Wednesday, July 27, 2016

2Mex Tribute


     The latest offering from Massdog Music is a dedication to underground legend 2Mex, who recently lost part of his leg to diabetes. The song began when Myka 9 sent Massive a recording of him doing some jazz scatting, which Mass then incorporated into a beat. Syndrome228 of the BullySquad and Quaesar of Rime Fytahs join Mass to pay homage to 2Mex and his contributions to hip-hop culture, while Roach the DJ provides some cuts. If you're inclined, Dannu from the Visionaries has set up a GoFundMe account to help raise funds for his medical costs.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Rockin' Strictly Redwood Lyricism

"Shakin' up the roots of the old growth wisdom"

    Bay Area emcee Kayer recently dropped this very jazzy single produced by Ian McKee, who also contributed to his Rewind a Decade compilation, and featuring DJ Fossil on the wheels of steel. The track is an ode to a woodland retreat, paying homage to unplugging from the grid, spending time with loved ones and reflecting on the awe-inspiring redwood trees. The very smooth, euphoric production acts as a perfect backdrop for Kayer's true school lyricism. With the feel of an anthem, this new single is a definite stand out in the man's career, taken to another level by the unique concept and video, directed by Fish Eye Films. Stay tuned for updates and info on Kayer's upcoming projects.



Thursday, July 14, 2016

American Gangster in High Definition


    There is no disputing the All Deady Jizzm's status as an underground legend. With a resume that includes a unique, commanding voice, versatility behind the boards, and a list of collaborators that reads like a who's who in the L.A. underground - Global Phlowtations, The Shape Shifters, Mister CR and the Eastside Badstads, the Living Legends crew, Pigeon John, CVE, Evidence, Jurassic 5, Ganjah K, Blak Forest and many, many more - Jizzm and his Illasophic Records imprint have made undeniable contributions to the culture. For his latest project, he has teamed up with the Baka Boyz, who famously produced the west coast anthem "Pistolgrip-Pump" for Volume 10.

    The first single from the upcoming project, which is produced Nick V (one half of the Baka Boyz), addresses the rampant police brutality we are continuing to witness in the U.S. Jizzm opens the track with raw lyricsm, going straight for the jugular: "They say freedom of speech but make talking cease and desist/ until I cease to resist while these reasons exist." Dirty Birdy - who, interestingly, has worked with both 2Mex and Bishop Lamont - and Scarub of Living Legends both contribute politically charged verses as well, over Nick V's stripped down and hard-hitting, yet modern sounding production. Stay tuned for info on the upcoming project and the next single which features Tash of tha Alkaholiks.


https://www.facebook.com/Jizzm-High-Definition-224262677628612/?fref=ts 
https://jizzm.bandcamp.com/
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCGSTsd40YsgushdqE-QiPpQ
https://soundcloud.com/jizzm

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Legend of the Wet Gorilla: An Interview with Koobaatoo Asparagus

BomidiBeats
  
    Following Red Lotus Klan's reissue of the Android Masters tape, I got in touch with Koobaatoo Asparagus, the other half of the Android Masters crew. Aside from producing and rapping on the Android Masters tape and contributing beats and rhymes to most of the stuff on Zombie's soundcloud, Koobaatoo, also known as Bomedy Beats and Mike Swift, has been very prolific as a solo artist, having crafted his own unique sound and produced several hip-hop compilations as well as hundreds of experimental noise albums released through his NoSkinnyJeanz imprint, which can be found on his bandcamp and archive.org. We discussed his earliest experiences with music, as well as his influences, his work with Zombie619, his spontaneous approach to music, his forays into experimental/harsh noise wall, and more in this in depth interview.

What were some of your earliest experiences with music and what inspired you to start making music yourself?

     Let's see, I started when I was like six years old. My grandma and them had records with the old radio - remember those old stereos that was made out of wood and it they used to light up? You had to lift 'em up and they had the turntable in there and it was an 8-track back then. So those days, that's when I started to get interested in the album covers, you know, Earth, Wind & Fire album covers, Sun Ra. I just used to be amused by those albums covers. My first instrument was a tape deck - really a tape recorder - and I started to do, like, tape manipulations, record my voice. I called it "pause button productions." I used to loop certain beats with two tape recorders. So I started to get into that. This is the early 80s. My grandma and them had a record called the Sugarhill Gang and that's when I started to get into that. That's when I started to scratch on the turntable. I didn't have no technique then but back then, in the 80s, our grandparents and parents and them had Technics turntables with the s-arm and all that. I didn't realize those were popular turntables. They used to have little house parties and break out the turntables and next thing you know, I see the mixer. So I was like, "Alright, I like DJing," and I started DJing in the early 80s. That was my first encounter with the music.

I found a bio where it said a guy called DJ Slo Motion helped you get started DJing.

    Yeah, now we're going into - 'cause that was '80, '81 - then in '85, Troy (Slo Motion) showed me how to scratch with the mixer. We went to the thrift store, the Goodwill and we got us some turntables. I had a Pioneer and a Technic, it was mismatched, and we went and got a Radio Shack mixer with the cross fader. Then, after that, he got me doing parties for schools and stuff. That's why I named my self DJ Mike Swift and he was DJ Slo Motion. Kenny (Zombie) and all them, they're from a different side of San Diego. We're from Bay Vista. I dunno if you've heard of Bay Vista but that's where Mitchy Slick and all them grew up at. Mitchy Slick is a real popular San Diego rapper. We grew up in those projects, started doing house parties, started doing high schools, Sadie Hawkins. This is about '86, '88. Then I started to get into beat making after that. I got my first sampler, an Esoniq Mirage. It only had like 12 or 8 bits and gave you about 12 seconds of sampling. And I never turned back.

I know too that break dancing was a big part of the 80s for you. Were you part of House Klan as well or were you more just affiliated with them?

     I was just affiliated with 'em. Once again, they're more from the other side of San Diego. Breaking, too, along with my DJing was part of it. In '85, I was in the break dancing then. We were called the Juice Crew [laughs]. We was the little Juice Crew. 'Cause what happened with San Diego - it was kinda like, gangs was out but those were older homies, but then a lot of our generation got into dancing. It was the O.G. Dark Boys, the Fila Boys, the Gucci Crew. This is when Fat Boys was the shit and Run-D.M.C., "send me back in 30 days." But we started to do a little bit of break dancing when we saw Beat Street and all that. It was fun times.

When I talked to Zombie he was telling me about how he came up with the name Masters of the Universe when you, him and Orko were hanging out one day, and had just had some weed cookies. Do you remember that day?

   Oh, yeah! Around that time - that was the early 90s I would say - I was a DJ then too. While they would dance, I would sometimes DJ while they be battling. I was also dancing too. But around that era, I was gettin' known for my beats. People were like, "That dude be makin' some tight-ass beats, sampling." I had been doing music for a while. I was doing experimental hip-hop. It was sounding kinda like - one of my favourite producers was - you remember Showbiz & A.G., Diamond D and them? And Buckshot Shorty? How they beats be muffled? Yeah, I used to make those kinda beats. Like the Buckshot Shorty "Buck 'em Down" song! So my beats was sounding like that with a little bit of Prince Paul, De La Soul. So people were very influenced by how I made my beats, very abstract and original.


  
    But I don't wanna miss out on the weed cookies. Long story short, they came over. They knew I was producing and stuff. We was in my room, I was making this beat, and we was just fuckin' tripping, eatin' weed cookies, and Zombie was like, "Dude, Android Masters, Masters of the Universe," and we just ran with it. That's when I started hanging with them more and more. We'd go from Orko's studio to my little production room, back and forth, making beats together, producing for West Kraven, producing Odessa Kane - back then they were called D.N.A. - Odessa, Atom 12 and Kontroversial. So I pretty much worked with all of 'em, Bennie (Eclipse Heru), DJ Looks One (aka DJ Third Rail). So basically I produced with everybody from Masters of the Universe at some point.

Is all that stuff lost now?

    Yeah. I was tripping out how Android Masters came back. I was like, "Wow! Who had this tape?" [Peace to Dylan for ripping his tape and sharing it with the world!] When I saw that back in rotation. That was from the lost archives. I still have some beats that I made around that era.

Can you talk about any memories you have recording Android Masters?

     It was in Atlanta. Zombie had to get rent paid so he had to sell his Nintendo, at the Game Stop. We were kinda bummed out - he was on his way to go back to San Diego - so I was like, "Dude, let's finish this and put this tape out." Back then I was a big acid head. I used to do acid, shrooms. So he had did shrooms with me one time - we had got some funny weed from them Georgia dudes - and we was both fuckin' trippin' out. We started laughing at the same time and next thing you know we started vibing on that album and finished most of it that day. Then he moved back home. I was still in Atlanta, producing other acts, and he pressed it up and was selling it. I was like, "That's awesome!" So when I went back to visit San Diego, there were already 100, 200 copies of that tape floating around. So Zombie did the distribution, putting it out there, and I did the beats.



Were you involved in Zombie's Optimus Crime album too?

    No, I wasn't on that one. I think that was mainly Orko production, and Puddi. Puddi, me and him were producer partners too. That's around when I got down with Masters of the Universe. First we was all buddies, but I got down with their team when I got down with the Black Bradys. You heard of them?

