Thursday, December 15, 2011

Dk No Deal (aka Dk Toon) Sets the Record Straight: The Beetbak Interview

Acey, Dk, Mikah

Dk No Deal, aka Dk Toon, has been an artist long-speculated over in the hip hop community.  He's an OG at the Good Life and Project Blowed, he's a member of the "Mass Men", he's been on tracks from everybody from Minister Too Bad to Snoop.  His contributions to albums such as the Project Blowed compilation, Beneath The Surface, Cater To The Dj, and Dead Homiez, are legendary; as well as his long sought after, but never heard, album Folk Hop Blues.  This has only increased the aura of mystique and reclusiveness surrounding Dk.  In 2007 an album under the name Dk No Deal was released entitled Fuck Yo Label, Sue Me, which was reviewed over here at beetbak.  Dk got wind of it via his son, rapper Mac Flossy, and he felt it necessary to set the record straight about a few things.  We got in contact, and Dk opened up about his long and varied career, from his rap beginnings with Smooth 7 in "Ghetto Gods", the Mass Men, his time at the Good Life; and his albums Folk Hop Blues, Fuck You Label, and beyond. "I feel like anyone who's genuinely into hip hop should really know what happened," he told me.  I completely agree, as his story is fascinating.

"I've always been A little misunderstood," Dk speaks over the phone from LA. "My mentality don't fit my physical."  It's late November here in Seattle, and I'm standing outside under a pine tree in the wind and the rain, because my cell phone doesn't get decent reception in my house.  I'm hunched over from the cold, and my recorder is pressed to my phone's speaker, hoping that some of what Dk's saying will be legible on tape over the wind gusts and constant dripping from the rain.  From Dk's end, it sounds like he's got a crowd with him, and he's mentally juggling three or four things at once.  Yet he is cool, composed, and speaking freely and clearly despite the other noises coming through the receiver.   On the other hand, on my end, my teeth are chattering so much from the cold I can barely get the questions out.  



The dichotomy between mental and physical he referred to can be demonstrated in the contrast between his smooth, soulful delivery on his well known tracks like "Solo is So Low" and "Sunny Side Up" against the imagery on the cover of Fuck Yo Label - showing a Dk dressed head to toe in blue, decked out in ice, posing in front of a car that costs more than some people make in a lifetime.  And Fuck Yo Label is an album that fits the cover.  Loud and violent, It paints an intimidating picture of Dk.  However, as he explains, you can't judge a book by its cover.   "I'm actually quiet.  You may have seen me before, I don't know how many times, at shows just chillin' in the back.  Because I'm not that kind of person.  I'm not aggressive like that.  I'm not aggressive unless I need to be.  I only speak if I need to speak."

I, and probably most of us, figured that Dk was another hip hop child prodigy, who had been freestyling since he was a sperm.  Surprisingly that's not the case.  He opened up about his rap upbringing, and it was a shock from the get go.  "I'd never rapped in my life," he explained.  "I'd never wanted to be in entertainment.  I had never desired to be an entertainer like all the other rappers you hear, that have been rapping since they were six.  Man, I was 22 years old before I even picked up the mic, before I ever thought about rapping!  I came home from prison and one of my homeboys' younger brother wanted to be rapper.  That was Smooth 7.  I used to run with Smooth 7's bigger brother.  I didn't run with Smooth, but I loved him to death because this was my homeboys' little brother.  So I came home, and he was like, 'Man, you know, I'm a rapper now.'  I was like, 'Is that right?'  I'm kinda like laughin', but he was like 'I want you to help me get my album together.'  He knew that I was going out of town getting money.  I said 'OK, I'll help you.'" 

As Dk explained it, Smooth was initially the rapper, but with Dk's input it became apparent that the two should have equal footing in the group as emcees. Dk went on, "Smooth was like, 'Man look, why don't you just be in a group with me?'  I'd never even thought about rhyming.  But he was my homeboys' little brother; I'm like 'Well, what do I gotta do?'  He said, 'Well, rap on some songs with me and we'll put a record together and sell it and then we'll blow up.'  And you know I kinda laughed, but you know I loved the young dude, I felt like alright let's do it.  And that's how the "Ghetto Gods" was formed.  I never wanted to rhyme, until that day.  And I only did it because Smooth 7 asked me to.  
When I commented that it was incredible that he began rapping at the late age of 22, and sounded like a seasoned veteran, Dk was quick to respond  "Because what I was saying, I'd experienced for real.  You know what I mean, when I say I got shot, I've been shot, three times, by three different neighborhoods.  I've been in I don't know how many shootouts, with people trying to rob me or whatever.  It's basically a short story when you listen to my songs."

Once again the misconception of who Dk really is comes back to haunt him like a bad memory.  This was a recurring theme in the interview, only because it has shadowed him throughout his entire career, including the second musical endeavor he undertook, that being the legendary Folk Hop Blues album. 
 "[People] don't realize that I'm really from the street," He explained.  "If you listen to any of my songs, or anything from the Folk Hop Blues album that I was working on, all of the songs are street songs.  They're all songs about doing your thing on the street to get money.  So a lot of people [misunderstood] me.  They think that I'm a different type of person [that I'm not from the street] because of the way I deliver my vocals.  But the Folk Hop Blues album, I was never even supposed to work on that record.  I was with Smooth 7 in the Ghetto Gods.  This was back during the "Good Life" time.  But Smooth 7 called me while I was out of town, and said that Motown wanted to sign us.  But I was out of town doing my thing.  So I didn't need the type of money that they were talking about.  I was like, no.  But Smooth 7 was like, 'Dang, you know, I'm not getting money like you're getting money, you're going to mess it up for me.'  So I told Smooth, 'OK, well, sign yourself. Go solo.'  So he ended up signing to Motown, and he ended up getting robbed in that deal.  Off the top they took $70,000 off his budget, just to sign!  And I didn't understand that.  Everyone else we were dealing with were dealing with us for free because they loved us or because we were down with them.  There was Fat Jack, Dj Slip, Big Deon, Touch, and Battlecat.  Those for the most part were the only producers we would deal with.  And then Massive came in, and he was a real good friend of Fat Jack and Touch.  And so I started working with him a lot after Smooth 7 had signed.  I didn't mind [that Smooth had signed] because I was already getting money on the street."  

