Blockhead: The Rapper


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Before I ever made a beat, I rapped. Around 7th/8th grade (I was 12 at the time), I started writing little raps. Obviously, they were atrocious but it was something I eventually fell deeply into. As my obsession with rap grew, so did my books of rhymes. In my early teens, I would write page long verses (that’s how I knew the verse was done) on random looseleaf sheets of paper. I had a drawer by my bed filled with these rhymes. None of them meant more to me than the others. They were simply a collection. Around 14, I started hanging out with an older dude (pause) who was an aspiring rapper. He worked at this nearby toy store and he and I would exchange tapes. I’d record Stretch and Bobbito’s radio show and make him dubs while he’d put me on to whatever new albums were hot in the streets. Like I said, he was an aspiring rapper. While I was never particularly good at any facet of rapping, the one thing I could do was write a punchline. That was my style. I was like an overly complicated Lord finesse (in my mind). So, every now and then, I’d write some lines for my older rapping friend. I’d also occasionally give him samples to make beats from before I knew how to make a beat. This thin version of “Ghost Writing” was my introduction into rapping.

For all the rhymes I had written, I hadn’t recorded anything. I had barely practiced the rhymes. It was more of a situation where I’d write the verse and forget about it. When I was 16, that changed as I met a group of dudes who’d I eventually form a “group” with. These were three guys from downtown Manhattan like myself who were also obsessed with hip hop on an embarrassing level. Once I chilled with them and our similar obsessions were established, they told me that they rent studios out and freestyle over live instruments. They all played instruments so they would basically just bring a bass, a guitar and some drums to a studio space and fuck around. The invited me to come rhyme with them and ,from there, we eventually formed a group we called “The Overground”. It was me, Dub-L (he produced the majority of Aesop’s “Music for earthworms”) , Jer (the other half of Party Fun action Committee with me as well as currently “Sir Jarlsberg”) and Niles AKA Mr. Roper (who made the wise choice of quitting this music shit a long time ago). We were four white dorks from downtown manhattan who kinda saw ourselves as a white, east coast Souls of Mischief which, in hindsight, is fucking hilariously bold on our parts. Here’s some caricatures of us from that time drawn by Niles AKA Mr. Roper AKA “And Friend”-
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We made our 5 song first demo in my moms basement on a shitty 4 track over terrible homemade beats using the cheapest of synth sounds we could find and Dr. Sample drum machine. It was one of those things that, when we finished it, we were super proud of it. So proud, that upon seeing Bobitto at a bar one night, Dub-L handed out first demo to him with no fear. Here’s the thing though…it was literally some of the worst rap music ever made. Aside from the sloppy tracks, it was a chorus of four horrible voiced white dudes rapping off beat about their dicks. It’s one of those things I can’t even bring myself to listen to this very day. I don’t even have a digital copy of it and I’m glad cause I’d feel like I’d have to post a song up just to give you an idea of how bad it really was. I’ve often just imagined what Bobitto must have thought on the off chance he actually listened to that cassette. Did he share with his friends and laugh endlessly or did he simply just roll his eyes and toss it int he garbage. I hope it was the latter.

That first demo was a learning experience. After the glow of simply recording something wore off, it became clear to us that we needed to improve. We tinkered a bit and stated working on an official album. The title of that album ,”Downtown Bound”, was as corny as it sounds. However, by the time we had done it, we had tightened things up a little. Let’s not front…we still sucked but at least we had improved marginally. Dub-L had taken to making beats on fruity loops and it definitely helped out sonic direction greatly. It also didn’t hurt that we had our Boy Chase Phoenix join us on some tracks. He was a far more polished mc than any of us so I’d like to think he saved a few joints from being completely unlistenable.
In fact, here are some of his demo’s from the mid 90’s…definitely a slept on talent:
http://www.mediafire.com/?jokhgmmhotn
We finished the album and sold it online before the internet (with the help of longtime friend Stinke yameen) really was the internet. At this point it was 96. I forget where we promoted it but i do recall most of our orders coming from the Philippines. No clue about that. Overall, we sold maybe 100 of them. This prospect scares the shit out of me cause that means there are like 100 people out there who could upload this album online. In fact, on the off chance, I googled it and came across this…

It’s actually a fitting example of what we were doing. Rapping for the sake of rapping. Judge it with a grain of salt…after all, this is some mid 90’s shit.
Keep in mind, we did shows regularly. We’d have shows at this spot called “The Spiral” on East Houston Street that, at best, would be attended by like 30 people. Over the years of doing shows, somehow real rappers would often show up and rock with us. Dudes like Percee P and Tess One were fairly regular. Hell, one time, the Souls Of Mischief own Opio was at a show. David Blaine too. All that said, the shows were typically 3 or 4 of us on stage, standing in one spot, simply struggling to remember our verses in front of about 11 people who could care less. Ahh…those were the days.

After that, the group continued making songs but kinda went in different directions. I started making beats and Dub-l got signed to Sm(le records with his group “The controls”. But more than anything, we met Aesop. He might not even realize it but he was really the game changer in why I don’t rap anymore (which is a good thing). He was the first dude I had met who could REALLY rap. He could freestyle, he could write and his flow and voice were on some seriously next level shit. I think his emergence humbled all of us in a way but it was also just exciting to be around a talent like that. Between 97-99, I still rapped but much less than I did before. I started focusing on beats. Jer and I would occasionally make silly songs for fun that would eventually become the foundation for our “Party fun action Committee” album. In fact, as the recording of songs slowed down, we more focused on just freestyling. We’d record those too but through a boombox mic. To this day, those tapes are easily the peak of anything rap related I’ve ever done. They were silly, offensive and we were high as fuck all the time while doing them. I’d never subject a stranger to any of them but they’re the basis of endless inside jokes that still live to this day amongst the people involved.

