Category Archives: Underground Hip Hop

Talib Kweli & El-P Recall Rawkus Records Taking A Chance On Underground Hip-Hop

Run The Jewels and Company Flow co-founder El-P is the latest guest on Talib Kweli’s The People’s Party Podcast, with co-host Jasmin Leigh. The two natives of Brooklyn, New York have plenty of history together, including Hip Hop For Respect. They were label-mates at Rawkus Records during an inflection point in both artist’s careers, making albums that galvanized an iconic underground Hip-Hop label that reached the mainstream. The two men relive some history from the mid-1990s when each hungry Hip-Hop artist found a home that was down to put out music by their respective groups. Ahead of the 30:00 mark, El-P remembers working at Lower Manhattan’s Tower Records with Co Flow band-mate Bigg Jus. Notably, some years later, Kweli recalls a job selling incense and oils outside that same Lafayette Street music store. El recalls Company Flow using Tower’s postage to ship demo materials to record labels. “We’d take our money that we earned there, and we’d go record at night,” he remembers of early songs like “8 Steps To Perfection” and others. The trio (also including New Jersey producer/DJ Mr. Len) had room on the 12″ recording. That birthed the eight songs on 1996 Official Records’ Funcrusher. “That was literally as simple as it was,” El says. “Why are we just putting a song and an instrumental on this piece of plastic? It’s gonna cost the same amount of money to put eight of these songs on here.” Talib Kweli Says The New Black Star Album With Madlib Is Done Talib brings up the years that followed. “[You and I] were signed to Rawkus at the same time. Black Star was more jazzy, melodic. We were in the same circles, in terms of crews, but sonically, not so [much]. Did you ever feel like there was a competition between Company Flow and Black Star? Because we were operating in the same spaces and sort of vying for the same fan-base, just different sides of people’s brain.” El responds with what appears to be a joke, “Nah. The only time I ever thought there was a competition was when you got to the B.D.P beat before me. I was like, ‘F*ck those dudes.’ I was mad about that one.” He is referring to DJ Hi-Tek’s “Definition” track for Black Star, which samples Boogie Down Productions’ “The P Is Free (Remix).” El continues, “I think my influences were really rooted in sh*t like B.D.P, and [Public Enemy], and Run-D.M.C., and old Schoolly D, and Fat Boys, sh*t like that, and Slick Rick—big, big Hip-Hop records with stabs. To this day, that’s kinda my thing.” Kweli then reflects, “Like, we weren’t as lo-fi as a Madlib, but it was definitely a warm, fuzzier thing that we were doing.” “For sure,” El agrees. “And that’s why it worked. That’s why we coexisted. Because, to be fair, it never felt like a competition. You were always doing your thing. The thing about that period of time, and that era, which was so special, is that there were so many people doing different sh*t. The ones that really stood one—the ones that ended up being some of the groups that we’d call defining of that era, I think Company Flow is included, and I know Black Star is, and I know there’s a couple others—everybody had their slot that they filled that created this picture. There’s a lot going on in this movement. There was. You remember the open mics and sh*t; everybody would get up and have a style, and everyone was into that different style.” Evil Dee Details What Led To The Demise Of Rawkus Records Talib continues, “For me, when I got to Rawkus, what was exciting about [the label] to me was [Missin’ Linx member] Black Attack was there, and Shabaam [Sahdeeq] was there, and Sir Menelik was there; I wasn’t familiar with Menelik, but I was familiar with Kool Keith, and Company Flow was there. Y’all established it before we got there.” “I feel like Rawkus co-opted this whole ‘independent as f*ck’ thing.” El responds, “I think that Rawkus certainly recognized it, and I think they had the ability to do something about it.” El says that Company Flow came up with the mantra while hand-designing artwork at a kitchen table using glue-sticks. It would eventually become a moniker in the late 1990s and early 2000s Rap underground. Kweli recalls being introduced to Rawkus co-founder Jarret Myer, who produces The People’s Party through then-Fugees affiliate John Forté. “I remember Jarret and Brian [Brater], these two white guys from Brown University, they came to the hood—they came to Crown Heights, and John Forté was there. Everybody was rhyming their ass off; everybody had a blunt and a 40 [ounce beer]. Everybody was trying to get a record deal, rhyming their ass off. At this point, I don’t even think that they had y’all yet. I remember John Forté being like, ‘Why ain’t you rappin’?’ I’m like, ‘This indie label sh*t? I’m trying to get to a major.'” The Reflection Eternal and Black Star co-founder continues, “A short two years later, now my girl is pregnant, now I lost my job. Mos Def [aka] Yasiin Bey comes to me, he’s like, ‘Yo, I think I’ma do a single with these Rawkus dudes.’ I’m like, ‘Jarret and Brian?’ He’s like, ‘Yeah; they gave me some money.’ I’m like, ‘They gave you some money? [Laughs] How much money they give you?’ My whole thought pattern changed.” El-P, J-Live & Breeze Brewin Rap At Fat Beats’ Grand Opening (AFH TV Video) “Meeting those guys, it was very interesting, and I think Jarret can attest to this. Basically, we were having a moment in the underground, but we had very quickly—through people like Stretch & Bobbito—we had started to get a lot of attention, just from the little music that we had put out.” An assortment of major and independent labels took an interest in the New York-New Jersey trio. “Rawkus were the ones who said yes to what we thought it should look like. We were like, ‘We want to do this, and we want to own the masters. We want a 50/50 deal. And we don’t want to promise more than one album, ’cause we don’t know how it’s gonna work out. At the time, these were ludicrous thoughts. At the time, there was no [artist leverage]. We went into these guys’ offices and said the same thing that we’d said to other [labels, and they agreed]. I think that was a really genuine place for us to jump off with that sh*t. Because if they’re in that head-space where they respect that idea, and they’re willing, also, to give us money, then these guys are serious. So when you say the co-opting of the [‘independent as f*ck’ mantra], I think what they did was they [finalized] or expanded the thought. We had the thought of ‘independent as f*ck,’ the thing that became a rallying cry in our collective. We helped define that attitude.” El expands, “There was no independent record label system for dudes like us. Either you were on a major or you just were going around to different places freestyling—Washington Square Park or Nuyorican [Poets Café]. There was no middle-ground. Rawkus became the first step for a middle-ground. [They were] the first people to recognize and say—and they felt the same way that I did, politically—’this stuff actually has a monetary future. We can actually sell this, and not take this and try and change it.'” He expounds that the label offered a step apart from the politics and nepotism of the old-guard label system. El-P and Company Flow broke from Rawkus. El launched Definitive Jux Records, another heralded 2000s imprint. Juss created Subversive, and Len opened his Dummy Smacks company. Talib, who remained with Rawkus until the label was sold, has co-founded labels, including Blacksmith and Javotti Media. While both El and Talib criticized their former label on wax at times, they seemingly look back at the imprint’s positive qualities more than 20 years after signing. 10 Things You May Not Know About Rawkus Records (Audio) Elsewhere in the interview, El-P describes Zack De La Rocha living and recording with him in the days following the Rage Against The Machine breakup. He also remembers Def Jux, and confirms that Rick Rubin is not producing Run The Jewels’ fourth album. Last week, Talib Kweli confirmed that Black Star’s sophomore album, which is reportedly produced by Madlib, is completed. Talib Kweli Rocks A Rawkus Records In-Store At Fat Beats (AFH TV Video) Videos from Rawkus Records-era Talib Kweli and El-P are available at AFH TV. We are currently offering free 7-day trials.

