Al’ Tariq aka Fashion – The Unkut Interview, Part One
The artist formerly known as Fashion aka Kool-Ass Fash took some time out to discuss the ups and downs of his career as both a soloist and as a member of The Beatnuts. This first part focuses on his early days, revealing that the Intoxicated Demons EP could have been completely different had fate not intervened, his thorny relationship with Juju, subliminal rhyme jabs between the Native Tongues and how recording the Street Level album was absolute hell.
Robbie: What made you want to rap?
Al’ Tariq: I wanted to rap at an early age, growing up in The Bronx. The first time I heard Spoonie Gee [starts reciting ‘Spoonin’ Rap’] I wanted to do it bad. I always sang and act and wrote plays and movies at a young age, but what made me think it could be real was I went to school with a young gentleman named James Todd Smith. We attended this school called Christopher Robbins Academy, we were both in ninth grade together. I had gone down to North Carolina to live for two years with my family and sister. I was down there in the fall, my brother came to see me, he was like, ‘Look at this record that Jay made.’ I couldn’t believe it. That was the moment. ‘He did it? I could do it!’ When I heard ‘I Need A Beat’ it was the fall of 1984. At them times, I was rhyming but I wasn’t out there rhyming with everybody. It was something I did on the low. Basketball and girls was all I thought about. I wanted to be an entertainer anyway, but rhyming was probably the fourth or fifth thing on that list. I had other pictures for what I thought I was gonna be at the end of the day.
Great Moments In Cracka-Ass Cracka Rap: Paleface
Click for full-size version.
After being reminded of this misguided attempt at Saltine Rap pride from 1993, it’s only right to give Paleface his second 15 seconds in the spotlight. It’s safe to assume that this guy was ignored by Ice Cube and therefore nobody outside of the Vibe magazine office ever heard this ‘industrial rock/rap’ track aimed at O’Shea. Shout-outs to Caesar for finding the scan and saving me having to dig through the torn-up magazine crates.
The Source Scans: The Great White Hoax
Classic material from The Source as Reginald C. Dennis breaks down the 1991 White Rap Invasion. Please note that Lavar kid is a Conservative Rap Coalition pioneer with his sensible haircut and crisp polo shirt.
LL Cool J – Soul Survivor [Unreleased Original Version]
After speaking to Dr. Butcher again the other week, he revealed that he’d located a copy of the song he produced for LL Cool J in 1993, which went on to be remixed by QDIII and included on his fifth album, and generously agreed to allow me to share it with the world.
Dr. Butcher: I produced a song called ‘The Soul Survivor’ for him on the 14 Shots To The Dome album, with C4. Me and C4 – the guy who did [Akinyele’s] ‘Put It In Your Mouth’ – were production partners. I was going to C4’s house one day to work on some music, and LL was shooting his first video from that album on Farmer’s Boulevard, and C4 lived on Farmers Boulevard at the time. I got off the bus and saw him and I was like, ‘Yo! What’s up!’ We was always real cool, whenever he had time he would always come see me, but he had been so busy we hadn’t seen each other in a while. So he’s asking, ‘Where you going?’ and I’m like ‘To my production partner’s house right down the street’. When we originally did the track, we sampled JDL from the Cold Crush Brothers saying, ‘The L baby, baby, the L baby, baby!’That was the first song I ever produced, I didn’t know how to use machines at the time. We had just got an Ensoniq and was learning what to do. It was rough around the edges. As soon as he heard the track he just sat down, got a pen and pad and wrote the song right on the spot. He was like, ‘Yo, we’re goin’ to the studio tomorrow, gimme your information.’ So I had to go get attorney’s and set-up publishing companies and we were in the studio the next day, recording. It happened that fast.
Buckshot – The Unkut Mini Interview
Once again I found myself subjected to indignities of a press day, where you have ten or fifteen minutes allotted to talk to a rapper who has already bored themselves to death speaking to the twenty other jerks before you and some herb always messes up the schedule and as a result that fifteen minutes turns into less than ten. Just for laughs, I decided to stay on the line and laugh at the other shitty questions from the amateur journalists who followed me, while witnessing Buckshot get progressively more confusing the more he drank and/or smoked to make the whole process slightly less tedious for himself. Nevertheless, I still managed to get a couple of interesting jewels from the former Black Moon front man.
