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!

The Product of Americanna

"Animalistic, cannibalistic behavior..."

    Delon Deville drops the second single from his upcoming Delon Davinncci project, "Animal Behavior", which sees him returning to his conscious roots, pulling back the curtain to expose government and corporate corruption, racism and police brutality. Delivering the message with brutal, nihilistic undertones, the sinister synths provided by Deville's producer alias, Fortune 5000, acts as the perfect backdrop. While the project's first single, "Rollin the Dice" was a hustler's anthem, this new track is more indicative of the direction Deville is taking with the new project, the more message-driven subject matter being a nod to his Atom 12 persona. Rather than revisiting that era completely, Deville has updated the formula, and delivers a fresh, new approach. Stay tuned to beetbak for future singles and info on the full length album, 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.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Jean in the Front Row: An Interview with Jean Powe

Jean in the Front Row

    Without actually having performed at the Good Life and without being a rapper or producer, Jean Powe has still had a great enough influence on the Good Life movement that she is known worldwide by fans of the west coast underground, most recently through Ava DuVernay's This is the Life documentary, but, largely due to a classic CVE tape being named after her, Tray Loc's solo debut, Jean in the Front Row. Jean gained a reputation for always being present at the Good Life, front and center, showing her support. She clearly saw something special in a movement that has finally gained some of the recognition it deserved in the early to mid-90s. 

    Jean's story took a tragic turn, when she was misprescribed medication which lead to her developing Steven-Johnson Syndrome, a skin condition which can cause facial and tongue swelling, rashes and shedding of the skin. Jean remains positive, however, and she and Imperator are in the process of wrapping up a documentary about her and her journey, giving viewers some insights into her condition and how it has impacted her life. I had the pleasure of speaking with her about her experiences at the Life as well as her struggles with SJS.

What was your earliest experience with hip-hop and what was some of the first stuff you really got into?

    In the 80s, Alex, my whole world was dance, the club scene. Wherever the DJ and the dance floor was, I was there. I was into rap, but just the music, not the lyrics. Hip-hop didn't come into play until the Good Life. I'm glad I was introduced to it! Prior to that, I was groovin' to Michael Jackson, Earth, Wind & Fire, Marvin Gaye, The O'Jays, Prince, Barry White, Luther Vandross, N.W.A., Heavy D, Debarge, LL Cool J, Ice Cube, Too $hort, KRS-One and Shalamar, just to name a few. I love all music, really. I go from R&B to rap and The Wave, all in the same day [laughs]. It really started at the Good Life though, in 1990, '91, then ended up at the Project Blowed. That's where I met all the artists I know now. There's so many of 'em. I guess it's all the ones that you know too. Imperator, Ellay Khule, J-Smoov, Freestyle Fellowship, Hip Hop Kclan, Riddlore?, P.E.A.C.E., Myka 9, there's so many of 'em. I can't wait to get back to the Good Life to chill with everybody one more time.

How did you first get introduced to the Good Life?

    The owner, Janie, and one of my classmates, which is her sister, Deborah Scott Moore. I used to come there to see her and she told me about Thursday nights with Bea Hall and her son, R Kane Blaze, and I just started coming and I was just going ever since. I want to give props to the owners of the Good Life, Ifa (Janie) and her husband, Phillip Walker, and thank Deborah for inviting me!

Were you blown away by what you saw?

   Yes, yeah, I really enjoyed it. I thought it was really good that all these young people were really coming together like that. It gave them a chance to get out of the street life and come together with the positivity like they were.

What was the vibe at the Life and can you describe the experience of being in the front row?

    The vibe was always cool. Once or twice there was a chill in the air, but it didn't stop the show. Being in the front row I was able to be up close and personal with folks. Seeing everyone perform and feeling the music, that was it for me. Thursday at the Good Life couldn't come quick enough. I lived for it! I don't know who gave me the name Jean in the Front Row. Maybe J-Smoov or Tray Loc. If I'm wrong, correct me! If I came in and someone was in my seat, they respected me enough to get up and let me have it. I was thankful! For one, what they didn't know, I needed total reconstructive knee surgery and it would be screaming [laughs]. J-Smoov took me to the hospital, had it done and the rest is history. I really miss those times, hanging out there with Shaydi, Q Storm (where you at?) and Rosetta.

Were there any artists in particular you'd get really hyped about if they were performing?

     No, I liked everybody. I don't like to single people out. I enjoyed everybody. The most memorable was meeting Biz Markie and Fat Joe.

