The Masters of the Universe have a very impressive body of work, with their group and solo projects covering a wide range of styles and subject matter. While their true origins lie with the dance crew House Klan and the mythical Retina tape, the first official release by the collective was Microcrucifiction, a spacey 4-track offering filled with tongue-twisting lyricism, advanced concepts, raw battle rhymes and some of the most potent hooks in underground hip-hop. Over the past few years I have interviewed several members of the crew and have collected their comments regarding this classic tape to present A History of Microcrucifiction:
Bennie "Eclipse" Herron: We had talked, as a crew, about doing different projects at different times but, as you know, when you have a large group of people in any type of setting it's hard to get them on the same page to execute. So Microcrucifiction was kind of one of those things where Orko just said, "Hey, I'm gonna take the bull by the horns. Wherever you're at, wherever you're working. If you have studio access, if you don't, we'll find it, but I need a song." I would say half of it he recorded, the other half we collected from other producers, other crews. But it's a true compilation in that he pulled from all different directions. As you probably know, he actually designed the cover, drew it by hand himself. From the inside, the writing that isn't actual typed text, he did that all himself. And that was the first time we came up with Fuk da Industry Productions.
West Kraven: Me and Orko, we're first cousins. His mom is my mom's sister, you know? So I pretty much stayed at his house is what I'm gettin' at. We put a lot of that stuff on 4-track before people had any money to record. We used to stay up all night and make beats, trying to put it together. And as we were putting it together, we incorporated other people. But basically it was all based on our vision then what they did is incorporate their art and talent. But it was primarily focused on the stuff we were doing.
Shamen 12: The groups as a whole were kind of breaking up. DNA stayed tight the longest. Boot Without a Soul had broken up. Black Bradys did as well and so did Lil Rascals. We didn't fall out or nothing as friends. It was just we didn’t know where we were going with this movement. As time progressed, certain cats grew far apart and started to become AWOL from the click. Orko thought since we were slowly diminishing in manpower, it was probably a good idea that we form a mega group with the rest of the remaining dudes and call the click Masters of the Universe. We met up at Orko's house, in the garage, every day, smoking blunts and drinking beer, and came up with the album Microcrucifiction.
Zombie619er: Back then, that's when we was all still goin' to clubs and stuff, battling people and there was a crew called Insomniacs, and their producer, his name was Toss, and he knew we had Masters of the Universe. So I went over to Toss's pad and I had that sample you hear, "Are you afraid of something?" That's from Freestyle Fellowship, and that was one of my favourite songs. And I was like, "Listen to this dude right here!" And Toss was like, "Well, I'ma cut that up." And that's when I made "Scary Images". We wrote it and then after I made that, it went on the master tape to Orko. And then Orko was goin' to Mad Culture's. That's when they had like a connection too. So then Wally (Orko) got the master and Wally was goin' over there.
Bennie Herron: Most of our early music, it was very improvised. We took the idea, the concept of being able to create, as we create, very seriously. I think even down to the projects, in and of themselves, they're improvised to a certain extent. We made the linear notes, we wrote the linear notes. We weren't just talking about improvising on the track or on the phone, you know, my man over here did the artwork, you know what I mean? Going to Kinkos by San Diego State University to print copies. It was very hands on and very on the fly.
Zombie619er: I went over there when they did the first song. That song was Eclipse and Orko ("Loose Leaf n Lead"). You know, a lot of those beats, Wally already had those beats already. He had already made a lot of 'em. So homie was like the conductor. He would go to this studio, he would do Genghis Khan's song, Bassment, you know, he's on that second side of Microcrucifiction. That's how we got that one. Shit, what was they called? (Concrete Connection) Anyways, it was so long ago. Yeah, basically Wally he put a lot of that stuff together, man. I used to go by Peacez, short for Peace iz of a Dream.
Shamen 12: Orko decided to go solo because he was hurt and disappointed in the fact that he put in a lot of work putting out Microcrucifiction. He felt the other cats weren’t putting in as much effort as he was and was simply waiting on Orko to get us on. No one was doing anything except believing in Orko’s dream and that he was gonna be the person that got us signed and our big break. Some of the cats in the crew were living off of the name without putting in any real work. That was when I decided to go solo as an artist myself too.
Bennie Herron: I think it was one of those things where, in our early years, I called us the concept kings because we came up with concepts all the time. As I look back on it, it was almost a gift and a curse because we were so creatively motivated we didn't give time for anything to breath life into it. As soon as we created something, it was over and on to the next thing. Instead of saying, "Let's cultivate this and give people a chance to get behind it and take it over the mountain." I mean Monday to Friday our styles changed [laughs]. That's what we fed off of. We challenged ourselves in that regard. It's not, "Wait 'til my next album." It was, "Wait 'til my next verse, what I'm gonna do!" Microcrucifiction was sort of a product of that. Not even just that tape but Ruckus, better known as West Kraven, he had this idea and we sort of always talked about it like, "You need to roll with this!" We called it horrorcore. Not hardcore, horrorcore. And it was really dark, deep, if you could relate it to a popular music, it'd be like the goth of hip-hop. It was dope. But even that concept, he only did a couple songs and it was on to something else.
Microcrucifiction was sort of the same thing. We said in the song, "I saw a microphone crucified on the cross," which was speaking on the death of everybody wanting to be a part this art form, it being saturated and bastardized. Something we really loved dying before our eyes. We paralleled that with Jesus Christ and we were, at that time, very into reading what would be considered subversive literature, Behold a Pale Horse, you know, watching documentaries. It was very sort of urban, underground cult, I won't say conspiracy, but below the radar intelligence. We were very in tune to that, so the play on Jesus Christ, and the Illuminati, the microphone, the cross, that was showing our deeper interest to enlighten people and give them an understanding of what's really going on. I think you can hear that in our music. It was knowledge with lyrical skill with a political edge but at the same time we tried to give you bars, lyrics and skills at the highest level.