Blockhead: The Rapper

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”-

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:
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.
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.

I can…and I will (but I shouldn’t)

I read something the other day about a “performance artist” who’s next work is going to be her giving birth before an audience in a gallery. Now, obviously, fuck this woman. She’s a pretentious asshole on every level. I don’t think anyone is arguing that (especially her kid 20 years down the line when he/she is in therapy trying to figure out why he/she was raised on bean paste and wine). But whenever this kinda thing happens, if stirs up this animosity in me. The animosity towards people who think “just because I can, I should”. This line of thought is most overused in all forms of art. Because, aside from extremely wealthy people, who is more self-entitled than artists? I’d say performance artists may be the pinnacle cause, to them, everything is art. music or acting isn’t even on their radar. You could sit on a babies potty and take a dump while reading esquire magazine and call it art as long as you’re in a gallery. The “meaning” would be on the person watching my art unfold , regardless of how arbitrary whatever you just did was.
But things like performance art are not that big a deal. Literally. No one really gives a fuck about that kinda stuff out side of a few snotty germans and creepy asian people. The “because I can, I should” mantra is way prevalent in lower rungs of art. More specifically, people on reality tv shows. Perhaps the lowest of all forms of fame. Right above “acquitted child killer” but still below “morning news show host”. It’s these fuckers who feel empowered to grab their dreams by the throat and piss in the mouths of those dreams. For instance:

(thanks to phat friend reader Casey H for the clip)
Now, i don’t know who this woman is. I can see she’s on “The Real Housewives of” something but I don’t watch that shit so, to me, she’s just another old woman who was probably hot in the 80’s. But, without knowing anything about her (for all I know she’s awesome and gives millions of dollars to great charities every year) I can definitively say she didn’t need to make a rap video. I don’t even know how something like this get bought in the picture. Talk about arbitrary. A rap song? Why not a cooking show or poem about menopause? I’m sure a part of it is her handlers and her management pushing her to expand her brand. A brand, I might add, that’s based entirely on being married to someone rich and being a housewife. But, regardless of what other people are telling her she should do, she fucking did it. She agreed to this shit because she could…and she did. This woman has no business making music. Neither does Jennifer Lopez. Neither does Kobe Bryant. They have no business doing it but they do because they can.
But , to be fair, most people have no business making music. The majority of dudes sitting in their bedroom with a pro-tools set up rapping over Drake instrumentals about their lavish lifestyle aren’t much different. But the separation between them and someone like


is that the average bedroom musician is just doing it for fun and it will never see the light of day. Where as anything the celebrity does will be heard by millions. That’s a real slap in the face of anyone who’s ever made a halfway decent song. Kim Kardashian could literally fart into a mike and it would be heard by more people that your favorite song from last year.

Shockingly, I don’t even think the entitlement these people have to make music is even the worst thing. It’s the books they write. Let’s be honest. ANYONE can make music. Not good music, but something that qualifies as a “song”. But to write a book…shit. Even a shitty book takes a lot of time and thought that I just feel most people do not have. Listen, I’m proof that anyone can write.I’m not particularly educated. I barely read and I consistently talk out of my ass. besides, no one reads this crap anyway. But you know who’s less suited to write a book than I am? Snooki.

Listen. I know people will buy something cause they think it will be so stupid it’s funny or cause they’re equally stupid and actually care. But a Snooki book? What the fuck could she possibly have to say about anything? unless she’s spilling the beans on a harrowing tale of how she lived in a crawl space in the attic for 10 years , while her dad routinely had sex with her and fed her only cold Chef Boy-r-Dee, it’s a guaranteed wash. Strangely, I feel like i’m falling into the trap cause the lack of things she could honestly talk about makes me curious to what she actually might write about. She got me! But, in reality, I’m sure it’s like an 80 page book with 30 pages of pictures where she tells people how to make a bee hive hairdo and how to be “A good person/guidette”. If she did , in fact, have anything to do with the writing of this book, I would be curious to see her first draft. I bet it was written via text in all emoticons.