Yeah, that was Puddi and Blacky, right?

   Yeah! Puddi and Blacky. I came along right around then. We were signed under a label, with Orko too. Whew, that was old times! You could ask Puddi, he'd remember the name of the label. We had some posters and stuff. We did some shows. This was before Kenny and I did Android Masters, not to confuse with the timeline. Then me and Kenny clicked up in Atlanta, unexpectedly - I didn't know he was living out there - and when we united we dropped that album. Then I came back to San Diego and me and Kenny just never stopped collaborating. We have a couple underground [recordings], back when CD-rs came out, we started up that Android Masters again.

In 2005-6 you dropped a couple hip-hop compilations (Mike Swift's Giggin' Shoes and Legend of the Wet Gorilla) and I also found a Bomedy Beats instrumental project from around that time. Was that a time where you were really pushing with the rap stuff?

    See, now we're going into 2000, 2005, 2006-7. What happened was, I came back from Atlanta and I was back in the hood, so around that time people started getting into the gangster era, I guess the G Funk started to take over. Being me, I grew up under the funk anyway, you know, George Clinton, Parliament/Funkadelic. And then, like I said, I used to be a little drug head and I'd always do the sherm. That's why you see Legend of the Wet Gorilla. I used to get wet and then make those beats and having people rapping in the studio while we all wet and shit. And we used to come out with albums, just song after song after song. I was making like 5-10 beats a day. And people were like, "Dang! Mike Swift is makin' a lot of beats!" So as the years went by, Alex, a lot of people started to be like, "A lot of people are being influenced by your style of beats, from E-40 to Kanye West, now San Diego's trying to grasp it," so I just started to make more funky beats.



   I was, at one point in Atlanta, I was with LaFace Records as an intern, and they wanted to pick me up on their production team, and what happened was, they were like, "Dude, you're tight, but we can't get a lot of these samples cleared," and that kinda broke my heart. That's what made me start doing what I call the Too $hort beats, 'cause if you notice Too $hort didn't really use samples, he was using a keyboard. So from the 90s, I went from a hip-hop/De La Soul type of sampling then in the millennium I started making funk beats so nobody could really claim that it's copywritten, ya get it? And I was really at my prime, trying to get the hip-hop thing going.

    The funny thing is nobody really rapped in San Diego and now everybody and they mama rap, and everybody's a DJ. You Can DJ on your phone. I would say we the pioneers of San Diego hip-hop, but also I'm a best kept secret, you know, people kinda forgot about me on the low. I did that on purpose. Hip-hop was becoming a trend so I wanted to kick it with this experimental music on the side. Next thing you know, I hear Kanye West messin' with experimental noises and stuff. I'm more of an innovator, like Orko. We always come up with ideas. Peacez (Zombie) is the same way, he always has ideas.


You mentioned Funkadelic and I can hear the influence there, but when I step back and look at all your stuff, from the rap stuff, to the funk, to the experimental noise and a lot of your lyrical content, I'm guessing Sun Ra was a big influence on you as well?

    You're correct. What happened was, when I came back to San Diego, like I said, everything was gravitating towards gang banging, with Dr. Dre, Chronic and all that. What happened with me, being that I'm from Bay Vista - that's the projects - what was going on with me, Alex, I was producing a lot of talented gangster rappers. But next thing you know, my cousins, my friends, they gettin' locked up in jail, and we have all this material just sittin'. It got so bad, I'd be in the studio with one of my friends and next thing you know they're going to the store and they get shot, they're dead. I started to think, "What the hell am I putting out here?" The beats are smashin', but I started to notice, "Man, lyrics are powerful!" 'Cause my friends were rapping about killing - killing, destruction and all that - and they basically manifested what they said. I was feeling heart broken because I wanted to be, like, a Steve Viscious, another dope producer out of Diego. But it just started to get boring. The same, "I'll kill you, shoot 'em up, bang, bang," I couldn't go no further. To me, Snoop Dogg got it locked down. 2Pac got it locked down. Game got it locked down. But you can't do no more. You can't keep rapping about killing and killing and killing.

    Now, what happened was, my man Joe, rest in peace, we were in the studio and he died while we were recording. And it's kinda weird how I can play his tapes and listen to his verse but he's gone. That's when I started to search for the old mic again, the House Klan, Boot Without a Soul days. Next thing you know, with Sun Ra, I hit the lil' sherm again. I was outside. And something just said, "Man, go with the Sun Ra. Fuck if people think you're weird. Go with Sun Ra because you're not a gangster rapper. You're a musician." And I never went back. I still be rollin' with the Sun Ra. I still make funk beats here and there. I really don't support gangster rap that much. But people liked my beats so much they be, "Hey man! Just do one beat for me," shit like that. So I did a couple beats for some San Diego cats. But as far as that, that was my journey, man.

I was talking to Zombie about how the Android Masters stuff has a really spontaneous vibe, like you guys just get inspired and put it together. It sounds like that's true of all your stuff too, is that pretty much the case for all your music, that you just work when the inspiration hits you and keep it spontaneous? 

    Yeah, because back in the day, in the studio, when I used to record - to me, you either got it or you don't. And what I mean is, I'd encounter cats in the studio and we're doing a 16 bar take for 3 hours. And it's like, "Dude... c'mon." Like, did you do your homework? 'Cause now you got me doing your homework. I gotta cut, paste, overdub. 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 the creativity and it becomes homework. So I was always spontaneous and whatever I made, I put it out. Like, if this person can't rap on it, this one can. That's why I like Peacez. We're like peanut butter and jelly. He can rap on anything of mine and get it done. And Zombie, he's one of my best artists. He don't rap about gang bang stuff. He's like a Marvel comic enthusiast. He's the type of cat that'll go find vocabularies from a NASA glossary and throw it down on paper. That's what I like. Me and him have an infinite possibility of imagination.



Can you break down the name Koobaatoo Asparagus?

    Koobaatoo came out around - that was when I decided, "I'm Sun Ra all the way. I'm not turning back." So this was around 2010, 2011. I ain't gonna lie, I was on ecstacy, in my room. I had become a circuit bender and I was getting more interested in that. I started to discover more unfound sound. And with Koobaatoo Asparagus, I was high as fuck, and I wanted the name to get stuck in your head. It doesn't really have a meaning to it. I tried to go research meaning. It's funny, if you look at asparagus, it's a plant but it also means genius. So I was like, "Cool, okay." I tried to kinda be like the Egyption gods. I was just trying to be more original with the Koobaatoo. Make it stick in your head, you know? [laughs]

You've done a lot of stuff with a couple guys, Sharpe J and Young Mantre. You were saying to me Young Mantre is your cousin. Is Sharpe J a relative of yours too?

    Yeah, Mantre's my cousin. Jason's my friend. See, in Bay Vista, you had Wrongkind, you had Back Gate Records. It was gonna be a takeover. 'Cause Bay Vista is known for a lot of talent. Kevin Mitchell from the Giants baseball team came outta there. Mitchy Slick, the Notorious Syndo Mob. Terrell Davis (former football player for the Broncos). We had some real good talent. So with Mantre and Sharpe J, we had formulated - with Young Reef, my cousin - Back Gate Records and basically that name was from the back gate of Bay Vista, a popular area where there was a lot of shootings and stuff.

    The main rapper, Young Reef, he got locked up for conspiracy to a homicide. So we started to push it for him, while he was in prison. We really started to pump out CDs, doing shows, making it a whole movement. As time went on, people started having kids, growing apart, homies dying, everybody started doing they own thing. Not to mention, Wrongkind Records are now the biggest Diego rap label going on right now. And we're sub-affiliated with them sometimes, but like I said, everybody's doing their own thing now. We almost had a takeover. A lot of the beats that I did, people were gettin' in trouble with the police because people were rapping about murders and now they wanna do an investigation. That's pretty much when I was like, "I'm out of this y'all. This isn't going anywhere." The music almost started gettin' my ass in trouble. I was like, "Nah, I can't do this one."



You mentioned the experimental noise, and I know in particular you've done a lot of harsh noise wall, which I wasn't familiar with before I heard your stuff. Can you explain what the idea of harsh noise wall is and how it appeals to you? I've heard it described as music for nihlism.

     I stumbled upon harsh noise wall - it was this guy on YouTube. His name was Bomir. He had a bag over his head in front of a crowd, performing live. And all you hear is this low tone rumbling, like, noise of wall, almost sounding like an airplane turbine. See, back in the day, I had got shot, when I was in the hood, and I had developed post traumatic stress disorder. So, you know, I'm on social security, disabilities, for PTSD. So what happened was, as I'm listening to it, it made me settle. So it's really not music to me, it's more of an anesthetic, like a state of trance, a state of calmness for me, you know what I'm sayin'? That's why I make a lot of it. And to me, it's not giving off a bad message, 'cause, like I said, I used to be a producer for guys who would be rappin' like, "I'ma kill your dog and I'ma gang bang to this," and it's kinda like, they're really putting that out in the universe and it comes back and bites them in the ass. So I was like, "Do I want to be that type of image? Nah." So harsh noise wall is like - you know, Alex, I don't do all them drugs no more. I got too old. So I might just go ahead, have a little beer, set up my little equipment and make a wall and just sit there, just in a conscious, relaxed state. And I thought it was just me but I started to see more people all over the world doing harsh noise. So my mind is conditioned to it now. It's like a canvas or painting somehow. It's visual to the ears.



