Monday, March 27, 2017

Beetbak Tape Update

    Check out the intro (by Jack Devo) to the beetbak tape, on our newly renovated and refurbished YouTube page. The magazine has been pushed back to later this year, but the tape is coming sooner than later.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Android Masters on CD

Limited Edition

    Zombie619er just dropped the CD reissue of his debut tape Android Masters, produced by and featuring Koobaatoo Asparagus. If you missed out on RLK's cassette reissue from last year, or want this gem on signed CD, hit him up at or on Facebook here or on Instagram here. Also for sale are Android Masters t-shirts (black or white) and hoodies. And stay tuned for the upcoming Android Masters project, Cyborg City's!

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Danksta Life: An Interview with Ganjah K

Lieutenant KMC

    As the late great Guru once said, when it comes to hip-hop, it's mostly about the voice. Combine a dope voice with top notch lyricism and you get another class of emcee. Add to that the complex vocal stylings of the Good Life and you have Ganjah K, possibly the most underrated and slept on rapper on the west coast. This is largely due to a lack of material being available. Other than his Danksta Life album and a handful of guest features and soundtrack appearances, the only thing most listeners had heard until recently was a God awful dub of Harvest for the World, which only whet the appetites of heads fiending for more material. Fortunately, Ganjah came through and over the past few years dropped several albums through his Bandcamp page, taking the first step in claiming some much deserved recognition for his innovative styles and contributions to the art form. I had the opportunity to chop it up with KMC about his past, present and future in this in depth interview.

I wanna start at the beginning. Can you talk about your earliest experiences with hip-hop and some of the early influences that inspired you to start rapping?

    I would have to say my first experience with hip-hop was when I heard the Sugarhill Gang, "Rapper's Delight." When I heard that, I thought it was so dope, and it seemed to speak to the common person, to the point where I thought, "That's something I could do!" That's what inspired me to start. But when I first started though, I started as a DJ. I started mixing records and got two turntables. There was this Belizean cat who stayed upstairs at my cousin's house who had this massive DJ system. He had these big ass speakers. It was a little ass apartment, but he had these massive speakers. Then you'd go to the back of his room and he had all these records and he had two turntables and a mixer, and I was really awed by that. I was really young, like ten or something like that. He was mixing these records, Jamaican funk and all these jams and shit. I was like, "Damn! I could do that too! I wanna do that." So since that was something I seen happening in action, I gravitated towards that at first. Then later on, I was hearing rapping from artists like Cool J and, you know, different artists coming out at that time and it made me pick up the mic. That was around junior high school. 

When I talked to Sach, he said he felt you really found your style and came into your own after you started rapping at the I-Fresh. Can you talk about how that came about and that whole era?

    I can't put my finger on exactly how I met Ben [Caldwell], but we became pretty close. He started this thing called I-Fresh and we'd perform up at Southwest College, at different radio stations. He had that same spot where Project Blowed is being done right now, that was I-Fresh. We'd go there and put on acts and do our thing. Sach was one of the artists who was there. We had Deryl with the Curl and Tuxedo Tee. We were all just in Leimert Park, getting down on the mic. That's when I started battling and stuff like that. I have never lost a battle. I did pretty good at the I-Fresh. Me and Ben became very close because he really believed in me, as an artist. When you see somebody believing in you, and when you start winning battles, you start getting more confident. So that's probably why Sach felt that's when I found my style. That's basically what it was. It was just understanding that, "Hey, I'm a pretty dope emcee!" [laughs] I started realizing that.

   In junior high school, that's when I really started winning battles. That was a thing back in the day, you had to hold down your school. If you called yourself the rapper of the school, you had to hold it down! Anybody who comes from anywhere to check in to the school that raps, you had to take 'em out. If somebody came from another school, you had to take 'em out. Anybody who went to that school, you had to take 'em out. So that's when I started really becoming who I was. They used to call me Pee Wee Jam because my voice was so high at the time, but I used to kill people on the mic.

So how did you end up going to the Good Life?

    Well, before I went to the Good Life, I met Myka 9 and Acey. We were workshoppin' together. Me, Mike and Ace, and Jup - Jup was in and out of town - but me, Mike and Ace would get together every day. I mean every day. I actually met Mike and Ace through Meen Green. He wasn't a rapper at the time, but he just knew both of us and he knew we all rhymed hard. Then since we met, me, Mike and Ace, we was thick as thieves ever since. 'Cause, see, I had my own group, The Chronic, which was me and Bombay.

Well, I know a lot of people actually thought you were part of Freestyle Fellowship because you were on the cover of To Whom It May Concern... But that was just you guys hanging around a lot?

    Well, actually, I'll give you a wild story. The first Freestyle Fellowship was me, Mike and Ace. We were all solo artists but we entered a rap contest in Compton and we wanted to all enter together, because we all kicked it every day. We wanted to enter that contest together, so we said, "What're we gonna call ourselves? We'll call ourselves Freestyle Fellowship."

Wow! That's crazy.

     Yeah! [laughs] See, Sumbi, he was me and Bombay's DJ. That's why I'm on the album cover [of To Whom It May Concern...]. We were supposed to have a song on there. But John (Bombay) was always workin' at the time so we were never able to get a song on To Whom It May Concern... But Sumbi, he was me and John's producer. So, of course, I introduced them to Mike and Ace. But the first Fellowship was me, Mike and Ace. We entered a contest in Compton. Then after Bombay died, they had signed to Island Records and they asked me if I wanted to come on in. But I think I was still grieving. I didn't want to enter another group because I felt that was betraying him. I kinda wish I had joined them, because I was one of the originators of these styles anyway, but I just felt I'd be betraying John. He had just passed away. So I decided not to do that. Sometimes I regret that, but you never know, man.

Well, like you said, you were one of the originators of those styles and fortunately you did release a record in 1991 on Wild West Records where you are styling like that. That was also a record where you and Bombay were credited as The Chronic, again, in '91, before the Dre album. Can you talk about how you hooked up with Wild West?

    That was through MC Torche - he was a graffiti artist in junior high school - we used to call him Gumby. He started rapping after junior high school. 'Cause see, Marc the Murderah, me and Napom, we all went to high school together, you know what I'm sayin'? But I was the only one really rapping at that time, I believe. With Wild West, when I reconnected with Gumby, he was going by Torche and was working with Wild West. He told me to go up there and meet them, so that's how that came about. We did a few songs with them. That's how I believe I met Bird. Bird did a lot of production on my demo.

Did Bird also produce the original version of "Scud Missile" that was on your demo?

    No, the original version, me and Bombay wrote it, but before we were able to record it, he passed away. Then Matt (Mathmattiks) from the Earthquake Brothers, he did a beat and me and P.E.A.C.E. - 'cause P.E.A.C.E. was part of First Brigade before he was part of Fellowship - we did "Boomin' Scud Missile." I went out to see him last summer and he doesn't have a copy either. I wish I had a copy of that. He did John's parts. That song was really me and John going back and forth. He'd say a line, we'd say a line together. When we performed it at the Good Life, we tore it down! It was over with. Me and John was like the coldest west coast Run-D.M.C. you ever heard. We'd come in, "BOOM! A scud missile." We'd be going back and forth stupid! He'd say one line, I'd say one line. We'd come together, "Three blind mice, three blind mice, see how they run!" It was just ridiculous. That was my brother in rhyme, man. I still to this day miss John. I was just in my room recording, thinking of old rhymes he said. I was recordin' them over some beats Fat Jack gave me. I was recording that just the other night, some real old rhymes!

    So getting to the Good Life, this is the way that I remember it. I was talking to Mike or Ace about it at the reunion and they seem to have a different recollection than I do, but this is how I remember it: when we were getting together at Ace's spot, he said he knew a little cafe where people were busting, and was like, "We should go up there and see what's up." So we started going up there. Then the Good Life was born. We started going there and doing the styles we were doing at the house, mixing in jazz, playing with the microphone like it was a trumpet, you know, doing styles like that. All that came from using our voices like instruments. That's kinda where it derives from. If you really listen to what we're doing, it's like we're playing an instrument but doing rhymes with it. Then, all of a sudden, a lot of people caught on to it, and everybody started doing their version of it. That was the whole underground movement, how it was born.

