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 ( 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.


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]


   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.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Autopsy & Infinity Gauntlet present Savage Planet

    Following his recent EP with Masters of the Universe O.G. Genghis Khan, Infinity Gauntlet dropped his third project in a week, this time with Autopsy, who got down with MOTU shortly after their second tape, Back 2 tha Future. While Autopsy was intended to contribute to their unfinished and unreleased third tape, Farewell to the Flesh, he didn't appear on record until 2005's Civil War project, also featuring Odessa Kane, and also produced by Infinity. Although parts of this album were recorded as far back as 2007, Savage Planet follows Autopsy's solo debut, 21 Bodies, released in 2012 via his bandcamp, another single-producer album with beats by 21 Gramz of the Kilowattz, and vocal contributions from Scatter Brain and Odessa Kane. And much like 21 Bodies, this latest offering features sinister production accompanied by Autopsy's dark, poetic rhymes. You can pick it up on bandcampAccess Hip Hop or iTunes or get at Infinity on Facebook.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Genghis Khan's Retaliation

"I challenge the most complex aliens in battles"

    Genghis Khan and Infinity Gauntlet of Masters of the Universe dropped their second collaboration today, an EP entitled Friday Night Fright that picks up where their 2011 album Night Gallery left off, with Genghis spitting his abstract, off-the-wall battle raps over Infinity's trademark cinematic production. "We recorded [the EP] one day and then I didn't see him again for years," explained Infinity. "Night Gallery was released in 2011 but we actually recorded it in like 2007-2008. We linked up again one day randomly, years later, and recorded this Friday Night Fright project at his apartment." And while this new EP has a horror theme and a more experimental tone, as opposed to the spaced out, surreal Night Gallery, the same spontaneous approach was taken for both projects: "On Night Gallery everything was on some one take type shit and if he fucked up he would just record a different verse. Friday Night Fright was recorded the same way."

    Genghis Khan first appeared on Microcrucifiction, under the name Define, with the solo cut "Siege of Define" and a year later on Back 2 tha Future, alongside Authentik (a member of Genghis' crew, Concrete Connection, along with Phenom and Bassment), on "Existence" but since then pretty much all his output has been produced by Infinity Gauntlet, appearing on two of his instrumental projects before the two dropped Night Gallery. He is even rumored to have battled at the Project Blowed, going up against members of Freestyle Fellowship and coming out unscathed.

    Infinity Gauntlet was first heard on his brother Odessa Kane's self-titled debut in 2000 and since then has become a master of crafting moody, cinematic beats. He has also evolved into a battle rapper, taking on the moniker Scatter Brain and debuting his rhymes on the insanely grimey Chasing Victims Through Sound Systems, produced by fellow Kilowattz crew member Psychopop. He has released a slew of instrumental and vocal projects in recent years, with several new records on the horizon, including a track with Pruven, Boxguts, Jak Tripper and Vast Aire from Vast and Pruven's upcoming 777 LP, as well as an album he produced for Autopsy of Civil War entitled Savage Planet. Make sure to check out his recent projects with Pruven (Dark Light Tablets) and Glory (The On a Sik One Session) if you enjoy this EP or his past work.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Wise Buds Being Broken

"Is this a mic stand or an easel?"

    Sach Illpages delivers his latest offering, fiDELITY (available on cassette and blue/white vinyl through HIT+RUN Records), a very unique addition to his lengthy catalogue. As evident from the Blue Notes inspired cover art, this record is even more jazz-infused than his past work, this time around recruiting a band: J. Sumbi on bass, Anacron on sax, Kiefer Hyder on drums, and DJ E-Spinfiniti (DJ ESP) on the turntables and additional percussion, with Sach providing vocals and orchestrating through his MPC. fiDELITY follows the closing of Sach's "lo-fi era", and serves to elevate his signature sound, the impetus of which was getting his hands on a 24 track recorder, courtesy of Giovanni Marks aka Subtitle. "It wasn't an album intially," Sach explained to me. "I just had the machine and I wanted to utilize a lot of the tracks. So I started thinking, 'What do I have around the house that I can add on to a beat?' I had a shaker, a harmonica, a guitar, a couple other instruments, little things I started to play on there after I made the beat. Then I'd take it to Kiefer and have him play the drums on it. After the first one or two of those, I started really knockin' 'em out and that's really when fiDELITY began."