Which was a good thing for Dk, because as he explains, "When I went to the labels to talk to these people, they weren't talking about the money I was talking about, and they were always telling me that what I was doing wasn't rap.  They didn't know how to market me.  But then Bone Thugs, and after that Domino, then Skee Lo, then Ahmad, all these people started coming out with these deals.  So I'm saying You don't know how to market me?  Well all these people are sounding like me and Mikah 9 and you're signing them!  So basically what it was in a nutshell is, they looked at me and people would tell them, 'You can't take his money and he's not going to do nothing about it.'  You know what I'm saying, they couldn't do me like they did Smooth 7.  You take $70,000 from me and I'm not going to just sit there, I'm coming in there to talk to you about it.  And they knew that.  So you know, they had to tell me something.  The only one who really told me for real was Paul Stewart.  When I went and talked to Paul Stewart, he was at Def Jam West.  This is where I first recorded "Solo", - this was the end of '92, the beginning of '93.  And he was like, 'Man, I don't even know how to market you.  To be honest I don't even know what this is.'"



Dk's treatment by the record labels at the time mirrors that of other OG Good Lifers, and causes him to have mixed feelings about the whole time spent there. "It was hard in the Good Life," he continues.  "Because people would come listen to us then go out and get a deal.  That's how it was working out.  We were so happy when Volume 10 got his deal and Freestyle Fellowship got their deal, and why I was cool with the Skee Lo's and the Ahmads getting their deals.  Because then, [when labels starting expressing interest] I was like, naw.  I was like, naw, I'm cool.  I just couldn't understand that when I wanted a deal, it was before any of them and the industry wasn't down.  So that's kinda been the whole theme of my life in terms of music.  I've been ahead of the crowd, when the industry ain't ready for it, but when they're like 'Alright I'm ready for it,' I'm on to something new.  It's been the theme of my whole career."

After the solo endeavors of the Ghetto Gods and the unfinished Folk Hop Blues project, Dk moved his focus away from hip hop and rapping.  "I kind of stayed away from all that for a minute, then Fat Jack started working on Cater To The DJ.  He was like, 'Come on man, give me something.'  So I did "Yo Attitude Shows".  In between [Folk Hop Blues and Cater] I was working, going in and out of town. But like Abstract would call me, with 'I need you to do a verse on this,' or Too Bad would call me, or when anybody would call me from Mass Men asking for a verse then I'd go do the verse because I'm from Mass Men.  But really I wasn't working on no projects.  I was in the street just doing my thing.  

"As far as the career and all that, because I was getting money on the street and because I saw myself as an independent artist, I couldn't see paying for tracks.  Fat Jack and those dudes, it's not just like they're here to make beats, Fat Jack is like a brother to me.  Like I call him and Touch when a new movie comes out.  I bought Fat Jack his first MPC!  That's how far we go back."  Returning to the subject of his musical career, Dk said, "My thought process is a little different.  I've turned down [what seems like] over two million deals, man.  First there was Motown, turned 'em down.  Another one from Warner Bros, turned 'em down.  Black Wall Street, turned 'em down.  It wasn't that I didn't appreciate the gesture, I loved it, I was flattered.  But at every instance that these people offered me a deal, I was done with music.  I was just [involved in music] because everyone around from Mass Men was rapping or making music.  So I was like, 'I'm gonna do me a song,' and I'd call up Fat Jack, 'Hey give me a track,' and I'd do a song.  But it wasn't really like I set out and said you know, 'Folk Hop Blues gonna be finished by this day, Fat Jack, we need to finish this.'  Fat Jack was telling ME we need to finish this.  But I never finished it, because I was in the streets."  
When asked if he ever had plans to finish and release the record, DK simply said "To me, that's ancient history."

From here the interview turned towards the subject of the Mass Men.  "When [The Mass Men] first got together, it was a lot different from what you may think.  We actually had to earn it.  I mean Fat Jack, he wouldn't get no play at the Good Life at all.  They was not trying to hear Fat Jack.  You gotta understand though, these are the dudes who made us what we are, the CVE's, the Hip Hop Kclans, Freestyle Fellowship.  You know my first encounter as an emcee - and I wasn't into rapping and stuff - my first encounter was vs. PEACE!  I had to learn the hard way" (laughs). I hadn't seen anything like that in my life.
  
"So at the good life, Fat Jack wasn't getting no play, we wasn't getting no juice on the microphone, none of that.  but Rifleman (Ellay Khule), was like 'These dudes are kind of dope, I like what they saying.'  Because he's really, what you'd call, militant.  So he heard Smooth 7, and he heard the Ghetto Gods and he kinda dug the name, and I think that's what kind of sparked his interest.  so he listened to our stuff,  so you know that kind of opened it up.  That, and PEACE attacking me had people saying these guys are kinda dope (laughs).  You know Smooth 7 just had it from the start, he would rap and rap and rap and rap, and never even stop.  he can go for EVER.  It's ridiculous.  one night we were all at Medusa's house, and Medusa was spinnin' records.  And he and PEACE were going back and forth, like forever.  It literally felt like it was for an hour.  Back and forth, just back and forth.  but none of this stuff is recorded, it's just a memory, you know?  But I know Medusa and everybody remembers it.  When we get together it's still something we all talk about."



