Thursday, November 27, 2014

Demo Week 2, Day 4: Some G.O.O.D. Unsigned Hype

I was going to feature today's demo(s) back in Demo Week 1, but it was so much to get a grasp on, I just let it slide. But this year, I'm going to tackle it. So here we go!

There was a 90s group out of Waco, Texas called Third Eye Militia. They were kinda like the Visionaries in the sense that it was a group that put out albums (well, one album, called Buried Alive, in 1999). But the membership also comprised smaller, sub-groups, who unlike the Visionaries, never put out any records. They collectively released a 12" single, which I've got, called "The Family" in 1998. The two B-sides of that, "Symbolic Seeds" and "Verbal Elements," focus on two of the Militia's subgroups, Symbolic Elementz and Verbal Seed. Notice how they switched up the words there? That's either slightly clever or arbitrarily and annoyingly confusing depending how generous you're feeling.

Still with me? Here, let me break down the full Militia line-up, maybe that'll help. You had Symbolyc Elementz, which was a sub-group consisting of Tha Symbolyc One and Myth, Verbal Seed, a sub-group consisting of brothers Oneself and Focus, plus solo members Mony Mone and Buttafinga. All six of those guys are MCs, but at least three of them (One Self, Symbolyc One and Buttafinga) also produce. Oh, also Verbal Seed later added another guy named Tree, who was also brothers with Oneself and Focus. And the two guys from Symbolyc Elementz later added a guy from Indiana named Myone, and changed their name to Strange Fruit Project, a group you may've heard of since they've had a number of albums and 12" singles out over the years, and I believe are still recording together to this day. Symbolyc One also released a couple solo albums in the 2000s, and a collaborative album with Braille. Symbolic went on to sign with G.O.O.D. Music, as S1, and shared a Grammy for co-producing "Power," so the line goes from real obscure to major. And the Militia also have, or have had, a strong internet presence over the years, so there's a whole bunch of mp3-only songs, albums and mixtapes scattered around from all these guys, collectively and separately, if you're keen to dig around.

Now, in addition to the album and 12" which were released commercially - albeit underground and independently - I've also got a demo CD by the Third Eye Militia. It includes "Symbolyc Seedz," which is a different spelling but the same song as the one on the 12", and a song called "Anytime, Anyplace," which was included on the Buried Alive album. For the record, so were "Symbolyc Seedz" and "The Family," but not "Verbal Elements," which was exclusive to the 12".

That sounds like a Day 1.5 post, right? Just a little demo featuring songs already available on existing releases. But I'm just throwing that in there 'cause it's an interesting little item I've come across. We haven't even gotten to the demo I'm here to cover today. See, before all of this '98/'99 stuff, one of the Militia's sub-groups, Symbolic Elementz, got featured in The Source's 'Unsigned Hype' column of May '96. Reading that column, I don't seem to have the songs they're writing about ("Style of the Godz," "Mental Ejaculation" or the particularly promising "Acrobatmatics"). But I DO have a Symbolic Elementz demo tape from 1997 called The Dynasty. It features three different songs, all produced by fellow Militia member Buttafinger.

Wow! We finally made it to today's demo! Unfortunately, we're all out of space - so, goodnight!

Just kidding. Actually, this is an interesting mix of styles: Southern, gangsta-rap inspired tracks with backpacker lyrical inspirations. But it's not just that; it's much more fluid and intangible. There's elements of Dre's Aftermath on here... Suave House... Supafriendz. Especially the low budget feel from that last one. Being a 90s project, the punchlines get a little corny ("can you take me away like Calgon?"); but for the most part it's well-rounded and effective. The production on "Temptation Got Me Hostage" "What Dreams Are Made Of" is understated but really effective. The dynamic between the two MCs passing the mic is strong and lively. It almost feels beneath them when they bring the lyrics back to "sucker MCs."

It is all a little too polished and smooth for my tastes, though. It sounds like the kind of thing record labels like more than the actual man on the street. Like the one Supafriendz aspect its really missing is the fun. This is good music with little to criticize about it, but I can't honestly say this is a tape I go back to revisit much. Maybe it's too middle of the road, style-wise; instead of being a jack of all trades they should settle on being a master of one. You can certainly see why these guys have had a long career, but but it'll be fun to contrast with tomorrow's demo, which I like a lot better; but it didn't seem to get them careers...

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