photo by Kiefer Hyder

    Aside from a short spoken word piece from Meen Green and some brief words from Koko, all vocals are handled by Sach, who delivers his trademark poetic, stream of consciousness rhymes, peppered with boasts of lyrical prowess. The aural pictures painted by Sach on the album's opener, "Over the Under", are examples of a master at his craft. "Wise Buds Being Broken" is an ode to good green, featuring some smooth sax vibes from Anacron and laid back verses from Ill Pages: "Then the truth is spoken/ sent the smoke swirling/ now picture between my fingers something I crafted/ passed it/ reclined, then ashed it." Sach has shown many times in the past an ability to craft some of hip-hop's most sincere lyrical love letters and "Wish Up" follows in this tradition. On "Six Sides" Sach waxes poetic about the importance of thinking outside the box musically, a very appropriate statement. The album closes with "Cha Cha (With Sach at the Lounge)", a very smooth offering, feeling like a spiritual successor to "One Night at the Nappy", from the essential Seven Days to Engineer tape, but taken to another level conceptually.

photo by Kiefer Kyder

    While, with fiDELITY, Sach has taken a new approach, working with a band, it was ultimately his own creative vision. "He had his basic framework, or ideas, for most of the tracks and would ask me for certain rhythms, directing me around my kit as far as what sounds he wanted," described Kiefer, "but he also allowed me an ample amount of space to embellish his idea of things, as I felt fit. What you're hearing is live drums that are being sampled. Sach would sample my playing, loop it how he liked it and construct a beat." Sach elaborated on the process: "Sometimes I'd just have them play through all the way. Other times I would take right from the session, the kicks and snares, the rides, the highs or whatever and pop them into my beat. Sometimes I'd sample Kiefer's drums, play the beat on the MP and then have him play over it too, trying different combinations to see what worked."

    While so many artists dilute their sound, rather than hone it, Sach stays true to the artform and this shines through, as always. Listening to this record, it feels like a keystone in Sach's career; in a sense, his past work has been leading up to it. It's a natural elevation of his sound that has the feel of a magnum opus, but it also feels like a new beginning, opening the doors for future experimentation and new horizons. "I think the songs have some type of potential," Sach explained. "Like 'Wise Buds Being Broken' I think will be around for a minute. I had a lot of joy in writing it and being totally wrapped up in the music, so I think that's another thing that helps showcase the whole thing. I approached it like I usually do. I just get inspired and start making songs, but the time taken, the tracking, the recording of it was what made the difference, as well as the collaboration of different people. So it's definitely another jump-off point, and I plan to take this a lot further."

photo by Kiefer Hyder


   Preceding the release of fiDELITY, Sach also dropped a 'best of' selection entitled Essential, also through HIT+RUN, on cassette and orange vinyl, so make sure to check those out as well, and stay tuned for Seven Days to Engineer 2, which will see Grand Daddy Sach taking all the knowledge gained since the first installment and channeling it into a familiar concept.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Ganjah K presents... "Crenshaw Sunday"

L.A.'s Finest

    Crenshaw Sunday is the latest offering from L.A. innovator Ganjah K, and comes as his fifth release on his bandcamp page, following Harvest for the World, the incredible First Brigade compilation, Swaggeristic and his latest solo LP, Possession of Sales. Crenshaw Sunday is a collection of funky, lowrider tracks, mostly recorded in the late 90s/early 2000s and builds on the sound Ganjah first established on his Danksta Life album, released in '96-'97. What separates this album from its predecessor, which saw Ganjah kicking a more restrained flow, is that this collection is much more stylistic and conceptual, with KMC even busting out his signature stuttering style on joints like "Tricky" and "Say It Ain't So." It's hard pick stand outs, as the entire thing bangs from front to back, but it's a pleasant surprise to see Ganjah flowing over a Fat Jack production ("Ain't a Damn Thing Funny"), which is always a good recipe. "Dre's Anatomy" is a very tight concept record, with Ganjah tying various Death Row/Aftermath artists into a unique voltron-esque metaphor. And while everything on his bandcamp page is worth checking out (and supporting), I highly recommend picking this one up, especially for those who have been fiending for more Ganjah K material for all these years! Don't sleep, and stay tuned for 3 tha Hard Way, featuring DK NoDeal and Dutchman, and The Ganjah K Chronicles mixtape, coming soon!

Monday, February 1, 2016

Delon Davinncci presents... "Rollin the Dice"

"Walk a mile in these shoes..."