So, I say all of this as a means to post these songs. There are all old demos featuring yours truly on the mic. Am I proud of them ? God no. But, in a way, this a nice way to silence anyone asking me “Why don’t you rap anymore?”.
Here’s a handfull of songs with some descriptions. All the beats are by me as well so this might give you a funny insight of what some of my earliest beats sounded like.
http://www.mediafire.com/?i9e2tpjl3yneap0
1)Soapbox
This is me at my rappiest. Normally, my songs were all just stupid punchlines and me attempting to flow in ways I was incapable. This was me just “going in” as much as i could. Keep in mind, this was made during the heyday or the shiny suit era. To underground purist assholes like myself, that was a huge issue. I’d imagine this song is a reaction to that whole thing.
Side note, I’ll never understand why I choose this beat as my solo song track. It sucks but, more so than that, it’s not like anything else i used to make back then. I’d just guess that I was listening to a lot of Company Flow and this ws my awful attempt at that.
2)Dutch (With Chase Phoenix)
This is a fun song. We did it in my basement on a whim. It was also the first time I used the “Kartlingdedor” kool keith sample I would eventually use on “Carnivores Unite”. This verse of mine was way more indicative of what I did as a rapper. Sloppily delivered punchlines served in a not-so-serious manner.
3)Chin Music
This one has a story to it. In 1999, I had planned to make a compilation album with various rappers rocking over my beats. I had an aesop song, an illogic song and a slug song. Sadly that’s all I could muster. So, as a last ditch effort to be a rapper, I made a song under a pseudonym “Beetlejuice”. The idea was that I’d throw this on the album and people would be like “who the fuck is that?”. I purposely used a different voice that ended up sounding like a wacker white Rock from Heltah Skeltah. Since the album never happened, I was left with this little mess of a song. One looooooong verse. I still contend this has a few awesome lines in it but the voice change is one of the more embarrassing things I’ve ever recorded.
4)Subtle Touches (Feat. Mr Roper)
This is one of the earliest songs where I rapped over my own beats. This must have been around 95/96. This one is pretty bad on all fronts. Still, that piano loop though…
5)Really Real- Da Dunz (Party fun action Committee Feat. Aesop)
This was made one night at my crib when Jer , aesop and I got inspired to make fun of thug rappers. I forget what spawned it but i do recall us leaving where ever we were to come home a make this song. This was in an era where everyone called each other “Dun” and Queensbridge thuggery was at an all time high. I’d guess it was 97 when we did this one. So, yeah, it’s kind alike a weird mixture of MOP, other screaming thugs and Aesop sounding almost identically to John Forte. This one was 100% a joke that, due to the changing times, may not have held up too well. Oh well. We had fun.

So, yeah, that’s me rapping. Now, please never ask me about it ever again.

23 thoughts on “Blockhead: The Rapper

  1. Is that an “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” Tears for Fears sample in that Youtube vid? Was “Shout” too hard of a beat to rap over? haha.There should have been at least one Real Genius reference in there, because, y’know…

    I probably would’ve based my entire verse off refrencing Real Genius. I’m sure you could find a way to make “hammer a six inch spike through a board with your penis” into a workable lyric… If you haven’t seen it, well, then nevermind.

  2. It’s cool to share old stuff and reminisce over it like this!! Good or bad it’s just fun to look back.I love the blog and think your a hilariously funny dude. But this shit gets me cuz we all (any of us who do or have made music) get caught up in the sense of urgency that feels so dead serious. It’s interesting how the best times are usually when we don’t take ourselves too serious and just make beats/RYHMES for FUN. It’s the shitty other times when egos and attitudes come when everyone is uber serious about everything that things suck and fall apart eventually, I’m proud of the stuff I did and listening to this makes me wanna dig into my vault and wax poetic on those good times. Thanks a lot block!!

  3. Soapbox is kind of ill. Like 1998 me might ride for that one. Subtle Touches though? You should be proud of yourself for being bold enough to put that out there.

    • Valid point about “1998 me” cause that’s who i was/rapping for. A lot of that old rap purist idealism I was rapping about is pretty cringeworthy when i think about it now but , man, I was super serious about it back then.

  4. Man, I would’ve died for this in early high school…Sort of reminds me of a tamer Jedi Mind Tricks “Psycho-Social LP,” which I’m pretty sure I was the only person who listened to them at that point and loved it

  5. So funny how you stopped rhyming after meeting Aesop. I quit rhyming after meeting LoDeck…. who then put me on to Aes… I figured if i couldnt rhyme on their level… then what’s the point lol!

  6. fuck block ‘really real’ is killer as hell. my only ever criticism of let’s get serious was that it lacked a thug/gangsta track. cuz ‘be my lady’ doesnt count, though its an obviously awesome track. peace!

  7. Here’s a first attempt, on the same topic of things I might be embarrassed about: http://zunk.bandcamp.com/track/12 – I grew up with thrash metal while listening to Lethal Injection, and have been playing folk music for years now, so… I can appreciate the process and the writing behind everything you’ve got up here – very cool to hear it, and generally, we can all dig seeing progression made. Also, for the sake of an actual rapper I’m working with in NYC, this single of ours: http://www.fakedope.com/chris-nova-x-zunk-your-knife/ – I hate to be ‘that guy’ with the links, but you know, fuck it.

  8. Some of the best times in my life were when me and some of my friends would drink and smoke and just freestyle all night in my makeshift studio. It was mostly who could be the most perverse but some cleverness did seep through. I too would never subject any strangers to those recordings. Because who really wants to hear a bunch of drunk assholes rap terribly?

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