What do you think were some of the reasons the Good Life became this hub for creativity?

    I guess all the different artists all being able to come together like they were. Bea Hall really made it possible for everybody to come together like they did.

When you first saw the Jean in the Front Row tape, were you surprised, or did you know Tray was going to be naming his album after you?

    That was a surprise [laughs]. It was funny, especially the caricature of me [laughs]. The caricature was funny to me, but I didn't mind though.

[laughs] It was a very flattering picture.

    It was [laugh] but it really fit Tray Loc's style of music. I liked it.

Did you attend the Project Blowed at all?

    Yes, I went to Project Blowed also. We left the Good Life and went to Project Blowed. My Project Blowed experience, as opposed to the Good Life, was cool. Both clubs were cool. Project Blowed was more loose and no limits. You could curse on the mic whereas at the Good Life you couldn't. Nothing wrong with that. And if you wasn't good, you'd get booed! I really didn't like that 'cause everyone deserves a chance on the mic. You never know what that does to a person! Blowed drew a much bigger crowd and it was a great joint. Big ups to Ben Caldwell for doing that for the youth.

When were you diagnosed with SJS and can you explain to people who may not be familiar what it is exactly?

    Ok, for the people who don't know, Steven-Johnson Syndrome is a major allergic reaction to any antiviral medication and the reaction, your hair falls out, your skin blisters, because it burns you from the inside of your body to the outside of your body. Your face swells, your eyes swell, your throat. It affects your mucus membranes. Some people are blinded and left with cornea damage. A lot of people I know have these eye problems. Some people die because it damages your organs. I was lucky. For me, I had the swelling of the face and eyes. My throat was so swollen, I couldn't eat for three years. I ended up with a G-tube in my stomach because my stomach was toxic. I went from 136 pounds to 89 pounds! I was dying.

    First of all, I was bit by a spider in 2007, but it had nothing to do with the spider bite. An intern, I found out later, misdiagnosed my spider bite as shingles and gave me Acyclovir, 800 mg to take five times a day. Had I known better, I wouldn't have took it but at the time, you go to the doctor, you think they know what they're giving you, so you take it. And as I took it, instead of feeling better, I started feeling worse, like I was dying, which I was, but I didn't know until I got to the hospital. If I didn't get to the hospital when I did, I would be dead today.

I did some research before this call and saw some pictures of people with pretty awful blisters and rashes. Is your condition not quite as bad as that?

    Well, your skin, it's chronic. It doesn't go away. You don't look like those pictures anymore, I did look like those pictures, but not as bad because I got to the hospital in time. It was very painful for years. I had the G-tube in for three years. I couldn't eat solid foods for three years. I had to be fed through a tube. Oh, it was awful! And you're left with chronic itching. You skin itches and still falls off, just not as bad as it was. One thing about it, all my burns have healed. My skin is back to brown. From laying up now for eight years, my body has atrophied. My hands are completely closed and my toes are folded over. I have to have assistance turning, sitting up, I have to be dressed. I used to have to be fed but a cousin of mine had an idea: he took a spoon and a fork and taped them to chop sticks so now I'm able to feed myself. And I can go out, but I have to have a village to get me out and get me ready.

Can you talk about the documentary Imperator is putting together about your struggles?

    Well, basically what I just told you. I told him the same thing I'm tellin' you. We've done three shoots already. I have two more to go, I think starting next week. We were supposed to meet a couple weeks ago to shoot at the beach but I didn't have a village to get me there, so we had to cancel. He just gave me a benefit September 24th, which was really nice.


    To get some additional info about the upcoming documentary, I spoke with Imperator, who is the mastermind behind the project, and he was able to give some good insights into the motivation and concept for the documentary.

    At first, I just knew Jean as "Jean in the Front Row" from being at the Good Life. We spoke in passing a little bit. We didn't hang out or anything like that, but I knew her, and I knew Tray had songs and CVE and others would mention her a lot in there. For years, I had heard she was bitten by a spider and something had happened to her and she wasn't doing too well. So for years, I thought about doing a documentary because I felt [the reality of what had happened to her] was an injustice, and maybe it could get her some exposure so someone could help her out.