From there DK logically moved to the topic of "Project Blowed":  "On the inside cover [of the Project Blowed album], that's me, Ab and Acey.  When the concept was created we were doing a song at Grand Royal.  Me, Acey, Ab, PEACE, Mikah 9.  That was when we were all deciding we were done with the Good Life.  I really don't have a good understanding of what went on with B. Hall or whatever, but they were saying we couldn't do things that we wanted to do, (run people off stage by heckling).  And supposedly things were being done that we didn't have any control of with our music.  I didn't have no proof of any of that so I kinda stayed out of it.  But we all decided we were going to move on.  So that was the birth of Project Blowed.  I knew business, because I did business in the street, but I didn't know business as far as cd's, or internet, or any of that.  It seemed kinda small.  I didn't understand fully what we were really doing.  All I knew is that we were creating stuff, and that we owned it, and nobody could tell us what we could or couldn't do with it."



Dk then shed some light on his name change, a topic that had baffled me and probably kept a lot of his fans in the dark about his album Fuck Yo Label:  "The whole thing with [the name change to] DK No Deal - I was done with Dk Toon.  The 'Toon'  comes from my neighborhood name.  My neighborhood name was Li'l Cartoon, and I was trying to step away from that musically.  You know, I'm older now, I'm really not trying to present myself in that manner.  People may look at me and see the same dude but really I'm not the same.  I'm not really trying to push the same thing, you know what I mean?  Plus, when I was doing songs, people weren't trying to hear what I was trying to say.  I looked different than the way I wrote.  If you got a hundred thousand dollar Benz, and another two hundred thousand in jewelry, and people know you from this type of lifestyle and you're not talking, like, street talk?  How you going to talk about shit that's real heavy, like you have it and you shouldn't be doing what you're doing?  It really wasn't fitting.  When I got hit by men like yourself and the Blowdians they want to hear the other side, they want to hear the Folk Hop Blues style.  But fools that I affiliate with every day, they don't want to hear that.  That's some weird stuff.  So I'm walking a fine line.  Because a lot of people in the underground have no idea who I am.  If I go to the Blowed tonight ten people would know who I was.  But if my song came on they'd all know every word.
"There are instances when I'd be with Ab and Fat, and people wouldn't know my mentality.  So I'm sitting there sagging with jewelry on, and they'd speak to both Abstract and Fat Jack because they were both dreads.  And because I was bald headed, and I look how I look, they wouldn't even speak to me!  Fat Jack will tell you this, there was this one time, when I said, "Man, you call yourself positive or conscious or whatever, but you speak to them because they got locks and you  said nothing to me, that shows me that you put out negative energy.  Cuz motherfucker, you say I don't look like you so I don't deserve recognition?!'  Basically that's been my whole life throughout this entire industry!"

We then moved on to the Fuck Yo Label, Sue Me album, the one reviewed here at beetbak.  I had written that it suffered from repetition and length, and when he initially contacted me regarding explaining the record, I admit I thought he was going to verbally cave my kneecaps in.  Totally not the case, Dk was only looking to set straight the details of the album's creation and content.  "As for the Fuck Yo Label album," continues Dk, "that album was never supposed to exist.  The reason a lot of the songs sound similar is because I was just recording.  I was in the studio with these dudes and they were like 'You're hard, I wanna do something with you.'  So I did something with them.  I was just in the studio hanging out with my boys and they was recording.  There ended up 25, 30 songs.  And one of my partners (Kompari Rudisson) who I have a distribution company with, called 1-Stop Distribution, she's from Texas and she put out UGK, Slim Thug, Paul Wall, she put out a lot of people in the underground before they got their major deals.   She heard my stuff on Myspace, and she was like 'What is that album called?'  And I was all, 'Well that album never really gonna come out,' you know, I was just recording.  And she said, 'Well, put up everything you got on MySpace for me,' so I put all the songs up, she downloaded the songs, took some of my pictures from Myspace, then made the album!  I never put that together like that's how I present myself.  Because I agree with what you said 100%, a lot of the songs never would have seen the light of day. Kompari is a businesswoman and refuses to hold on to or waste material so she moved forward. I would have used four or five songs out of the entire 22 songs.  This mess is really complicated, this is my whole career.  This is the way I've been treated over and over.



Dk's personal life also effected the album's creation.  A proud father of a grown son and daughter, as well as two more sons (eleven and eight), a lot of his creative energies were funneled into his children.  "At the same time I was recording Fuck Yo Label, my daughter Bre Roca was signed to Roc-A-Fella.  So when she signed to Roc-A-Fella, I was helping her put her record together.  And I'm flyin all over the place, cuz she's doing shows with Jay and them, she doing the touring/modeling and all that.  So that kept me pretty busy.  And then my son [Mac Flossy] decided he can rhyme now, and Warner Bros wanted to sign him.  My children ended up putting a children's group together called the "Giggle Club".  do you remember School House Rock?  Dame Dash acquired the rights to do all of those, they were going to have these children redo them in a hip hop style.  Then I ended up hooking up with QD3 and Ray Brown, and that pushed me more into working with film.  Then with him, we ended up creating a show for Nickelodeon with Nick Cannon called "Star Camp", and this was surrounding the children and all that.  So that pulled me further and further away from what I was doing [with the album].  You know, this is about my children, so that's more important than any record that I'm even thinking about.  So in between those days at Nickelodeon I'm recording the songs on Fuck Yo Label, but i'm not really serious about it because all my energy is really going into my children.  But of course, they killed Roc-A-Fella Records, so my daughter's crushed mentally.  Everybody want her but she doesn't want to go nowhere.  And then the show we did for Nickelodeon, it was the first show to ever premier on the internet by a major network.  Now at the time that it premiered the writer's strike began!  I didn't have nothing to do with that stuff, I'm still independent.  I'm not a member of any unions, So the writer's strike, that don't apply to me.  But what it was about, was that nobody had an idea of how the writers were supposed to be payed for showing their stuff on the internet.  So I'm stuck directly in the middle of that.  To this day I still do not know where I fit in to that, because I'm not signed to Nickelodeon, I'm not signed to nobody.  When we (QD3, Ray, Dk) created "Star Camp", it was on our own time and our own dime.  But since it came out on Nickelodeon it fell under [the network] and I just got caught up."  Frustration is apparent in his voice over the phone.  "With all of these ideas that I came up with, whatever I wanted to do, on account that I was one of the first ones that was doing it, it didn't pan out.  So I still stayed in the street."