    San Diego veteran Delon Deville (formerly Shamen 12 of Masters of the Universe) has spent his entire musical career thinking outside the box. Never being one to settle on one style, Delon is constantly creating new sounds and concepts. From his spaced out 12 Kommandments tape, to the tales of poverty and struggle on As the World Burns, to the surreal compositions found on his Nightmares EP, Deville is a hard artist to pin down. After last year's heartfelt "If Worse Comes to Worse" and "The Catchup", a tight freestyle track over a Drake beat, he unleashes his latest single, "Rollin the Dice (Allergic to Soap)", a hustler's anthem dedicated to the grind: "Up before the roosters/ stoned like Medusa/ every step, every maneuver/ organize like the Yakuza." Taking on the moniker Fortune 5000 behind the boards and rhyming under the name Delon Davinncci, this joint is a preview of his upcoming, and as of yet untitled, new album. Building on the sound he crafted on his insanely slept on Parafenelia record (available on bandcamp here), the beat is smokey and soulful, conjuring images of night time cruising, a young hustler in deep contemplation. Don't sleep on this gem and stay tuned for updates regarding Deville's upcoming album.

   And if you haven't already, make sure to check out this in depth interview I conducted with Delon a few years back, where he describes his early years as a houser, the formation of D.N.A, the stories behind his many solo projects as well as some his trials and tribulations:

Friday, January 22, 2016

Silence Never Sounded So Good


    Tommy V. does it again with his latest offering, an instrumental project entitled Silence Speaks: Volume One, a collection of old songs, dusted off, revamped and combined with some newer recordings to form TV's first professionally pressed cassette! Tommy's trademark "dollar bin delectable" style is present here, but this project sees him exploring further off the beaten path and experimenting more with instrumentation, as he has done since his Fresh Produce CD back in the early 2000s. And while there are the fun, light-hearted moments that are to be expected with any TV album, this tape is actually very emotional, at times gut-wrenchingly so. The vocal features by Ceschi, Riley Lige, Child Actor, and probably most interesting, Myka 9, add a layer of complexity to the production, creating a very unique listening experience. Dedicated to his mother (R.I.P.), the tape is appropriately subtle and beautiful, and at times somber. Tommy has come a long way since his earliest handmade tapes from the 90s and this is yet another chapter in the evolution of a unique and innovative artist! Tapes are still available on Fake Four's bandcamp page, or you can go with the "name your price" digital version. Don't sleep on this very cool project. I'm already looking forward to Volume Two!

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Kayer presents "Rewind a Decade"

Truly Blastin'

    Rewind a Decade, by Bay Area emcee Kayer, is the latest album from the underground artist who was part of 90s Portland group Forgotten Dialect, as well as Sub-Level Epidemic in the Bay, and is a compilation of tracks recorded between 2003-07. Aside from being a dope listen front-to-back, the album is notable for featuring a slew of interesting guests, from son of reggae legend Keith Hudson, known as Stressnotic, to P.E.A.C.E. of Freestyle Fellowship, DJ Vinroc. Jungle Brown (Camp Lo affiliate), Eddie K., Luna Angel, DJ Icewater, and probably most exciting, Project Blowed legend Spoon (of Iodine)!

    Kayer is a true school artist, with roots in the graffiti culture and a rap career that extends back to the 90s and that comes through very clearly on this record. A dedication to the the culture and positive, forward motion are central themes here. And while the album has contributions from several different producers - Vinroc, Cosiner, Stressnotic, Ian McKee and Jaz Jetson - and songs that span a 5 year period, it sounds cohesive and flows together nicely. With concepts that range from asserting his veteran status, to reminiscing about hip-hop's golden era, to overcoming hard times, to fun, party rhymes, the record stays varied and interesting, feeling more like a proper album than a collection of tracks. And, of course, the tracks with Spoon, Kayer's friend and mentor, are standouts, especially considering how little Spoon material is out there.

   The compilation is available on CD and wax (and digitially) and looks fantastic with artwork by Blaine Fontana and layout by Kayer himself. Even if you aren't familiar with Kayer's work and pick this up for the Spoon verses, I think, like me, you'll end up listening to and digging the whole thing. Stay tuned for future releases from Kayer, including the original version of "Metro Illness" and more!

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Reign of Independence: An Interview with Quaesar of Rime Fytahs


    Quaesar debuted as part of Rime Fytahs, alongside the late Haewhyer (R.I.P.), in the mid-90s and has been putting it down since, with a dedication to the true school: a focus on lyricism, styles, raw beats and respect for the culture. He also takes DIY to a new level - following in the footsteps of Afterlife Recordz - handling all aspects of his craft, from rhymes to production to artwork. He even put together Beetbak's Wild Style inspired logo. In this interview, Quaesar discusses his roots in hip-hop, the formation of Rime Fytahs, The Cola Crew and Sea Serpents, as well as his work ethic, inspirations and plans for the future. If you enjoy this interview, hit him up on Facebook or check out his site to order Rime Fytahs complete CD discography!