    So time passed, and it was just a thought I had, but I reconnected with Jean about three months ago. I went to her house and saw her situation, that she was bed ridden, so I said to her, "Why don't we go ahead and do the documentary?" I told her what it would consist of. I went out and got a camera and a friend and I sat and came up with about thirty questions and we just asked her, "When did it happen? How did it happen?" How does she feel? What makes her happy and sad? So we recorded that but it still needs to get edited. It's currently on hold because we want to get a professional, someone in the industry, who's willing to speak on it to give it some more credibility. Due to some personal turmoil in my life, I haven't done anything for about three weeks, but we're planning to pick it back up. One issue is it may be hard to get some medical professionals to speak on this condition because it could harm their reputation. I'm trying to do some real research so we can do it properly, and I'd really like a real medical professional to speak on it.

For those who have enjoyed the Jean in the Front Row tape, and since it's currently available as a free download, please consider donating the money you would have spent on a copy to Jean's Gofundme account and stay tuned for updates regarding Imp's upcoming documentary about Jean's struggles.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Demons & Angels: A History of the Beat Cave

The Roach Hoetel

    The Beat Cave was a crew, as well as a studio, created by Roger Lovett (aka Roge One) in Whittier, California that became a retreat for the emcees who would hang out there. It originated as a project co-produced by Roge and DJ Roach in 2001-2, The Roach Hoetel, notably featuring raps from EX2's Origin, but later evolved into something different once Roge set up a studio in his garage and honed his ability to make beats. A project featuring Roge, Roach and AWOL, entitled Demons & Angels was released years later, in 2012, and features a slew of emcees, all of whom would drop by to hang out at the Beat Cave. I was able to piece together a history of the Beat Cave, gathering comments from Roger, Roach, Massive, Syndrome and Regret, all of whom described the Beat Caves' laid back atmosphere and fond memories of what they considered a place to relax, lay back, smoke some good green and make music.

Roge One: It really started back at East Ridge Terrace Apartments on La Mirada and Leffingwell. It started with Save One from LSD. It was rough times for me then, but I was trying to get out of the rough times and I ended up selling some drug money to get an MPC. We started hanging out and making beats, and Save introduced me to Roach. It's funny, the first night Roach came over, we went to get some beer and as we walked out, we see cops walking in each direction. It looked like they were headed to my apartment. I was growing some plants at that time. So I called my roommate and he said the cops came and busted them all, so I ended up going to Roach's house that night and we just listened to records for about four hours. It was crazy. My roommates ended up going to jail. We sorted it out a couple days later because they didn't have a search warrant, stuff like that. So no one got in trouble, but that's how the Beat Cave began in Whittier, California.

Roach the DJ: I met Roger after finding out that a couple of my friends were making beats on an MPC, and I found out it wasn't their MPC. It was Roger's. They were all roommates. So I had to get down to it and say, "Well, I wanna record beats on this MPC so I need to meet this guy, Roger, you know?" So my friends Save and Calm - we all have connections to the same city and we ended up being part of the graffiti crew LSD - introduced me to Roger. That's how I started talking to Roger. I told him, "I've been making tapes, but my tape deck is broken and I've been starting to record on my 4-track, but it records on zips and pretty soon it's gonna be outdated, you know? It's already giving me problems now." So we had a friendship through my experiences trying to record.

Roge One: I straightened up my act, stopped messing with the hard drugs, just stuck with the weed. I moved to another apartment and started getting with Meno. He's another cat who EX2 used to always go to. Meno's done a lot of great stuff in the studio. So I hung out with him a lot, learning how to create music and bring it to the computer, how to do MIDI stuff on the computer and all that. From there, I met my wife, then we moved into that house that became the Beat Cave. By that time, I had started getting more knowledge of everything so I built that studio then. Through Roach, I met AWOL, Massive, Gel Roc, Ab Rude used to go there. All those types of people would come to the Beat Cave.

Massive: It was like a camp where some of the members hung out with Roge at his spot, but they were kinda into other things. Like, AWOL was always into art and graffiti. They had this skateboard company - I think the company was called Soundclash - where they were putting hip-hop artists on these skateboards that AWOL and some of the guys were promoting. So in the Beat Cave they had this studio with a wall of skateboard decks. Everybody kind of met at that spot. It kind of had been around for a while. If you have a studio and I just came over there to hang out with you all the time, then other producers and beat artists, they start hanging out over there. Then you're making beats and sooner or later we're putting together a project.

