I Used To Be...
Thank you Cody for hooking me up with this!
"The Co-Op Vol.1" is a classic underground tape from 2000, aptly named because of it's many wonderfully gratuitous group efforts on the mic. Before the "Chuck Taylor Presents the Capitol's Best Collection" album, this street level production (along with the Cuf's "Cufilation" release) represented the voice of the Sacramento underground. Led by emcee-producer Anonimous, The Underated Collaberated collective was home to a gang of talent, including members of the afore-mentioned Cuf; as well as of Verbatum and Socialistik, plus many others. The label, Sound Cultivator Productions, I believe, was also Anonimous' project. Along with two other emcees on this release, Fiasco and Kgee, Anonimous went on to form The Rebels Of Rhythm (not related to the J-5 Rebels), and also Hollywood Kill (also with Kgee). His name is also attributed to production work for L'Roneous and Hieroglyphics.
Sonically, this release is as beautifully gritty as you want it. Anonimous' beats are sample-based, unadorned, and heavy. They are unnerving - sometimes they're jumpy, sometimes they shamble forward, dragging their feet, shaking their chains. Unexpected, jarring sounds often enter the mix, raw and scoured. Listen to the opener, "The Most Hated", or "A Story" to catch the meaning. Musically, it's captivating, and a perfect backdrop for these emcees, who aren't really the wine and roses type. Krush is on this piece after all. They spit raw - there's nothing very glamorous about The Sac anyway.
It's hard to imagine this release being as old as it is. It's from 2000, 15 years ago now. If this was rock music, it would officially be fair game for the classic rocks stations on the radio. Listening to this tape tonight, I'm struck by that sneaky, persistent passage of time. Not because of the music - to me, this still sounds fresh and undated - rather it's due to the mannerisms, lyrical content and subject matter of the various voices here. At some point in time, I'm not sure when, I stopped feeling that almost tangible connection to the underground in a current sense, and began experiencing it as a dear period of time in my past - in a nostalgic sense. And by the grey hair growing on my temples and the wrinkles forming on my face, it's clear I'm no longer 20 years old. Listening to the trials and tribulations of the various performers on this release, I can see they can only come from the unhindered and unburdened shoulders of young people, with just one foot out the door. However, I listen to this without any sense of mourning for my youth - and its the reason I keep coming back to music like this, made my young people, or people who were once young - because it takes that kind of young energy for me to be inspired. This music is rough, sometimes abrasive, but it's also beautiful and breathtaking - this is music made by minds that aren't afraid to experiment (in fact, it never occurred to them to be afraid), with naive reflections on life that are almost painful in their unguardedness.
I'm also struck listening to this music, that I've been living and loving hip hop for the great majority of my life. I was born in the seventies, became Aware Of How Shit Is in the eighties, and once I heard Public Enemy there was no turning back. I've seen the passage of time and how hip hop has changed with it, and I appreciate more than words can express how it has embraced with open arms people of all ages, races, and cultures as it too has grown. It is with this, as I listen to The Underated Collaberated, that, despite hearing it through a tunnel of age and experience, I feel as in tune and supported and in love with the culture as ever - despite the fact I'm probably twice the age now as some of the voices on here. I can't claim to represent or speak for hip hop in any way, I would never presume that, but I think it's safe to say hip hop is not a fad to just grow out of. It's not a young man's game. It's for life. There are children practicing their battle raps, there are kids in their teens making their own recordings, there are the grown folks who keep it working, and there are the elder statesmen, like Chuck D, whose voice I still find as crucial as it was back in '91. Hip hop is infinite. No matter where I am or where I will someday be, I call it home. And for that I have infinite thanks.