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

    I would have to say more on the terms of Beat Street, Style Wars type of stuff. I was a young kid, about 5 years old when Beat Street dropped and during that time you had Michael Jackson out so you had a lot of pop influence, so I was real into dancing. When I saw break dancing I was fuckin' blown away. My cousins were a little older so they kinda schooled me on it. I was messing around with them, doing routines with them, which really got me into the whole culture. The whole graff scene is really tied into that too. I was influenced with the graffiti right away. There were older cats who were already on the tag tip. They weren't really bombing like they do now. It was more you tag your name, your crew, you know? And where I grew up, it wasn't the nicest neighbourhood and a lot of us kids didn't have parents to guide us. We'd be hanging out in packs, by ourselves. We'd go out jacking graffiti supplies, getting my name up, getting caught by undercovers, stupid shit like that.

    As far as influences, Run-D.M.C., Beastie Boys, Licensed to Ill. "Brass Monkey" was actually played on the radio. It was underground, but because it was new, the industry was giving the genre more of a chance, whereas now it's been twisted into a whole big commercial machine. Back then, it was more about expressing your feelings. It's kind of changed a lot, but when I was into it, it was more on that tip. Slick Rick, "Children's Story", Dana Dane, even Fresh Prince, Public Enemy, X-Clan. Like, even though X-Clan were more, I don't wanna say black power, but if you weren't educated, you'd kinda interpret it that way. It was personal empowerment that I got out of it. I'd be bumping the fuck out of X-Clan [laughs]. When I was young, since I first started break dancing, at like 5-6 years old, I'd be wearing headbands, a headband on my wrist, on my knee, tucking my pants into my socks [laughs]. And my mom bought me this big-ass ghetto blaster - they call them boom boxes now - and I could barely carry it! My neighbourhood, there were more chicanos, and I'd be going around bumping Dana Dane and all those cholos would be staring at me like, "Who the fuck is this kid?" That's kinda what I did. I tried not to follow the norm. That's the tip I was always on.

Well, I read on your site that Haewhyer actually battled Taboo before he was in Black Eyed Peas. Is that how you met Haewhyer, through dancing?

    Kind of. We kinda of clicked up because we were on the same tip, graffiti, break dancing. We could speak the same language. It was the same frequency. Right before I met up with Haewhyer, I was in the streets. My moms was a heroin addict. My pops was locked up for strong arming small mom & pops stores. He eventually got caught and was doing time in prison, so the streets raised me. Eventually my mom didn't have a place for me to stay. It was this little shack in a mechanic's yard that she was staying at. Her boyfriend was a loser too, an addict, and he wasn't trying to get her out of this fuckin' shack and then he tells me, "You need to bounce." But where the fuck am I gonna go? So I'd just go to the park and sleep on a park bench. I'd sometimes try to catch the bus 'cause it'd run 24/7 and I'd hop on the bus and sleep on there. That's how I got known because I was tagging up the bus. I'd practically live on the bus.

    When I was sleeping in the park, I eventually got real sick, like sick with the flu. So I went home like, "Hey mom, I'm really sick." So she let me crash out and during that time, whoever her boyfriend was at that time, he got caught for warrants, so he was locked up and a homegirl from the hood came there and was like, "You guys gotta move. Come live with me." She eventually pulled us out and moved us to Rosemead. And as soon as I met up with Haewhyer in this other city, it was on. I wasn't trying to sleep on a park bench anymore. I wanted to take more control of my own life. I'm not 14-15 anymore. I'm 16-17. All these questions came into my life.

Do you feel like that structure that hip-hop provided you, that it kinda saved you?