Roach the DJ: We recorded a couple beats for my project, which was Roach Hoetel and I figured, "Well, he's giving me original beats so what I'm gonna do is bring in my samples as a background to his beats and give it a hip-hop feel." So that's what I did. We had a project by me recording it, then later on, he evolved and said, "Well, I wanna have control of recording my own beats." So he got savy with computers and he was using Cubase, I think it was. We just started to say, "Ok, let's just bring people in and have them record. We already know AWOL and we know Massive. Let's bring in the rest of our homies." And that's how our project (Demons & Angels) got created. And in between The Roach Hoetel and Demons & Angels, Roger was refining and learning how to record, which is why there's a gap between those two projects. I only made like 20 of [The Roach Hoetel] for a small tour. That's Pugsly on bass! Pugs (R.I.P.) was Tobesko's cousin. Origin was the first MC the Beat Cave recorded. He is an OG EX2 head.

Roge One: The Roach Hoetel was actually recorded pretty much at the original apartment, and also at Roach's house. We did that before we got into the computer stuff. It was basically just a little 4-track and an MPC. Just a mic in a closet, man. Real raw stuff [laughs].

Massive: I don't know how long they had that concept for the Beat Cave. The reason we called it the Beat Cave was beacuse it was Roger's garage, and it had this big ol' neon flourescent light. It was a big ol' garage converted into a mini studio, but it was always dark like a cave in there, so that's where it came from.

Roge One: When I built the studio, it just had a cave feeling. There was one night where everyone was over and I just thought it was like the Bat Cave. So I said, "It's the Beat Cave" and everybody liked that. It was a place for everyone to just come and relax, not worry about nothin', just kick back, you know what I mean? At the time, I had hurt my back so I was just on worker's comp, so anyone could come over at any time. We had a fridge with beers in there. We were smokin' a lot of weed, of course. Massive used to come over a lot and hang out. He's a very humble guy. We'd just vibe out, write lyrics. We'd make beats together. Everyone could just come, smoke some weed, drink some beer, close the garage, not a care in the world, man. It was a good time, brother.

Massive: The Beat Cave was kind of like a retreat for me. At the time, when I moved from L.A., I moved to Orange County to just get away from everything, you know what I'm sayin'? And between L.A. and Orange County lies Whittier. So instead of going all the way back to L.A., most of the kids from that camp lived in the Whittier area. See, there's two types of emcees. There's the Good Life emcees, then there's the kind of weirded out emcees, like AWOL and those guys, that do that different kind of hip-hop. It's hard to even put a name on it. They all hung out in that section of Orange County, Whittier, Azusa, Santa Anna, I almost want to say the Inland Empire, but it's going back east where most of 'em hung out at. Roge's place was the central spot to hang out at, and to be quite honest with you, you'll find a lot of these hip-hop studios were centralized around who had the weed [laughs]. If you had to grab something real quick, you'd go see Roge.

Syndrome228: Roger is a good dude who I met through Roach when EX2 was in our prime. A few times I went to his place when he would have parties and saw Massive, AWOL, Roach, and some others, which was a dope group to chill amongst. I never recorded with him, but we worked on some beats a couple times. He is good fam, for sure!

Roach the DJ: I was always able to jam with Roger. We'd record ourselves and have fun. He'd freestyle and me and my friends would freestyle. That's when I knew we needed to make something happen. We were having too much fun, so I felt, "Let's get something going on." After he moved out of his apartment, he got a pretty good job and a home, so he had the space to create a studio. We had all our friends who were willing to hang out and record. We'd all get together and have fun, smoke. He also had a lot of good smoke so people were willing to come to him, you know?

Regret of EX2: I don't think I ever tracked there. I only went there to get bomb green! [Roger] had a huge flat screen on the wall in the living room, had fuckin' MMA on PS3 with wireless controllers. Dudes would have tournies. First time I'd seen that. Roger had sick beats. Element tuff underground grimey!

Massive: Roge got a couple of drum machines from me. Once he started running those drum machines, he started making some really cool beats. He had a nice little set up in his garage. The nice thing was, you could go over there, hang out with him, watch a game, have a beer, listen to a beat, throw down a verse, and that's kinda where it was at. It's kinda like if you had a garage and we came over every day after work, complain about our jobs, our wives and shit [laughs], you made a beat, you had a vocal booth in there, we threw a verse down. Everybody you knew that was in the industry came through to get a sack but they also came and chilled. It was different then regular dealers where you get it and got the fuck on outta there. It was different with him. You'd sit down and chill. There'd be three or four of the homies that you know that rap. They in there, kickin' back. Roge would play a beat. You'd lay back, get blowed, relax. It was a really drama free type area, you know what I'm sayin'?