Well, like I said, I hadn't heard of it before, but one of the things I think is really cool is the DIY aspect and some of the artwork people are putting together. Like a lot of that stuff, the stuff you sent me, has really great artwork.

    Yeah, 'cause I'm like you, Alex. I love tangible items, like the tapes, like back in the day you put 'em in the deck, you stare at 'em, you look at the credits. I was a big fan of that. As I got older, everybody wanted to be a big star on a label, like Wu-Tang - everybody had that dream - but as I got older I saw I wasn't getting any closer so what I did was, I took the DIY route. So right now, as we speak, I told myself I'ma catalogue my stuff and I can imagine Sun Ra did that. You know how he has all kinds of records and I always loved his stuff. So right now, I'm 41, and I'm sitting on a vault of about 7000 CDs of all my stuff.

Wow!

    That's what I'm saying. As I get older I just keep archiving. And if I pass away, hmm, I might just give it to the Library of Congress, or like a library so people can say, "Who was this guy who put out all this stuff?"

You mentioned the circuit bending. Is that how you got into the experimental noise? Is that what started that journey?

    The experimental noise - I didn't realize it but I was already an experimental artist in the 90s, me and Orko and them. After I seen it on Facebook, I realized it was a whole family of us, we just didn't have communication like right now. There was a whole spectrum of people who did experimental music. Like tapes never left, but to people, they think they're gone. So thanks to Facebook and social media, it made me see people like you - you're a true old school collector - I see other people that did experimental music and put 'em on tapes. Home recording is still around, DIY, the trades. So I didn't realize it was still here. I thought I was the Last Mohican. So experimental music was me from the beginning. Like in the early 80s, I didn't know it was circuit bending Alex, but I used to take apart my radio and mess with the resistors and transistors and see what I could come up with. I used to put the TV on white snow and just listen to it [laughs], so I was already with it!


Do you have any new rap-related projects in the works? Zombie was telling me you guys are wrapping up the Anunnaki Brothers album.

   Yeah, we're gettin' ready to get right back in the studio. I got my little court thing goin' on with me, and after that, me and Zombie - and Orko is supposed to be part of it too, so it's probably gonna be all three of us. We was gonna go ahead and get some production from Orko. 'Cause me and Kenny drop stuff around our favourite time, which is like the end of the year. See, me and Zombie's best time is like October, November, so we're lookin' at putting it out then.

https://noskinnyjeanzgmailcom.bandcamp.com/
https://archive.org/search.php?query=creator%3A%22Michael+Scott%22
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCbtgSj-wSMDJ4W-xOSRQKvg
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCuStBxLvQWI6_XzBbBLmWJg
https://soundcloud.com/bomedy-beats-115779804
https://www.reverbnation.com/bomedybeats
https://www.facebook.com/noskinnyjeanz

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Global Phlowtatin': An Interview with Nairb Jones

Irb Jankinz

     Following my interviews with Zagu Brown, Sach and Inoe Oner, I had the opportunity to chop it up with another GPAC alumni, Nairb Jones aka Irb Jankinz. Not only did he come up with the name Global Phlowtations Artist Committee, as well as drop the incredibly dope and very slept on The Herb Session, he has never been afraid to explore outside the box, having over the years produced for singers as well as worked with more street oriented rappers. In this in depth interview, Nairb breaks down his early experiences as an artist, the GPAC era, his more recent work under the moniker Irb Jankinz, as well as his opinions on the state of hip-hop in 2016.

Can you talk about your earliest experiences with hip-hop and some of your inspirations in those early days?

    My dad was in a group with Rudy Copeland, so I was always around music. Playing the alto saxophone, the trumpet, drums, coming up, music was always in my house. From singing to rapping to break dancing, all that. This was a long time ago. I was little, pop locking on my street. You know, the music has always been there, the dancing, the whole culture. I was always good at it. Not to toot my own horn but I was always good at it. One of my boys, Mike, he had turntables and shoot, we would just bring the speakers out to his driveway with the cardboard, and just go at it, you know? This was in the 80s, you know what I'm saying? This is when I lived in Pamona. Hip-hop was always there. Dancing to Club Nuveau, to "Pee Wee Dance," it goes back to then. You know, it never went nowhere.

    Coming up from there, I came back to Inglewood and I was dancing with a group called Rainbow Tribe. This was before the whole so-called gay thing with rainbow colours and whatnot. But it was Universal Rainbow Tribe. We used to kill pretty much everybody on the dance floor. This was before I was even rapping. I was break dancing. I mean, I was freestyling by, like, the eighth grade, but I wasn't good. I wasn't killin' it until I met my boy A1. I knew his older brother from high school. That's Ezam from 2000 Crowz.

    So me and A1 used to just freestyle. Everybody would get in the circles at school and we would just cut their heads off. We started this group, Natural Wonders. I knew Absolute already from dancing. My boy Cabora, he lived around the corner so we all used to just dance and then Cabora knew Absolute from Westchester High School. We'd go to his house because he had turntables. We'd be dancing in his living room, just practicin', gettin' dope. I wasn't even rapping at that time. Then I linked up with A1 and it was really A1 who took me a little further into freestyling. Him and his brother went to school with Aceyalone and them and they was cool so they were already in it, freestyling. So when me and A1 linked up, we gravitated with Absolute. At that point, we were just digging in the crates. There was this one dude named Milkbone. We would get on the bus and take our records and tell him, "Yo, we want this drum and this break." So we were kinda producing without even laying a hand on the equipment. Milkbone made some dope stuff. So we'd come back and we'd have these songs already done. We was already on our own, doing our thing. We were hungry for it, taking our lunch money and buying records, putting this music together. Still doing little bitty mom and pop shows, little performances and freestyling. Mind you, I was still dancing too though, going to the clubs. A lot of people could say, "Yeah, I remember Nairb back in the day dancing. He was a dancer first."

When I talked to Zagu he mentioned Natural Wonders and said you guys had a pretty deep archive of music. Do you have a lot of stuff in the vaults from that era?

    Well, I don't have any of that stuff. This is before I was an organized guy, because I wish I had that stuff. What happened was somebody broke into Absolute's house. I had this tub with discs with all kind of beats on there. Absolute had his discs in the regular floppy disc package. So they ended up taking his keyboard and my discs in a big case. So long story short, a few members of the camp came to me and thought I had stolen the equipment. Number one, I don't steal. I don't have to steal. Worse come to worse, I'll go to other producers, but I don't have to steal, let alone in my own camp. So it got a little grimy with that situation. Come to find out, it was somebody his big brother knew. Basically they lived in a crip neighborhood and one of the crip homies tried to sell it to one of our friends and it had our Natural Wonders sticker on the bottom. That's how they knew it was ours. So when they got back Absolute told me, "Yo, they found out Shawny Mac stole the keyboard." I'm like, "I told y'all. Y'all got at me like I really stole!" It's crazy because Ezam was the one who got at me like I stole the equipment! I'm like, "Dude! I don't steal. Straight up. I don't have to steal. I have my mom and father in my life. I wasn't raised like that. I had two grandmothers and two grandfathers and we don't get down like that. We work hard. C'mon, man! I'm not gonna steal from my people. Let alone steal at all!" So that's what happened to those recordings. I don't think I ever had them burned on any CDs or anything. Like now, I have everything from when I started being organized. I wish I would've been doing it back then because now, I have a hell of an archive. But I don't have a lot of that older stuff. I don't have much 2000 Crowz material that I wish I had. Because we did a lot of songs.

 

You mentioned Ezam was part of 2000 Crowz. Is that how you got down with them?

It sorta kinda did happen like that because Ezam, his group was Race of Spades. Chapter 12, Mood Controlla and Ezam. It was them three. That was A1's big brother. So A1 kinda put me up on Giz and Zagu. Zagu lived in West Covina at the time so I didn't really link up with him as much in the earlier days. In the beginning stages, Zagu wasn't there. It was Giz because it was Gizmo's house in the jungle. We called it 48-12. All the O.G. groups who first started the Crowz was there. Phunky Dialect, they damn near had a deal! They were writin' and doing some stuff with Adina Howard's manager. And shit, they were the only hood, underground cats sponsored by Adidas. These dudes was gettin' boxes and boxes of shit. Hats, beanies, stickers, shoes, shirts. So we a underground group but we were doing shows and we were laced, rockin' Adidas! So that's kind of how that came about, it was through A1 and through Ezam and then that kinda made the nucleus which was Phunky Dialect, Race of Spades and Natural Wonders. We were the O.G.s who started 2000 Crowz.