It's clearly evident that Dk's dealings with the entertainment industry have all ended in a struggle, so it was very surprising the response I received when I asked him if he ever planned on making another record.  "It's funny you should mention that," he replied.  "I'm about to start working on a record now.  I'm actually really starting a real record now.  Because I got the time to do it.  You're gonna see a lot of the old me on the new record.  It's easy because it's really me.  I got my own studio, so there's no reason for me not to do it."  But Dk's not the only one that has plans for recording in the future.  "Do you know Novelist?" he asked me.  Novelist was a name I wasn't familiar with, so he filled me in.  "Novelist is another member of of the Mass Men.  He's actually talking about doing a Mass Men album.  All the Mass Men are working on putting a record together, and after that we're gonna do the movie.  That's going to tell the whole story about [the Mass Men], kinda clear it up."

At that the interview was basically at a close.  I thanked him for his time and generosity in explaining so much about his life, trials and tribulations as an artist.  He had said in an earlier email to me that astonishingly he had no idea he'd even be missed as an artist.  He said that when he first heard that his music was coveted not only by a few oldschool heads in Cali, but by generations of fans in places as diverse as Japan, Finland, and Germany, he was surprised.  He said over the phone, "I had no idea our stuff was even out there until Rifleman (Ellay Khule) came back from Germany and told me he met two more Dk Toons!  And he was like, 'This is how it was, I met some Riflemen while I was out there too!'  Out there to show you flattery, they don't take your song, they take your name.  And they start doing something like you.  I've never been anywhere like that.  I've never been out of the States.  I've never, ever, been on tour.  I've never done a video.  I've never put anything that I've done out, ever.  For most people, all they know of me is my music - They don't really know me.  When they meet me, they're like, 'Wait a minute - physically he don't fit what I have in my head what he's supposed to look like.'  You know, like I'm supposed to look like a backpacker!  But you know I'm just different.  I guess in business, it sends a mixed message.  So that makes it really hard for me to do a record.  You know, because physically I would be marketed with Ice Cube and them.  But in terms of the record, I'm supposed to be on tour with Ab Rude."
Summing it up, Dk explained, "When I went to Fat Jack's house, we'll have dinner, I'll play with his kids or whatever, we up to two or three in the morning.  I shut up and read the Koran, the Bible, and the Kaballa side by side till five, six in the morning.  I'm a little more ecclectic than people think.  But it's all mental, when you see me physically, you'd never know it was me."




Thanks again, Dk!  Beetbak with be sure to keep all the heads posted about future developments or news regarding this legendary emcee and artist.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Overcast from B-Self

Garfield Alumni

Here's a brand-new video B-Self put up of a short track he did back in '96 or '97.  Classic Ghetto Chilldren flavor, Vitamin D on the cuts, Felicia Loud on vocals.  Wonderful, as to be expected.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Respect Is Due

Show Respect Here, Oh Completist

The 12" EP that came out prior to the full-length CD a few months later.  The first time I dropped my poor, abused needle on this I remember feeling something close to heartache hearing the tracks from PSC and P.E.A.C.E.  To this day I think that those are two of the best beats Jizzm ever made.  Other tracks come from Jizzm, LMNO, Mykill Miers, and the one and only Otherwize.  Damn, he always comes through.  No exclusive cuts here, just 6 songs from the then-forthcoming cd.  Yes, a fool and his money are soon parted.  But for all you completists out there, go ahead and give this an ill listen.  It's meta-quality material.

Show Respect Here 12

Monday, November 14, 2011

Narcotik Remastered


The Note of Narcotik released this remastered edition of Narcotik's debut classic on his blog Gunz & Butta as a free download a few days ago.  Featuring the full album, plus compilation tracks and working versions, he effectively expanded the album to twice its original size.  This is a bittersweet goldmine... It's going to take me a while to be able to listen to this without aching, but I'm gladdened nonetheless that this has been released finally in somewhat of an official capacity.  RIP Tizzy T.


Intro To The Central

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Imp

Where I'm From Sampler

From 2004, here's an interesting curio from Imperator.  It's not actually an official album - this is a sampler Imp released beforehand that features 7 tracks from the Where I'm From album, plus a 26-minute "Screw Mix" tacked on at the end. this mix inexplicably features a bunch of tracks of Imp's in one long file, tape style, while he gives endless shout outs over the top, all slowed down a bit.  It doesn't really go over as well as what was happening with the chopped and screwed scene that was so huge at the time, but whatever.  I guess the whole Houston thing must have rubbed off on him.  These tracks find Imperator's delivery more polished from his debut Evolution of a Man, and although it doesn't feature the million and a half guests that Evolution had, this sampler still a damn good record.  Imp brings that oldschool vibe as only he can, Goodlife OG that he is.  According to his website, there's a new Imperator album due to drop shortly.  I'm eager to hear how he's sounding these days.  For now, though, I'll just listen to this.

