Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Autobiography Of Me and This Thing Called Hip Hop, part 2: Post Graduate Work

Finally I graduated from BGSU and came home to Dayton with a new group pretty much already started and waiting for me to join. PRIME, Moe Beats, DJ K-Money and myself called ourselves MADSKILLZ (the tripped-out part about the name comes later). I wasn’t home very long when I got a letter inviting me to compete in The New Music Seminar MC Battle for World Supremacy. I had mailed an acappella audition verse off on a whim, and I couldn't believe they picked me. I quit my shitty job that I had just started (substitute custodian-five dollars an hour) and got on a plane to New York while Moe Beats and K-Money drove up to meet me. I lost in the first round to the eventual Champion, Supernatural, who won in the legendary final round against Skillz, then known as Mad Skillz. I'll be brutally honest, I didn't just lose, I got destroyed, ass-kicked, merc'd, I was great at written rhymes, but my freestyle chops weren’t developed enough. This dude was doing impressions of other MC's, underwater rapping, sound-effects, all sorts of shit. Nevertheless, being in the midst of all these other MCs, DJs, B-Boys, and producers famous, up and coming, and in-between gave us a since of belonging to something bigger than ourselves.
We came back home full of energy from being in the home of Hip Hop and began working on songs with PRIME. Our style was non-Gangsta, but aggressive and energetic and fun. We had two DJ's with PRIME and K-Money and all four of us rapping on various songs. Production was sort of a collaborative effort, but PRIME usually had a head start because he had more equipment in Columbus to get the ball rolling. I was made to play the MC role, so I would try to write the standout verse whether it was the first or the last in the song. I wanted to contribute more ideas musically, but studio time costs money and I was the poorest of the four at the time, the “Good Job” you are supposed to get after graduation was eluding me. To be honest, we all were bubbling with ideas, it was like having almost too much creativity in the room. Imagine Dr.Dre, DJ Premier, Kanye West, and DJ Pooh working on the same track, every time. We cranked out songs, but there weren’t many venues to perform in at the time in Dayton. We did the making and sending demo tapes thing. We tried to rock a bogus “Talent Showcase” for some so-called “record label representatives”, but I pulled us out at the last minute. PRIME began to gather MCs to his roster of artists, and Moe Beats started to do the same. They began working more closely together as a production team and collaborated on songs Soon, the weekly studio session became less about MADSKILLZ and more focused on other projects. I was going insane with ideas for beats and songs that had no room on the crowded production schedule, so was K-Money.
We formed a group in order to have an outlet for these ideas burning in our heads. Naming ourselves ABSTRACT, we commenced to go the studio ourselves when we could afford it. We performed one show, but I never recorded any vocals. I was not ready to be the only MC in the group, I didn’t want to write three verses. I started out solo, but I wasn’t ready to go back to that. K-Money was interested in perfecting his DJ techniques, but he couldn't find anyone else in Dayton that was into scratching and tricks on a competitive level like some of his idols, Jazzy Jeff, Cash Money, DJ Miz, and Aladdin. Enter Ike B. (Issac Blake a.k.a. DJ X a.k.a. Stoneface), a local DJ who was just as into turntables and the art of DJing as he was. He was a choice DJ for house parties of the West Side of Dayton with a large record collection and videotapes of DJ battles so he and K-Money became close. Ike had been profiled as DJ of the month in Rap Sheet, a West Coast based but nationally distributed Hip Hop magazine. As a result he gained the attention of a Richmond, Indiana based teen rap group who were looking for a DJ. The boys were also seeking production so when Ike B when to meet them, he brought me along with K-Money. I laid two or three ideas down on someone else’s MPC-1200 at a home studio the act’s manager (and one of the kid’s father) and left it with them. The project didn’t go anywhere, but it opened up Richmond for Ike B to exploit as a freelance DJ on weekends, K-Money and I traveled as back up and we briefly named ourselves Funkdemons as a 2 and half man DJ crew (I was the half, I could never scratch that well).
to be continued

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