Well, you were part of the Good Life, but you were also doing stuff with RBX and Tha Dogg Pound, which is the other side of west coast hip-hop, so you had your feet in both those lanes.

   Yeah, that's true. See, Mike actually knew Reality Born first. I didn't know RBX. Mike brought him into the circle. He had this song, "Every day I fight a devil." It was so dope! The song was just ridiculous. So when I got to meet him, we became cool. He had this DJ called Create.

    A funny story, me, Mike and RBX were doing a show in Vegas at the Thomas Wright Center, right? So we're in the van, me and Mike, going to Long Beach to pick up RBX. And we're waiting in the back of the van like, "What is takin' this motherfucker so long?" So when he finally gets in the van, we're like, "What the fuck?" And he's like, "I was just battlin' my cousin Snoopy. I had to show him what's up." We're like, "Man, we're trying to do a show. Who the fuck is Snoopy?" So we drove out there, performed in front of all these students. The Thomas Wright Center was packed. But we didn't know the little dude he was talking about battling was Snoop Dogg!

    I got so many stories. We was at one of those hip-hop functions, like a summit type thing. RBX was like, "Why don't y'all come over and meet my cousin. You know, Dre and them, Snoop, whoopty whoop." So we like, "Alright, fuck it!" We went over, me, Mike and Ace, and met all those cats. Me and P.E.A.C.E., they really liked us, so we started kickin' it with them a lot. We all became pretty close. I got pretty cool with Dre but mostly it was Snoop and Daz, and Kurupt of course, he came from the Good Life before he got into the gang banging and all that shit. He got a lot of respect at the Good Life.

   I know one time [laughs], me and P.E.A.C.E. went to Kurupt's aunty's house in Inglewood. We wanted to get in our freestyle so much, we were just freestyling at the table at two in the morning. His aunty kicked us out and me and P.E.A.C.E. had to find our way home from Inglewood. I just seen Kurupt this year actually, him and Warren G. It was good seein' 'em. I was tellin' Kurupt how proud I was of him. He was like, "Ganjah, we just gettin' started." He was treating me like a star.

So we kind of talked about this off the record, but for the readers, there's a rumor that you had an album prior to Harvest called Season of the Chronic but that was just a single song from your demo, right?

    Yeah, it was a song called "'Tis the Season" by The Chronic. If I remember right, it was, "Tis the season, welcome at your own risk, to the fortress, the First Brigaaaaaaaaade! Chronic!" I dunno, I think Bird did the production, or it might've been one of the Earthquake Brothers. Freestyle Fellowship was there. They helped us on the hook. So that's probably how people mixed that up and put that together and thought it was an album.

   I have another story, I had a song that me and Matt did. After John passed, Matt from the EQB did a lot of my earlier shit. I had a song called "Hip-Hop You Don't Stop." I was performing at Guadelupe's and Treach from Naughty By Nature was there. I was performing my song, which was a tribute to hip-hop. "Hip-hop, hip-hop, you don't stop!" Then I hear "Hip Hop Hooray," right? So I always thought, since Treach was there, there was some connection, but I couldn't put my finger on it. So I'm at The Gavin watching Diamond D perform, just by myself in a crowd of people. Then this guy starts coming toward me, through the crowd, and it was Treach. He reached out and shook my hand. We didn't even say nothin'. He just shook my head. And we kinda both knew what it was about, you know what I'm sayin'? And he left and I haven't seen him since.

So your first album then was Harvest for the World. Did that album get shelved when Pallas folded? Is that what happened there?

    Yeah, basically. That basically sums it up. It got shelved, not once Pallas folded, but once the CEO of the label got fired, and they got a new CEO of the company. There was a guy from Japan who actually funded the label, but a guy named Jerome, they put in charge of everything, including all the artists. That was me, Muhammad, which is Phoenix Orion, they had Alien Nation, and Supernatural was part of that label as well. That's how I met Supernat and we became like brothers. I was actually in New York when Supernat had that battle with Craig G. I was at a photo session. Then when I got done, he was like, "Ganjah! They set me up!" I was like, "What are you talkin' about? Calm down. What happened?!" He was like, "Maaaan, I was up there for a freestyle exhibition and they got Craig G!" I was like, "Craig G from the Juice Crew?" He was like, "Yeah, man! He started dissin' me! It was like he knew it was gonna happen. He had lines ready!" I think that was like the first battle he ever lost, so he was hotter than fish grease on a Friday night! [laughs]

    So when I'm back in L.A. he calls me up like, "Ganjah! I got that motherfucker back, man!" I think it was Supernat's birthday. He was like, "I was walking around New York and I found out he was doin' a show and I went up there and smashed the mic! I got that motherfucker back!" [laughs] That's my guy, Supernat. We was just talkin'. I introduced him to the Good Life and that's how he became cool with everybody out here.

    Back to the Pallas thing, after Fab Five Freddy took over Pallas Records, they decided to start fresh and new, so they got those guys from Chicago, Crucial Conflict, and put them out through Pallas. Then that was the last of Pallas Records. But me and Fab Five Freddy became kinda cool. I dunno how he took over the label, we got dropped, and I got cool with him. I have no idea how that happened [laughs]. But I mean, I was still serving the industry. I was getting emcee money without even being out, off of hustling. I was one of the first rappers in High Times magazine.

Yeah, you also had some soundtrack appearances around that time. One of them - we talked about Bombay earlier - was a tribute to him, "When Your Homie Dies." I wanted to ask, you used a melody from an Earth, Wind & Fire song on there. Did that song have some significance, or was that Fat Jack's idea?

    That was just one of my favourite songs. That whole concept was me. I just had Fat Jack put it together. I wanted it just like that song from Earth, Wind & Fire. So DK Toon (now known as DK NoDeal), he was Lil Cartoon from 60s. So then Big Cartoon from 60s got out of jail, and he had this amazing voice. I was like, "Lil Toon, is it cool if I get Big Cartoon on this song?" He was like, "Eh, I dunno." He wanted him to himself. They were from the same set. I get that. I get the ghetto get-down. But I was like, "C'mon, man! Let Big Cartoon get on the song." And that really made it. 'Cause there was no way in the world I was gonna hit those notes [laughs]. And me, DK and Dutch did an album too, called 3 tha Hard Way.

When was that one recorded?

    That was recorded between '98 and 2001, somewhere around there. 

And you're still planning to release that one, right?

Yeah, I just don't know all the ins and outs of how to load that up, all the technical shit. Only reason I got what I got now up is because Jizzm came through and helped me out. But he's been busy doing his thing. I've got these two albums to post, plus I got two new albums. But I still have The Ganjah K Chronicles and 3 tha Hard Way. I just need someone who's hip to that who can help me load it up. Jizzm did the album covers for me too. He was able to get Harvest for the World, Possession of Sales, the First Brigade album, and I appreciate him doing that. I just gotta get these other ones out.

Well, one that did get released back in the day was Danksta Life 'cause I saw someone post a pic of the CD. Did you just press that up and sell it indepedently?

    Yeah, Danksta Life was right after Pallas folded, and the G Funk was out, so I had Danksta Life. So I put that out independently. It came across pretty cool. A lot of people dug it. Harvest for the World was really my first release. John had just passed away. Fat Jack did a lot of that one. Plus you had The Nonce doing "Green Acres," which was also part of my demo, J-Sumbi, we had Abstract doing the hook on "All I Need." It was a dope record.

This isn't really a soundtrack appearance but one of the things that really tripped me out was when I heard "Scud Missile" on The Sopranos. Did they approach you for that, or how did that come about?

     Man, I just seen that last year! I used to be in the streets too much to see The Sopranos, but I was goin' through all the seasons and I see the guys in the car, and I'm hearin' my voice, and I'm like - this is last year - I'm like, "Fat Jack! Did you know our song is on The Sopranos." He was like, "Ganjah, I dunno man, I released all the rights to my music. I was done with it. So I dunno what happened." I had to rewind it back like sixteen times to make sure I'm hearing what I'm hearing here. So I wait for the credits to see if they say my name and there's nothing on the credits, no nothing.

It's funny 'cause if I remember right, the son is playing that in his car right after they catch him smoking weed in the garage, so it's pretty appropriate [laughs].