Source: AmbrosiaForHeads.com

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RIIV – “Beautiful”

Rising artist RIIV excites all of us with his new energetic single titled “Beautiful“, it details what it’s like when you realize you’re in love and how the person you’re falling for is the most beautiful soul in the world.

Source: UndergroundHipHopBlog.com

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King Blitz – “Pain”

Rising Atlanta based underground Hip Hop artist/producer King Blitz releases his new single titled “Pain“, off his Layerz E.P. dropping January 24th, mark your calendar!

Source: UndergroundHipHopBlog.com

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Q&A With Veteran Colorado Underground Hip Hop Group Bullhead*ded

Hey Bullhead*ded! We appreciate and love your true authenticity to the underground Hip Hop culture, especially holding it down Colorado! Please tell us how many years have you guys been making music? What part of Colorado are you guys from? Most importantly, where does the group name Bullhead*ded come from?

We have been rocking shows and making music together for over a decade together. Bullhead*ded officially formed in 2010. Our Origin Story: Cut back in time. 11 years ago (2017).. The location: The Black Sheep. The event: El-P (Now known for Run The Jewels fame) is headlining a concert. Amongst the openers that night were two local hip-hop groups: Made Up Minds and TooTone Taurus. Made Up Minds consists of Nato Lucero and Found*ded Records founder ZETfree. TooTone Taurus was made up of Che Bong and Jay P. S. The two groups hit it off. As Che Bong’s lyrics highlight in “Ded*dicatoAmore”, “Collabs between the two groups got it started right.

We Got itchy feet and hit the road like every other night.” Over the course of the next year the two groups played some 200 shows together. In 2010 the collective put together a grass-roots west-coast tour. Together they decided that it made more sense to tour as one group that no one knows as opposed to two groups no one knows. So, they combined the two groups into one. TooTone Taurus and Made Up Minds Became Bullhead*ded. BULL (Taurus of TooTone Taurus) HEAD (Mind of Made Up Minds) *DED (Found*ded records). A bond of brotherhood was forged during that tour that has already endured the group far beyond the normal life span of a vast majority of hip-hop groups.

The main meaning behind our name is an indicator of our unwillingness to quit. Their drive to continue in our passion no matter what. We are too stubborn and bullheaded to ever stop making music.

A lot of independent Hip Hop is currently coming out of Colorado, what separates you guys from all the other up and coming MC’s and groups?

Che Bong: I think what separates our music from others is that we have been apart of the Colorado music scene over 13 years and have consistently curated our own sound that we feel represents Colorado in particular….

Nato: What separates us as we don’t involve ourselves too much and what others are doing, or try following what is the trending right now as far as the style. I personally don’t listen to too much hip-hop to ensure that my influences are gathered from somewhere else and
present Itself as original as possible.

ZETfree: We are Colorado Hip-Hop!

You guys are extremely original!! How do you guys describe your sound?

Che Bong: Our sound is progressive classic hip hop

ZETfree: Our sound comes from a core of classic boom bap influence from the golden era of hip hop that we carry like a torch into the modern-day. High energy. Dark yet bright. Raw yet polished.

Tell us about your Hip Hop and/or music influences?

Che Bong: To me our music is very personal and heartfelt with wordplay and patterns being a big part of our delivery I know we all are inspired by classic rock, punk, jazz, soul, r&b, folk, and of course hip hop as a whole..

Nato: Sage Francis, Eyedea, Pharcyde, cannibal ox, El-p, MOs Def Mostly conscious rap, But with the good times of beastie boys

ZET: We are of course students of the greats that have come before us, and pay tribute to them. We have even been blessed to share the stage with some of our influences such as Mos Def, and KRS One. We are all three also influenced by a wide variety of music. We all draw from different places, and sounds. I love folk music, Che is electro-soul and Nato comes from a indie-rock background. When we met he was playing bass for a popular local punk band. So, we are all over the place. Haha.

Please breakdown the creative process of your new EP ““Boiled Bones”. We noticed BOOM, one of our experienced contributors gave this album a 8/10 RATING!

ZETfree: The Brazen Series is a reflection of us. Of our trials and tribulations. Of failures and triumph. We feel that this is not only our story. The project is the result of years of trial by fire. We want to invite our listeners to be active participants in our music, and our journey which in someways we know is also theirs. We are doing this through a 3 part story. The first installment “Boiled Bones” is much more in your face and aggressive. It is the fire the world is met with. The second part “Heart Stones” is much more introspective and reflective. The final installment “Brazen” will be an amalgamation of everything we are, and where our story has brought us at that point. With the comics we are creating a world for this journey to take place. The music is a soundtrack to this journey, and also provides a backdrop for our story. The comics follow “Our Young Hero” and their story.

Che Bong: The creative process was to create a world we could take the listener to….with the beats and lyrics we definitely set out to have our music be the perfect backdrop to our comic book that goes with the first installment of a three-part series of “Brazen”…

Nato: First of all collecting the beats, and second of all living the experience to write the lyrics.

Your honest opinion, out of all the songs on the project, which is the one song you guys feel stands out the most!?

Che Bong: My favorite song is “keep my distance “..but “Sorry For The Bad Dancing ” is probably the standout..

Nato: SFTBD Has the most commercial potential but as far as originality and really being in touch with our true feelings I would say keep my distance.

Rappers nowadays think by throwing up a few videos up on social media and pushing quick projects, they can blow up overnight! Give us your view on how over saturated the market is right now with so many MC’s/Producers but not to many quality music.

Che Bong: I definitely agree that music in general has been a bit over saturated due to social media outlets but it has also given people an opportunity to find exactly what suits their tastes although you may have to find the good stuff it’s definitely out there..and in my opinion more than ever..just got to dig…

Nato: We’ve been doing this for more than half of our lives, have put videos up on social media and music but still feel quite content with the progress we’ve made. Everyone today wants to be a rapper but not everyone is it good enough musician to do so bottom line. I personally don’t pay too much attention to the artists around me it tends to make me lose focus of my own project.

If it came down to 1 ALBUM only, what underground Hip Hop album would you guys consider THE BEST OF ALL TIME!!!???……One 1 album you can choose.

Che Bong: Funcrusher plus by company flow it really started the indy hip hop movement to what it is now…

Nato: Personally I would have to say sage Francis personal journals influenced me the most.

ZETfree: I would say Overcast! by Atmosphere spawned (pun intended) a world of influence in underground Hip-Hop.

Here it is! Our most popular question! What is your definition of “underground hip hop”?

Che Bong: Underground hip hop to me is simply the hip hop that is just beneath the surface plenty of then “underground artists” are now on a main stage with movies, radio,tv,etc..underground hip hop definitely has more substance and creativity and heart than most surface hip hop/rap music…

Nato: Any hip-hop that does consist of it own sound and originality. Something that truly comes from the heart for the culture not something that is made to try to impress people with how you’re living.

ZETfree: Underground Hip-Hop is independent hip-hop. It is the voice of the people. A much more honest voice than the one being sponsored by the powers that be, and in turn the masses.

Where can people find you on the web? Drop all the vital links.

website:
https://www.foundded.com/
Facebook:
https://www.facebook.com/BullHeadDed/
Instagram:
https://www.instagram.com/bullheadded/
Twitter:
https://twitter.com/bullheadded

Lastly, and shout out?

Our brother and honorary 4th member of BHD: Ibe Hustles. He is pure beast, and one of the greatest out there doing it on any level. We also must shout out some of our tour mates, peers and cohorts in this music ish: Wake Self, Def-I, Maulskull & Evolve.

Source: UndergroundHipHopBlog.com

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