wild dogs.

according to wiki, a source i trust explicitly with information on all things trivial, the SL-1200MK2 has been around since 1978. i find that somewhat surprising, as i would have reckoned my first pair was manufactured in the late ’40’s; busted dust covers, spliced RCA cords, broken lights and tonearms, rusty platters, etc. i was in no position to be particular, though, seeing as how i didn’t pay a dime for them – the same homie who used to take me down to the ohio river to shoot fully automatic weapons into the wooded knolls of indiana helped me lift the decks from a defunct nightclub in a swanky hotel on louisville’s east side. good lookin’ fam, i hope you’re alive and un-incarcerated well.

anyhow, the turntables turned and to my astonishment the original M44-7’s still had pick-up. i set my joints up atop the “home entertainment center” in my 4th street apartment (much to M’s chagrin) and started workin’ on my scribbles, cuts and flares. i’d been messin’ around with belt-driven pieces of shit since my first paid DJ gig in ’87 – my uncle’s wedding reception at the henry county country club, where i’m absolutely certain that “miuzi weighs a ton” has not been played since. i used that same lame crappy plastic turntable to hold down a handful of high school homecoming dances, too, including the one which ultimately led to my expulsion. i may not have been down since day one, but believe me when i tell you i was fully committed before the week’s end.

despite years of scratching on 8-track recordings in a makeshift bedroom studio and a couple dozen mostly miserable experiences spinning out (“do you have any bob seger?”) i still consider the day i got those sorry-ass 1200’s my practical beginnings as a DJ. something about a sixty-pound shiny hunk of direct-drive steel makes a man feel official, validated.  in my pre-technincs life, i used to stop by camelot to pick up twenty-five cent records from the discount bin; my post-technics existence was fueled by the urge to dig through the basement at better days.

i’ve never had a diverse musical palette. ever. thanks to a co-worker of my pop’s who hit me with a pause-button mixtape featuring morris day and the time, i’ve been favorin’ the funk since the age of 10. it was a natural progression into rap about a year later, and for better or worse, i wouldn’t really check for anything beyond the boom-baposphere for two decades.

even within rap music, my taste was hardly ever obscure. if you could imagine the parameters stretched to maximum capacity between g-funk and go-go then you have a pretty good idea just how comfortable was my zone. nevertheless, the kid still managed to come up on some certified VVS-quality gemstones. to paraphrase my late grandma gertrude, i’ve probably lost more good stuff than you’ll ever own, but i did manage to hold on to a handful of favorites whilst globe-trotting across continents. it’s not that they’re all that rare or valuable (damn, i wish i would have made more of an effort to keep big shug’s OG “crush” 12″), i just appreciate them for always making me feel like i wanna be a DJ again. just a few of the notables:

public enemy’s “shut em down” pete rock remix

just anotha case of that ol’ PTA

young doom (no lil’ sambo)

the fiend of a microphone

and then there’s this:

i don’t know if die laughing is regarded as rare amongst the vinyl elitists, but i have no reservations at all about classifying under “long forgotten.” i’ve had this joint in the crate since it dropped in ’96, but i can’t remember the last time i ever really played it. just this evening, i was workin’ in the home-office, hookin’ up a self-powered mackie i lifted from a non-defunct nightclub in a far-from swanky area of seattle’s capitol hill, when it occurred to me i should revisit this album.

if your idea of genuine horrorcore rap is even remotely related to ICP, then please, if only for a second, forget what you think you know about the genre. hell, who am i kidding, i don’t really know a damn thing about the genre, myself, but in my estimation, the degrees of separation between gravediggaz and juggalos number more than six.

while prince paul and RZA, and, to a lesser extent big L and russell simmons, are accredited with pioneering horrorcore, chuck d had a whole lot to do with the stylistic development of the movement when his slam jamz label signed hyenas in the desert. to my knowledge, this 9-track EP (including skits) is the only project these dudes ever released. it’s just as well, though – this debut can rightfully be given “classic” status. so peep game, get familiar, and live a more fruitful life die a horrific death.

sony disabled the embed option, so check the video for “concubinez” right here.

hyenas, the name rings bells, so what the hell, you can’t see – you only smell the decomposed in the cellar…”

peace to you and yours…

RA

war risin’ over the horizon.