    [laughs] Yeah, man. It was a fuckin' shock. You're watching Sopranos and you hear your song. It fucked me up, man. But, you know, I didn't get paid but whatever. It was a long time ago. It was more of a shock to hear myself on this worldly recognized fuckin' show. It blew my wig back. It's crazy 'cause nobody told me either! Like, "Hey, man, your song was on The Sopranos." But nobody told me.

    I had some other soundtrack appearances too. I was on Playing God, Thin Line Between Love & Hate, Next of Kin, Dead Homiez. We did Action Jackson. There was another movie about a little white kid and the black kid who played in Family Matters. That was one of the first soundtracks I did. So as far as soundtracks, I've had my share of those. Thin Line Between Love & Hate was due to RBX. He took me right into Warner Bros., and was like, "Look out for my boy, Ganjah K." They were like, "We got this new movie. If he can give us something for that, we can put him on that." RBX, we became pretty close. That's my dude right there.

You were supposed to drop an album called Puff Daddy back in the early 2000s on J. Sumbi's label, Beats & Rhymes. Did that album ever get finished?

    I don't know nothin' about Puff Daddy...

It was on a website he had for his label, Beats & Rhymes, and he had, coming soon... Puff Daddy.

    [laughs] It's called Puff Daddy?


    The only Puff Daddy I know is... Puff Daddy [laughs]. Maybe it's supposed to be something else? Like... puff, puff, pass? I had a rhyme about Puff the Magic Dragon. Shit, I don't remember that. Who was supposed to be putting it out? J-Sumbi?

Yeah, it was on his website, "coming soon, Puff Daddy."

   [laughs] I gotta see that.

A lot of people have been asking me if you plan to release any hard copies of these albums. Is that the plan, or are they gonna be digital only?

   Yeah, I do plan on putting out hard copies. You know, I had this box of cassette tapes. A big box. It was deep as hell. I put it in storage and didn't pay my storage fees and they auctioned my shit off. I guarantee you, if I had that box of cassettes, I would have me and P.E.A.C.E. doing "Scud Missile." I would have shit that nobody heard. I think about it a couple times a year, about what it could've had in it. But at the time, it was getting in my way, it just seemed like nothing. But God, I wish I had that box now. It had all my old shit. But, you know, that's what happens when you just take for granted that shit is just around.

    I also got offered to be part of Tha Dogg Pound, but, at the time, I just decided to do my own thing. But, you see, Dogg Pound wasn't out yet. I don't even think Snoop had done Doggystyle yet. But I wish I took that opportunity. All I had to do was get on somebody's album and shine. It would've lifted myself up. But hindsight is 20/20, you know?

On your more recent stuff, like Possession of Sales and Swaggerific, you adopted a more modern sound. I know a lot guys feel they need to stay relevant but in your case, it kinda sounds like that style comes naturally to you. Am I right about that?

       Man, it really does. I made vow to myself that hip-hop will never pass me by. I promised myself I would always be able to get whatever's going on in hip-hop. So the reason it sounds like it comes natural is because I get it. I want to get it. I don't want to be one of those old guys who were like what we were like when we were young. "Oh, you doin' that boom bap? What's that?" I didn't wanna be like that. These guys who are like, "Oh, this ain't the old hip-hop anymore!" We sound just like them. We were tellin' them, "You old school. You don't get it." Now they tellin' us we don't get it. But if I do have one qualm about the new school today, it's that everybody fuckin' sounds alike! That's the only thing I don't get. If you close your eyes, everybody sounds like one artist. He sounds like him, and they sound like them. That's the only thing I don't get. But knowing how to spit on there, it comes naturally to me because I understand it. Plus I don't listen to the radio every day. If I was listening every day, I'd probably be doper! But I hear it, at clubs when I'm out, and I get it. But back in the day, with KRS-One, Rakim, we listened every day. These new songs, I couldn't rap any of their lyrics. If you put a million dollars in front of me, I couldn't do it.

Do you have any new projects in the works you'd like to talk about? Napom told me you guys were planning to record some new stuff, and I know you have solo records in the works.

    I have probably recorded about two or three albums worth of new material because I do it here at the house. I was gonna do Danksta Life 2, of course, and I was gonna do another album called Back to My Roots, on some hip-hop shit. Goin' back to just straight melodic hip-hop tracks, you know what I mean? I have some other things in the works I can't reveal now, but it's some crazy shit in the works.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Imp Can Cook

    Readers of this blog will be familiar with the music of Imperator, and should also be aware that Imp has moved into film with his new company From Rap to Film, as well as his first video project, Jean Powe: Stevens Johnson Syndrome Survivor. Imp is continuing with the video work with his latest project, a cooking show entitled What You Cooking Steve? Currently two episodes deep, Imp posted up the first video on Youtube, where he whipped up an elaborate breakfast, and followed up with a Mediterranean meal. You can subscribe to his new site here, and check out episode one on Youtube below.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Dilemma Demolition

     Here's a compilation of demo recordings from up-and-coming Cali artist Dilemma 39, featuring DJ Seedless and Omnivirus of the Cola Crew and HARDWERK, D-Real of Wasted Knowledge, Young "Devi" Wonder, RoloYouKnow, and more. Dilemma delivers a true school flavor, coming with "expression of art from the heart," over boom bap beats. His deliberate flow is straight forward, moving from conscious to boastful, and at times autobiographical, he keeps thing varied while staying in his lane. While these are rough demo recordings, they show promise for future refinement. Stay tuned to his Bandcamp and Soundcloud pages for future projects.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Aki "Hurt" Kharmicel Presents...

     Since he began releasing albums back in 1997, Kennuf Akbar aka Aki Kharmicel has recorded music that gives you an unfiltered glimpse into his mind. By carving out a distinctive sound, utilizing unique rhyme patterns and wordplay, and covering uncharted ground conceptually, Aki draws the listener into a world that is rich and multifaceted. Since his earliest projects, he has used storytelling - altering the pitch of his voice to represent characters and moods - to colour the proceedings and add depth to his work. Twenty years later, Aki has only broadened his array of styles and personas, and his latest project, an EP entitled TheDameRejects Part 1 (Refuge from Refuse), is a collision of many of his more recent sounds. The EP is a prelude of sorts to his upcoming full length, D.A.M.E. (Destroying All My Enemies), this EP being a collection of "rejects" from that project. But due to the high caliber of these songs, Aki has creatively spun TheDameRejects into a full blown concept.

  Not long after establishing himself as the futuristic soul man and raptivist Aki Kharmicel, Akbar quickly introduced his crooning alter ego Aki Khalaq, and his back ups, the Blak Prints. Through this outlet, Aki spun tales of doomed love, pimped up bravado and heartache, pushing the soulful vibes of Aki Kharmicel into new territory. Now, under the alias "Hurt," a reference to the bluesy song of the same name, Aki delivers this EP, which contains traces of his many alter egos. Producer The Ak, still firmly rooted in soul, also delves into funk and psychedelic sounds. Aki Khalaq grabs the mic to deliver some crooning, then falls back to let "Hurt" spit his rhymes, or talk shit, resulting in an always engaging and entertaining listen.

  While so many artists approach making music in a mechanical way, recording a product to sell, Aki is a good reminder of what a true artist is. Many of the songs and albums he records never make it to the public, but he is constantly creating, refining and exploring new styles, strictly for the love of music. While those who treat it like a job make music that is formulaic and uninspired, Aki keeps it pure and it shows. This is a high water mark for this unique artist and the balance of styles present here convinces me that Aki's best and most interesting work lies ahead of him. Check out TheDameRejects EP on Aki's Bandcamp and stay tuned for future projects.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Beetbak Compilation Tape & Magazine

    Here at Bring That Beat Back, we have been quietly working on a compilation tape and magazine that will be sold on Bandcamp in upcoming months. The tape will feature a slew of artists who have been featured on the site, including BigMass of Massdog Music, Aki Kharmic.el, Syndrome & Vyrus of ThEX2, Bullysquad, Name Science, Napom and Marc the Murderah of First Brigade, Supherb, Jahli of Darkleaf, A.K.M. of Cypha 7, Imperator, Masters of the Universe alumni Bennie "Eclipse" Herron, Zombie619er, and Bomedybeats, and more.

    The magazine will contain all the interviews Jack and I have conducted on beetbak, plus a selection of write ups. The tape and magazine will be sold together as a bundle and all proceeds will be donated to Jean in the Front Row, who has been suffering from a condition called Stevens Johnson Syndrome since 2007. For more info, you can check out Imperator's documentary on Jean and her struggles here.

