Filed under: Miscellaneous
I’m not sure how I managed to miss the exact date of FDB’s inception, but I guess in some ways it’s indicative of the fact that time is a strange beast in internet terms. It seems even stranger to me that just over a year ago I had never committed any of my thoughts on hip hop to paper (you get what I mean), especially given that this little blog is now one of the primary passions in my life. Of course, that’s not to say that I don’t have other things going on, but if you’d asked me last December where I thought this was going, I never would have anticipated that FDB would have brought me so much joy on such a consistent basis.
Looking back, the defining moment for me has to have been the switch away from whole album downloads back in May. The upshot of this decision was that I was forced to expand my scope and look for new things to cover, and the result has been a vastly increased understanding of a genre that has dominated my life for almost as long as I can remember. Since that point I’ve delved into sample sources, interviewed heroes and been privy to exclusive music that I would have never otherwise got my hands on: it’s been fantastic. It’s also made me aware of how much more there is to learn about the culture, and I’m proud to say that although I know more now than ever before I also realise there’s a wealth of knowledge still waiting to be untapped, and that makes me extremely happy. Hip hop is alive and well around these parts people.
There are loads of places that have helped me get my musical fix over the last 12 months, and props go out to everyone in my blogroll for showing such a commitment to sharing music and ideas: it’s always appreciated. However, the following are the people who deserve a special mention as key players in my virtual life, constant sources of inspiration and ultimately, as friends.
Alley Al @ Biff Hop
Biff Hop was one of the first blogs that really grabbed me, and the amount of music that Alley has posted over the last year is unbelievable. What with travel tips for NYC and constant words of encouragement, huge shouts have gotta go out to one of the hardest working men in blogland.
Dart Adams @ Poisonous Paragraphs
Despite only being able to read Dart’s musings through my Google Reader account due to the phenomenal time it takes me to load up his page (get rid of some of those pictures Dart!), his coverage of music, film and whatever else he chooses to write about is always sensational.
Depleted @ Analog 313
Through his various internet phases (BLAR, Carbon III, Funk Theory) Depleted has always been someone who I touch base with around the way. Although his current empire covers Detroit techno, a genre which I know next to nothing about, I’m always sure to check out his work and see what he’s up to. What’s it going to be next D?!
Eric @ When They Reminsice…
When Eric arrived on the scene in March I was convinced that no new blog was ever really going to grab me again, such was the saturation of the scene. I was wrong. WTR rapidly became a member of what I consider to be my immediate blog fam, and a large part of that is because Eric is one of the most genuine, honest and passionate people I have met on the internet.
Floodwatch @ floodwatchmusic.com
Floodwatch is without a shadow of a doubt one of the most knowledgable and entertaining people on the blog scene today. It doesn’t matter if it’s hip hop, death metal or electronica, I never fail to digest every word posted over at his site due to its amazingly consistent quality. Flood – are we ever going to get around to the next PR collaboration?!
Jaz @ Cold Rock Da Spot!
And I thought I knew a lot about hip hop… Jaz has opened my ears to more slept on gems than I care to imagine over the last year: the man never fails to amaze me. New Zealand in the house!
Jeff @ Passion Of The Weiss
Like Flood, Jeff’s knowledge of music from a myriad of different genres is mind-boggling. Funny, insightful and creative, Passion Of The Weiss is categorically one of my favourite places to be on the net. Oh, and Jeff’s pretty cool too.
Rafi @ Oh Word
I feel truly honoured to be a part of the team over at Oh Word, and thanks and respect go out to Rafi and the rest of the crew for holding down one of, if not the, best hip hop blog on the internet. Just wait ’til I get those bowling shoes on Rafi…
Scholar @ Souled On Music
Not only is Souled On a staple of my digital diet, I am also forever indebted to Scholar for initiating my journey into sample sources. If it hadn’t been for his site, FDB would not be what it is today: the word props doesn’t even begin to cover it.
Travis @ WYDU
I’ve mentioned it before, but WYDU was pretty much the catalyst for me starting my own blog. Travis’s honesty and complete lack of bullshit means that his site endures as one of my favourite blogs, and I’m proud to be affiliated with a site that is unquestionably of the highest calibre. You’re the man Trav.
Finally, I want to thank everybody who has visited the site and takes the time out to read my various rants. Without you, FDB would be nothing: here’s to many more years to come!
Filed under: Interviews
2007 has been good to Rawkus (more of this in the very near future). With a slew of quality releases and a clear focus on the importance of the digital game, there seems to be no stopping the label of late. I recently spoke to Barak Yalad, an MC whose recent affiliation with the Rawkus imprint via the Rawkus 50 should stand him in good stead in a market now heavily saturated with the great, good and downright awful. Although his first albumLoss For Words does feel somewhat inconsistent, there’s more than enough on show here to indicate that Barak could be someone to look out for in the future, and ‘Bewitch’ in particular has received some heavy play from me over the last couple of weeks. Here’s how it went down…
From Da Bricks: Congratulations on making the Rawkus 50. For those not in the know, can you fill people in on what it is exactly?