Robbie: What inspired you start making music?
Buckshot: My uncle David was a dancer, he was an entertainer and he made dancing a big influence on my life when I was a youngster. He was a dancer for a group called Mtume, they made a record called ‘Juicy.’ I saw him on TV and I felt like he achieved the ultimate impossible and one day I was going to do that and I would achieve the same impossible. I kept going and kept going and I kept dancing. I stopped dancing in 1990 and I became an MC at that point. I always wanted to be an MC but never thought that that was my path. I always thought that dancing was gonna be the way for me. When my MC got locked-up I felt like I had no choice but to continue what we started. When he got locked-up he was like, ‘Yo, keep it going!’ I was like, ‘How am I gonna keep it going? You know what? I’mma just start emceeing myself.’ That’s how I became an MC.
The Influence of X-Clan on West Coast Rap
While EPMD and Heavy D had already scored hits by looping ‘More Bounce To The Ounce,’ the sound of the first X-Clan album really brought the most out of the whole Parliament Funkadelic movement in terms of flipping it into a entirely new context. Their combination of jazz and soul samples with the heavy funk sound created a sound that was far ‘heavier’ than anything we’d heard from New York, soaked in a cosmic slop that no doubt made an impression on the ears of LA rap producers. Clearly the popularity of Zapp and P-Funk on the West Coast meant that it was always going to play a major role in the pre-synth era (or Before Chronic as I like to call it), but when I had the chance to speak to Brother J back in 2007 leading up to the release of the his new X-Clan project, he confirmed this theory for me:
Robbie: X-Clan was one of the first groups to get deep into the P-Funk samples. Do you think that West Coast artists were influenced by that?
Brother J: I don’t think they took it and ran with it, it’s always been here. I think what X-Clan did was we took music that we love. I never sample ‘More Bounce…’ because I wanted West Coast artists to pick-up on my music, I sampled it because in my basement that’s what we deejayed. You go to the parties, that’s what we put on. I’m from Flatbush, Brooklyn, I wasn’t traveling worldwide when I was making this album. I was 17, 18 years old writing To The East, Blackwards. I wasn’t world orientated, I just knew when we go to the block parties, when they put on that Zapp ‘More Bounce…’ the crowd was crazy! When adults hear ‘Knee Deep’? My father and mother listened to records. I dig in their crates and make my album! I knew what was moving the crowd I wanted to serve. It’s beautiful to see that a lotta producers out here in the west coast say, ‘Man, you inspired me. We used to play your album up on the big speakers when we was making Ice Cube’s album and making this dude’s album and this cat’s album.’ I’ve met a lot of legendary west coast cats that gave me a salute, and I’m saluting them cos they’ve got crystal clean sound. I’m from New York where sampling was king, and these cats are playing stuff over and got the mean band on it and the good engineer on it and their sound was just so much more cracking than what we were getting in New York. I admire Dre’s production, he had the best EQ’s.
Download: The Dr. Butcher Production Collection
Dr. Butcher, who you may remember as the guy who did all the scratching on Kool G Rap‘s second album (as well as rapping at the end of ‘Jive Talk’), has also contributed a number of wonderfully brooding soundtracks for MF Grimm, Akinyele and G Rap to unleash speech over. Here are fifteen of my favorites.
Download: The Dr. Butcher Production Collection
Download: Debonair P – Debonair Blends 12 [1992-1994 Hip Hop Megamix]
Debonair P goes deep once again, this time focusing on 92-94 and unearthing a few tracks I’d never heard before. Stream, download or cop the CD.
Is MC Serch fronting about discovering Nas?