   Oh, definitely! I mean, I'm one to speak off experience. I'm not trying to glorify anything. I'm not even trying to put my moms down because she was a heroin addict. I love my mom with all my heart. She died of breast cancer when she was forty years old. I tell people, while I was watching people jump from the Twin Towers, I looked to my side and my mom is dying of breast cancer. I was fucking numb at that time. I didn't see nothing in front of me. I didn't hear nothing. I was just like a robot. I had to try to get to school and stuff. I'm not trying to glorify any of this shit, like, "If you wanna be hip-hop, you gotta be a thug and sell drugs." You ain't supposed to do none of that fuckin' shit! If you're hip-hop, you're supposed to get out of that shit! Especially new motherfuckers talking about pimping bitches. Get the fuck outta here! I'm from the streets, born and bred and fuckin' fed. My pops wasn't there. I don't have no brothers or sisters. My mom wasn't tuned in. When my mom passed away at 40, I was like 23 years old. I don't have nobody to go back to. I can't just go, "Hey mom, can I borrow a couple bucks for gas? Can I rest my head here because I can't afford $1300 for rent? Can I get something to eat? Hey pops, how do I treat a woman? How do I even tie a fucking tie?" A lot of those lessons, I learned through hip-hop. There's a song by Black Sheep called "Black With N.V. (No Vision)" and Dres just breaks it down, drops a lot of knowledge. I guess you take what you need out of it. There's a lot of stuff now, you could fall for the superficial aspects. Even KRS had that song, "Love's Gonna Getcha." If you're stuck to the superficial side, you're gonna be, "Yeah, it's all about selling drugs!" If you don't listen to that message, of course that's what you're gonna do. I was lucky enough to be conscious enough to acquire the lessons of hip-hop rather than the curses. 'Cause even though it's hip-hop, we still curse because we're frustrated. Sometimes you might be like, "Fuck the cops." But that doesn't mean you should go out and start shooting cops. I remember when N.W.A. dropped "Fuck tha Police." And people say the reason why there's gun violence is because there's guns. It was like the reason there's gun violence is because of hip-hop. Nah, it's not like that. Start taking the good out of things, instead just taking the negative. Especially if you're in a negative situation, your job is to get the fuck out of that situation.

    Watch, here's another example I can give you: a lot of people don't want Donald Trump to be president. Well, are you gonna get your ass up and vote? 'Cause if you ain't gonna get your punk ass up to vote to make sure he's not president, then you need to shut the fuck up about it. Change your situation through action or shut the fuck up.

Well, I think a good equivalant to that, in terms of hip-hop, is people need to vote with their wallets and support the music they love 'cause if we don't support it, look what happens? The cream of the crop should rise to the top but it doesn't because people just download everything for free.

    Exactly. Man, I could go off on this shit forever [laughs].

You mentioned KRS-One, and of course he really represents the true school, and there's the classic picture of him rapping into a headphone, but you and Haewhyer actually rhymed into a karaoke machine at one point, right?

    Yeah, that's actually true. We started off, you remember those old computer microphones that looked like a wand? I started acquiring several ways to record, throughout the years, ever since my mom bought me a ghetto blaster - the shit had a record button on it, so even when I was young I was beat boxing, spitting dumb little freestyles, spitting other fools' rhymes. You don't realize it, but you're learning structure. You're learning schematics. You don't realize it because you're just having fun as a kid. It just fell into play. When I went to Rosemead and met up with Haewhyer, I met a couple cats who quote-on-quote flowed or whatever. I'm making little cheap songs with these cats and it's coming out real cheesy. I never even recorded on computers. Wavelab? What the fuck is this shit? I'd never even had a computer but you gotta know in your mind what to do. I was showing them how to make loops and make beats. And they're like, "How do you know how to do this? You don't even have a computer!" "Dude, you know how to do it. It's in you." I wasn't that on point, just getting the gist.

    So I borrowed a tape from one of these cats and it was some dope underground shit. We had walkmans back then. I was cruising, walking through the hood playing this tape. So a few days later, one of these cats is like, "Hey dude, Bobby wants his tape back!" And I'm like, "Who's Bobby? You're lending out shit that don't belong to you?" So that's how we met up. It was like, "Oh, you're Bobby? I had your tape. You flow?" And we started flowing. Then it was like, "What am I doing with these cats when we could be doing this?" We were so hungry to rhyme and put our shit on a medium. And we were messing with this DJ but during that time, he had a vice and he was up there smoking speed and doing dumb shit and giving up his resources, so we just ventured off to ourselves. We saw the equipment we needed but we didn't have the money to do it. At one point, we did fuck with the karaoke machine. "Fuck it, I'm gonna buy this keyboard from Radio Shack." Down the line, we weren't too satisfied, so I bought a sampler, an SP-202, and that helped us make better beats.

You did most of the production on those early Rime Fytahs projects. Did you do all the beats for Us Against Them too?

   Yeah, I did all the beats for that tape, yeah.

