vocal sample shit, I'm trying to find the illest shit, something that's going to grab your attention like a movie. And the way that girl is screaming, I knew for a fact if motherfuckers heard that they would pay attention to me rapping after that. That's why I start the song out with her talking, because I knew because she sounded fucking insane, right? So it's like they hear that type of shit, they're like, "what? Where the shit is this going?" And then they hear that creepy shit underneath it, slowly fading in. There's certain notes and keys when they hear it, they know somebody's about to get clapped up or thrown through a window or some shit. Like suspense on some Hitchcock shit.

And if you find that sample, I'll give you a hundred bucks. I'm on some multimedia shit. Like with the beats, it's all records. But the samples, like the people talking, that's from everywhere. I'll sample somebody talking shit in real life with my phone. I'll get that shit from anywhere. But the beats is all records. I don't do any Youtube digging or none of that other shit. With the beats, I have all the records, every hi-hat was sampled from a different record. Kick, snare, different record. And I make beats fresh every time; I don't have no kits where I'm loading up a bunch of discs. If I want to make a beat today, I dig through my crazy ass record collection and make a beat right then, get it sitting right, might even keep my sampler on for a couple days. But I'll keep it right and then I'm done with it. I make something from scratch every time, no kits, nothing.

Well, I'm not a huge sample hound - I know my Hip-Hop, but not so much all the other genres people take from - but I can't say I've recognized any on your records.  I'm definitely not hearing a lot of "Atomic Dog" and "Apache."


No, and that that's on purpose. I don't expect anybody to pat me on the back if I'm still using "Substitution" breaks and weird shit that people use a million times. It's kind of a pet peeve of mine when I hear people freaking shit that's been flipped before a bunch of times. Like nah, man, I'm very serious about that type of shit. We're way past the point where that was acceptable. I remember when people were competing against each other to see how many times they could break up "Funky Drummer" in different patterns. In the 80s, that was understandable because there was a competition to flip that shit crazy, or "Nautilus" flipped a million and one times to see who was really flipping shit. I get it in the 80s and maybe early 90s for a little bit with drum breaks. But as far as your main samples and shit, and drum breaks, that changed immediately after that. And I was always on a journey to find shit that no one had ever heard, or manipulate things to where if the original artist heard it, he wouldn't even know it's his shit, because I'm rearranging it in a fashion to where it's my shit. Because there's so many ways to destroy sound now with effects, with time stretching, with rearranging your chord progressions. You could do it to where they would never know, if you're creative. And it doesn't have to be like that every time, but I'm more into that aesthetic, like collage. Like breaking shit up like Bomb Squad shit. And don't get me wrong, sometimes loops will get thrown out there. But they'll get rearranged and layered and stuff. I definitely try to put a spin on things so it's not so recognizable.

Once again, it shows investment, just like putting out the records, copping records shows you're making an investment into your production. And it's like, I get it. Some people be like, "I don't have no money for records." You fuckin' liar. You could do 50 cent bins everywhere, you know what I'm saying? There's dollar records. Like stop it, bro. You could go out there and you could buy that Hennessy bottle and all that tree, then you could buy records. I mean it ain't that expensive. I'm not paying a gang of money for records. The most expensive record I ever bought to this day - and I've been all over the world buying records - the most expensive record I bought was the TDS Mob record "Scratch Reaction" for like 40 bucks. I don't pay a lot of rent money for these records. It ain't a money game. Some of these guys will say, "oh yeah, I spent hundreds of dollars on this this break," and, dude, I'll find that thing. I'll find it because I'm always digging.