    With Phunky Dialect, they had a W30 keyboard. Foeteen was one of the main ones doing beats. Faxx too. All of them were putting in their input, really. But this is when we would all go to Giz' house, the 48-12. You had to be dope to be in Crowz. 'Cause we was battling each other damn near every weekend. You get in the cipher, you better be able to swim or you gonna drown. Ain't no holes barred. So we trained each other like that and we just got dope. There wasn't no club or show we did where any out of towners or even local artists - I don't care if it's Alkaholiks, Pharcyde, Rass Kass - they knew about 2000 Crowz. Xzibit used to come through there before he got big. We had a big buzz in L.A. You couldn't say nothin' to the Crowz in no disrespectful way because we'd embarrass you and call you up on stage.



You were saying you came up with the name Global Phlowtations and that it came from a rhyme you wrote. Can you talk about that, and do you remember what the rhyme was?

    You know what? I don't remember the rhyme nor do I even remember where that rhyme book is! That's how long ago it was. Being respectful to the Crowz, I left on my own, due to some stupid drama, dealing with a female. One of the Crowz, his sister was basically best friends with my girl. Some shit happened with me and her and now people are all up in my ear, and it's like, "Mind your business when it comes to my personal. Just stay out my business man." So, long story short, she moved out of my apartment and after that, there was some bad blood between me and a few of the brothers. So I said, "You know, I ain't got time for this. I'm not gonna be the divider, you know, half of you lookin' at me funny, half of you are still my boys, all over a female. I have love for my crew, but I'm not trying to be a divider. That's some girly shit." So I stepped off and since me and Zagu had linked up in the streets big, that brought us a little closer too. Going to spots, freestyling, trying to get shows, you know? Still to this day a few of those dudes I don't even talk to. I might speak my mind nowadays but back then, I just let it be what it was. Fuck it. I ain't got time for that shit.

    But the name, my book was sitting on the coffee table - this is when we first got the GPAC spot, cleaned it up - and Zagu seen it, and he was like, "What's this?" I was like, "Oh, it's just a verse I wrote." And he was like, "No, Global Phlowtations. That's dope!" After people started coming on, I put the Artist Committee on there: Adlib, Sach, Myka 9, P.E.A.C.E. - P.E.A.C.E. was really GPAC.

Really?!

Yeah, P.E.A.C.E. didn't get on no songs but he was GPAC. He was there with us all the time. Yusef Afloat. I was about to do a whole project with Yusef but we didn't get to it, may he rest in peace.

Man, that would've been incredible.

    That would've been dope as shit. I was gonna produce the whole thing. Oh, we can't forget Orah. He was a GPAC dancer. He used to dance. Kliff Right was a dancer. So all that influence, that melting pot was there. I don't think Adlib ever tried to dance. I know Zagu did. I think Kito did. My brother Rican Sun. Man, GPAC, we had it crackin' for a minute, man. My boy Samson. Ayana (Imeuswe), she was the mother of the house. We formed so quick, because after we left 2000 Crowz, they was like, "Oh, shit! They have a whole new camp, a whole new set of people." Adlib used to go to Project Blowed before he was chillin' with us and he was already kind of on the scene from Minnesota and he had an apartment and me and Zagu used to go over there, smoke, drink and we was doin' music over there too. Once me and Zagu got the spot, Adlib started coming to our spot. We stayed over at his house so it's only right we showed open arms when he came through. Now mind you, it was just a one bedroom duplex that we pimped out. If we had our female friends, for privacy, we'd go to their spot.

When I talked to Sach he was talking about GPAC headquarters and how the studio would move around the house, you guys had a lot of esoteric books. Can you talk about your memories of GPAC HQ and how that shaped the music?

    Well, that was my and Zagu's spot. Since Zagu's parents gave him the place I was like, "Go ahead. You take the bedroom." Since I always had a bad one, I'd go stay at her place. I always kept a bad one. I'm tellin' you. We had a crowd, man. We never went without. But it was nothing but art there, man. Most of us had dreads and we were cuttin' up cactus in the backyard. It was dope.
 

Can you talk about how The Herb Session came together? I'm assuming that came out after Phlowtation Devices?
   
    The Herb Sessions started before Phlowtation Devices and GPAC. It really started with the "Dippers" song (featuring Zagu and Myka 9). That energy that formed GPAC was coming from the break up and the energy that formed around it. I just kept working and The Herb Session just got done. Some of those songs, like the stuff with L.A. Zu, that was after GPAC formed.

L.A. Zu, is that Zu Tribe?

   Yeah, that's L.A. Zu, the Zu Tribe.

Were you part of that crew too?

    Yeah, I'm down with L.A. Zu too. I was producing a lot of stuff with them when I was over there too. GPAC was pretty much doing them. I was still part of GPAC but I was doing a lot of stuff with my man, Phiz Goldman. I went to Inglewood and linked up with them big time and was doing a lot of beats over there.

It was cool they were featured on the David Ruffin compilations too.
   Yeah, man, and a lot of that stuff is old material, dude. I just thought somebody would appreciate it. Why just let it sit in the garage? I'm not gonna sell it or remix it. I'm just gonna let people hear it and appreciate it how they hear it. It's not mixed and I just said, "Fuck it, man! Just let the world hear it." I had so much material, that's why there's three volumes. 

On The Herb Session, did you do all the production on there?

    Let me see... I gotta look at it again but I know Phiz Goldman did the one with me and Threat, but most of that production was mine.

I didn't catch your voice on The Nucleus album. Were you part of that project at all?

   No, see, that was probably the time period that I was dealing with L.A. Zu. Yeah, that Nucleus, I don't think I got on that.

After GPAC sort of dissolved, were you still making music because to most listeners it seemed like you just kind of disappeared?

    Oh, yeah! I did a whole Payrollers Entertainment album. I did a whole album for my little brother and my cousin, that's Young World Mixtape Vol. 1. I was working with this group Big Faces, that I started. They're kind of my family members I grew up with: my boy Killa Heez, Element, Baggz, my boy, Deli, rest in peace. I never stopped making music, to this day! To the people, they were probably looking for Nairb. See my real name is Brian which is Nairb backwards, so that's like my mirror image. They were still looking for Nairb but I changed everything to Irb Jankinz. I had to reinvent myself once again. People probably didn't know I was Irb Jankinz. I got so much material it's out of this world, and it's slammin'!

Zagu was telling me about the early Massmen days - I didn't realize he was ever part of Massmen - were you also part of Massmen?

    No, I wasn't but, oh yeah, Fat Jack did a couple tracks on The Herb Session too. It's funny because while we were recording that - I had this manager who also managed Caution, Trent Asbury, and we was in a big studio and when this stuff happened with my ex-girl, I was at Fat Jack's waitin' for her to pick me up. And he's sittin' up on the couch waitin' for me to leave and I'm like, "Where the fuck is she?" That's a long story, I don't even want to get into that but yeah, Zagu was part of Massmen. Massmen is deep! What I will say, I can't really say I'm a Project Blowed head but we was up in there enough to be respected. Much respect to Project Blowed, those are my dudes too.

You were saying you've started a production company, Irb and Ghost. Did you guys produce all that stuff on those David Ruffin compilations?

    No, actually, that's all my stuff. I don't even think Ghost got one record on there. I met Ghost when I hooked up with my Chicago cats and they had this camp called the Payrollers. And it wasn't as underground. It was more on some funk, if you will. There were dudes rapping but it was more the street side of hip-hop. Me and this one guy, Dean, we did the whole album. Reev 30 did a couple tracks on there and mixed a lot of it and it was pretty much his corporation. So we put this album out and Ghost was one of the artists that came in the group. Ronnie was the investor who helped us finance that project to get it pressed up and done professionally. So we was able to get that album out. We made t-shirts and did shows. It was different from the underground world, I'll tell you that. I'm not saying I'm not underground anymore but like I said, my dad was a singer, I sing, so the music I was making - not knocking underground or anything - but it had more of a song format, maybe a hook, maybe some singing. It was different stuff. It's just music. I don't like to put stuff in no box anyway. I just continue to make music. I wanna make some classic stuff that ten years down the line people will say, "Yo, this dude has a whole archive of dope music," even if it's not mixed.

You were saying the David Ruffin stuff was recorded over years but what kinda time span was that stuff done over? Is that all 2000s?

    Probably from 2000 to now, yeah. 



The guy who started Bring That Beat Back, who's a good friend of mine, when I told him I was interviewing you, he wanted me to ask you this: How do you feel about where hip-hop is right now, and the direction it's taken? Do you feel hip-hop is still healthy right now or is it in a bad situation?

    I wouldn't know how to label what it is right now because my perspective on hip-hop, as far as what I grew up on, is totally different than what these cats are doing right now. So these young cats are seeing it in a different way. 'Cause, see, it's culture expression, so I can't knock their expression. The way they see the culture is a whole different way than I see it. I might say, "Dude, you're doing the Running Man right now. That's the Roger Rabbit what you doing." And they'll say, you know, "No! That's the Prep!" And it's like, "Nah, that's the Roger Rabbit, dude. I can do that way tighter than you right now in 2016." And they like, "You old!" "I'm old but I'll serve you!" And they like, "Who says 'serve' anymore?" [laughs] So the culture expression is different so I can't really knock the lane. The genre that I was from I think is weakening. And the genre that they're doing, it's them. You can't really knock a 2016 Honda. You can't knock a 1994 Honda either! It was just different times. This Honda curves a little more than this one but you can't knock Honda. It's still a Honda! 