    Below is a sampler containing snippets of a handful of songs that will be featured on the tape. The full version of the tape will run just under 70 minutes with around 20 songs. Slated for a May/June release, further details will be posted here. Stay tuned.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Giggin' with Mike Swift

Da Mad Scientist

    A while back, I conducted an interview with an artist who I now consider one of the most innovative and genuine musicians I have had the pleasure of speaking to. Koobaatoo Asparagus, hailing from the Bay Vista area of San Diego, keeps his artistry pure. He has no concern for fame or accolades, instead focusing his energy entirely on his creations, which are spontaneous and outside of the box. This incredibly prolific artist began his musical journey creating experimental DJ mixes, under the alias DJ Mike Swift, back in 1990, and after hearing them, his influence on artists who came later in the San Diego rap scene is clear. 

    He went on to become a beat maker and rapper, recording the underground classic Android Masters in 1996, alongside Masters of the Universe alumni Zombie619er. After a brief stint as an in-house producer for LaFace Records, he made the decision to move away from sampling and, instead, began creating his own compositions. It was during this period, in the late 90s/early 2000s, that Bomedybeats was born. A staggering amount of material was recorded, traces of which are scattered over the internet, all of which displayed the new, unique sound he had created, firmly rooted in funk. He began crooning over his beats, and worked with a wide range of artists, such as Young Mantre, J Sharpe and Young Reef.

    Following a drug induced revelation, Koobaatoo reinvented himself yet again, deciding to focus his talents on positivity and to follow in the footsteps of the master of sound exploration himself, the mighty Sun Ra. He began experimenting with circuit bending, and eventually discovered "harsh noise wall," a genre which is reminiscent to the white noise of a fan in it's composition and therapeutic qualities. Since that shift in his approach and views on sound, Koobaatoo has recorded literally thousands of experimental noise albums, occasionally recording beats and funk tracks when the inspiration hits him.

    With this write up, I wanted to highlight a few of his more recent projects, which remain impossible to label but contain traces of funk, pop, soul, hip-hop, and a healthy dose of electronic experimentation. Due to his spontaneous approach, these recordings hold a similar tension and release structure to many free jazz recordings, and are far from easy listening. Their beauty lies in the moments when the chaos turns to order, and Koobaatoo's genius stares you in the face. As the man explained to me, "In the long run, you either got it or you don't. So just like Sun Ra, when I'm recording, if I mess up, I keep recording. I want to get it over with, put it in the archives and move to the next song. You have some cats who be like, 'Nah, put that back. Take that out. Put that snare in.' You lose creativity and it becomes homework. So I'm always spontaneous and whatever I make, I put it out." So sit back, smoke something, and listen to one of Sun Ra's disciples taking yet another journey into the land of unfound sound.

    Also, stay tuned for updates regarding the upcoming Android Masters project, Anunnaki Brothers, as well as some collaborations between Zombie619er and Tranzformer. Both Koobaatoo and Zombie will also be featured on the upcoming beetbak cassette tape compilation, which will be sold alongside a magazine containing all the interviews on beetbak plus a handful of write ups, the proceeds of which will be donated to our good friend Jean in the Front Row. Stay tuned!

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Show Respect Here: An Interview with Jizzm High Definition

    Very few rap artists will ever have a resume that rivals the All Deadly Jizzm. Aside from being a skilled emcee, Jizzm is also a talented producer, having supplied beats for all your favourite underground (and some overground) rappers. His early albums were epic compilations featuring a who's who of the west coast underground, but more recently, like on his 2014 Publicity Stunt record, he holds the precedings down himself, showing and proving his blade is still sharp. With a new project on the horizon produced by Nick V of "Pistolgrip-Pump" fame, the HDMC took some time to talk about his long and varied history.

What was your earliest experience with hip-hop and what inspired you to start rapping yourself?

    I'll take you way back to my childhood days. I was watching Beat Street, breaking, and before that even, my next door neighbour, my best friend, who was older than me, was playing the song "Jam On It" by Newcleus. I loved the song so much I actually memorized the lyrics. That was pretty much my intro. That joint had me sold, ultimately, on the love of the music. Then breaking and popping, in my area - I grew up in La Puente and I used to play baseball, Sunset Little League - and when breaking and popping hit, everybody on my block, everybody on the baseball field, got down. They had the cardboard out and heads were taking turns busting flares, popping, locking, in that style. That early era, the 80s, cats were rocking the Michael Jackson glove with the Playboy emblems with parachute pants. It was the newest shit, you know? Back then, people were saying, rap, hip-hop - it was hard to categorize it, at the time - was just a phase, just another phase from the 80s, like duck tails, and all the other genres that were coming out.

I know back in the day you used to call yourself MC 2 Sweet. I also saw a picture of your crew at the time, U.N.I.T. Can you talk about that era a bit?

    It evolved into elementary school, where I really became an emcee. I was writing down lyrics of songs I wanted to memorize, and I was into Run-D.M.C. So I'd go to school and spit the lyrics, but I was saying the words wrong. They were like, "Nah, those aren't the words." And I was like, "Well, they should've been the words." [laughs]. That's when I realized, "Well, if I messed up their lyrics, I guess I can write my own." Early on, I was influenced by Run-D.M.C., Too $hort, N.W.A., in the mid to late 80s. That's what got me going, writing lyrics. My first emcee name, when I finally started rapping at house parties, I was 2 Sweet.

    In 1991, when I was 16 years old, my first job was working at a record store in La Puente, called Johnny's Record. While working there, I met a couple people and one of 'em was actually Hitman Julio G, who was making beats back in '91 and is now Mellow Man Ace's DJ. The girl who owned the record store, after Johnny passed away, was Mellow Man Ace's fiance. When that all went down, I also met this crew that came in to bring their record called the U.N.I.T. They were signed to Art Laboe's label, Original Sound, and also did some stuff on Moola Records and Thump Record's Volume 2 Soundtrack. I spit for them in the record store and the dude, MC TNT, liked my vibe so much he was like, "Yo, man, I need you to come out with us to do these shows."

    So at 16 years old, I was with these dudes doing car shows, for Lowrider Magazine, for like 5,000, 10,000 people. It was a big difference from my early years, rapping at house parties. So I cut my first record with them. My song was a love song, a remake of "(La-La Means) I Love You," an oldie by the Delfonics. Their song was "Peace in the Varrio," which was MC TNT and Woody. We did a gang of shows. We were performing with Mellow Man Ace, Kid Frost, Lighter Shade of Brown, Hi-C, Boo-Ya T.R.I.B.E., the list goes on and on. It was a different era. It was the era of doing car shows.

    One of the crews we performed with was Cypress Hill. What was crazy about that, before I performed with them, when working at the record store, I helped Mellow Man Ace move [laughs]. I was driving the U-Haul truck with B-Real, Sen, their homie Urn Dog, who wasn't part of the crew, but was one of their long-time homies. But I had already heard their music because they had this tape that we had at the record store that was called Cypress Hill Tribe. My joint, from what I remember back then, was "Hole in the Head." I basically let them know I was feeling what they were doing. That was before they had blown up. I think that was 1991. It was a crazy experience, meeting them back then. Then later, I was doing shows with them in 1992.

So how did you first discover the Good Life?

   Back then, I was joining every rap competition I could, on some battle shit. And back then, I was consistently undefeated. As a matter of fact, there was this rap concert in Pomona at Street Beat Records. I was the undefeated champion for about a year. Then the 13th month I didn't go, and one of my good friends to this day, Jinx, he wanted to battle, and I was like, "Uh, okay." So I ended up going back and rapping against my good friend. But I pretty much retired from those battles. Every time I won the battle, I got like $250 in store gear, which was pretty cool. At that point, out here, in this S.G.V., 909,  I was reading in Urb Magazine about this local open mic spot called the Good Life.

    Actually, a quick story I kinda skipped over: Me and Jinx used to go to Ballistics before all this went down. Will1x, who later become of Black Eyed Peas, was pretty much the legendary emcee and we actually battled him, which is crazy. That was from the earlier era, when I was like 15 years old. We went to Ballistics, the Whiskey, the Roxy. was definitely a lyricist. Just know, we go that far back. Matter of fact, before I went to the Good Life, I went to a show at Leonardo's that is still one of my most memorable shows. It blew my mind. It was tha Alkaholiks, Pharcyde, Freestyle Fellowship, S.I.N., which was Medusa and Koko, Figures of Speech, Queen Latifah, Naughty By Nature and KRS-One.


   So all these dudes performed at this one show. It was actually my boy Jinx who told me to roll with him because he knew Pharcyde was my favourite group. They all stood out, but to me, Pharcyde, with their theatrics, were just crazy! While they were performing, they were standing on their heads! One dude was standing on his head, and another dude was breakdancing and knocked him off his head into the turntables, and J-Swift was DJing, and was like, "Aw, we can't have you bangin' the turntables." So they stopped the music, and just body slammed him and shit, in the middle of the show! It was amazing for me to see those theatrics go down at a hip-hop show. To this day, I've never seen anybody else perform like that.

Well, it all kinda comes full circle because you've worked with Taboo from Black Eyed Peas, Imani from Pharcyde, and now you're working with Tash from tha Alkaholiks!

    It's all full circle, right? At that show, they asked if there were any rappers in the crowd. They ended up pulling up me and! So both of us spit and got cheers from the crowd. In 1993, to be able to rap in front of 500 people with all these rappers I looked up to, that was a feat for me. So afterwards, was talking to me, on the side, and he was like, "Man, this is cool, but I don't wanna do shows like this. There's only 500 people here. I wanna perform in front of millions of people, for the world." So for me, this is like a highlight, rapping in front of all these people at this phenomenal show, at this, shall I say, quote-on-quote, "golden era event." But he was like, "I wanna do shows in front of millions of people." So the Law of Attraction, he put that into action, and has performed at two Superbowls, is a multimillionaire. He accomplished what he wanted to. He had that vision, back then.

    So the same year, 1993, I rolled up to the Good Life with Jinx. We signed the list. We got on, and that was the first place where - I had rapped every place I could on this side of the street, on this side of L.A. - but at the Good Life, there was so many dope emcees in one concentrated place, so much competition. I always thought I was the illest. Now I'm at a place where everybody thinks they're the illest, but they're battling and competing with styles that are so diverse. It was like Showtime at the Apollo. When you got up there to bust, if the crowd wasn't feeling you, they'd boo you off the stage! "Pleeeeease pass the mic!" I wanna say, when I first started going there, it was like 90% black. And the other 10% was like me, Xololanxinxo and 2Mex, Sesquipedalien, Omid. From my first introduction at the Good Life, I was there almost every Thursday.

    I always thought I was invincible, undefeatable, but when I went to the Good Life, I realized the competition is heavier than what was happening out here, and the goal of every emcee was to be the best of the best. You had members of the Freestyle Fellowship hanging out there every week. I was there when Fat Joe, you know, went down. I felt like going to the Life was the greatest competition. I wanted to impress all these people that I didn't know, right? So on my second or third week, they were giving out a hat from a movie that had come out called Sugar Hill. They were like, "We're gonna give this hat to somebody who impresses us." The first couple people who went up got booed off the stage. Then I went up and busted a song I had called "Reject" and I got the hat! I was so happy, I kept wearing that hat, to the point where people thought my name was Sugar Hill [laughs]. I was 2 Sweet, transitioning to Jizzm High Definition, and I had a couple names in between. But 1993 is when I really went from 2 Sweet to Jizzm High Definition.

On your first tape, Don't Even Trip, you had a freestyle, "Nike Radio Commercial." Can you talk about how that came about?

    At the Good Life there was different contests and competitions. One night, I wanna say it was 1994, there was a competition for a Nike radio commercial. Out of that competition, they picked three people: P.E.A.C.E. from Freestyle Fellowship, Otherwize and myself. They took us to Enterprise Studios in L.A. and played these basketball sounds, beats that sound like a basketball bouncing and shoes squeaking, and they had us freestyle about Nike. We all busted and it was strictly freestyle. They were trying to do a west coast vs. east coast thing. We freestyled in the studio, they gave us $700 and a pair of shoes. I remember it was called Air Tenacity. They were playing that commercial on POWER106 and 92.3 The Beat, in L.A. It was supposed to evolve into some east coast vs. west coast thing, but when Biggie and Pac got shot, they kinda decided to do some other stuff. That was another feat that I felt we all accomplished. To be able to listen to the Wake Up Show and hear your commercial come on was extra fun. 

You've done a lot of stuff that has gone on to become considered classic. Probably one of the most historic songs you were part of is "Farmers Market of the Beast." Can you talk about your memories recording that, and who came up with that concept?

    I had linked up with AWOL and did some shows with me, AWOL and Circus. I met Circus through AWOL. I met AWOL in 1993 at a Lowrider car show. AWOL was working as the DJ for JV the Neighborhood Queen. I was introduced to him, but I knew who he was from those underground tapes floating around with that song with him and Myka 9, "And the worms are eating your brain." So we exchanged information at that show, and hooked up later. He came to my place and we recorded a song on 4-track to a beat he brought, called "Mind State." I ended up dropping it on my Illasophic Vol. 1 album.

   What happened with "Farmers Market" was Omid shot me the beat on cassette. I connected with Kamal, he came over to my crib, and we sat down and came up with that idea. The reason I had two verses on there was because initially it was just me and Kamal. We did it on 4-track. We came up with the hook, recorded it on the spot. I shot it to Omid and he liked it so much, he wanted to rerecord it in this studio over in San Pedro. He wanted to make it more of a posse cut, so he invited Xololanxino, AWOL and Circus to jump on there. It was DJ Hive's place, in San Pedro. He did the engineering. What was unique was, Circus came with his rhyme written down on a roll toilet paper, rolled out. 


    You know how long his verse is on there? 

Yeah, like half the song was his verse.

    Right. Well, his verse was like three times longer than that, scrolled out, written on toilet paper. It stretched out as long as the room. What you heard was actually a shorter version. 

Well, I had heard that the rest of that verse got used on "Any Mal and the Useless Eaters" but I had never heard the toilet paper part. That's great.

     I was like, "This dude's crazy." Which he is, man [laughs]. That song definitely became a staple of underground hip-hop in L.A. It was a very mind-stretching and creative joint.

When you were recording the stuff for your early projects - Illasophic, Archives and Show Respect Here - were you just recording in different spots, or did you have a studio where people were coming through to record?

    Illasophic was recorded mostly on 4-track at my place. I want to say I recorded the song with CVE at the CV Shack. The song Evidence of Dialated Peoples produced we did at Kutmasta Kurt's. I actually paid for the studio time to record those joints, and Kurt told me that even though he was recording with Kool Keith, Lootpack and Dialated Peoples, I was one of the first people to actually pay for studio time. That joint ended up being the single from the Illasophic album, and of course Kurt went on to become an L.A. legend.

Your Show Respect Here album really showcased your production. When did you first start making beats? 

     What happened was, from sitting in sessions with Evidence - I think it was there, at Kutmasta Kurt's - Evidence was like, "Man, anybody can make beats. If you've got the ear, any emcee should be able to make his own beats." When he planted that seed in my head, I was like, "You know what? I do have an ear. I could do it." So I ended up buying an MPC2000. I was so excited the day I bought it, I called this company that was doing Jizzm shirts at the time, called Wreckgear. When I'd do shows, they'd roll out, like 15 people wearing Jizzm shirts. They were like my team, you know? So the moment I bought the MPC, I called these dudes and told them I'd produce an album for their clothing line, and we could cross promote, right? It was just an idea off of being excited and hype. Well, these cats went out and mentioned it to a couple of magazines and it was already being advertised that I was producing an album, but I had never made beats before! So when they did that, I thought, "I better get on it!" What I ended up doing, in a matter of three months, I had six of the songs produced and recorded. I went from 4-track to recording on a VS880. The songs I had recorded, I had Mystik Journeymen, Otherwize, P.E.A.C.E. - actually the P.E.A.C.E. song we recorded with Mums the Word up at his studio - PSC from Mystik Journeymen, myself and Mykill Miers. I put those songs out as a 12" three months in. And within five months the album was completely produced, recorded and released. The album featured Aceyalone and Abstract Rude. AWOL One was actually the first person to record a song for the project. Man, Slant Eyes, Puzoozoo and Vixen from Onamonapia and my other crew, Kali 9, Otherwize, Global Phlowtations, the list goes on and on, man. I can't recall everybody off the bat, but everybody that jumped on, killed it.