Same goes for a Book about the life of Justin Bieber. How bout this idea…if you’re too young to vote, you don’t get to write an autobiography. 16 years on earth does not qualify you to even begin thinking about telling your tale.Your tale hasn’t even begun. But he could, so he did. And people bought it. That’s just how these things work.

There is one aspect of this that tends to backfire though. It’s when reality TV people try to become respected actors. Now, sure, when Kim Kardashian makes a song, we all hear it but no one takes it seriously. Still, she gets the youtube hits and Itunes sales so , in her mind, it went well. But when her or some dipshit from The Real World (the show, not the life you’re living in right now) decides they wants to flex their acting chops, it’s a wrap. While a few of them have made it into films in side roles, the peak for most of these guys would be hosting another Real world based show on MTV or MAYBE a commercial that plays on MTV. That’s entitled delusion at it’s finest.

The bottom line to all this is that these people are famous for wanting to be famous. They’re not talented at all and they figured just getting their face on TV would be enough. In a way, they’re right cause many of these people are millionaires (The Situation made 5 fucking million dollars last year). But what they’re incorrect about is that they will ever be anything more than just that: That person from that show. No amount of youtube hits or cameos on one tree hill will ever change that. If I could give them advice, it would be to flip the script and perhaps look into becoming performance artists. Sure, it’s way less lucrative but it gives a lot more artistic leeway for completely talentless dickheads to perhaps fool some people into respecting them. Then again, if I didn’t watch the Kardashian wedding…I’m pretty sure I’d skip the live birth too.

New rap rule: Be better than Bieber

For a while I was a long time supporter of the idea that no person under the age of 25 should rap anymore. I was riding high on this until I heard the Odd Future camp and pretty much had no more case to make about anything.
Yesterday, I saw a link to something that blew my mind.
Yes, it’s your boy Yung Biebz rapping. Equipped with the swag and hand jive of real life rappers, J.B. flexes his lyrical miracles all over the place. Here’s something slightly different and more sugar-coated:

Now, here’s the issue. Yes, it’s infuriating that Justin Bieber Raps. Of course. But , you know what? It’s even more infuriating that he’s not completely terrible. He was perfectly adequate. His flow was alright. His lyrics were no worse than most of the crap the kids bump these days. It’s was just…fine. Which leads me to the fact that ANYBODY can rap. There was a time when you needed some sort of pass to even be allowed on the mike but those times are long gone. And , beyond that, being a “capable” rapper is fairly easy. Just subtly copy what ever’s popular now and stay on beat. If Bieber can so it, so can you. Lets not forget, Bieber is a white trash Canadian child. No one should rap less than him…and yet…he does.
It’s not just lil’ B(ieber).
Peep Rev Run’s brat ass son:

I can’t front. When I first saw this , I was impressed. Mostly cause , at age 11 (or whatever) , he had already surpassed his older brother , JoJo, as a rapper. The beauty of this is that JoJo spent a good deal of a few seasons of “Run’s house” focusing on his shitty rap group and trying to get signed. To anyone with a discerning ear, it was obvious that JoJo lacked all the basic components of rapping. His flow was off , he had a serious case of white boy voice, and lyrically, he was as big a piece of shit as he was personally. Diggy Simmons, however, can kinda rap. That must burn JoJo’s soul.

So, my point is, now that it’s clear that pretty much anyone can rap (except JoJo Simmons, who cannot rap at all), at what point will we begin to bring in some quality control? Now seems like the perfect time. The bar has been set. Bieber can rap. So, from now on, you must be at least twice as good as Bieber if you want to be a rapper. Deal? Deal.
Is there some sort of lawmaker I can contact to get the ball rolling on this? perhaps put it in the Constitution? Let a dude know. Holler!

(special thanks to Apex from Dujeous for linking me to the original video. Woo-hoo!)