Where I'm From 

Friday, November 4, 2011

Nomad Da Nomadic - Worldwide

Shining like Folgers Crystals

Nomad's third 12", 2001.  Here we find him a much more commanding presence on the mic compared to his earlier releases, and he instantly grabs your attention.  Thanks to this, "Worldwide" is definitely one of the dopest tracks he ever blessed.  It doesn't hurt that Jake One's production is spot-on either.  The flipside, the J. Freeze- produced "Divine Rhymer", has that classic Nomad sound; slow, nocturnal beat, sentimental strings, brilliant organ touches here and there.  I had forgotten about this 12; I remember now that I used to see it sitting there in the stacks at Tower Records (RIP), but I never picked it up (on some poverty shit).  Low and behold I came across it while digging through the crates at a local independent last week, still in the shrinkwrap even!  Sweet.  I have absolutely no idea what Nomad's up to these days, but I hope he still finds the time to do his thug shizzle now and again.  Peep this Northwest nugget - Street, radio, and instrumental versions of the A-side; with radio, instrumental, and a cappella for the B-side.

Worldwide12"

Monday, October 31, 2011

Request... Dactovision

Rollin Up In An '81 Corolla

Request... From 2003, this is Pterra's debut cd.  More classic illness from Hip Hop Kclan and Afterlife.  No more need be said for you to start drooling. Dacto...

Request... Pterradacto!

Moving Mountains Dragonball Z Style

Request... Why is this guy's name not in everyone's mouf?  Pterradacto steps out of his cuz's shadow on this release into the spotlight where he belongs.  An overlooked Afterlife masterpiece, short but sweet, demonstrating and rendering mad styles obsolete.  One of the best emcees you never knew. Primal...  

Friday, October 28, 2011

Black Anger: Damn Da Demo

Wicked

Extremely rare and equally as dope, this is the legendary Black Anger Movement's "Damn Da Demo" tape.  Apparently only around 10 copies were produced of this, and I have no idea what year it dropped but from the sound of it I'd guess it was prior to their "Maxed Out Singles" record from '96.  Five tracks deep (4 tracks plus a remix).  Hi-energy tru-school hip hop.  A million thanks to the big-hearted homie Dawhud for reaching out with this gift to all of us.  Listen to this unheard greatness.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Return Of The Artist

Changing His Name To "Who Diss?!"

This album was recently posted up by the cats at Know This, but I feel so strongly about this guy that I wanted to review it over here.  Specs One, the mastermind behind the legendary 206 acts the Elevators, The Crew Clockwise, and Original Space Neighbors (among many, many others) dropped this album in 2001.  Return of the Artist is a fitting name for this album, as it heralded a rebirth of Specs as a rhyme artist and producer.  For years Specs had been legendary as the most underground of underground heads in Seattle, releasing shit at shows and at the mom and pop stores on cassette and through mail order, and this was his first wide-spread release (on CD!), as far as I know.  Released on the Abduction label, this was also a change stylistically from his projects up to this point.  The songs here, whether vocal tracks or instrumental, are solid, distilled to the prime elements, and no-nonsense.  On his various tracks from his salad days (Numerology, American Music, Balcony, Etc) his work had a distinct experimental vibe, allowing the tracks to stretch out and grow on their own. I revere his early stuff (well, all his stuff) with something close to adoration, and everything I've ever found by Mr. Hall has been a treasure.  But Return was a decidedly more accessible record than his previous efforts since the Elevators' Transitions EP.   Here, Specs goes as straight-ahead hip hop as Specs gets, which means it's still underground, scratchy, and experimental as most cats never dare to go, but it's all systems ahead with beats to make the head nod and lyrics that are always engaging.  No track ever lasts too long, and there's never any lag between the musical/lyrical action.  This is a classic Northwest selection, ranked at the top.  Released in 2004, this is still available to purchase...  Long live the Green Lover!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

R.I.P. Tizzy-T of Narcotik

Tizzy T and C-Note: Narcotik from '95

Just learned about this tragic news today.  Tizzy T died in a house fire in Seattle on October 16th.  It broke my heart to hear this, he was an incredible talent and a living legend out here in the 206 region.  I had heard that Narcotik had been working on new material, merely adding to the tragedy.  Check out Raindrophustla and Swan Lake for more.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Kombo's New Horizons

Pure Knowledge

What ever happened to this guy?  For about 6 years I'd see his name pop up here and there - the first place I remember him was on the Connect the Dots comp from '99, and the last I heard of him was on Self Scientific's "Balance" from '05.  In between he made various guest spots and put out a few singles, but since then he's been quiet.  Truly unfortunate for us all, because the man can rock the mic.  This release show us that - the "New Horizons" 12".  Produced by Pete Rock's brother Grap Luva on the A side with Mum's the Word on the flip, and featuring J-Rocc on the cuts, it's a solid and accomplished effort from beginning to all-to-quick end.  Out on Up Above back in 2000.  Let's hope Kombo picks up the mic again some day soon.

New Horizons

Thursday, October 13, 2011

A Fact Of The Matter

See It All From A Universal Perspective

Scarub and Elusive from 1999.  The sophomore slump doesn't apply here.  Truly a more intense album would be hard to come by.  Scarub manages to cram a lot into his rapid-fire and intellectual delivery, which speeds through the perfectly-sized empty spaces in Elusive's minimalistic beats.  Both originally from the infamous Log Cabin crew, rhyme sayer and beat maker had a long history together at this point, and that's probably why everything seems to meld together so tightly.
Few guests appear on this album.  I get the feeling Scarub had a lot to get off his chest here, and didn't want his vision diluted.  Like Aceyalone's sophomore record, this is the artists' magnum opus, with a carefully chosen musician to spark the poetry to life.  Definitely a high point in Scarub's catalogue, as well as that of the Living Legends.

