Sunday, July 11, 2010

The Intriguing Life of The Prince of Darkness

Why do rap artists from Miami always have the most interesting stories? I mean, it's not always the right kind of interesting (see: the tragic and awful story of Ant D); but I swear, every local rapper who's graced The Miami Herald could have their careers turned into the most fascinating, wild movies. And The P.O.D. (Prince of Darkness) is certainly no exception.

This is not my first time blogging about P.O.D., and I don't think it's gonna be the last. For those who need a reminder, P.O.D. is the artist formerly known as The Prince of Power, one half of the infamous and beloved Young & Restless. But I'm not going to get all into their crazy drama with their former producer/manager, The P-Man (I'll save that for another blog)... instead I'm just focussing on one of the most obscure twists and turns in their subsequent solo careers: "Life" on B.U.M. Records.

"Life" dropped in 1996, and it's distributed by Ichiban. Yes, it's another one of those releases with the red spines and white letters... surely he was one more artist on Ichiban's underrated comeback roster in the mid 90's, where they signed a plethora of established artists who were at the time unsigned, from Kool Moe Dee and The Treacherous Three to MC Madness to Kwamé to Doctor Ice, and so on. Some of the material was disappointing, but it was still a nice time for a fan, getting albums from so many artists you thought you'd never hear again. In fact, if you read the liner notes of the single, it claims to be "from the upcoming LP The Renegade." But The Renegade was not to be... only this rare single exists from P.O.D.'s Ichiban signing.

Now, if you're wondering if P.O.D. was still on good terms with his partner in Y&R Dr. Ace, I can assure you the answer is yes, because he produced this song (under his real name, C. Trahan). But despite that, this is nothing like a Young & Restless record. Not only does this not have the humor of their past collaborations, it's not even a fast-paced club song like P.O.D.'s other solo single. This is a slow (think: Scarface speed) and serious record. I suppose that's why The Prince changed his name from Power to Darkness - to show that he was going in a new direction.

It's a reflective, autobiographical song about growing up... talking about putting away the weed to take care of his kids:

"Did God put me here to be miserable and high,
Then not tell me why?
I'ma a fill in what I'm feelin': no father or mother,
Separated from my brothers at one age or another.
My head started to swell. When will good prevail?
Tormented by my sins, and I feel like I'm in Hell.
I feel like my life's a total mess."

Musically? Well, it's not sample-based, so that's a disappointment right off the bat. It's largely all studio sounds... you can almost picture them making this beat like that scene in Hustle & Flow. But one element raises it above that level and makes it more compelling... there's a lot of live guitar (lead and rhythm) played on this song. So it's got a real genuine appeal, with sincere lyrics and well-guided musical vibes.

And who plays those guitars you ask? Gary King of the Kendall Toyota Show. He's even credited exactly that way in the notes: "of the Kendall Toyota Show." So what is the Kendall Toyota Show, you ask? It was a surprisingly successful celebrity talk show/infomercial (which later became known as the Miami Tonight Show) that aired on Miami television, produced by a local car dealership and hosted by their general manager. The Miami New Times described it as, "so provocative, so unremittingly, uh, bad, that one feels almost obligated to watch -- the same way that, upon passing a nasty car wreck, one slows unconsciously to assess the carnage. The carnage, in this case, consists of Hollywood has-beens who have been reduced to guest stints on a fake chat show hosted by two large, impossibly caffeinated men in cummerbunds." ...See? Only Miami artists have such fun details spring out of even the tiniest of liner note credits.

But there's more! There aren't any instrumentals (just as well) or radio edits or anything, but there is a B-side (labelled as a "Bonus Track"), entitled "Mortal Combat." It's not quite the battle rap massacre you might expect from the title, but it's certainly faster and harder than "Life." It's sort of a low-fi, gangsta rap freestyle cut produced by P.O.D. himself, but with some unmistakeable writing touches of the original Prince of Power:

"Fuckin' with the P.O.D.'ll be a no-no.
Pull a strap on your dad and treat your mom like a dog-ass ho;
Through this process of feelin' no remorse;
And if she fine? Sexual intercourse!
I gotta say this kinda shit 'cause it's that kinda jam,
And besides, that's the kinda nigga I am."

I can see how this single wouldn't appeal to all of my usual readers... I can see how it wouldn't appeal to most people, period. But if you loved all that low budget, Ichiban come-back material like I did, and if you've got a warm pace in your heart for Young & Restless, then you don't need to hear my opinion before you start tracking this down for yourself. And the rest of you guys, at least it was an interesting one to read about, right?

1 comment:

  1. For the first time in a long time I can truly say that the information in a blog is true. It was very insightful on the dealing that occurred to one of my favorite artist. Many people don't know that he's the pioneer artist of Poe-Boy Music Group, and had it not been for him there'd be no E-Class, Rick Ross, Brisco, or Flo-Rida. Thanks for this article. He deserves the truth to be told.