Do you think it hurts the culture when they don't know what came first? Because how can you innovate if you don't know what's already been done?

   That's what I'm sayin'! They got a whole different view on it. We was doing 808s and 909s a long time ago so for it to resurface again, it's still the same 808 and 909 high hat - we been doing that - but the subject matter has changed. They deep in the cocaine and disrespecting girls and saying they gonna shoot somebody. We was talking about that back then too but it wasn't as big. Now it's 2016, technology is crazy, everything evolves. So they look at us as the dinosaurs of hip-hop and we look at them as the new booty of hip-hop, like, "You some new cats. You wearin' those tight-ass pants? You can't do a windmill in those tight pants!" 

[laughs]

    Get the fuck outta here! You gonna bust your pants. Get outta here with that shit. But you don't see nobody break dancing no more.

Yeah, and DJing too. You don't hear scratches much anymore, which I think is pretty tragic.

    Yeah! I mean, dude, that's a formula we can't lose because that is hip-hop. I'm not gonna lie to you, I heard some record from Premier and I didn't hear much scratching from Premier. It was a west coast artist - I forget who it was - and it's funny that you say that. I could tell it was a Premier track. Like, now that you say that, I don't think Premier even scratched on that shit.

When I was talking to Born Allah he said to me, "Can you imagine if the beat box caught on like auto tune?" Which is such a good point, just thinking about where it could have gone.

     Well, see, I think hip-hop right now, the underground cats who founded this - I know I'm a factor in the underground - they better know Nairb. I know I created a whole lot of that uproar, just in the L.A. underground. We put in some work. Shit I remember Born Allah, and these cats who really laid down the pavement and I think, shit, we need to infiltrate this shit. Make some records. We don't need to bite ever but I know with our originality, we can be more creative and I know we can serve these dudes. Like now you see Joe Budden going at Drake, or Meek Mill. Meek is a spitter! He kinda infiltrated the game 'cause he was a battle rapper. He cut his hair, put a few chains on and put in a couple hooks to catch the 20th century ear. But Meek Mill is an underground emcee, a battle rap dude. But he saw what he had to do to be accepted.

    See 'cause back when, if you were a battle rapper or freestyler you had to be hard! Or you would not touch the mic. Like when the young Crowz went up to the Good Life and they said something about them and smashed on 'em? That was a classic no no. Man, we showed up about fifty deep. We didn't even go in the Good Life. We waited for that shit to be over so all them artists that came out in that damn parking lot, it was a wrap! We waited not one second until they was out. As soon as they walked out the door, we were there with the dubs up, shouting, "2000 Crowz!!"

That's one of those legendary moments that you just hear stories about.

   Man, it was legendary! There were people with cameras and blunts and all kinds of shit. You had ciphers everywhere! "What y'all talking about? Y'all speaking to artists like that?" From that point on, Project Blowed, yeah, it got Blowed alright. Like with Afterlife, something had to die, right?

[laughs]

   Them is my dudes, but someone had to die. 

So what can people expect to hear next from Irb J? You were saying you're working on a new project?

    I'm selling my house right now so my studio is all packed away but I have this project that I'm doing with my boy Ghostrider, Irb and Ghost Presents. We got an artist out of L.A., my boy Lost Soul. This project is dope! We got about twenty records and then I have an artist out here, Hitter Carter. He's from Richmond. And Lost Soul got some verses on his stuff and he got some stuff on Lost Soul's, so we're kinda meshing these projects. It's gonna be nice. Hitter also got his solo project. He got some producers, this one dude E-40 brought up. He's got 40 Keys and some of the cats out here doin' their thing. So look out for Hitter. He's a young cat. But you might have to rewind his shit three or four times. I told him, "If only you know what you talking about, it's gonna go over people's head." And he was like, "Nah, I can never dumb down my lyrics." And I have to respect that. That's your culture expression. And just talking to you makes me wanna do a whole Herb Session 2 album. Some Irb and Ghost, some of my stuff, 'cause I have a good ten solo records done, with all kinds of different vibes on it. I wanna see what's up with my GPAC brothers, see if we can do some songs. I was just talking to Ezam and he's working on some stuff, so I told him, if you need anything, let's do it. Shit man, the skies the limit.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Zombie619er & Koobaatoo Asparagus are Android Masters

Reissuing Lost Kassettes

    Infinity Gauntlet's Red Lotus Klan imprint recently reissued Zombie619er and Koobaatoo Asparagus' 1996 Android Masters tape. Recorded while the two were both living in the projects of Atlanta, most of the tape was done in a single night after scoring some good green. Zombie's grimy battle rhymes and Koobaatoo's spaced out production form the perfect recipe on this slept on 4-track classic. Featuring rhymes from Koobaatoo, Mustafa (R.I.P.), San Diego emcee Asia and Scientific Knowledge, the tape is now available on RLK's bandcamp (only 8 copies remaining). Don't sleep on this gem from the Masters of the Universe camp, and stay tuned for more MOTU cassette reissues on RLK.





 

Saturday, June 4, 2016

For the Cheese: An Interview with West Kraven

King Kraven

   Following my interviews with Shamen 12, Zombie619er and Eclipse Heru, I was able to get in touch with Ruckus, better known as West Kraven. With a history that goes back to the early 80s, Kraven has come with many styles, from his abstract battle rhymes on "Telepathic Passageways" and "Spiritual Invasion" to the dark, sinister themes found on Universe Horror Nites to the hustler anthems found on the more recent Big Worm Series Vol. 1. Kraven discussed his inspirations, recording for Microcrucifiction, the Underground Improv and more...

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

     Honestly, man, as far as my earliest experiences with hip-hop, I would say what inspired me, it'd be the KRS-One/BDP era. Growing up, Rakim was definitely my favourite rapper. After that, it was Kane. So some of the earlier 80s stuff, man. Kool G Rap, the hardcore stuff, back when it was all lyrical, ya dig?

You have a freestyle on Back 2 tha Future where you mention rhyming with Define and Phenom back in '83. So your history goes all the way back to the early 80s?

    Yeah, man. It definitely does. You know, growing up there were a few experimental groups. But I've always been a fan of hip-hop, man. I was raised in the whole Public Enemy era. I was raised in the golden era of hip-hop. Basically that's the best way to put it.

In regards to you rapping with Define and Phenom back in the 80s. Was it through you that they got down with Masters of the Universe?

    Actually,  nah. I mean, I went to school with Define and Phenom. My cousin is Orko and it'd be safe to say that he made the calls on who he felt should be accepted into Masters of the Universe and they were definitely talented, young individuals. So he made that call but we all agreed that they should be there.

 
I was talking to Infinity Gauntlet a while back and he was telling me you're a little bit older than Orko and you sort of mentored him when he first started rapping. Is that right?

    Yeah, basically we're like 3 months apart. My birthday is May. His birthday is July. But we're actually the same age and yeah, growing up, I lived in Los Angeles, he stayed in San Diego but when he'd come visit me - I just had a hip-hop spirit - so he'd hear me making beats on my chest. Walking home from school and rapping, this and that. So I showed him the passion for the music, but he showed me the music business. Is that clear?

Yeah, it definitely seems like he was the driving force back then in terms of putting together projects.

    Yeah, definitely. Basically I had love for the music but he was more organized in terms of putting projects together and gettin' in the studio. I was more of a person who had love for the music and pretty much utilized it as a hobby and he was somebody who wanted to do something more than make it a hobby. 

I know Masters of the Universe kind of came together through House Klan when it was more of a housing crew, and you had Black Bradys, DNA, etc. but were you part of any crew or were you more of a solo guy?

    Well, I definitely wasn't a part of House Klan or any other dance crews. I mean, I had a partnership with two other rappers, Bassment and another cat. But it was basically more rap though, even though I could dance. I was primarily focused on rap. 

Can you talk about any memories you have recording for Microcrucifiction?

    Well, basically, like I said, me and Orko, we're first cousins. His mom is my mom's sister, you know? So I pretty much stayed at his house is what I'm gettin' at. We put a lot of that stuff on 4-track before people had any money to record. We used to stay up all night and make beats, try to put it together. And as we were putting it together, we incorporated other people. But basically it was all based on our vision then what they did is incorporate their art and talent. But it was primarily focused on the stuff we were doing.


I had heard Masters of the Universe went to the Good Life and battled there. Were you present for that battle?

    Actually me and my cousin were the first people to perform at the Good Life from San Diego! 'Cause my father stays in L.A. and like half of our family stays in L.A., and as I was saying, we were the primary forces behind the music stuff in San Diego. But I don't recall a battle in all fair honesty.

You used to go by the name Ruckus but switched up to West Kraven. Was that just because you were moving more into the horror themes in your music or did that have anything to do with Sean Price coming out around that time and calling himself Ruck?

    Nah, definitely not. When I was calling myself Ruckus I was unaware of other people being attached to that name at that time. So that was like being in the dark about that but as I started to really focus on my skills and get better, started to really put out projects - just to be honest, I called myself West Kraven because my mom made us fans of horror movies and West Craven was one of my favourite horror directors and being from the west, I just put it together.

Could you take about the Underground Improv and how that shaped you as an emcee?