Dude, before this interview, I was digging for records today! I was at a record store and also some yard sale. I just pull over and get busy. Like I'm the dick for mine. While you guys are trying to spend all this money and still finding weird, lame shit, I'll find ill rock breaks all over the place for pennies. You just gotta be on your shit. You gotta be looking, and I'm looking. I have been for as long as I can remember, and I'm catching stuff for cheap. I'm not playing that money game. If you're digging, you can find it. But if you're on Youtube, you're going to get caught up in the algorithm and thousands of other producers are going to be hearing the same loop you're hearing.  Don't get me wrong, there's dope stuff on there, but I would never sample it. Not for beats. For one reason, it doesn't sound as good. Two, that's not my tradition. That's not the way it's been handed down to me. The tradition to me was: you go out there in the field, you dig, and you break some shit up. It was never all this other shit. And I don't deviate from the traditions because when you start doing other shit, it morphs the energy.

My dad was a DJ coming up, and when CDs first came out, everybody was clowning my dad like, "oh, he's still buying records. You need to get CDs that sound so pristine," and all this other dumb shit. And then he started buying CDs and guess what? He stopped DJing, because it messed with the trend. It messed with the tradition of how he appreciated his music and it took the inspiration for him to practice on those decks. So I don't condemn anybody for how they do shit; that's up to them. I'm a grown man. Do what the fuck you do, I'm gonna do what I'm gonna do. I'm gonna stick to the traditions, man. I didn't write the book; I'm gonna stick to the rules of the book.

But, interestingly, your stuff doesn't sound "old school" or traditional in a familiar way.


Thank you. That's a compliment, bro, because I've said past, present and future before. And that's kind of how I make the beats, the alchemy of those three things: past, present and future. I've constructed that to where there's not even a time you could really put on this shit. You can't date it. And that gives it legs because it's timeless.

And I'm still in that mind frame, bro. I never changed. You know, I'm functional; I have a job, family, wife, all that. But when it comes to music, it's never going to change. That's what it is and I'm trying to expand on that, and I think I have in my own unique way. But I know how I felt in '88 and I still feel the same towards Hip-Hop. I'm still still on it like that, and it's never gonna change. I'm thankful I found a creative way to express myself to where I could get better and refine certain things. It took a long time just to even get equipment back in the days, like getting a sampler. You had to be some drug lord to get a shit sampler. It took a long time for me to amass the record collection I have, and the samplers and everything else. It was expensive, and I dedicated my life to getting these tools to make sure I can express myself the way that I want to. I don't have to rely on anybody to put shit out. It's a very empowering feeling where I don't have to hire anyone to do any aspect of of the music I make.

Since 2011, something's come out every year, whether it's a mixtape, a record, a tape or something. And that's a good pace for me. I could easily put out more shit, but I'm not doing that. I'm trying to find the best of me to put out there because the way I look at it is you never know when someone's gonna stumble across your material. So you want your best foot forward on everything. You don't want any cutting room floor stuff out there, or filler, because you never know what particular song someone's gonna stumble across. So I try to put my best representation in anything that's out, even if it takes a while. I'm more than willing to do that to ensure that the probability of someone finding some shit from me ill is higher.

Like remember when NWA first came out? You're on the edge of your seat waiting for Niggaz4Life. You're like, "god damn, I can't wait!" That's why what I put out are EPs. I could do albums, but I'm like let me keep it DJ oriented, five or six joints with instrumentals, so they want to hear more. And try to get better every time, show growth in different concepts every time, so there's a reason to listen to the newer shit. And there's some stuff on the horizon. There's a lot of stuff that's recorded that's not even out, but there's the editing process that I go through. You remember when Diamond D said "beats are selected with the high scrutiny?" Shit ain't just coming out.

Yeah, there's been a lot of groups who put out so much stuff, it gets threadbare. Like, I was excited about crews like Hiero or Living Legends, but there was so much material, you'd be like, this song has a great instrumental, but just okay lyrics, and this other song has great lyrics but kind of a generic beat. Like just spreading themselves too thin to capitalize and sell as many tapes as possible as fast as possible.