When did you start going to Project Blowed?

   Probably like '98-'99ish. The thing about Project Blowed, there was a cafe called the Good Life Cafe. A lot of emcees would go there. There was a particular system there, one of the rules there, you can't cuss. It was a little difficult to get certain messages across unless you encrypted them in a way, you know what I'm sayin'? So when Project Blowed opened, that was a contrast because you could cuss. So there were a lot of ups and downs in the beginning. So it closed down a couple times and we got to go when it was quote-on-quote re-openening, in like '98-'99. We were already Rime Fytahs, and one of the homies was like, "You guys gotta check out this spot!" We kinda knew about it, through the music. We were already bumping the music. But we weren't able to get ourselves out there until homie actually drove us out there. We'd just stay in the den banging out music. People'd be banging on walls like, "What the fuck?" So that's what kinda got us out more. We found the balance between production and getting ourselves out there.

A little bit later you hooked up with Mass Murder Productions and formed C.O.L.A. Can you talk about how the Cola Crew came together?

   Basically me and Haewhyer, we had a certain relationship where we felt for someone to hold the title Rime Fytah, they couldn't just be able to rhyme. There was a lot tied into it. It was deeper. And we're starting to acquire more of a network of emcees and we need an outlet for them. So we started with the Sea Serpents. We kinda split it up like, "These are the guys who can freestyle." Then the guys who write rhymes down, we can have a separate unit. It was small, so it was easy to do that. Then there was the D.A.T.A. crew and they made good music. And then, of course, Mass Murder, which is based outta Ontario, it came together really fast and we realized we needed a structure in order for us to establish the who's who of what, you know? So we started Creators of the Lost Arts. It's just like an umbrella for everybody but nobody is obliged to do anything. Rime Fytahs might wanna do this, but D.A.T.A. might not wanna do that.

   It was a way for us to open up opportunities. A lot of people come to me for advice and stuff. It's more like a coalition. When you come to C.O.L.A. you learn certain knowledge and gain certain intel into how to be an underground artist. Granted, after you learn it, it might be like riding a bike and you're like, "I never needed an elder to help me take off my training wheels." That's how people might think after they ride the bike. But people need to learn those certain independent, underground artists' techniques. But no one is constrained. Everyone is free to go and do whatever the hell they want. But someone might be like, "Oh, this person shut me down! I'm not gonna make music no more." I know how hard it is to get out there. People lose loved ones, get in car accidents, lose their jobs. I want to be there. Those are things that I wanna be there for, to support my crew, so we can keep doing what we love.

Listening to your stuff, I catch moments where it sounds like there's a strong CVE/Hip Hop Klan influence in terms of your musical approach, but also the whole DIY aesthetic. Am I right that they're a big influence?

    Hell yeah! Definitely. During the initial part of my emceeing, before I met Haewhyer and before I was on the street, I was writing a lot of material, my own material, just in my own world. During this time, a lot of my family members were doing drugs and crazy shit and I was like 13-14 years old. I didn't want to be like that, so I'd be at home writing my little rhymes. During that time, you had Cypress Hill coming out. You had The Chronic coming out. Everything that was coming out was on a label. There was no such thing as underground then. If you heard an underground tape, you'd assume it was a demo tape that they'd send to a label to get signed and re-do it. Now, there's so many generations in it, people can't even fathom that mentality. Now everybody's an independent aritst. They don't really get the gist of it.

    So during this time, the way I grew up, with the major influence of my family, gangs and shit, there's a prison influence in my family. Prisoners utilize everything around them to make it an art. You have prisoners that know how to make picture frames out of Camel cigarette boxes. You got prisoners know how to make clocks out of wood, all this stuff. So when my uncles would get out, it'd trickle down to me, so when I was a kid I was always into how to make something out of nothing. So when I was writing rhymes I was always like, "I'm gonna do my own music." I had this picture in my head. So one day - I don't think it's the cassette I borrowed from the homies - I think it was a cassette I got from my homegirl Rebecca. She knew some of the guys in the Boo-Yaa T.R.I.B.E. This is kinda pre-Psycho Realm, these fools were trying to be Cypress Hill's openers, you know what I'm sayin'? So she knew them and she was like, "Oh you wanna be flowin'? Let me take you to these fools crib." But they went to get high and I was just kinda standing there in front of these turntables, not doing anything [laughs]. All that shit was just coming together and when I heard this tape, it was just full of fuckin' hiss. I had just finished buying Midnight Marauders, Pharcyde, "Passing Me By." And the beat production, it was coming back to more of a vintage sound, a vinyl sound. And this song came on, "Are you ready for the vibe? Are you ready for the flow? Are you ready for the Kaos Network, Project Blowed?"