    The Improv, man, that was people that went to the Good Life, like me and my cousin, people who were familiar with 2000 Crows in Los Angeles. We wanted that type of atmosphere and that type of energy for San Diego. We were dealing with some people who had the capability to put this in place, and it was actually successful. It was our little San Diego Good Life or 2000 Crows where if you didn't have the talent to be there, either you can work on it, come and observe and get better, or get discouraged, but we basically made men out of mice.

Do you recall who did the beats on Universe Horror Nites?

    Orko and Puddi are the only two I remember producing on that tape. 

 

Early on you had "Telepathic Passageways" which was more abstract and later on you had horror themed stuff, but more recently you deal with more reality based subject matter. When I talked to Delon Deville he told me he felt people weren't relating to his earlier stuff and wanted to bring it back down to earth. Was that a similar thing for you or did it come naturally to deal with that subject matter?

    You know what? In all fair honesty, when I started making music all my stuff was reality based. But my cousin, he had the dance groups, and we all loved hip-hop but we were hanging around different people. I was more in the hood, around ghetto people. I'm not saying he wasn't but my observations, my reality, where I laid my head at night, where I went to school, who I hung around with, it made my rhymes a little bit more street. But at the same time, when I was around him, or around the dance crews, it was a different type of flavor. It was a little more lyrical. Even though I was always lyrical, he was like that all the time, you know? That's the best way I can put it.

I know improvising was a big part of what you guys did. It sounds like some of the stuff on your solo tape is freestyled.

    We definitely took freestyling seriously. We used to have this little spot, like a shack that we had made. It used to be hot as hell. No windows, no nothing, and we'd be 10-12 people deep. And we used to make each other battle each other. Like, you and him, you and him. Kinda like UFC. That's what we used to do, you know?

You had an EP called Income but after that it kinda seemed like you disappeared. Did you take a hiatus from music or were you still recording?

    Well, basically, me and my cousin were the people who kinda figured out we want to put some stuff out. I put out my first record was I was 21 on vinyl, with my own money. With me, I know in San Diego there's no music industry here. There's no labels. So either you're gonna work and save up the money and put it out yourself, like on some Eminem 8 Mile shit [laughs]. You gotta put it out yourself or it's just not gonna see the light of day.



The most recent thing I heard was the Big Worm Series Vol. 1 but I also saw other titles: Paperboy Series, Thank God For Haterz. Are those all unreleased albums, like do you have a ton of unreleased music? 

    Paperboy Series is first and foremost, it's a t-shirt. There was never a Paperboy series. There was never a Thank God For Haterz series and as far as my name, West Kraven, there's somebody in L.A. or the bay who DJs who calls himself West Kraven, and I had some words with him. He kinda felt like, "Well, I'm a DJ. You're doing the rap thing. I'm over here, you're over there." And he didn't wanna change it. Of course I'm not messing with my name because I was first and I earned it. Then there's another person from my town who started calling himself West Kraven and he don't wanna change his name 'cause he's got his little followers. At the same time, man, I made West Kraven. I'm the first person to do that. Everybody knows that to the point where it's a respect type of situation. There could be 20 more West Kravens that pop up but everybody will always know who the real West Kraven is. That's my brand.

Well, none of those other West Kravens will record a Universe Horror Nites, that's for damn sure...

    Yeah, it's like, it's gonna be 20 other people... I've had people turn around and call themselves Stephen King off'a me calling myself West Kraven, you know? Just that type of shit, you know?

 

You've recorded a lot of stuff with Shamen 12/Delon Deville. Were you guys just hanging out a lot or how did those collaborations come about?

    You know, man, me and Deville, that's my boy right there. You can put that on record right there. Deville is a talented individual. We both love Curtis Mayfield and hustle music and this and that. We did music before we understood the music we wanted to make. Does that make sense?

So you think as you got older and kept recording you grew into that style over time?

    Yeah, just because when we recorded, it just made us feel different. Of course being lyrical is great and you always want the lyrics, but at the same time you want to represent for your environment. It's like, okay, you're going outside, you see all these cats hustlin', you see your peers playing football, you see the type of music they're listening to in their cars. If you're making a type of music that's different eventually the music is going to have to reflect the environment you're in.

I know you've got a clothing line The Fly Clothing. Is the website (thefly.clothing) the best way for people to get shirts?

    Yeah, the website is actually the best way to go. It's not no bogus type of situation. You just click on what you want and it'll get to you.

My last question: do you have any music-related projects you're cooking up right now that people might expect to hear in the future?

    I'm working on something right now. I have a couple of songs recorded but the music and other issues have been keeping me from being as thorough as I need to be. But I'm definitely thinking about something I may release. I'll put it out there right now just in case someone takes the title since that seems to be a problem in my career, just so you know I did it first. It's gonna be called What Dreams May Come.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Seed-N-Soil: An Interview with Bennie "Eclipse" Herron

Eclipse Heru
  
    Masters of the Universe are arguably the most important rap collective to come out of San Diego and also one of the most important of the whole west coast 4-track movement. Bennie Herron aka Eclipse Heru was an integral member of the crew, being featured on the mysterious Retina tape, as well as being heavily featured on both Microcrucifiction and Back 2 tha Future. After MOTU splintered off, Eclipse transitioned to a solo career, specializing in both positive, uplifting raps as well as powerful spoken word poetry. He debuted with Seed-N-Soil, and later Churches and Liquor Stores Vol. 1, and has also authored a book of poetry entitled greens. With a new book and website on the horizon, I was able to contact Eclipse and discuss his history thus far.

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

    I would say the earliest experience I had was just as a fan of the music, going to elementary school in the 80s, listening to the early east coast hip-hop, Run-D.M.C. It's almost like when I heard it, it spoke directly to me. It felt different than the music I heard my parents playing, the R&B on the radio. So I would seek it out. As you know, in the early years it was really hard to find, if you had the kind of mind for hip-hop. Especially on the west coast, we were limited. We didn't necessarily have some of the radio stations and the resources the east coast had but whenever we could get ahold of a mixtape or a record, we were all about it. Even if it was wack [laughs] we were trying to find something. It was just so different. But I remember the first piece of music that I actually owned. My father's friend had a son who was a DJ, and he brought me a Whodini album. It was actually Whodini, the "One Love" single. It had Whodini's "One Love" on the one side and on the b-side it was just the instrumental and a cappella. So to this day, I could quote that song from front to back [laughs]. 

So as far as MOTU, I know a lot of you guys went to high school together. But would you say it really started when you guys were dancing and had a houser crew? Is that how it all started?

    Yeah, I would say especially for the core members of Masters of the Universe, yeah, we pretty much started out as dancers. Going from late elementary school to early middle school, as you know, that golden era, '89, '90, '91, when everybody was dancing. Even the hardest cats were dancing [laughs], you know what I mean? There were so many dancing crews in San Diego and we were young so we thought, "Why don't we start a crew?" So we started House Klan. Out of that, Orko moved out of the neighborhood. Most of us went to Bell Junior High, but he had moved away. Then, in the 8th grade, he just popped up one year, just on a visit. And we were just kickin' it, and he was still dancing. He kicked a rhyme. And we were like, "We're starting this group called House Klan," and that's how we reconnected and we've stayed connected ever since.

    He had started to rhyme too so he wanted to start a group. I had maybe, at this point, two raps. I should call them rhymes 'cause they were just basic, like nursery rhymes that I had written and memorized. He was like, "Oh, let me hear it!" and I spit it. And he was like, "We should start a group." So we actually started a group with one of his relatives; I forget his rap name but his birth name was Chris. So it was me, Orko and Chris, and we were looking for a DJ. Then sooner or later Burnt Cereal, B.C. as he's known, he started going to Bell and we were like, "We'll take him in as a DJ." So Orko was going to school in El Cajon, we were going to school in Southeast, but we just started to link. So then as we became more interested in the rhyming - we were still dancing, but we also started Boot Without a Soul at the same time. From Boot Without a Soul and House Klan, other groups started to form out of the dance crew. So out of the dance crew there was Boot Without a Soul, the Black Bradys, the Little Rascalz. So we started creating this sort of early, Wu-Tang-esque movement. As we grew into our skill set and started to take it more serious, then we decided to take the playful element out of it and became Masters of the Universe as we started to evolve. 

I know you guys have a ton of unreleased music but the earliest release I'm aware of is the Retina tape (Phroetry). Can you talk about that tape?

    That was actually just one of those projects that we basically did in Orko's - he didn't have a basement, but we called it the Basement. We also called it the Abyss. It was like a shack he had in his backyard. Literally a shack, like one of those Home Depot shacks, that we would use as a studio. Then we moved his equipment into his garage and, in there, a lot of dope music came out of that, out of that address, out of that time period. That's where he made Doomsday Prophet. That's where we did the Back 2 tha Future tape. So Retina was really just a concept. We wanted to do a poetry album. We just found old jazz loops; well, not even loops, just jazz records in the crates. And we wanted to find ones without too much movement so we could kinda fall into the pockets and, you know, recite over it. And we just did it on the fly. I think it was myself, Millennium, now known as Jashun, Bassment - I dunno if Bassment was there or if he did his later - and Orko. Some of us had written stuff, some of us just freestyled poetry off the top, it sort of danced between raps and poetry. We just kinda did it. We didn't have plans to, you know, press up 100 tapes or whatever. We just did it and it was kinda dope and when we played it for people, they'd tell us we should put it out. The copy I had, I mean it was super dirty at its highest quality [laughs] so I can only imagine what it sounds like now, unless somebody digitized it and tried to enhance it in that regard. But we recorded some of it in his garage, some in his kitchen. And some of the records were in good condition, some were dirty or scratchy, but we just did it and it was dope.