Artwork by Elika LSD/CBS

Roach the DJ: After realizing that Demons & Angels was taking too long to be released, I searched to see if anybody had posted any works by Beat Cave, linking my Roach Hoetel project. I found a few videos with another project by someone else called Beat Cave. So I pushed the project after talking to AWOL. I asked why he didn't want to push the LP. He said the track with Ab and another contained touchy samples. So I put those on Soundcloud as outtakes. After a year or so I knew AWOL didn't mind if I put it out on the strength that I wouldn't use his production company or name. So Handshake Tony was the code name to the Demons & Angels LP. We also started calling ourselves the Beatcavers to give us a personalized identity. AWOL was Handshake Tony, I was Fist Pump Bobby and Roger was Firm Grip Roge. The world slept on the Beat Cave. Real underground shit.

Roge One: We started off with a little Tascam 4-track, then I transitioned more into computers. Meno really helped me with that, as well as this guy Jazzymattnasty, Matt Mendoza. He was Meno's apprentice at the time. He started coming to my house and help me get everything straightened out. Then we brought in the MPC and a MIDI keyboard. One time, a guy, he was a drummer, he brought me a raw CD of John Bonham, Led Zeppelin, in the studio - no one had heard this CD - a whole session of him drumming! Just raw, in the studio, Jon Bonham drumming. And that's how Demons & Angels was created. Next time you listen to it, just listen to those drums, dude! [laughs] Everyone was lovin' it, man! "Pocket Full of Dreams" and "Change" were two, off the top of my head, where those drums were used.

Massive: I think the Beat Cave is one of those quiet secrets that is allowed to continue when the opportunity presents itself. Like Roach, Roach is like a secret bank of amazing talent. He even grew up in the industry so he knows untold artists. He's probably one of the closest cats to me. In fact, he really kept me in touch with everybody else, man. There was a point where I really fell off the grid, getting away from all the negativity in the scene and the only person that kept my ties with everybody was Roach. The dude is really talented. He's got hella skills on the turntables. He's traveled around with AWOL. He's met a lot of emcees and producers, and he's a generally good guy! He's the one who connected me with Roge and everybody. When AWOL would come around, Roach would come with him. The crazy thing is Roach was so young, I never really noticed him until he got older. Then once everybody started releasing records, it was a different vibe. AWOL and Roach used to invite me to their parties and I would perform, which really helped keep me in the scene.

Roge One: People would come through at different times. Sometimes AWOL would bring people. Roach would bring' em. Massive would bring 'em. It was different situations but it was pretty much open doors. It's funny, at the end there, it was getting close. The wife was getting a little upset. We had a one year old daughter and we were in there pretty much five days a week [laughs]. So it got a little rough and that's kinda what ended it. I had to go back to work to support the family because, of course, family comes first, and I had to work on my marriage a bit. I was kind of neglecting that at the time. Everything worked out. But people would bring their girlfriends there. We'd have parties there. It's funny, on my daughter's first birthday, it started off as a birthday party with kegs and a taco truck, and everyone rolled through, the whole LSD crew, everybody. It ended up being an all-night beat session, you know? We'd always end up in the studio, vibing out. It's a lot of good memories.

Massive: You got a dude that hangs out with enough rappers and started learning how to make beats, and a basic place where you used to go to meditate and get away from shit that turned into a real cool spot. The Beat Cave was one of those spots where artists hung out, got a little smoke, made some music and just chilled. The thing that shut that down was life. Roge ended up having to move, get a real job [laughs], you know? The songs we recorded that they released was a nice little project. In fact, I was speaking to him recently about maybe doing another Beat Cave record.

Roge One: I rapped on "Let's Go" (Jazzymattnasty rapped on that one too) and "Hello" with Massive. I did a little cut on "Freedumb." Most of my stuff was sticking to the beats, but I like to do some rhymes every now and then. We have a new project coming out. I'm gonna do a new studio in my new house, now that we're all settled. It's gonna be Bro Bro Records aka Beat Cave and I'll be doing some more lyrics on that one as well. Look out for it, bro!

Roach the DJ: A new Beat Cave project will definitely end up happening. Roger is deep enough into his marriage that it's solid and he can do this. He kind of stepped away, thinking it would cause problems, but now he's gonna build a shack in the backyard and we're gonna go full on.