You mentioned Kali 9. That's one of those groups a lot of underground collectors are obsessive about. Did you guys ever release a tape or was it just songs, here and there? I had heard of one called Zip Codes.

    We recorded a gang of songs and were planning to put out a tape, a project called Kali 9 Zip Codes. It consisted of Khynky Red, who was actually the creator of the crew, Puzoozoo Watt, Slant Eyes, who went on to be Snoop Dogg's manager, Vixen, who was Puzoozoo Watt's sister, Nobody, Noname, Murs was an extended member, Basik MC was definitely a member. I'm not sure if I'm forgetting anybody.

So that tape never got released then?

   No, it never surfaced. The side tapes that did come out were Secret Service, which was Puzoozoo and Slant Eyes. We had songs we had recorded that we were performing at shows, but we never released it totally. The group ended up breaking up in 2006, maybe 2007.

In 2009, you dropped an album called Infinite. Was that originally intended to be Illasophic Vol. 2 but it evolved into something different?

   Yes. What happened was, in 1997, I dropped Illasophic. In 1998, I dropped another solo album called Archives. Then 1999, a couple months after Archives dropped, I dropped Show Respect Here. Then I dropped another album called Unlimited Edition, which dropped, I think, in 2002. Then I did an Illasophic Vol. 2 EP, which was ten songs plus nine other songs from individual projects I was producing. Three songs were from a project for Otherwize, another three were with Medusa, and the last three was a project I was working on with a side crew, which was me and J. B. Evil. What ended up happening was I recorded like sixty songs. I was like, "Should I just take out the top twenty and call it Illasophic Vol. 2?" Or, since I already have the Illasophic Vol. 2 EP, I thought, "Let me just twist it up." So it evolved into a project I entitled Infinite Timeless Masterpieces, a three part album. So in 2009, I dropped Infinite, which is songs that were supposed to be on Illasophic Vol. 2. After that, I dropped Timeless, and Masterpieces is a project that I still have on deck right now that I'm in the process of releasing.

Your albums were obviously known for having these amazing guest lists, but in 2014 you did an album called Publicity Stunt that had no guest spots. Was that a conscious decision to have no guests on that one?

    Yes, that's a 100% solo project. Not only did I not have any guests, but, if I'm not mistaken, I believe I produced every song on the album. It was a different effort from the other projects I had done. Around that time, a friend of mine had passed away, so I was going through something. But I kept creating, and I had some side projects I didn't mention. One was called Frequency Freaks, that never really dropped, which was me, Phoenix Orion and Trensetta. We have a whole album on deck, doing joints over 80s cuts, but flipped. That's been done for years, and we're planning to release it. Another side project was the Wake Up People, which was me, Puzoozoo Watt and Xololanxino, and was entirely produced by this guy from Germany, Kenji451. We have that whole project, for free, on Bandcamp. Then another one we had was West Coast Avengers - we're in the middle of doing part 2 right now - which was me, Tony da Skitzo, and also included Orko, Medusa, Otherwize, Faxx, Phoenix Orion, Born Allah, they all came through. I also produced an album for Otherwize and another one for Phoenix Orion, PXO Futcha Flo. And I produced some tracks for the Canibus and Phoenix Orion LP, Cloak N Dagga.

I saw somewhere you were doing a Show Respect Here Pt. 2. Is that still in the works?

   Yeah, that's something I'm in the process of producing. There's a number of projects that are in the works.

I was talking to Minister Too Bad a while back and he told me other than Fat Jack and Digiak, you were the other producer he had worked with. Did you guys record a lot of stuff? I know you had his brother singing on your Timeless album.

    Yeah, I got like eight tracks with 2 Bad, that we recorded back in the day. 

Do you think those ever might see the light of day?

   If I can find the files. One I have is called "Different Infinite" which is me, Minister 2 Bad and Trek Life. We're all from West Covina. We used to get down with Mista Grimm too.

With your new stuff, you've adopted a more modern sound in terms of production but you've always kept it very lyrical. How do you feel about this new generation of rappers, and do you feel it's possible to adapt to the new sounds while still keeping true to the foundation? 

    As far as my music is concerned, I consider myself to be very versatile and unlimited. But one thing, you won't hear me mumbling. I'm not a hater. I like trap beats. I'm a fan of music. If the beat is banging, no matter what style, I can ride it. Coming from the roots of Good Life and Project Blowed, anything you throw at me, I can flip it. But I'm unlimited. I can do many styles, any style, and as long as I'm making it my own, I'ma do it. But there's stuff I don't listen to and don't like. I'm definitely not gonna get on a rant about what I don't like. You can't put a cap on it, when it comes to me. There are some DJs who are like, "I won't play that," but I have other shit they will play.

You have a new project in the works produced by Nick V of the Baka Boyz. Can you talk about the concept and any details about that project? 

   So far we have seven songs done. It features Tash from tha Alkaholiks. I have a song with Dirty Birdy and Scarub from Living Legends. I have another joint with Rifleman, Ganjah K and Mykill Miers. I have another one I'm wrapping up with Chali 2na. We're gonna get one with Ras Kass. And it's entirely produced by Nick V of the Baka Boyz. We did a song with Dirty Birdy and Scarub called "American Gangster" which is a twist on what a gangster is, which is the government who are the real gangsters. The latest single is with Tash, called "Bout to Begin," which is like the pre-game show joint. That project is dropping on the Baka Boyz label.

    I also was in New York recently and recorded an eleven song EP in four days called Paradigm Shift, with me and Nova the Wraith. It features production from myself, Omega One, Apakalips and J Turner from Soul Assassins. That album is phenomenal. It's definitely on that raw, hip-hop shit and it's an east coast/west coast collab. Another project I have is called In the Presence of Greatness, which is recorded and I'm just finishing the mixing and mastering. Then I'm dropping the Masterpieces project. It's a combination of stuff from the archives and a couple new joints I have on deck.

If people want to get at you for beats or mastering, what's the best way to contact you?

   I would say through Facebook. Hit up Robert Leon on Facebook and just message me.

Free Downloads:

  West Coast Avengers
  Wake Up People: Dark World Light

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Forgotten Dialect: An Interview with Kayer

Kayer Music

    Kayer is an artist who represents the true school to the fullest. His music represents positivity through hip-hop and his roots lie in ciphers and expression through graffiti. He made a name for himself as part of the Forgotten Dialect crew, and later through Sub-Level Epidemic, and has more recently worked with heavyweights such as P.E.A.C.E. and Spoon (of Iodine), both of whom were featured on his last LP, Rewind-A-Decade. With a new project on the horizon, Kayer took some time to break down his history and discuss his plans for the future.

Could you talk about your earliest experiences with hip-hop and what inspired you to start rapping?

    My earliest hip-hop memories go back to being a kid in Baltimore, Maryland. In the late 80s, I got to run with my older cousin and neighbourhood friends. We used to hang at the basketball court, which was taken over with skate ramps, and the breakers always kept a cipher going. It was around 1992 when I started paying attention to graffiti. Also, around the same time, I wrote my first rap just for fun. In this time period, I lived with my father who really struggled with drugs, so by 1993 they sent me to live with my mom in Oregon. The Northwest was a big change from Baltimore, but I quickly linked up with the hip-hop heads and skaters of Portland. There is a bunch of early names but eventually we formed the AOM Crew (Army of Minds) and it was those dudes I started writing raps and freestyling with. By 1995 I was real dedicated to writing songs and painting graff. I used to hang with writers from the O.G. Portland crews SMS, OFA, KFS, HOD, DWA, and the list goes on. Those cats were all supporters of my music back when I got started. 

Kaer Aom

    As far as my influences, some of the first hip-hop tapes I bought were Run-D.M.C., Beastie Boys, DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince, Big Daddy Kane, Eric B. & Rakim, Slick Rick and the list goes on. After that, it became everything Native Tongues and west coast crews like Hieroglyphics, Freestyle Fellowship and Pharcyde.

Can you break down some history regarding the Forgotten Dialect era and your first album with DJ Void?