So I think for most people who weren't there, it kinda starts with Microcrucifiction. When I interviewed Shamen 12 and Zombie619er, they told me Orko really spearheaded that and collected all the songs from people.

    Exactly. We had talked, as a crew, about doing different projects at different times but, as you know, when you have a large group of people in any type of setting it's hard to get them on the same page to execute. So Microcrucifiction was kind of one of those things where Orko just said, "Hey, I'm gonna take the bull by the horns. Wherever you're at, wherever you're working. If you have studio access, if you don't, we'll find it, but I need a song." I would say half of it he recorded, the other half we collected from other producers, other crews. But it's a true compilation in that he pulled from all different directions. As you probably know, he actually designed the cover, drew it by hand himself. From the inside, the writing that isn't actual typed text, he did that all himself. And that was the first time we came up with Fuk tha Industry Productions.

    Most of our early music, it was very improvised. We took the idea, the concept of being able to create, as we create, very seriously. I think even down to the projects, in and of themselves, they're improvised to a certain extent. We made the linear notes, we wrote the linear notes. We weren't just talking about improvising on the track or on the phone, you know, my man over here did the artwork, you know what I mean? Going to Kinkos by San Diego State University to print copies. It was very hands on and very on the fly.

Well, like you said, it is a compilation and it does sound like a compilation but I always felt like you and Orko, and actually in particular you, really rolled with the Microcrucifiction concept.

    Yeah, I mean, I think it was one of those things where, in our early years, I called us the concept kings because we came up with concepts all the time. As I look back on it, it was almost a gift and a curse because we were so creatively motivated we didn't give time for anything to breath life into it. As soon as we created something, it was over and on to the next thing. Instead of saying, "Let's cultivate this and give people a chance to get behind it and take it over the mountain." I mean Monday to Friday our styles changed [laughs]. That's what we fed off of. We challenged ourselves in that regard. It's not, "Wait 'til my next album." It was, "Wait 'til my next verse, what I'm gonna do!" Microcrucifiction was sort of a product of that. Not even just that tape but Ruckus, better known as West Kraven, he had this idea and we sort of always talked about it like, "You need to roll with this!" We called it horrorcore. Not hardcore, horrorcore. And it was really dark, deep, if you could relate it to a popular music, it'd be like the goth of hip-hop. It was dope. But even that concept, he only did a couple songs and it was on to something else.  

    Microcrucifiction was sort of the same thing. We said in the song, "I saw a microphone crucified on the cross," which was speaking on the death of everybody wanting to be a part this artform, it being saturated and bastardized. Something we really loved dying before our eyes. We paralleled that with Jesus Christ and we were, at that time, very into reading what would be considered subversive literature, Behold a Pale Horse, you know, watching documentaries. It was very sort of urban, underground cult, I won't say conspiracy, but below the radar intelligence. We were very in tune to that, so the play on Jesus Christ, and the Illuminati, the microphone, the cross, that was showing our deeper interest to enlighten people and give them an understanding of what's really going on. I think you can hear that in our music. It was knowledge with lyrical skill with a political edge but at the same time we tried to give you bars, lyrics and skills at the highest level.

Well, I always felt even though you guys were very lyrical and had concepts, you also had some of the dopest hooks when it came to 4-track stuff.

    One thing I know for myself, and with Orko, in our early years we worked with a really good team that helped us write songs. So in the 8th grade we knew how to count bars. We knew what a hook was. It was to hook you! It was to make you walk down the street and sing the words or hum the tune and you don't even realize you're doing it. So we took pride in taking that simple skill, that sort of R&Besque, Top 40s type skill, and adding content to it. I know, for myself, I was kinda known as the hook king 'cause I'd go into the studio and there'd be various individuals from our crew working and they didn't even have a hook. They'd just have dope lyrics and a dope beat. So I would always use a melody, or take a piece of their lyrics and put it with something I thought of to tie it in. So I think there was a seriousness we took in song writing, not just being lyricists but writing songs.



You guys also obviously had a strong battle edge to your music, but you in particular, you'd have make references to 666 and talk about demons. Was the concept there taking something negative and flipping it positively or was that just a battle thing?

    It was really just a battle thing. It was both taking something dark and making it positive and bringing light to it, but mostly just to get the emcee that I'm across from to understand that it's that dark. It's going to be that glum for you. Your lyrical demise will be likened or be parallel to death. But even from the earliest phases of hip-hop to today, it was our way of - we even used gun metaphors to some extent. When we talked about guns, we were talking about the mic. I'm not literally talking about pulling out a nine. You've probably heard in our rhymes something like, "My mind is my nine." We're just trying to body you on stage, to lyrically assassinate you on stage. So whatever reference to morbidity or death or doom or of an apocalyptic nature, I was trying to use, so that's what that was.

Something that I don't think really gets talked about too much is the Underground Improv. Was that sort of like a Good Life for you guys?

    Oh, man! Exactly! You hit it on the head. It was a Life for us. Orko, a sister named Taj, a brother named... we called him Black Santa because of his beard [laughs]. That was really one of those things that as we look back on it - put it like this, I always tell my wife: I won't say all, but I'll say 20% of what we were doing in our city, if we were doing it in another region of the country, we'd be in a completely different place in our lives. Don't change anything, just do exactly what we're doing but in San Francisco, in L.A., or God forbid, New York, we'd be in a completely different place. People say, especially in the west coast, you need to leave your town to get exposed. But I think, again, for that creative foundation we had, I think we sort of missed the boat to a certain degree in that we could have contributed a different element to hip-hop. And I don't mean that to be arrogant, but I think a lot of people think their music is original and there's nothing like it, but to this day I've never heard anyone make music the way we make music. Good or bad, like it or not. Whatever your take is, whatever your opinion is, you can't tell me you've heard something like this.


Yeah, I agree with that. You have certain groups on a similar wavelength like Darkleaf or the Shape Shifters, for example, but what you guys did was very unique, I agree.

    Exactly. There's definitely numerous underground groups we could name - and I don't mean to put us in the same category, of course, but instantly people think of Freestyle Fellowship and the Good Life and Project Blowed. Of course that's a parallel but if you listen to our music comparatively it's completely different. We may chop our words at times and use multiple syllables and flip terms but it's really in terms of the approach. It's very different. I think the Improv was just another bi-product of that, of us being so focused on creating and creating, we didn't slow down and say, "Hey, let's strategize and get some media out there." Make it something that's not a myth in time but etched in stone. The people that know know. But it's one of those things where if you weren't there, there's really no history about it. There's no place you can go to find out. It was really a lot of skillful individuals that came out of that time period. I have a freestyle on the Back 2 tha Future tape and it's a live version of the Improv, and I'm saying to Orko, "Man, we doin' the Underground Improv but how long we been in the game?" We had just graduated high school and we're already 10 years into it. We're considered old cats. We're like 19 but we'd been doing it for so long. So I was just kinda reminding the crowd that although this may appear new to you, this isn't new. We been doing this. Where have y'all been? [laughs] We've taken it serious for a long time. I wish we would've had more of a professional business outlook on it.

So was Seed-N-Soil the first solo project you did?

    Yes, that was the first one. My man, Enigmatic, was working as a music engineering student at the time at Southwestern College and he had free reign to the live studio, the track recording studio, he had access to it. So we were like, "We have access to all this equipment. We need to take advantage of it. Let's do a project." When will we again have this opportunity to engineer and have this type of form for free? So we just basically did that album in like 18 hours over a series of 6 weeks.

It's a very varied project too. Not one song sounds the same. You had spoken word. You were singing on one of 'em.

    That one song that I sang, that's freestyle. We had a homeboy in the studio playing that guitar riff and that bassline and I just was like, "Fuck it!" and just recorded it. And it was actually like 9 minutes, that's why it fades out [laughs].



About Enigmatic, I know he also produced on that Neuro Symphony in C-Minor tape. Is that when he hooked up with MOTU or was he down before that?

     I would say he was down. I think he connected to Masters through Orko. It was one of these things where he always had beats in his head but had limited equipment. I think he had a 4-track but limited equipment. So his role sort of stepped up when he got more equipment to get more involved and hand people beats. I probably have 60 songs that I've done with him that no one's ever heard. I'd go to his house at least twice a week just to create. I'd do songs over and over until they were perfect. There's mad songs in the vault. Same thing with Puddi (producer of Innercity Productions EP and member of Black Bradys). I probably have over 100 songs with Puddi all the way back to when he got his first 4-track. That's when, I dunno if you remember 'em, but he had a minidisc recorder. We thought that was like the best sound ever [laughs]. So we did like 12 songs on that. It's crazy how much we have in the vault.