    And you had people chopping, even like JJ Fad. They'd chop, but not through the whole verse. It kinda pumped me up 'cause I wanted them to keep going! So I was writing my own shit that was like that, so when I heard Blowed was doing it, I was like, "Hell nah! There's other fools doing this shit?" I was like, "This is what I want to hear!" I want to hear that cheesiness, where they just grabbed a Casio keyboard and make that shit. This is the shit that I want to hear. It was like a breath of fresh air for me. So once I heard that, I found where I fit in. So they were definitely an influence. Everybody from the Blowed, Puzoozoo Watt, fuckin' Medusa, 2Mex, Riddlore?, the whole CVE crew. When I lost Haewhyer too, I had my own particular style, so I felt I needed to incorporate him into my style too. A lot of the shit I do, like lowering my voice, that's paying homage to my boy.

I'm glad you mentioned the chop style. I spoke to Syndrome about this, and Imperator as well, about how you had people chopping, like you said, JJ Fad, and you even have guys like Kool Moe Dee rapping kinda quickly in the early 80s, and Jay-Z & Jaz did "The Originators" in the late 80s. What do you feel was the Good Life's role in regards to the chop? 'Cause it already existed, so would you say they adopted it as their main style and took it to another level?

   Yeah, I think it's exactly that. I think it was their stylized form of delivery. During that time, the style of delivery was very structured. Boom-boom-snare, "here's a flow, here's a flow," boom-boom, punchline. The Good Life, and later the Blowed, was so stylized. It really was exactly that, a Kaos Network. There was chaos but it was so stylized. It didn't have structure, it had its own structure. You hear Myka 9 bust, look at Innercity Griots or To Whom It May Concern, "Be advised they'll come," the style is so different. Then, on top of that, being able to freestyle, being able to freestyle and chop. Anybody can freestyle. In fact, freestyling was invented on the east coast. I mean, if you want to go even deeper, it probably goes back to like, jazz musicians, but when it comes to the west coast, there's so much more. Like... [Quaesar spits a dope freestyle]

[laughs] Nice!

    The thing is, you're communicating with street people. 'Cause me, as a street kid, I have to be able to spit fire. I can't afford to be a slow thinker on the streets. In order to survive, you have to be a quick thinker. And if you're getting down with cats? You have to be able to think fast and spit it fast and freestyle fast and absorb it fast and understand it fast and kick it in fast. Some people, I can understand, they don't get it. I don't mean to bruise egos - I know people want to say they're hard - but you're probably not from a certain demographic. That's usually what the case is. I'm not trying to put anybody down, but that's the way it is. Some type of music you may agree with more. I just happen to agree with this music more. I just clicked up to Afterlife, Hip Hop Klan, CVE. It's like, we're from the streets but we have a college education, so I can either smack you in the face with my books... [laughs] We weren't trying to gang bang. We had to walk through gangs. What do you do then? Do you bow down? Do you succumb to the crack? Do you succumb to the prostitution? Nah, it's easy to do that. Anybody can pop pills, fuckin' shoot up heroin, pimp prostitutes, sell their own pussy. The hard motherfuckers are the ones who don't do that shit. The hard motherfuckers are the ones who get their families out of that shit! So when these little boy toys try to act hard, I can see right through that shit and I don't fear motherfuckers like that. They don't even have the mental capacity to survive a motherfucker like me. They want you to be scared. "I'm covered in tattoos. I've got my head shaved bald." That's the same reason there's a cop car around, to remind you not to steal. This is something I was told: "Real motherfuckers don't have to show off. Real motherfuckers just gotta to show up."

I really like how you kept using the Rime Fytahs name after Haewhyer passed, kinda like BDP, and included verses from him on more recent projects. Do you feel like Haewhyer is still present on those albums, kinda like how it said "overseen by Scott La Rock" on the BDP albums?

    Aw, hell yeah! All the time. There's certain things that happen where it puts a smile on your face, like, "This motherfucker is still here." How certain things come together. The whole spirit of it. I mean, it's a little bit different now because I'm older so I've changed. I'm a lot more patient. Letting people slide or get by. Some people might even feel safe because of my patience [laughs]. That's why a boa constricter lets you get real close. The closer you are, the better it is for me. So I still use the spirit of Haewhyer, but now we're so much in unison, you can't split it up anymore. It's just all one now, if that makes any sense.