    Forgotten Dialect was most active in the mid to late 90s. There was about 8-10 of us over the years. The earliest recordings were with my high school homies Chilly Chaze, John Soriano (Fidel Maestro), Chris Riser (Itrans) and myself, known as Kaera One back then. We started using the name Forgotten Dialect around 1996 when we met our producer, 8:35. He helped us get our sound to the next level. Around the same time we began to perform locally and added more heads to the collective. We were one of the only Northwest crews slanging on ATAK in that time period and painting freights was also giving us fame out of state. I wrote a song titled "End to End Poetry" that was circulating with a few graff flicks, in magazines. Writers really dug that I represented both elements. I had people contacting us from all over to buy that tape. It definitely paved the way for me as an artist. During that era DJ Void and DJ Wicked were known as the Audio Orphanz. They were makin' noise with dope scratch routines and heads were juiced to hear Void on my album, which was his first release also. 8:35, Relentless (Bloodmoney) and Zroe Aom also contributed a lot to that project. Shout out to the whole crew and anyone involved with our music back then. Special shout to King Tim 33 1/3 and Deena B, who really helped us out and still got my back in the Portland scene.

You guys had some mixtapes as well. Are those going to be made available at some point?

    At some point I would like to. We just need the right engineer that's interested in battling out the files for us. I will definitely be making a 20th anniversary re-release of the Kaera One & DJ Void tape that comes with a graff 'zine. That is one of my personal goals. Another chapter was the Criaturas Sin Casa/Creatures Without a Home tapes, which featured our brothers from Denver, Ideal Ideaologies (Mane Rok, Theme, DJ Awhat) and Wayzout of Future Reference. I actually spent most of the year 2000 living in Denver before I left to Central America. That was my first hiatus from the whole scene but I was actually still making music the whole time. It was also when I started writing songs in Spanish to communicate better in ciphers. I continue to visit Costa Rica every year. It's kind of a half life I been living for a long time now. I am constantly going through those old songs and still perform them as well.

You were part of the whole Sub-Level Epidemic thing and worked with guys like Maleko and Kegs One. Can you talk about that era?

    I showed up to California in 2002 and connected with Kegs One (Shane Nesbitt). The label owner had already been selling my tapes at Below the Surface since the 90s. I had just missed a couple great years of Sub-Level Epidemic. They were in full effect with partner label La2thebay around this time, but I’m definitely thankful I got to be part of the O.G. 7” collection. It's truly a work of art - you can check it out on Discogs - along with all the other great titles. That was pretty much '02-'05 for me. I recorded and performed a lot with my Sub-Level brothers Maleko, Spexxx, Optimus, Cosiner and Self Advocate. Those were great times, opening local shows, sometimes for famous heads. Those shows really helped me get a spot in the Bay Area scene. As an artist collective we never intended to let go but grown up life had kinda stopped us from meeting up around 2006 or so. Kegs now is busy being a successful barber and has no time for music but I’m actually working with Deeskee on bringing back the label. There is some leftover wax to sell. We are planning to launch some updated sites once our next releases are ready. He is also going to be hosting the La2thebay Show on 2Mex’s Hologram Radio which will be playing Sub-Level Epidemic stuff as well.

After that, you started working with some of the guys people heard on Rewind-A-Decade, like DJ Icewater, Vinroc, P.E.A.C.E. and Spoon (of Iodine). Can you talk about how you hooked up with those guys?

    I was originally connected with Cosiner and DJ Icewater ran a studio known as the Corner Store Studios in Oakland back in the day. I started out in 2004 recording Sub-Level songs over there and working on a solo project as well. Both those dudes had some history with Freestyle Fellowship in the 90s. They also had been friends with Vinroc for years already. Triple Threat DJs was performing a lot around that time, so I definitely felt blessed to be workin' with DJ Vinroc and I still work with him. Not many heads remember Cosiner helped organize Tags of the Times 3, which is when him and Omid were starting to get Spoon (of Iodine) on more recordings. They tried to hook Spoon up with other MCs to work with but it just never worked out. Eventually Cosiner shared my music with Spoon and he really liked my sound. I remember our first session. We made “Supposed to Be My Familia” which was a track about betrayal. All those old songs were for Spoon’s album. Unfortunately they got left unfinished but we still re-visit the concepts when we get together and write. A year later, Spoon introduced me to P.E.A.C.E. when he realized we were living close by each other in East Oakland. I had some great times hangin' with P.E.A.C.E. He is the freestyle king, hands down. He really challenges me as a lyricist every time we get together. Eddie K (Gurp City) is another friend from that era who really inspires me also.

Kayer & Spoon (of Iodine)

Can you talk about your experiences working with Spoon? What you learned from him, as an artist? 

    T-Spoon is a really good friend over all these years. As a mentor, he always reminds me that no matter what happens in hip-hop that it’s important we never give up and represent the old school. We both work hard for a living and come from graffiti backgrounds. A lot of cats know him as Maniak, part of the original U.T.I. Crew and his knowledge goes back to some of the earliest hip-hop on the west coast. It’s cool to hear all the stories and history about Freestyle Fellowship and MC Aces during the 1980s, from his perspective. The stories of him with Aceyalone and Myka 9 in high school, always going the extra mile to build on patterns and vocabulary. Sometimes he shows me some of the old school song writing formulas they used and other ones he has never even released and it's truly amazing. One of my favorite things about Spoon’s music is that he never makes a song unless the concept is going to make you think and hits you hard. And he won’t just work with anybody, so it's real special the times he comes around.

Around that time, you were also recording a solo album that never came out. Why wasn't that project released?

    It was around '07, '08. I wanted to finally release all my music from the 2000s but life just held me back. I got in a lot of trouble with a house me and my wife tried to buy which left us super broke. Then my first son was born in 2009 and that's when everything musical went into boxes. It was just a reality, going to work non-stop to survive and learning how to be a dad at the same time. So, yeah, I had to take a break but I still kept in touch with my peoples over those years.

How did the Rewind-A-Decade project come about?

    So, after a 5 year break, when my second son was born, I finally snapped out of the hiatus. I felt it was important to finish what I started, not just for me but for my family. So I opened the files and got going again. Rewind-A-Decade is basically all the music I dreamed of putting out a decade before. Some of those tracks go back to 2003. I got stuck with most of those versions but I originally promised myself it would come out on wax. I figured it would be a good way to comeback. I didn’t even touch a button on the net until it was finished. It definitely helped me get the right shows I needed last year. I rocked about 12 gigs with DJ Fossil. Performing those songs has given me good momentum but I’m definitely exited to drop something new this year and do more shows.

Do you have any future projects you'd like to give people a heads up on? 

    Yeah, I been working hard on my next release Permanent Knock. It should drop around springtime 2017 and will be available on vinyl. It’s all songs I made over the last couple years with DJ Icewater, Vinroc and Ian Mckee, with guest appearances by Myka 9, Spoon (of Iodine) and Maleko. Cover art by Skill One U.T.I. is a great bonus. I'm already booking the shows that will be going down over the summer. Another project coming is an EP re-release of Sub-Level Epidemic tracks recorded 2002-2004, which will be available on Discogs and Bandcamp for the fans.

Any last words or shouts out?

    Thank you Alex, Jack and everyone at Bring That Beat Back for giving me an opportunity to talk. Shout out to my wife and kids - they are reason I’m still here - all the crews I been down with for years, all my fans and anybody that has been part of Kayer Hip-Hop, past to present. Much respect and peace!

Monday, December 12, 2016

Riddlore? "Afromutations"

     Following his sojourn in Uganda, Good Life/Afterlife O.G. Riddlore? has dropped his latest effort, Afromutations. In recent years, the Rhymin' Ridd has branched away from the sound he, FSH and Ebow developed in the 90s. From his recent collaboration with Texas emcee Mad One, The Claim, to his last instrumental project, Theme Music from Life in Chillzville, he has been broadening the range of the CV Beat. The former saw the Chillin' Villain experimenting with an east coast, boom bap sound, while the latter was an exploration of cinematic soundscapes. This latest instrumental project follows suit, and sees Ridd utilizing field recordings he gathered while in Uganda, where the project was also recorded in late 2015 at Boutiq Studios. The result is a sonic exploration of the Motherland, the CV Beat channeled through a different lens. The project is available as a digital download and as a limited cassette, both on Nyege Nyege Tapes's Bandcamp page.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Mass Ministry: An Interview with Minister Too Bad

Mass Minister

    The Massmen have made an undeniable impact on the landscape of west coast hip-hop, having spawned artists like Abstract Rude, AWOL One, DKNoDeal, I Smooth 7 and many more. A book could be written about the entire history of Massmen, but it's origins lie with Minister Too Bad, who founded the crew during his senior year in high school. With his smooth, polished flow and masterful storytelling, 2Bad has gained fans across the globe, with only a handful of songs that have ever seen the light of day. There was a lot of mystery surrounding his history and I was fortunate enough to get to speak with him about his career and the origins of the Mass Ministry.