Here’s a little something from the Unkut archives with producer T-Ray discussing how MC Serch became involved with Nas‘ career when he started out in the music business. There seem to be some major discrepancies between some of the key details when compared to Serch’s version of events…
T-Ray: MC Serch tried to claim a lot of times that he found Nas. He had just come out on ‘Live At The BBQ,’ but when I was producing MC Serch I was doing a song called ‘Back To The Grill Again.’ It was just MC Serch with Chubb Rock, and the track was just so fuckin’ happy – at that time, happy tracks were kinda cool, but that track was really happy – and I liked darker tracks, but Serch wanted to use that track so I was cool with it. But then when I heard Serch and Chubb Rock I said, ‘Damn, both of these guys kinda have passed their prime, I need some new blood on here. Someone who’s more street.’ So I called up every unknown MC at the time, including Percee-P, including Nas, including Akinyele and a few others, like maybe four or five others. The original version of ‘Back To The Grill Again’ had maybe eight rappers on it. I told ‘em, ‘Whoever does the best is gonna get on the record.’ So we did a whole version with Akinyele and everybody on it, and Nas just destroyed it! So Nas, in a sense, won the position and he got on the record. It was literally a recording battle.
Why Can’t Ice Cube Keep Any Rap Friends?
When it comes to burning bridges, O’Shea Jackson may be the most accomplished hip-hop artist in the history of the music. It seems as if everyone who has ever had even the slightest involvement with him on a professional level has either gone on to record a diss song about him or made a series of angry Facebook posts filled with furious anger. Is Ice Cube really the “modern day Jerry Heller” as his former musical partner Sir Jinx insisted during a now deleted series of venomous status updates which implied that Cube continued to exploit musicians and actors working in his movies all in the name of pinching pennies?
Searching For The Akafella – The Akinyele Video Collection
Inspired by this Martorialist Akineyele Deep Cuts compilation, I began to revisit some of Akafella’s later work, and it turns out that it’s a lot more entertaining now that the bitter taste of disappointment of him abandoning the genius of songs like “Exercise” and “Outta State” for endless variations of songs about poon have since been blotted out by years of excessive liquor consumption.
You may have read a few years back that Ak opened a strip club in Las Vegas called Lollypops and claimed to have clocked $5 million in the first week. According to some comment section gossip, which I always take as fact, “Last I knew he owns a strip club on Queens Blvd. in Queens, NY. He got he start due to a an accident he had years ago & won the lawsuit.” This was followed up by another blog of questionable validity posting this:
“Akinyele made up the story that LolliPop’s strip club made $5-Million in one week for press. His planned worked, but the dude who put up the money is pissed because Akinyele didn’t mention his name in the press. How the fuck can LolliPop’s make $ 5-Million in a week? The place is as big as a cupboard. Dude kicked Akinyele, out of the club and banned him from the spot. He ripped up the contract between him and Akinyele, but Akinyele is going to fight him in court. They did have an agreement between them.”
Back in 2008, Ak told AHH that he’s been in the game for a long time:
“Akinyele: Aww man. My first club I started in probably 1995. I got introduced to that whole game by a friend of mine. I did it first just for fun. Just thinking, “Hey I can probably get girls to come in here and dance,” and I did it for straight up p****y. Then I realized it was a business.”
As for his film work, of Aktapuss: The Sexcom, Amazon customer W. Curtis Mcdonald Jr. wrote:
“This movie was’nt even worth the postage…A few scene with some tight Sistas is the only reason I did’nt throw it out of the window !!!!”
According to this story from last month, Akinyele Adams can now be found working as the general manager of Disco Rick‘s infamous King of Diamonds strip club. Sadly, the reality show that was talked about a few years back never came to fruition…
Bobby Simmons [Stetsasonic] – The Unkut Interview, Part Two
Continuing my discussion with Stetsasonic drummer Bobby Simmons, we discuss touring, Flavor Flav ethering Prince, the rivalry with EPMD, beef with WreckX N Effect and vaulted tracks.
Robbie: Touring must have been essential back then.