   And I think this is a perfect opportunity - I know you probably have other questions - but I just wanna say that I wouldn't be doing any of this, even my poetry, anything that I'm involved in creatively as far as my knowledge of hip-hop, if it wasn't for Orko. Orko, although we're the same age, he's my Yoda. Orko encouraged me to become an emcee. Early on, when I wasn't sure about my rhymes, he'd help me with my rhymes. I didn't consider myself a rapper. He helped bring that out of me. He was like, "Dude, nobody can dance like you and not rap!" [laughs] He's like, "Dude, you dance like a rapper. The way you bust, it's in you!" So I just wanted to say that, I want it to be noted like that. That dude is a genius. He should be a millionaire somewhere.

Yeah, I view him as, in terms of techincal ability and skill and creativity, I think he's on the level of, like, Freestyle Fellowship but he doesn't quite get that kind of recognition.

    Exactly.

Another theme that I notice a lot in your music is in regards to recognizing your roots. You talk about ancestors, the foundation of hip-hop, even the name Heru. Can you talk about the importance of knowing your roots from a hip-hop perspective?

    I think for me it goes hand-in-hand - I see hip-hop as being a part of our continuum, not just of black history but of human history. I'm a black man. I understand that there's certain politicized experiences we've been through in this country that have painted this picture that we're not human, that we're inhumane. But hip-hop is just another link in our greater human story. So I try to always tie that piece of myself in the present to myself in the past. I think, for hip-hop, it's a great avenue to do that because individuals like X-Clan and Public Enemy taught me to do that in the 7th and 8th grade. They're saying names like Kwame Nkrumah. They're saying names like Marcus Garvey. And I'm like, "Why is somebody rapping about that? Who is that?" And I'd go look it up and I'm like, "Wow, this person did what? I'm in the 8th grade and I've just now heard of this?" I'm going home to my parents, "Don't you know? Haven't you heard?" [laughs] So it goes hand-in-hand. I don't really separate the two. Even in my day-to-day grind, people are like, "How are you a social worker and a poet and an emcee?" For me, it's all the same content. It's about making myself better and the world around me better by evolving and learning and adding on. As you learn, sometimes you have to unlearn, you have to go back. That's what a lot of my music and my poetry focuses on. 

Can you break down the concept behind the name Eclipse Heru?

    I will, and again, it goes back to my man Orko [laughs]. My name originally was Phase 1 and that was like ehhh. It was a stretch to get a meaning out of it. Then I was B. Dove. Then one day I was in the studio working on some Boot Without a Soul music in Chula Vista and this cat that was in studio was like, "What does the 'B' stand for?" And, you know, I'm in the 8th grade. I'm like, "I dunno, Bennie. It's my first name." And he was like, "Nah, people gon' ask you those questions." He was like, "Make it 'Black'! Black Dove." And I was like, "Ok, word." So I was Black Dove from like middle school to 11th-12th grade. Then Orko was like, "You need to change your name. Your name is Black, you should be Eclipse!" [laughs]

Awesome.

   Then with Heru, going back to reading esoteric knowledge, you know, books on the Kemetic knowledge, eastern African knowldege, the Metu Neter, the Book of the Dead, showing people we're some deep cats who won't just lyrically slay you, we'll uplift you. That's why you hear us sayin' we'll resurrect you from the dead. A lot of that was knowledge from the Five Percenters, the 120, being dead and rising from the living, the Eighty Fivers. That all plays into our wisdom and how we move in hip-hop.

You were also part of the Taco Shop Poets. Can you talk about what that was all about? That was a live band with you doing vocals?

     Yeah, it was a collective of poets that basically took the same model as the Last Poets or the Watts Prophets. Each person wrote their own poem but they came together as a collective. The concept of the Taco Shop Poets was, in San Deigo we don't have cafes, we don't have bodegas, we don't have speakeasys, like the beatnik era, these music spots. We don't have that. What'd we have on every corner? Taco shops. So those are like the crossroads in our city. So a group of people: Adrian Arancibia, Tomas Riley, Adolfo Guzman and Miguel Angel Soria, they basically were like, "We're gonna do a series of poetry readings in taco shops," not thinking it would become a group. But they did one, it was maybe 40 people. They did a second, there were maybe 80 people. They did a third and there were like 300 odd people showed up. The police had to come. It turned into it's own thing. So from that, they were kinda like, "Wow, we're onto something." [laughs] At that time, anybody who came and read their poems, they could be a Taco Shop Poet.

    So then it was like, "Ok, if we're gonna do this and become a group, we're going to have to hone it down." And I wasn't involved in those early stages but I would say around 2001 the group was evolving and they were looking for some changes. I had known all of them within the poetry and music scene in San Diego. I had done different shows with them, opened for them and collaborated on some projects. But I was invited to become a part of the collective in around 2000-2001. And we toured the United States. We went to New York. We went to Boston. We went to San Francisco. We flew all around the country performing poetry with a band. It was dope.



You had a record called The Love Album. Was that a mixtape 'cause I recognized a J Dilla beat on there and a few others?

    Yup! It was a mixtape in the new era sense where you take beats and use original stuff. I personally like that because I did that whole album in 4 hours. 

That's crazy. Was Orko there too 'cause I thought I recognized his voice on there a couple times?

     Exactly. That's my man. He really produced it. He let me use one of his beats, that song "They Don't Love Me Anymore." That's an Orko production. I was like, "Fuck it!" I was gonna do a Love Album, a War Album and a Hate Album. I'm still wanting to do those at some point but life's a little different now. But I was going to do three concept albums like that. The first one focuses on love, the second was focused on war, the third one focuses on hate.

You were also part of a group called Brooklane Music with some guys, Will Downs and T. Downs. Can you talk about that?

I was the group, for the most part. When we put out Churches and Liquor Stores - he was around since the Boot Without a Soul days and he's older and he was always involved in the music himself. He actually wanted to do an album with me and Orko. It was really difficult to get ahold of Orko at the time, to sit him down like, "Let's do this frickin' album." [laughs] So he was like, "Well, let's just roll with it and do it with you." So we were actually On-1 Entertainment at first, then we changed it to Brooklane Music because we grew up on a street called Brook Lane. It was really created as a company because we were putting out an album. It wasn't really a group, it was more of a necessity.

Well, I know you had Churches and Liquor Stores, but I saw some other titles, Deadbeat Radio, Decade Sessions, Good Medicine. Are those all albums or was Churches and Liquor Stores the only album?

    I'm looking at a stack of Good Medicines right here that would body half the stuff in the industry right now. Again, it was one of those things where my man was just beefing up his studio and learning how to produce. In his progression, I thought, "Fuck it, let's just record. Let's not wait for you to get professional." He had just got the keyboard and learned how to use it. Some of those beats where the second and third beats that he made. I was like, "Let's honour that. It's hot!" Let's show your grind. Let's show how you can make dope music with minimal information. Let's do it. So we made the album.

I wanted to ask you about the stuff you did with Havana because that was kinda different. She's an R&B singer?

     It's so funny because most of the people we're talking about I've known for so long. I've know her since 7th or 8th grade. She used to date a guy who used to rap [laughs] and he knew one of my best friends, his name was Ecto, he was in House Klan. Once we started rapping and getting heavily into it, he started fading out of the crew. He's always family, but he didn't really come with us on the rapping side. He danced in high school then just got a job and had a family. But his best friend was dating Havana and he was saying she was a great singer and she had a group. They were called Shalom. She ended up searching me up later on around 2002. She had an album called LIFE and I did a poem on there. We had actually talked about doing a group and a project. We had a concept group called Match'd Frantic. We did maybe 20 songs and on her album Entervention, "Not Affected" is one of those songs.



You do spoken word poetry, you're a rapper, obviously, but you're also an author. Can you talk about your book, greens? That's a book of poetry, right?

    Yes, it's a book of poetry. I have to credit Jashun (Millennium) with that. He was heavily into writing what he called poems. And for me, I had some a cappella rhymes that could be called poems and he'd take me to different poetry meetings. This was in the mid-90s. And he was like, "You should do some of your a cappella rhymes. Just go up there and do it!" And people were like, "Oh, that was so awesome!" And, you know, I didn't call myself a poet. Man, I'm a rapper! [laughs] But slowly but surely I got that bug. I got my MFA in Creative Writing. It became me. So now I consider myself a poet/emcee. I don't like to talk about it too much. I just like to show people [laughs]. Because everybody does something. I mean, it's just ridiculous. 

Yeah, there's no quality control anymore...

     Yeah, like when I tell somebody I write, they're like, "Me too!" I'm like, "Okay... Nevermind, let's just move on."

So my last question here, I know you have a new book, but any other future projects you'd like to mention?

     Well, right now I'm going to be working with - hopefully it'll really come to fruition sooner than later, but we're definitely gonna make it happen - but I'm gonna be working with Milky Wayne and Taylor Tosh on a joint project. I think it'll be fire. Milky Wayne and Taylor Tosh are the individuals who produced Homesick and they produced the Low Cal EP back in the day that got released to vinyl. So we're trying to at least release an EP, or single, maybe even go straight to vinyl again. Taylor keeps sending me dope beats. I'm gonna be working with some other emcees out in L.A. I think it could really do some damage. It's gonna be dope.