Can you talk about your earliest experiences with hip-hop and what inspired you to start rapping?

    Absolutely. I've been into hip-hop for quite a long time. I got introduced to hip-hop around 1983, 1984 and that's when it started coming on the radio a lot more, and you started seeing the videos. That's when Run-D.M.C. was comin' out. My personal experience: I saw this video on TV called Breaking & Entering with Ice-T. Ice-T was from California, from Los Angeles, so when I saw him rapping, that's what made me wanna do it, even though I had seen people rapping before. Then there was this other thing - it was like the Radiotron - they were kind of mimicking what they were doing in New York, but in Los Angeles, downtown. I went there and saw Ice-T again and I saw not only how, you know, he was able to rap, but also the freestyling, coming off the top and making it up as you go along. So I started off rhyming maybe in like 1983-84.

   I was also a graffiti artist, a tagger. I went by the name 2Bad. See, as a tagger, you have to put something that stands out but at the same time something that doesn't take too long to write, you know what I mean? So I was using 2Bad and when I started rhyming, I already had the name. So a lot of my friends and the people that heard me rhyme, they always used to tell me I was good at storytelling. I would always tell these stories. People would say, "Hey, man, it's like you're preaching, the way you deliver." So that's how, on the rhyming side, I became Minister Too Bad. That's how that came about.

I've spoken to Massive a bit about the origins of Massmen with Jack Clark and We Track Studios, but could you talk about the origins of the Mass Ministry and how it all came together?

     I was living in West Covina during my high school years. In my senior year, I created a group called Mass Ministry. I was the rapper. I had a DJ and two dancers. At that particular time, you remember Big Daddy Kane had those two dancers?

Yeah, Scoob and Scrap.

    Right. So we had our own version but we were from California. So I already had Mass Ministry and I was Minister Too Bad. One day, a friend of mine named Cory Brown, he came to my door and told me he knew a guy who had a studio, a guy that was a DJ that's making beats. They were telling this guy about me, how I had all these raps, and that we should get together and try to make some music. The guy they were telling me about was Fat Jack. This was in, I'm gonna say, 1989. I was living in West Covina. Fat Jack was living in Hawthorne. We drove all the way to the studio. Fat Jack barely knew how to use the equipment because his brother, Jack, had just bought it so they could get started. They started a record company and bought the equipment but Jimi (Fat Jack) didn't know how to use it yet. So I went there and it was kinda like an audition. Once he learned how to use the equipment, I was the first rapper he ever recorded. At that point, Fat Jack became part of Mass Ministry because now he's a component with the music. We're not using the instrumentals from Public Enemy and LL Cool J. We have music now.

So I know later on you had guys like Zagu Brown and The Novelist join up. How did that come about? I know Zagu was in West Covina as well.

   There was a city called Azusa that was maybe fifteen minutes away from West Covina. Somehow, Fat Jack and his brother ended up moving to Azusa from Hawthorne. So that became the origin of when we really started cranking out songs. The studio was set up in Fat Jack's garage. In West Covina, there were a lot of rappers, but there were three top emcees. That was Minister Too Bad, Zagu Brown and Mista Grimm. You know, he had that song "Indo Smoke" back in the day? So we had a movement in West Covina, as far as rappers, and everybody started coming to the studio. Once rappers find out there's a studio, everybody starts coming, even people who don't rap. There was always a studio full of people. The name of the studio was We Track but, for some reason, everybody was calling it Massmen Studios. It was Mass Min, like an abbreviation of Mass Ministry. So out of all the people who came through to that studio, at the end of the day, there was a small nucleus, that was the original crew. Novelist lived in Azusa, and he had flows. He was right down the street from Fat Jack so he was in the studio all the time.

So from that point, how did you discover the Good Life?

    Eventually, we had so many people coming through the studio. Fat Jack, he could only do so much by himself. So his brother, Dejon, bought a space in Hollywood and we stared recording there. There was this function that was across the street where rappers would go, an open mic. So that's where we met Abstract.

    It was a family experience, a growing experience. I found out about the Good Life in Hollywood. These guys were saying, "Yo, you guys have some real skills. You know about the Good Life? You gotta come there!" When we got there, we saw this next level of emcees where everybody was on a higher level. I was already a pretty polished emcee, but going to the Good Life let me know that there really was another level and that a lot of the things I was holding back creatively, I could let go and do that because it's all about being original, having your own style, and being different. I was thinking higher. Everything started to unfold when I started going to the Good Life. By the time we got to the Project Blowed, everything was on autopilot.

You had a really deep song with Digiak on the Sounds of the Good Life compilation about your grandmother and how she was like a connection to your roots. Did they approach you to be on that tape? How did that come about?

    At the Good Life, the lady who was running everything, her name was Bea Hall. She called the shots on the rules. There was no cussing, no profanity, no degrading women, and a lot of rappers, if you slipped up, they'd turn the microphone off and you'd miss your session. When I would rap, I always stayed within the guidelines but always entertained as well. She appreciated it and she had this project. She approached me and said, "I have this project. We want to showcase the different styles, different facets of the Good Life, and there's no profanity on it. I know you already have songs with no cussing, so would you like to do it?" And I said, "Yes!" And there was even a little blessing too there, because the artists got paid a little something for doing the song. And we also had some shows, to showcase it, and we'd get a blessing in a little envelope after that. So I was approached for that.

So obviously your main collaborator has been Fat Jack, but have you guys recorded a lot more than what people have heard? Do you guys have like a ton of material in the vault?

    Me and Fat Jack have recorded at least twenty songs that nobody's heard but the thing is, a lot of the songs were on an older type of recording mechanism. They were on ADAT, and back in the day, the beats and recordings would be on floppy discs, hard cartridges, old school stuff. Between him moving, some of the stuff has been misplaced or lost, man. Yet to be discovered, we're still looking for it.

So were you recording for an album? Was that the intention?

   Yes, there was always an intention to record a project to be released. 

Later on, guys like Abstract, AWOL One, and Smooth 7 really ran with the Massmen thing, but you weren't really as present. Were you focusing on other things in your life at that point, and why weren't you really on many songs?

     Well, I was really into it '98 and prior. I had a son in 1992 and then in 1998 I had two kids. I had one in January, and I dunno how it happened, but it did happen [laughs], I had another kid in December. So now I have three kids. My wife wasn't working and I had to make it happen. I was still an emcee but as far as going to the studio, I had to re-prioritize my life to take care of my family.
I know you also worked with Jizzm. He told me you guys had done about eight songs. Is that pretty much the only stuff you've done since '98?

   Well, yes, I recorded with Jizzm. The two songs I did for Cater to the DJ 2, "Woe is Me" and "U Don't Know," I recorded those in 2003. Also, you know Big Dutch? He had a project and I was on his album.

Was that the "Step in the Club" song?

   Yes! Yes, it was. That was in 2004, I'd say.

So you really only have about six songs that are out there for most people to hear, but I've talked with rap fans all over the world and people still show an interest in your stuff. How does it make you feel to know that with only a handful of songs you've made such an impact?

     It feels good. I know hip-hop is something that's always going to be with me. I'm always going to be an emcee. I still write. I'm still in motion to get some things recorded. I'm talking about a complete project this time. But as far as the admiration people have, it does make me feel good. There have been times where I've been away, a hundred miles from home, and I'll bump into somebody, and we'll start talking and they'll say, "Your 2Bad? The one who sings 'Demo Stage'?" And I'll say, "Yeah!" And they freak out. You know, in San Diego, maybe three hundred miles south of West Covina. I know some people there who've heard it. Some of the crew, they'll be in other states. AWOL, I dunno where he was at, but he told me he was on a tour a few thousand miles away and they knew about "Demo Stage" and Minister Too Bad. It's pretty dope.