One of my favourite albums from you is Raw on Tape which doesn't have much info online. Is that a recent one? I thought I caught you saying 2012 on one track.

   Yeah, yeah, that's a more recent CD. Raw on Tape, I kinda reverted more back to a Rime Fytahs, Us Against Them, original type'a style, the scheme of making my beats - I returned to that. And also, that being said, we used a lot of samples. And on Raw on Tape, I used a lot of samples. That's the reason I released it for free on the internet.

Is that why the song titles are taken from past Rime Fytahs albums?

    Exactly. I wanted to put it together in that way. I was trying to bring it back and pay homage to stuff we already did. I actually have Raw on Tape: Side B coming up, which should even be a little bit nicer than the first one. 

The most recent Rime Fytah's project was Prescribed America. I read that you were inspired to do that album after working as a pharmacy tech. Can you talk about that experience and the concept for that record?

    When my mom was still around, I was actually taking myself to college out here at L.A. Trade Tech. During that time I was taking nursing. I was studying to be a registered nurse. I was in the medical field. After my mom passed away, I started working. When she passed I had to pay my own rent 'cause I was living with my mom and her friend. I couldn't stay there anymore. So I started working as a student nurse and quit school just to pay my rent and shit. So probably from '99 I was going to Trade Tech.

    Recently, I started working manufacturing pharmaceuticals. Not a pharmacy tech, but manufacturing pharmaceuticals. We would make blood thinner at this company and shit, and there was just a lot of shit I'd see. Not only from nursing, going through that field, but also tying into the pharmacy field. They're two different fields, in a way. The way it all tied in, I was able to bring out this Prescribed America CD.

    And believe it or not, during the time I dropped that album and I started working as a pharmacy tech, I had not realized it but I had an ulcer in my stomach and I was bleeding internally. I was getting real sick. If anybody's ever been shot, that's basically what it felt like. You're basically just losing a lot of blood. You have a real bad headache. For me, about a week went by and it was getting worse and worse. I'm pretty sure if someone gets shot they feel it in a second [laughs] but this shit took about a week to progress. I started getting real pale, waking up with headaches. I couldn't get through the day almost. It was hard walking up stairs. I mean, your blood carries oxygen and if you lack blood and your body and your organs lack oxygen, your muscles need oxygen to move. I wasn't putting it together. I'm saying it now, from my medical standpoint, but at that time, I was a patient. "Aw, this isn't happening to me" mentality. I had to lay down and shit. I couldn't breath. I had to walk up stairs and lie down.

    One day it got so bad, I started dry-heaving. I was like, "Fuck this, babe, you have to take me to the emergency room." They said I was pretty close to having my organs shut down because there was so much blood loss. They couldn't believe I was able to walk in. I had to get like six different blood transfusions. I had to take Nexium to close my ulcer up. I got pretty close to dying, you know what I'm saying? It took me a while to recover, believe it or not. Your organs are like sponges that absorb blood. And when you take all the blood out of these sponges, the oxygen, you can't just put water back into a sponge and it'll be back to normal. You have let the blood soak into your organs for them to function properly. I honestly had problems with my lung capacity. This right here is some exclusive shit you're getting. A lot of people don't know, they're thinking, "Why isn't Quaesar's show up to par?" Sometimes it's hard to put air in your lungs. My tongue, I couldn't fuckin' chop sometimes. It was because I was recovering. It wasn't until a couple months ago that I feel like I've fully recovered. So I apologize to anyone who felt my live show wasn't up to par, but I was at a low point health wise. And even relationship-wise, 'cause while I was doing bad, people close to me started trying to take advantage of me. But it was a blessing in disguise because it showed me who was really true to me. I'm glad it happened, in a way, because now I know who's real and who's not real.

Do you have any upcoming projects or plans for the future you want to mention? And I also wanted to ask if you're gonna be on that BullySquad album Syndrome and Casper are putting together.

   Yeah, I'm pretty sure I'm on there. I sent them a bunch of verses [laughs]. I got some shit I'm working on with my boy Skruf One. That should be dropping pretty soon. I'm also working on another Rime Fytahs, but I'm taking my time 'cause I want to have more hands on it. I want it to be like more listener friendly, in a way. I don't like to make too many drastic changes on my Rime Fytah projects. I like to keep it consistent. But I'm gonna get somebody else to mix it down, do a couple other touches so it sounds a little more up to par in terms of production, to keep my fans happy.