Saturday, November 29, 2014

Demo Week 2, Day 5: Classic Unknown

Last Demo Week, I set aside one Day for a completely unknown artist, and it's tat time again. The group is called Fertile Crescent... at least I assume it's more than one guy, but I can't really say for sure. But I'll tell you one thing, I'm feeling this substantially more than last Demo Week's unknown demo; and as I said in my last post, better than Day 4's demo. Hell, I'm feeling this tape more than most albums, period. This is actually pretty great.

Pretty much what you see in the photo is all the info I have on this one. On the tape itself, underneath "Fertile Crescent," it also says "sampler." No date (though I know I picked this up in the late 90s), no label, no phone number with a helpful area code. Just the fact that this is, like any demo, meant to represent a varied sample of the kind of music these guys were making.

BUT, thanks to a couple of the guest artists on this tape, I was able to gleen quite a lot about it, though. Evidently, this is some Pittsburgh shit. That first guy, Davu Ayomi, is a Pittsburgh graff writer and he's described as a slam poet online. But he just rappity raps on here (thank goodness). He blends in perfectly with FC, to the point where I can't even tell which verse is his. And Rhesun a.k.a. Sha-King Ce'hum? He's from the Classic 1824 crew; and he's actually still active - he put out a mix-tape as recently as 2010. It could very well be that Fertile Crescent were part of 1924, or at least a directly connected off-shoot. They certainly have a similar sound and seem to share artistic ideologies.The other guests I don't know; but I can tell you Anna Kalantari is an actual female MC, not a hook singer; and she comes off really well. And Stretch, I dunno; he didn't stand out at all; but that's a good thing when working with artists of this caliber.

So if you like Classic 1824, I'd say this will definitely be up your alley. I mean, I actually liked this a little better than some 1824 tapes I heard... Or, at least, you'd really have to break down the comparison song-by-song. FC definitely has some songs that are stronger, but the reverse is also true.

And if, like most of the world, you've never heard Classic 1824? Because that's actually a pretty obscure, underground reference to expect people to get. I know about them myself because some Pittsburgh guys went to a lot of trouble to document a lot of that history online, including interviews and tape uploads, several years ago. Unfortunately, I think their site's dead now:/

Well, then, I think they can be best described as a group that completely lives up to the backpacker, underground intelligentsia of hip-hop that most indie groups talked about but never managed to live. it's definitely heady stuff, but despite a couple science fiction related titles ("2001 Space Odyssey" and I'm sure "Strange Days" is meant to reference James Cameron's goofy little sci-fi flick from the 90s), it's not just a bunch of nerdy comic book references strung together. It's real, substantive, and grounded in reality. And unlike a lot of their contemporaries, their stuff has aged well.

And the production is great, too. East coast, indie sounding... think Rebel Alliance, with some nice samples you haven't heard other places. The low budget does show through a bit.  I'm sure a major label could've polished a lot and beefed up a few thin moments. But that indie vibe helps as often as it hinders. The only thing they're lacking is some sick Skratch Piklz-style DJ to just go berserk on the turntables at the end of every song. It certainly would've sounded right at home amidst this material.

I really want to give this a strong endorsement and recommend everybody seek it out, except, frustratingly, it's Demo Week. Hard to find is one thing, but this shit's never been released in any public capacity as far as I know. And googling around, I can't find a damn thing about these guys or what's come of them (it doesn't help that "fertile crescent" is a ore-existing phrase, referring tot he area of Africa generally considered to be the "cradle of civilization," so it generates tons and tons of hits that have nothing to do with Pittsburgh rap). So I don't know what I can do here but hope maybe somebody who knows more about these guys, or the artists themselves, might possibly come forward and let the world in on the music they've created by releasing it on the indie tip or something. Anything.

Anyway, a lot of my "Weeks" end on Day 5, but not this one. I'll be coming back one more time, with a known group, and in video so you guys can hear it. It's a group I'm quite fond of, have blogged about a couple times before, and backed by a very major hip-hop producer.  Ciao!


  1. "recommend everybody seek it out"

    What's the point of reviewing an old demo that nobody's ever gonna hear?

    You have the tape but don't post audio?

    Pretty pointless.

    1. It's a good question, but I think you just confused "pointless" with "of no interest to myself."

      Some folks - though I suppose not you - get something out of reading about music even without hearing. Just speaking for myself, I get a lot of reading and learning about music and other arts online and spend an inordinate amount of time doing so. For example I was fascinated to read about Frederick Wiseman's unreleased film The Garden that none of us will ever get to see (it's been shelved for legal reasons). But I certainly get that many people, even most people, have no interest in reading about any of Wiseman's films. So a blog about them really wouldn't be of interest to those people. But it definitely wouldn't be pointless so long as there's also people like myself who do want to read about them.

      Plus, as I was saying in the paragraph you just quoted from, there are other reasons to blog about a demo like this i.e. the hope that a record label will put it out, or the artist would come forward and release it. Or maybe this post will be useful or interesting to people who do know who FC were, even though I didn't.

      Anyway, I'm not sure if you're just not interested in learning about unreleased demos you can't hear, or music you can't hear in general - if it's the latter, I'm sorry to say very little of this blog has or will ever be of much interest to you. but if it's just demos hey this is only the eighth or so post about that in the hundreds of posts I do on this blog all the time (it took me five years to get to Demo Week 2), so you can just write it off as a small anomaly in my usual stream of coverage of more accessible music. Tomorrow's post is gonna be a video (explicitly so people can hear it), and after that Demo Week will be over. 8)