A Fact Of The Matter

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Cyphalliance

Nomad Nosirrom, Khazma 247, El Guanaco, HNS, Elohim, WD4D

Here's some forgotten greatness from the Northwest:  Cyphalliance, a group of emcees, producers, and deejays spearheaded by Khazma 247, also known as the one and only Khazm.  This was a relatively early project he and his MAD Krew was involved in (2003).  Executive produced by 247 and Nosirrom, many of the tracks also give Khazm a producer and emcee credit as well.  Stylistically this is some high energy, youthful consciousness mixed with a healthy dose of battle attitude.  It's some refreshingly energetic left coast music in the same vein as JKC or EX2, except that it's so obviously from the 206.  The grayness that permeates so much of the tonality of Northwest music (both hip hop and otherwise) is truly in effect here.  The cover sums the music up perfectly - a group of young men standing in front of a cloudy sky backdrop, as seen in the reflection of a rain puddle in a drab parking lot.  Perseverance in the face of the mundane.  I was next to ecstatic when I found this long out-of-print chapter in Northwest hip hop history, and I hope you enjoy it at least a tiny bit as much as I do.

Industreets

Thursday, October 6, 2011

I Love This Game


Imagine This

Thanks to the chroniclers over at Ghetto Tyylit who generously posted up an old Cuf tape, I dug this up out of the stacks and have had it spinning on the turntable on a daily basis. This EP from '98 is one of my favorite records. The Cuf are Sacramento legends, with their hold-steady lyrical delivery and dusty production. Nothing flashy or showy here, this is just solid hip hop on all levels. They are as essential to underground Cali hip hop as anything from the Bay or LA, and deserve to be recognized as such. A whole bunch of Living Legends guest on one track.

I Love This Game

Sunday, October 2, 2011

No Introdeezy....


Let All These Suckaz Know The Name

A classic among classics... Here is Jake One and Kutfather's iconic 12" "No Introduction" from Conception Records back in 1998. The A-side features Jake's signature production - a driving, airy, infectious loop over a minimal, but effective beat; while side B is no less head-nodding with a smooth, subdued remix. The final track, "One Man Band", shows off Jake's formidable beat-making and chopping skills. Even back in '98 he had the gift. Conception released some of the illest Northwest hip hop, both past and present, and this 12" ranks at the top. Just as notably, this slab of wax shows what an accomplished beatsmith Jake was even before he became an industry name. Crucial sides from Conception.

No Intro...

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Goodvibe 2000



Once Upon A Time

Here's a great little promo compilation that Good Vibe Recordings put out at their height in 2000. At just shy of 45 minutes, it economically showcases some of the formidable GV talent with both well-known album and single cuts, as well as harder-to-find mixtape tracks and remixes. Big names like Slum Village, Defari, Aceyalone, Bahamadia, Pete Rock and Xzibit appear, as well as lesser-known cats like Big Dro, Saukrates, Mirage, and Tee Double. It's no surprise that Good Vibe mainstays Animal Pharm and Spontaneous lend a couple of my favorite tracks on this, as does Neb Love and Nuthouse. However the album topper has to be Mystic's "Ok...Alright" from her classic Cuts For Luck & Scars For Freedom record, arguably the best thing Good Vibe ever released. It's a seriously haunting track courtesy of producer Angel. It gives me goosebumps. All tracks are here in their clean versions. Good stuff from a great label in a lost era.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Request... Traumakazee


Miss Cleo Lives On Through the Kclan

Request... Solid F'ing effort by the Kclan. Khule holds it down while Pterradacto steps up and stretches out as the stylistic focus. For some reason I never really listened to this one, preferring its rough-ass predecessor Kclandestine Kclassics, but listening to it now, I regret not giving it the attention it so apparently deserves. It's as sinister as Afterlife gets, with that signature beat style all their own, and both Khule and Pterra have never sounded so tight. This came out around the same time as the "big budget" Afterlife comps, and this one's got that same mastered sound. Mr CR and Daronnic guest, as well as other cats. Great, great shit. Kazee...

Thomakazee 

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Request... Kaos Cou De Ta (Dusty Vinyl)


Afterlife Legion
I received a request for this Kclassic recently, so I thought I'd dig up the old vinyl version. What an awesome record. It's condensed and over the top; high-energy as hell. Mostly this is a CVE production, but Chu's live band Legion provides a ton of musical accompaniment, along with Ebow, Hip Hop Kclan and Click the Supah-Latin. All the cooks in this kitchen give this short record a consistently different sound than the usual oldschool Afterlife releases, and although I love those old cd-r's to death, it's always cool to hear artists branching out. Lyricist-wise, there are a ton of emcees, but Ridd?, Fsh, Chu and Khule seem to be on the tracks the most consistently. Wreccless, Pterradacto, Otherwize and JXL also appear here and there.
Like the title of this post says, this is some dusty, crackly shit. I didn't do anything to clean it up, cuz that's how I like it. I hope you like it too.
Kaos Cou

Monday, August 22, 2011

On Some Old Missing Link Shit


Acidic Funk
This classic tape from '99 was my introduction to Neila, who I consider to be among the best emcees in existence, so it would be dope in my book just for that, except that it's also just a compelling and raw release. Acid Reign expanded on their sound with this tape, cleaning up the beats a little, extending the song lengths, and enlisting outside talent. Besides long-time collaborator Neila, Express, Ali, and Indiginuz lend their lyrical skills; and Pilot Rase, Rappin Ron, and El Nino join Dert on beats. This was also the first release that Olmeca rapped on as part of the Acid Reign crew.
I always focus in on Neila's contributions here. She's still honing her talent, which to me just makes Missing Link all the more fresh and vibrant. This is experimental music on every level - Acid Reign and Neila are exploring uncharted territory.
Missing Link

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Acidi...


Now We See Further

Coming a year later and almost twice as long as "A Journey To The...", Acidicompositions finds the Acid Reign Crew more honed and confident of their craft. Gajah and Beond are once again accompanied by DJ E.S.P. and producer Dert, along with Awol One and Adlib and Zagu of GPAC. Coming out in 1998, this tape was my introduction to the Reign, and it blew my mind wide open. More than a decade on, it still gives me a feeling of excitement and anticipation for what's on the horizon whenever I listen to it. This is new-school hip hop, in the best possible sense of the term, even today. Besides that, it's just a great tape. Give your brain a treat.