Barak Yalad: Basically, Rawkus is re-emerging and they are doing something that no other record label has ever done before. They’re pushing out 50 of the hottest MCs, a lot of searching, time and juggling has gone into finding the right artists to be a part of this camp. We got picked out. Rawkus was looking for well developed artists with a fanbase that were already making a lot of noise. That’s how they made the selections, and it’s a good start for a lot of underground hip hop artists and for the label to bring its name back up to what it was. After laying low for a bit it’s their way of coming back up, fresh to the world again.
FDB: It must feel good to be associated with the label after their previous successes.
BY: Man, it’s like a dream come true. For me back in the day I grew up listening to Rawkus: Company Flow, Big L, Mos Def, Kweli… I always dreamed of being a part of that. It was a label suited for artists such as myself and it feels kinda freaky now that dream has come true. I was like ‘wow, I’m hanging out with the president of Rawkus!’ [laughs] It’s pretty cool right now.
FDB: I know they’re linking to the audio on iTunes and Amazon, but do you intend to get a physical product out there as well?
BY: Definitely. Right now a lot of my CDs are in stores and I’m hustling them on the street when I’m doing shows: CDs are there, t-shirts are there, all kinds of merchandise is ready to go. I’m trying to set up some kind of distribution so I can get my music out there and overseas. I’m setting up a network at the moment through PayPal to CD Baby and Amazon so fans can still get the hard copy. That’s the diamond right there! You want that to put in your archive. The digital is one thing, but we’re definitely pushing our own hard copies as well.
FDB: Is there any chance of Rawkus being involved in that or will you have to do it independently?
BY: It’s gonna be an independent job. They’re doing the digital distribution through Iota to 125 digital distributing networks. They’re holding that down. The reason they’re doing that is that people aren’t really buying CDs anymore unless you’re a megastar, you know what I mean? Everyone is getting everything online now, click of a button, put it in the iPod: people just wanna listen to the music. It saves on manufacturing and all those different costs.
FDB: At the beginning of the album you state that you’ve been MCing for 18 years. Can you talk me through your journey up until this point?
BY: I started out at 14 years old. I realised I had a pretty raw talent there, I’d trash talk to my friends and things like that. At first they didn’t believe that I could rap because I was such a schoolboy! [laughs] Eventually, I started coming out with flows from nowhere and I found it easy to do. Most people look at it like it’s really difficult, but to me I just rhymed a couple of words and that’s it!
FDB: You’re lucky! I guess it came naturally.
BY: It started to grow after a time. I was doing a lot of venues at 16/17/18 and was very much involved in the graf and b-boy scene. I was really a dancer. This must have been around ’91 or ’92. As far as hip hop, I was grown into it, because when I was 10 or 11 years old I was already in it. But as far as MCing, that developed when I was 14 when I realised I could actually do it. That’s when I started doing all the shows and putting myself out there.
But this is my first album after 18 years! My thing was that I didn’t want to be one of these local artists who were like ‘yo, I’m on like my 18th album’. I didn’t want to put myself in that circle so I made a promise to myself that I would not drop an album until I got a deal.
FDB: So what’s the story with this album?
BY: Some people have asked me if I’m happy with my first album and I am, but it could have been a lot better. I felt the project was a little rushed, and a lot of the songs were things that I had done in the past and were recycled over new sounds. I’m currently working with the Justus League and in particular Kemistry, a Justus League affiliate, so we just updated some of the older stuff. The album is called Loss For Words because when I finished that’s how I felt, I wasn’t sure how I felt about it! [laughs]
There is a deeper meaning to it though. When you listen to some of the things I’m breaking down, it reminds me of something that my Grandma used to say which was ‘a hard head makes a soft behind’. If you keep trying to teach people about the system or the government and how we should move forward it can be lost: there are a lot of hard-headed people out there. It gets to the point where you have to let a man tend to his own soil, and when they do they might be like ‘wow, this guy was right all along’, but you have to learn the hard way. That’s how it works. So it got to the point where I felt I’d said all I could say with Loss For Words and there wasn’t anything more I could say to you. I said everything I could say. [laughs]
FDB: I did feel that the album had a lot of variety to it and wondered if that was intentional or the result of mixing and matching old with new. Do you think that’s a fair comment?
BY: When the album was being created, my producer Young Cee was throwing beats at me that were just blowing my mind and it was a case of matching stuff together: this’ll go with this, that’ll go with that. That’s pretty much how it worked. There wasn’t any real science behind it, but me and Young Cee rode together perfectly on it.
FDB: How did you hook up with the guys from the Justus League?
BY: That’s pretty interesting. We have a unit in Massachusetts called Ceremonial Masters, and we used to bump into different people when we were doing venues. In the midst of all of that I was meeting a lot of different DJs, and one of them was Wreckineyez from Atlanta. He happened to be connected Little Brother and a lot of different people, and he told me about this group of producers who he thought I should meet. He was DJing one of my shows and he brought along some of their sounds and I was blown away. I invited them to come to one of my showcases and bring their MPC or whatever they were making beats on to do a live beat show. We connected really easily and we just kept up from there.
At the same time, Young Cee hooked up with Slopfunkdust, the A & R for Rawkus. He was the first guy that heard the ‘Bewitch’ song and it was on from there. Young Cee has actually produced for a lot of artists, Little Brother, Skyzoo, Ed O.G…. his list goes on. I just happened to be with a producer that was doing heavy things for other people and pulled some strings to get where I am now.
FDB: Let’s get onto the rhymes. I was personally struck by a likeness in your style to Pharoahe Monch and Mr Complex. Would you say that those people have been influences on you?
BY: A lot of it is just my own vernacular, but at the same time, a lot of these brothers I grew up listening to. When I write, my flows constantly change up and I’m always on something different every time. But having grown up listening to Pharoahe, Mos Def and Kweli and those sort of people who are still around today, a lot of those elements are definitely in my blood. I look at those guys as real hip hop: expression through words. From Rakim to De La to the Fu Schnickens, there are so many artists who I could name that have influenced me over the years.
FDB: You handled some of the production on the album as well didn’t you?
BY: Yea, I am a producer and have been producing for quite some time. I’ve made a lot of beats for a lot of local artists that are still trying to get discovered. Actually a lot of my songs were originally over my beats. The song that got noticed by Rawkus was ‘Bewitch’ and they were blown away by it.
FDB: That’s definitely my favourite on the album.
BY: It really got them. So when they found out I was working with Young Cee from the Justus League the said that I should work with him to do the album. So I left a lot of the production up to him and I wanted to focus on my rhymes, I wanted to really write.
The second album Pressure Point is gonna be next level. I got a lot of treats on it, it’s going to be fully developed with storylines… it’s going to be like watching a movie.
FDB: How far along with it are you?
BY: I’m hoping to drop that by next summer. We don’t know who it’s going to be under so there’s still a lot of time to figure stuff out.
FDB: Is that going to happen with the Justus League connections?
BY: Yea, it’s gonna be with them and a lot more other producers. I’m even dealing with a producer out in Sweden called 12 Bit. I’m really working with producers from overseas as well, there’s so many great producers in Europe.
FDB: Europe does seem to be a market for artists who would consider themselves to be ‘real’ hip hop, having traditionally supported lots of underground American acts. Do you perceive a difference between Europe and the US?
BY: Hip hop in the US is at a standstill. It feels bogus if you ask me. Everybody’s into the jewellery and the chains, violence and guns that is a part of hip hop as it is the word of the streets. Then down south you get the partying and snapping which is again a part of hip hop, but there are a lot more elements in hip hop and right now America isn’t exercising. It’s sad, because the kids out here are being polluted with this madness. Nothing wrong with looking nice, with wearing jewellery… Slick Rick had jewellery! [laughs] the real problem with it is that it’s saturated and there just isn’t room for anything else out there.
The overseas market does seem to be more about music, and although who you are is important, there does seem to e more of an attitude that if you’re hot, you’re hot. All the elements seem to still be going overseas, and that doesn’t seem to exist anymore here in the US. You find certain places, but you got to know where to go. I’m in New York and I don’t even see it!
FDB: Are you from New York originally?
BY: No, I’m actually from Springfield, Massachusets. That’s like my foundation. From Boston, to Springfield and then onto New York. I’ve been here for 6 years now, so I’m still new here, but it’s long enough to say I rep it. [laughs]
FDB: I wish you the best with it all man.
BY: Take care, peace.
Filed under: Miscellaneous
I was going to post up my latest interview over the weekend, but unfortunately I managed to leave the hard drive with the audio on it at work on Friday, so you’ll have to wait until tomorrow. That’s the breaks…
I do however want to extend an invitation out to anyone who might be interested in contributing to FDB, as it’s something I’ve been thinking about for a while now. There’s no doubt that the blogging game can be time consuming, and with the site steadily growing over the last 11 months or so (birthday celebrations this week), I’m interested in offering a wider scope in terms of content and boosting the frequency of posting. Here’s a few guidelines suggesting what I’m after:
1. I’m really not that interested in being at the forefront of the scene in terms of up to date news: there are plenty of places on the net that already handle that side of things very well.
2. I need to feel that we’re going to be on the same page musically, so if I dislike the music that you propose to cover, I’m not going to ask you on board. The content should be roughly in line with what already goes on around these parts, so the latest Lil Wayne mixtape is out I’m afraid. Having said this, I really don’t want to be too restrictive, so if you have ideas that you think could work then I’m all ears.
3. The quality of writing has always been paramount for me here at FDB, so bear in mind that I’m looking for someone who is similarly obsessed with the written word and who actively enjoys the writing process.
Beyond that I want to leave it pretty open. If you’re up for getting involved then hit me up at my e-mail (daniel m love [at] yahoo dot com) telling me a little about yourself and proposing a few ideas for posts. Although you won’t be getting paid, I’d like to think that this humble little corner of the internet has built a decent rep for itself over the last year or so, and you will have the opportunity to converse with labels and artists with the added bonus of occasionally getting your hands on some exclusive music. Oh, and the opportunity to deal with me on a more personal level: if that’s not a great selling point, I don’t know what is. Let’s build people!