That's why it's important what you're doing, bro. I don't think you realize how important what you're doing is. Well, you might, excuse me. But what you're doing is very important because it gives people a chance to study. Like, the way you're going about it, it's not only cultural, but it's educational, because you're bringing some names up, and some things up, that are important figures in Hip-Hop. I see you like Sacred Hoop, Luke Sick and all that. I remember seeing those records back then. They had like a picture of somebody vomiting on the back cover; I was like, "who the fuck is this?" And they sounded so bugged out and dusted back then. Vrse Murphy and all this shit. I'm like, "who are these dudes?" And it's like for you to talk about him today, to keep people up to speed that he's even around, that's a feat within itself. So people can study. He's an important person and he's more interesting than these other jerks that get coverage, you know what I'm saying? People are too topical; they're finding easy people that they can dig up and talk about. Let's get a little bit deeper.

How are you gonna be remembered when you make music just like everybody else? You come into Thanksgiving with the same dish as everybody else, they're not going to remember you. Mix Master Mike said something one time I'll never forget. He said, "what I'm trying to do is scar your brain, so when you push stop on what I'm playing, you're still thinking about it." It has to be edgy; it has to be heavy enough or thought provoking enough to where after you listen to the whole thing, you're on a journey somewhere. You better come up with something or just be a fan of Hip-Hop. There has to be something unique for you to be out, in my opinion. And there's nothing wrong with being a fan without being a practitioner of it. That's dope. There's people I respect that are just real sincere Hip-Hop heads.

Me!

No, but but you know what, bro? You would be surprised how much more you know about Hip-Hop than certain Hip-Hop legends out there, which is kind of crazy. Like you ask some of these cats some Hip-Hop Jeopardy questions, who you think are heads, they don't have no idea, bro! [Laughter]

I mean to me, that's just as important as everything else. Someone that actually knows their shit. Being a Hip-Hop head prevented me from so much trouble, there was so much gang-banging and people getting beat the fuck up, all kinds of shit going on. But in my little world, people respected me because I was just like a Hip-Hop maniac. I knew so much Hip-Hop shit, they didn't really fuck with me. I was just on my shit. That was my passport, you know what I'm saying? Now it's not respected as much for some people, but for me it is. Like, I come around certain people, they know certain shit, I'm like passport just on general principle. Immediately, even if they don't rap or DJ, none of that. But if they know their shit, passport straight up and down.

Well, we've been talking for almost three hours...

Oh wow, really? See, I could do this all day, bro. I liked it. I feel like I know you, even though I never met you.

Yeah, I'm glad I decided to get back into interviewing and talking to you. For me, it's just about solving the musical mysteries. Like when you're listening to an album and you're just thinking, "what's the story behind this?" A lot of artists, they might be good, but I don't really have any questions. You know, I get it, young guy, you want to be a rap star so you made some songs. They're good songs, but what do I need to talk to you for? So when I heard from you, it just hit me, wait. Yeah, this is someone I've got questions for. So is there anything we want to say to wrap up?

Yeah, I appreciate the opportunity. There's more stuff coming, bro. And Vendetta Vinyl, there's a lot of people attached to it some people have never heard - cats that are down with Vendetta Vinyl that have shit in the wings. There's all types of missiles that's going to be launched throughout the years. There's no doubt. And make sure that you go out there and get Advanced Terrorism: heavy duty shit no games, no lactose, no saccharin, none of that weird shit. Just rawness, and it's gonna stand the test of time. I know that for a fact. And that's not ego talking, it's energy talking.

Friday, December 24, 2021

A Vessie Merry XMas

(It looks like there's one last little treat in your stocking.  Merry Xmas, everyone!  Youtube version is here.)

Sunday, December 19, 2021

Whirlwind D and the Music That Binds Us

Just like I couldn't let the year end without one more Father MC review, Whirlwind D couldn't let it end without lacing us with a new record.  He's consistently put out at least one new vinyl release every year for the past decade, and not even these crazy hard times have been able to stop him.  So let's dig in.

Produced by Djar One, "Without Music" has a lush, funk/soul vibe with packed samples, replete with (non-verbal) looped, female vocals and big horns.  It has an addictive, uplifting vibe - it's the kind of instrumental you want to put on repeat as soon as it's over, like Large Professor's "Key To the City."  It makes perfect sense that this is the backing for a literal ode to music itself.  "Without Music," is all about what music has meant to them and their gratitude for never having to have gone through life without it.  I say "them" because the D's joined by guest MC Micall Parknsun, who lays it all out in the end, "this is all I got to give. Struggling to pay this rent, 'cause we don’t even own our shit.  But this made it all make sense.  And even when I’m deep in debt, and we ain’t even broke even yet, you were always there, when nobody even cared.  You’re the reason that brought me here, 'cause you’re always near.  Every bar is so sincere, so every word in the verse must be crystal clear.  Every line in between each kick and snare.  I’m defining my life what I hold so dear."  But it's still D who lands the deepest hits, "when I hit my lows and my first family broke, bars and beats tapes my heart and mind spoke solace in a verse, unrehearsed, just a burst... In the good times too, not just when I’m blue, rhymes add color and definition to every hue; paint pictures of my past in the ether that will last: reminders of the journey and the places that I’ve passed."

For the B-side we have "Labels," the Smoove Mix 7" Edit.  Originally produced by Djar One, you may recall "Labels" was originally the lead track on D's 2018 Beats, Bits and Bobs EP, and it was also featured on last year's Original Breaks To B-Lines compilation.  This one's produced by a UK producer named Smoove a.k.a. Ultragroove, who goes way back (though I think this is his first collaboration with D): he produced the UK remix of Digital Underground's "No Nose Job."  And that explains the title, because when I first saw "Smoove Mix," I was fully expecting some low key, Smooth Ice, Grand Daddy IU, "How Kool Can One Black Man Be" type of vibe, and this mix is definitely not that.

It's actually another lavish, 70's funk-soul explosion, this time with more of a faster disco vibe, with even more big horns (there's a great, subtle line he only slips in near the end of the second and third verse) and major replayability.  Now, I've already talked about the lyrics and concept in my Bits and Bobs video, so this is an excellent opportunity to talk about scratching.  Anyone familiar with Whirlwind D knows his records are some of the most reliable sources of killer scratch hooks; he always works with amazing DJs.  On this record, it's Specifik on both the A and B sides.  And like I'm sure most of you guys reading this feel, I love scratching.  I love complicated DMC Championship routines, and I love super basic, slow "zugga zugga" rubs on early 80s records.  This is Hip-Hop, I want it all!  A rap song with scratches is automatically one letter grade higher than one without.

But what deserves extra credit here is how well it fits into the music, like Specifik was somehow part of the bands they've sampled back in the 70s.  And that's even more impressive with "Labels," since these are the same scratches as the original mix which had a very different instrumental bed.  Like, if you think of some classic 90s DJ Premier scratch hooks, they always sound brilliant, but they also sound like him doing his cuts on top of a beat.  What's extra dope here is how it all feels of one, pre-designed piece.  I guess part of that is just down to the style of music they're sampling, which is busier, giving the turntablist something to repeatedly disappear into and then dynamically pop out of.  But I also the producers had to have known what they were doing.  There's a part in "Without Music," where they drop the bass out as D's second verse starts, and it sounds like Specifik's last scratch cues it.  Maybe it's just fortunate happenstance, but either way, the result is a pair of instrumentals you're going to love.  I actually prefer this "Labels" to the original, which is saying something, as it was one of D's stand-out tracks the first time around.

So this is a 7", specifically a small hole 45.  It comes in a stylish full picture cover, and a plain white inner sleeve that I only mention because a lot of 7"s seem to skimp out on those.  As of this writing, it's already sold out on D's bandcamp; but it's available at most of the usual online retailers like Juno, HipHopBeBop and RareKind, so there's still time to join the celebration.