Acidicompositions

Friday, August 19, 2011

A Journey To The...


Free Music
Short and sweet, this tape clocks in at just over 11 minutes, but what a great 11 minutes it is. Lyricists Gajah and Beond worked beautiful chaos with producer Dert and D.J. ESP on this rough cassette, distilling the music to the essential elements, making full-fledged songs only a minute in length, keeping the ever-changing sound collage going. There isn't a second of wasted time here. From 1997 (I still can't believe this came out back then, it's so forward-thinking). Check it out, and for all those who want to know what's going on with these cats today, check out The Thirdman, and also peep the review I had the pleasure of writing on Gajah's new joint over at Blown Upp Music.
Acid Trip A Journey To The...

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Brink


Rockin Sectors
The quintessential Goodvibe Release. Panda, Statik and Jaleel present something fresh for '98. This is solid music. The beats are clean and proper, and the flows are tight, thought provoking and clever; invoking hip hop's golden age. So why didn't they wind up on Master Card commercials or the Vans Warped Tour like other comparable acts? Rhetorical question. Just listen, appreciate, and catch Panda at a Plant Life show next time one comes your way. Here's "The Brink", along with "Flylingual", "Along The Pavement", and various acapellas and instrumental tracks. Good shit!
The Brink

Monday, August 15, 2011

Request...Smokin Suckas Wit Logic


We Love You

Request... This is one of my all-time favorite records. It's got that classic GPAC sound, and Sach has always had the tendency to bare his soul when he spits. He obviously gave his all with this release, and didn't budge an inch from his vision. He gets support from a bunch of talent, including J-Sumbi, Zagu Brown, Medusa, Suga B, Imeuswi Aborgine, and his late rhyme partner Yusef. Sach produced most of the album, with Adlib on one track and Omid on a remix. From 2002.

Suckas

Request...Science!


Sach and Inoe

Request... More GPAC! This is Sach and Inoe Oner, collectively known as Name Science. Great latter-day work from members of one of the most underrated crews out there. From 2006. It isn't always as murky and scratchy as you'd expect, and it isn't always as abstract either. Sach's distinctive, abstract-meets-oldschool vibe works really well with Inoe's slicker, more menacing approach; and together they present a full-bodied project that is a lot more than just an outgrowth of Global Phlowtations. Hopefully they pair up again some time.

Name Science / Name Science

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Vincent Van Specs

Flyin' The Flannel
I'm on a strict diet of Specs these days. He's all I've been listening to; I can't get enough of his music. Surprisingly, there's almost nothing to be found of this phenomenal cat on yoo tooob, but I did find this live clip of him at the Rendezvous here in Seattle from a few years back. It's a great and fitting example of a truly unique artist in hip hop. Lanky, dressed like a logger ('cuz it's cold in the Northwest), alone on the stage (no hype man, no DJ), stomping around in a circle while he spits - this is about the most fitting clip of Specs One that I can imagine. He's a Northwest cat through and through, a true frontiersman and artist in all things he pursues, and he stays true to his convictions. You will probably never hear an industry beat behind this guy; his standard of what's cool is his and his alone. Pure artistry, subscribing to no genre, style or trend. Completely doing his own thing, I find myself thinking of him as the rap Neil Young (or Van Gogh), and the world's a better place for it. Like he's said numerous times before, "Hip hop, rap, I could care less. All these categories mean shit to the S."
By the way, this track, "Gogh", is off of his wonderfully scratchy record Green Lover and the Northwest Hits. Pick it up, why don'cha?

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

H-Bomb


H-Bomb, Jake One, Vitamin D, Topspin, Wordsayer

I know that you know that I know that you didn't know that H-Bomb dropped a record. While you're still figuring that out, let me expound upon it.
H-Bomb, part of the legendary Tribal Productions crew Sinsemilla (H, Topspin, sometimes Infinite), is one of the most distinctive emcees in the Northwest's formidable roster of talent. His style makes him instantly recognizable; the slick, slightly nasal delivery, the stiff and angular flow, the rapid-fire punchlines, all work to create an emcee like no other. While part of Sinsemilla, he was among the top tier of Seattle's talent. H-Bomb worked well with emcee/producer topspin, and I was sad indeed when I learned that they had parted ways. Topspin has continued to spin and produce, but I had lost track of H until I came across this record by chance. Called either "The Ruff LP" or "Spontaneous Combustion", (I'm not sure which) this is quite a departure from the established sound of Sinsemilla. With Top at the helm, Sinsemilla was mellow, jazzy, dusty and stoned. Just listen to "Confrontations", my favorite track on Untranslated Prescriptions, to get my drift. With his solo LP, H-Bomb is able to stretch out, exploring new ideas and themes, presenting varied sounds and styles. Bean One is in the producer's chair for the entirety of the record, catering to H's style and lyrical subject matter for any given track. His production is crisp and clean, a far departure from Topsin's scratchy loops, and actually is better suited to H-Bomb's lean delivery.
As an emcee, H comes with track after track of witty and creative punchlines. He references everything from Pikachu to the Israeli - Palestinian conflict to Tony Blair, causing me to drop my jaw like a mouth breather in wonderment. Unfortunately his repertoire is somewhat limited (quite a bit of time is spent on the record either schooling wack emcees or having dirtay drunk sex in the backs of clubs with the honeys). But if that's how he rolls, that's how he rolls, I'm not going to fault him that.
From what I understand, H still works in the music industry as a musician, but I get the feeling he's retired from emceeing. I've heard rumors that there's a Tribal Music rumble in the works, but in what capacity I don't know. Hopefully H is going to be part of that, and if he ever returns to the mic, I know he'd be welcome. For now, listen to this barely-dropped lp, and enjoy. From circa '06 to '08.