BPW Cover Art

it occurred to me after a phone call from the homie deuce, my man a hundred grand, ace-of-spade since the third grade: i’ve done a pretty shoddy job keeping folks abreast of the musical goin’s-on. he’d just received a press release by way of a very impersonal electronic mailing list, and was surprised to learn that common market has a new album due out may 13th – one that’s not called tobacco road.

deuce: “what the hell is black patch war?!?

me: “it’s the name of a tobacco farmer’s rebellion from the early twentieth cen—”

deuce: “no, dumbass – i mean how come you didn’t tell me you were puttin’ out a new album before tobacco road?

me: “…i didn’t tell you about it?… really? oh, you got the press release, huh? damn, man – my fau—… hold on a second, fam – that’s my moms callin on the other line…”

yeah, evidently i neglected to tell her, too. i guess in the midst of all the commotion caused by our spur-of-the-moment decision to fashion a full-fledged EP out of compromise, i forgot to inform a whole lot of team players that we were changin’ up the game plan.

within an hour of sending out the press release i got a slew of text messages from folks like sharlese: “did you change the name of the album? oh, wait, nevermind – i kept reading.” and ms. youssef: “so, uh, what do i do with this long-ass review of tobacco road now?” and the young homie dawson: “if this means i have to wait another two and-a-half years for the release of tobacco road i will call in every personal favor owed to me by panamanian guerillas who will happily grant you a semblance of pimp-strut swagger by smashing your femur with a ball-peen hammer.” i’m paraphrasing.

i heard some spirited young stalwart of the massline forums even demanded an explanation for essentially fuckin’ up his expectations for TR, so here you go, lil’ mammoth – this one’s for you.

sabz first started passin’ me beats for a follow-up project in the summer of ’06. my approach to the writing was slow and unrushed since there was no sense of urgency to test our fortitude against the sophomore slump. then came the re-release; i was reluctant, at first, but in retrospect i’m glad we made the decision to blend a little business in with the art. The national release landed us on tour with dan the automator in late november, around the time that massline was negotiating a full-scale release of geeteezy’s masterpiece lovework.

though we’d put down some rough vocals, it was clear the next CM album was still about six months out. feeling fearful of slipping into creative atrophy, i spoke with sabz about putting together a series of mixtapes. with his blessing i got to work soliciting beats and rhymes from a broad association of townsfolk; the result was massline mixtape vol. 1, a compilation with flashes of brilliance that ultimately demanded more resources than we had as a label. sure, we could have just made it available for download, but i wanted something more for a project that, for me, was supposed to satisfy the need to put out a new album. i admit i’m the main reason the massline mixtape never came to fruition; sorry, nam.

the lack of motivation to follow through with the mixtape was in large part due to the fact that sabz and i were beginning to talk more specifically about a concept for the new CM album. the title was his idea, and in a single sentence he layed out the objective. tobacco road became my primary focus and pushing the pen was imperative.

but you know how priorities do – by practical definition, attention to one means negligence of another, which often times results in the rise of a whole new problem that can’t be ignored; it insists on being your newest priority. such was the case with my health when recovery from surgery for crohn’s disease became more difficult than living with the symptoms. then it was my job after a nasty corporate takeover, then my faith during the preparation for a once-in-a-lifetime pilgrimage to israel, then my family after the brutally unexpected death of my brother-in-law.

i went nearly four months without writing, but when the chaotic contemplations became coherent analyses, the words came like a torrent. TR was now twenty tracks deep, dealing heavily with the relationship between religion, labor and suicide. recording started in june at a homie’s basement studio, but an extremely demanding work schedule caused the process to move, well, kinda slow.

it was the last week of september when we were set to wrap up the tracking of the final two songs and, to put it mildly, things fell apart. i’ll save the details for a VH1 special, or a RA/MTK collaboration diss track – whichever comes first, but suffice to say fifteen weeks of work was a wash and TR was lookin’ at a major delay. a good friend caught word of the happenin’s and pulled some strings to slide us into london bridge; five days later, TR (take two) was done.

at that point i had reasonable expectations that the album would drop early ’08. we started shopping for distribution immediately, but the response from a wide variety of labels sounded remarkably similar: “great record, but now’s not a good time.” by the end of february the prospects seemed grim, and i started putting a plan together to release TR the same way we dropped the eponymous debut – with a $3500 loan and a prayer. for the record, i wasn’t the only person in the world who thought this was a good idea, but there was one person who thought it was utterly terrible. the ensuing dialogue was intensely passionate, but from the clash of conflicting opinions comes the spark of truth.

black patch war represents the essence of compromise. i agreed to hold off releasing TR (and, somewhat ironically, potentially committing professional suicide) and to continue shopping the album on the condition we put out new material in may. we got that, and for once in a really long time it feels like the kid is winning again.

hope to see you all at the VERA project may 9th. peace to you and yours…

RA