Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Screwball Week, Day 6: H-O-S-T-Y-L-E

"We on the same page, same stage - same shine.
Feelings I've been holdin' back from speakin' my mind:
I helped feed ya kids, woulda bust my nine,
Protected ya life, woulda sacrificed mine.
Held you down on stage when you fucked up ya rhymes,
'Cause you was too bent up to remember your lines.
But you really hurt our hearts the most, 'cause you was close,
Stabbed us in the back over bullshit contracts.
Befriend me, befriend us, now you're disliked;
Caught up in your own hype, feelin' your own snake bite."

Most heads were understandably caught up in the drama of guest star Cormega taking on his former crew, The Firm, on the title cut to Screwball's second album, Loyalty. But within Screwball's camp, a much bigger controversy was brewing in that song, with KL directing his verse to fellow member Hostyle.

That;s right, he was expressing his feelings about the crew slowly splitting apart after the stint at Tommy Boy, where that label expressed interest in working with Hostyle if he'd split from the crew. They'd already pressured the crew into using his solo joint, "H-O-S-T-Y-L-E" for the lead single to their album, but that was just the beginning. Hydra Records founder Jerry Famolari explains the situation in his Unkut interview, "[Hostyle] went and did some management deal with some girl, and KL and the group and I went crazy, and that’s where that song came about." So if Loyalty sounds a bit disjointed compared to Y2K, that's because the group was already breaking apart. Famolari explains, "I was kind of holding it together. A lot of that stuff was flown-in as well. A lot of verses were flown-in, and I convinced the guys to come in and do certain things, but it was tough. That album was like pulling teeth."

And explanation pretty much goes for Hostyle's solo album, One-Eyed Maniac, too. "It was certain old songs and a lot of stuff I flew in. I created 75 percent of that. Same thing with the Screwed Up. There was a lot of songs that would not have ever come out. I just took pieces from different things and cuts, whatever I could do to make the album as strong as possible. We had so much money already invested and so much stuff sitting there, I’m like, 'Before I sit on it and have to put out a song here, a song there, a song here, a song there, I might as well just get rid of it.' There was no marketing behind it because there was no group. I don’t even know where Hostyle is. I haven’t spoken to Hostyle in a good eight months." So when you see a record like today's record, we may know when it was released; but we really can't say for sure when it was recorded or for what project.

In this case, Hostyle's "Live From New York" was released on Hydra Records in 2000. It may've been recorded for his Tommy Boy project, or just something he recorded later for Hydra. Who knows? But in any case, it's a cool, obscure little record.

The beat's produced by A Kid Called Roots, and it features one of those "randomly banging on a piano" style loops like Premier used on "D. Original." But that's one of those styles where you've really gotta get it just right, and A Kid Called Roots doesn't quite get it to Premier-level perfection. But it's nice and hardcore, and it sounds pretty good.

More essential to the song than the instrumental is the duo of Hostyle and his guest, Quik. No, thankfully, that's not DJ Quik from Compton - not that I dislike DJ Quik, but those kinds of East/ West collaborations never wind up working out, so I'd just as soon never see him appear on a Screwball record. No, this is actually the debut of Joell Ortiz ...as in Slaughterhouse. After this record, he changed his name to Jo-Ell Quikman for his first single on Rawkus, and then it eventually became just Joel Ortiz. And the pair of 'em just keep passing the mic back and forth kicking freestyle rhymes. It's just one of those rugged joints with zero radio potential that only a serious head can appreciate.

And if this record isn't random enough, instead of having another Hostyle track on the B-side, it was a Godfather Don joint, featuring Prince Po and RA the Rugged Man. Also produced by Don, it's one of those tracks that make you wonder what the Hell he sampled. It also shows that maybe RA should hire Don as a regular producer, because he better here than he usually does. Po comes slick, too; but it's Don himself who comes the tightest. You might have Ill Funk Freaker and The Nineties Selections, but your Godfather Don collection isn't complete if you don't have this one.

And what of Hostyle today? Last I read, he'd changed his name to Ken Kade and had an album in the works called Under the Influence, and he also has some music online where he's partnered with a guy named Rap P. And as for his part of the group? The beef is supposedly squashed, but he's obviously still not part of Screwball today. In an interview this time last year, Poet simply said, "Hostyle, I don’t know what’s going on with him. He’s going through a couple of personal issues. He’s out there and he’s still doing his thing, but I’m not really in touch with him right now." Of course, even back in "Loyalty," KL said, "I don't plan on dissin' you in interviews," so I'm not sure if anything's really progressed since then. But I certainly hope so. Though of course it's nobody's fault, it's already a tragedy we have to accept a Screwball without KL; so I know there's not a Screwball fan in the world who doesn't hope the rest of the guys can pull it together. It just ain't the same without Hostyle.

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