Bobby Simmons: The best tour I’ve ever done was that Run-DMC Run’s House tour. Every night I would sit on the side of the stage and I couldn’t wait to watch Run and them’s show. Run and them were just amazing to watch. When you watch Krush Groove and you saw Jam-Master Jay cut that “Run! Run!” You were like, “Oh shoot! They getting ready to do something!” It was really that kind of intensity in the air, waiting for Run to come on, and DMC just standing there with his arm’s folded. You just couldn’t wait to see Run walk out! Then when he came out, Run really controlled you with what he said. You didn’t see that in the movie. You didn’t get to see people take their Adidas sneakers off and put it in the air. When I saw that, I said, “This is it. It’s finished.” Who in the world can get everyone in Madison Square Garden to take off their sneakers and put them in the air? All you saw was different colored Adidas in the air. It was amazing to see that command. It was beautiful.
Ten EPMD Deep Cuts
Erick and Parrish made some dollars, then “someone” robbed P’s crib and E Double “fell” out of a window. We’re all familiar with their many hit singles, but here are a selection of worthy album tracks from the seven group albums, plus a couple from when they went for “delf.”
Ten Album Tracks From The 90’s That Deserved To Be Singles
A selection of tracks worthy of twelve inch status on the grounds of how great they are. The fact that I don’t own proper instrumental versions of any of these kills me a little bit inside every day.
Download: Debonair P – Debonair Blends 11 [1990-1992 Megamix]
The eleventh volume of Debonair P‘s blend mixes has just dropped, this time covering the first two years of the 90’s. You can download or cop a bundle of CD’s from his Gentleman’s Relief site, which includes the exclusive Hydra Beats megamix.
Ten 90’s B-Side Deep Cuts
The good thing about actual singles was that it was possible to keep track of b-sides and such. These mp3 folders are far too confusing for old folks, so I’ve been told.
EPMD - “Brothers From Brentwood, L.I.”
Sermon’s rapping fell off seriously after the third album, but this beat and Greg Nice hook can’t be denied.
Stream: Four Hours of Conservative Rap Coalition Radio
The good folks at PBS-FM in Melbourne gave me a Saturday night graveyard shift to spread the CRC gospel. You can hear the results below:
Stream: Four Hours of Conservative Rap Coalition Radio
DJ King Shameek – The Unkut Interview
Having returned to the music game five years ago after an extended hiatus, DJ King Shameek is back rocking clubs on a regular basis in New Jersey and beyond, but you most likely first saw him do his thing with Twin Hype for their dance floor classic “Do It To The Crowd.” Shameek took some time out of his schedule to talk about his roots as a DJ and early production techniques, King Sun vs. Ice Cube and his involvement with the mysterious diss record “The Truth” in 1999, which may have inspired 50 Cent‘s “How To Rob.”
Robbie: What made you want to take deejaying seriously?
DJ King Shameek: I was living in California at the time – I’m originally from New Jersey – but my uncle was at a legendary club in Newark, NJ called The Zanibar, so every time he used to come to California he would always bring a couple of records and give me some stuff, and I would see photographs of him deejaying. That’s when I really started trying to persue it a little more, get turntables and stuff like that. This is when they didn’t even have a mixer with a cross-fader yet. I was getting these microphone mixers that just had the faders up and down, so I would just sit there with a left and a right, putting one up and then putting the other one down! It was hilarious if you think about it now. I was always collecting records and I inherited records from my parents – they brought me up on a lotta Motown stuff and some Spanish stuff here and there. I was preparing myself in my adolescent years, toying around with my father’s record player, trying to scratch on them! [laughs] I would try to do that when he wasn’t watching. I ended up leaving California in ’87. Before that I was just doing a few gigs by being featured here and there, it wasn’t until I came here that I started producing and deejaying professionally.
Stream: Lord Finesse – The SP-1200 Project Samplers
For fans of 90’s era Lord Finesse beats (and let’s face it, who isn’t?) the Slice of Spice crew have compiled a vinyl package to “keep the crowd listening.”
Finesse dug deep into his floppy disk and DAT tape archives to help bring us a monster 25 tracks of unreleased and previously unavailable SP1200 heat. After Finesse hooked-up the E-mu Systems SP1200 and Akai S950 to transfer and sequence these tracks, we had Eddie Sancho mix then, and Tony Dawsey master them.
You can pre-order here.
Below are the samplers from the various volumes, plus three full-length tracks as downloads: