7th Seal by Freestyle Fellowship
This is one of those songs that I have a clear memory of hearing for the first time. While Freestyle Fellowship and and project blowed were making waves out west, you didn’t really hear about them in NY. We had our underground stuff but this was before the internet was what it is now. So, unless it was handed to you in the form of a cassette, you weren’t hearing shit.
The year was 1991 and I was a sophomore in high school. I remember coming into school and running into my boy Brandon in the hallway. He was a grade below me and , at that point, was the only kid I knew who was more up on new hip hop shit that I was. Granted, I was drawing from a small pool but it was something, at least at my high school, that I knew to be true. Brandon wasn’t a typical 9th grader. He had a baby sitter who had been taking him to the rock steady celebration since he was a little kid. He was a awkwardly short white kid from midtown who had somehow landed himself in the epicenter of NY hip hop at an extremely young age. Brandon also knew people at record labels (which is baffling to think about now as he was literally 14 years old) so he’d always have whatever new shit was coming out before it dropped. He caught wind of my hunger for new hip hop and would often make me little mix tapes of the new shit he had been listening to.
Anyway, on this particular day, I saw him bopping around the hallways with his headphones on (which he ALWAYS had on). I asked him what he was listening to and he said “Some next shit…”. He asked me if I had ever heard of Freestyle Fellowship. I said I didn’t thinks so , though I mad have seen the name in The Source magazine at some point. He was like “It’s pretty out there…I’ll make you a dub.”. The next day, he handed me a blank cassette with no writing on it except for a sticker on the cassette itself that read “F.F.”. Much like Brandon, I always had my walkman with me. I didn’t wanna just listen to it between classes so I waited till i was heading home on the train. I popped it in and this was the first thing I heard:
Whaaaaaaat? Keep in mind, this was 1991. NOTHING sounded like this. From the beat to the rhymes, i couldn’t even fully wrap my head around what I was hearing. This dude was just rapping non stop with a flow like I had never heard before. As I went through the tape, I would learn he was just one of 5 rappers in the group. They all had completely different styles. All styles (with the exception of the more conventional J Sumbi who wasn’t even on another F.F. album afterwards) that I had never heard before. For my 15 year old brain, this was almost too much to consume. I played this tape non-stop, passed if off to any friend who would listen and pretty much worshipped it for the next few months.
This was the first “weird” rap album i had ever loved and it would open the doors for all sorts of shit. That year, Del the funkee homosapian dropped his debut. Souls of mischief followed a few years later. And from there, the left field mind set of hip hop had been embraced. Solesides popped up, Company flow emerged and the rest is history.
I mean, sure, Ultramagnetic had existed already but, for as strange as Kool Keith was, what these guys out west were doing was simply some next level shit. So, here is my all time favorite song from the “To whom it may concern” album. The first Mikah 9 song I ever heard and , in my eyes, his best song ever to this day. Not a diss to the man at all but it’s impact on how I listened to music was huge.
Okay? Nerd out done. Enjoy.