Ruff Combustion

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Dynomite D


You'll Love It

Back in the day I used to live up the road from this oasis of cool in West Seattle known as Easy Street Records. I'd literally spend hours in a day there. They had imports, singles, a barrel of tapes to sift through, t-shirts, bootlegs, stickers, pins, and an entire upstairs dedicated to used vinyl. Famous acts would, and still, show up there and do free shows. They shared a wall with a cafe or a pool hall or something, and eventually they broke the wall down. Add to that it lies on the corner of Alaska and California, known as "The Junction", on several major bus routes. It's a hopping locale and caters to a diverse crew.
So when I was a teenager I'd save up all my money from whatever shitty job I had and go spend nearly all of it down at that shop. I spent most of my time upstairs in the used record section. At the time I was infatuated with hip hop, especially producing, but I had yet to really dip my feet into it. But years before I ever bought a sampler or turntable I was there sifting through the used jazz and soul records, digging for breaks.
Dylan, the record buyer there, was an immeasurable help to me back then. He was one of the few cats out there who let me know what was up. For example he was the guy who steered me away from Chuck Mangione and towards Herbie Mann. He told me about great musicians like Grant Green and Ramsey Lewis, and about great sources of dopeness like the CTI label. At the end of a long day digging through musty old stacks of records, I'd head downstairs with my purchases and he'd be at the counter pointing out which tracks had the dopest grooves for each record, and what other records to hunt for. At a time when I was young, timid, and had no idea how or where to jump into the vast universe of hip hop culture, he destroyed my preconceptions of the crate-digger who jealously guarded their loops, and made me feel a little more confident that I could do this shit.
By the Way is a record he made back in 2000. From one listen you can tell he's a literal library of loops and breaks. He's worked with diverse acts like Kirk Dubb, the Beasties and 764-Hero, and his current project, The Slew" is a colab with him, Kid Koala and two former Wolfmothers.
For comparisons' sake, By the Way has sounds similar to DJ Frane and the Propellerheads. Among several other tracks "Alki Beach Drive" stands out as the shit. I used to get off work in the middle of the night, blaze, then take the scenic route home. I'd drive along the Alki Beach Drive, stoned out of my gourd, eating 7-Eleven hot dogs, listening to this stoney old mixtape I made that had this track on it. If I ever uncover it I'll post it up...Mmm, hotdogs.
Well, um, thank you Dynomite D, for all the encouragement and knowledge and direction, and for this very dope record you made. It's great instrumental hip hop. By the way, this release and everything else on the Slabco label, is available for free dl at their site here.
The following is a rip from my cd, so it's in higher quality like it should be. Seriously groovy music here. Kirk Dubb co-produces one track, and Kid Koala guests on another.

By The Way

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Watch Your Words


Alienatin' Suckaz

I've been hearing that Dj Shadow is dropping a new record here pretty soon, so I thought I'd post up this 12", which includes the infamous beef track aimed at Shadow from Seattle's Samson and Swift. Apparently Samson took some offense at Shadow's filler track on Endtroducing "Why Hip Hop Sucks In '96". insinuating that Shadow didn't know shit about hip hop and had no right to critique the culture. Actually the song's not just aimed at Shadow, but at all those who hated on 206 hip hop for not sounding like Cali, and those in the game that aren't "real" - aka players, gangsters, and (really unfortunately) underground heads (which he portrays as "god damn tree huggers with backpacks").... Yeah, pretty much dissing his entire fan base right there.
Whatever the reason, Samson and Swift take them all to task with skill. Samson's robust flow is instantly recognizable from his 22nd Precinct days on the old Seattle comps, and his producer Swift crafts a smooth, mellow Northwest vibe. The B-side, "Help" has that classic Conception sound despite the fact that it's Swift in the producer's chair rather that Jake One or Supreme. I actually find myself listening to this song more than "Watch Your Words", even with the notoriety surrounding the latter.
Back in 1998, I was patiently waiting for the Northwest to get their time in the limelight. Now more than a decade later that time has arrived, but sadly I hear that Samson has retired from the mic. And that is truly a shame. Let's hope that Shadow's new release will raise his hackles up enough to step back up where he'd be more than welcome.

Watch Your Words

Black Stax


Playing The Game Like Marbles

The freshest tracks to come out of the 206 in a minute, which is saying a lot. These three individuals have a lot of history between them. Through them you hear the formation of Northwest hip hop: You have The Fourth Party, you have Blind Council, you have Jasiri. You have Silent Lambs. You hear beats by Vitamin D, you hear beats by King Otto. These are some of the supreme rulers of 206 hip hop, the originators of the style. And like the masters they are, they know how to mould raw materials into something new and unseen.
The Black Stax manage to push the boundaries of hip hop into unknown regions. This has been labeled "avant guard", and for lack of a better term, it works. For although the formula of mixed-gender, jazzy hip hop has been played time and time again with similar results, the Stax turn it inside out and upside down, making it unrecognizable, and ultimately much more pure than past experiments. Listen to the projects of some of the jazz greats - Ayler, Sanders, Coltrane - you listen to their albums and you don't hear songs. You don't get anything that structured. You get impressions. You get feelings, you get swept away by pure emotion. With the Black Stax's music, you are left in similar care. This album isn't a collection of songs. This is more a tapestry of sound and emotion, a Burroughsian cut-up experiment on the sonic level, taking what we knew, deconstructing it, distilling it, and ultimately bringing it back into sharper focus. There is none of the linear progression we've been trained to expect to hear. You are required to unfocus your ears and allow the music to rewire your mind. This is hip hop reaching its maturity.
Buy the record and let it wash over you. Put it on loop. Let it be your soundtrack. Listen to what they have to say and how they say it. With each listen let it blow your mind a little more.

Link