Thursday, September 18, 2008

Grime and Loveliness

Sometimes the cold front just rolls down out of the mountains, blows across the channel or swoops down from the skies with no warning. Such is the current case in Europa. When I left Prague last Saturday it was a steady 75 degrees Fahrenheit. As soon as I stepped off the plane in London, I was hit with the 50 degree brick. Not to say that it’s all that cold, but I’ve been rocking the summer wears and mentality for the duration of this trip, so the chilly welcome was a bit of a shocker.

But warmth was quickly found in the form of good company, crazy cyphers and overwhelming hospitality. My mellow Appl Juic had an action packed couple of days lined up, promptly starting with a late night session at the very dope new Hackney spot called Pangea Project, proprieteered by the very dope newlyweds Rosie & Selim. We broke out the looooooong freestyle cypher for the heads, blazing until early morning, or until the Wild Turkey and pints got the best of me. The epic day of travel and spitting found me grateful to bomb out on the cushiony coze of Appl J & Sarah’s Hackney flat. Big ups to DJ Slepton, Deenal, the Pangea staff, Isaac, Ronald and any else one slipping through my memory…

Sunday brought a slightly warmer London day. We set it off proper with a pint and “”Sunday Roast,” which, if you don’t know, is a solid way to steady to Sunday stomach. It was then on to CafĂ© Oto to rock the poetry vibes at Watchwords. Juic held down the hosting, I held down the decks. It’s an upstart poetry reading/open mic at this other new spot. We had a nice crowd and some really ill young grime emcees that ripped the freestyle over drums by Eddie. We kept the evening pretty mellow with some neighborhood pints with the Oxford boys. How British…☺

Monday I got hit with a bit of the sniffles. It was cold, drizzly, the market crashed; kind of a slow day all around. AJ and I starting working on a new track, which would eventually morph into ”The Tetris Effect,” the new banger we laid down. We capped off Monday night by watching Aston Villa score a 2-1 victory over household favorite Tottehham. Downer, but being from Buffalo, I was able to empathize with the sports suckery.

Tuesday was just right: we took a long stroll around the East End, from Hackney all the way to Shortage. It was great to meander, philosophize and see some sites. App Juic is truly my brother from another. Not only is he an incredible writer and performance poet, he has also been working in a school a block from his house, straight MS 88 Park Slope style. Walking around the neighborhood, uniformed schoolkids greet him with a “Good day Mr. Appl Juic” or “Hello Sir.” We kicked some corner freestyles for a few young chaps, which was a nice throwback to the BK block.

The walk gave us a chance to really build on the state of the credit-crunched economy, underserved public schools, life in gentrifying regions, youth in public estates, grime, indy Hip Hop, electoral politics, football loyalties, international collabing and The Tetris Effect.

Yes, The Tetris Effect. Wikipedia it for yourself, but basically, the Tetris Effect is a physical/psychological product of playing too much Tetris. As in, seeing block shapes everywhere, unconsciously thinking how real-life shapes fit into one another; really bugged stuff. So this became the topic for our new joint.

Here’s my half of the lyrics (we trade 16 bar verse twice) below. This is gonna be a sick track.

Much love to Appl J and Sarah for putting me up for the stay, to all the venue owners for holding us down and to the good peoples I met along the way. And wait till the NYC schoolkids peep the Grime DVD (“Barcode”) that the Juic hit me off with. Talk about young kids spitting fire, on some straight skills. Woooo…

Back in Praha it is. Kid Lucky, Tah Phrum Duh Bush and Dyalekt touched down yesterday, with Farbeon, Hired Gun and Core Rhythm on the way. We hit national tv this Saturday on the Pavel Andel show, warm up to Hob-n-Nob with a Prague Subway Series or two. But before that I’m heading to Czeski Bujdovice with Philip TBC tomorrow night to rock a Drum and Bass Party! TBC is an original head and basically regarded as the illest d-n-b DJ in the Czech, so this shit is no joke. We have been working on some tracks together and I have been freestyling over so much 150+ bpm beatbox beats that it is prime time to set it off for the dance crowd.

Send some East Coast Indian Summer to Central Europe. We need some sunshine.

Starve a cold, feed a flu,


The Tetris Effect

As the climate changes and the crime is contagious
I maintain and still rely on the kindness of strangers
Lie on the pullout couch and chillout for days
Record raps with Appl J and be jacks of the same trade
While the Union Jack mastheads manufacture blame
Till you think every Hackney schoolkid is packing a blade
All this crap on the brain is a capital gain for the
cackling cash registers with a catheter’s aim
And that’s to redirect the piss and moaning of the brick-toting opponents
Who tip toe towards the moment of overthrowing
I build Brooklyn Bridges like John Roebling
Have charges ready to roll like time zones phones and roaming
Fine combing the grays relaying the layman’s struggle
4000 miles away from the rubble of Lehman Brothers
Among the toppled blocks are stairways to new heights
Maybe it’s just a question of rotating the shapes two rights

Blocks keep dropping
Lines keep locking
Heads keep nodding
That’s the Tetris Effect

Trapped by the habit
Always trying to stack it
Trying not to panic
It’s Tetris Effect

An exercise in lifestyle sacrifice call me Lil Dap
Trying to get my group holmes with scarcely little cash
Carrying a cache of brash statements
Dirty socks Turkish kebabs
And the weight of American hatred
If you thought Marion Barry was scary with cocaine
Then he pales in comparison to Sarah Palin and McCain
The calendar might say we have 44 days
Left until the polls register we voted change
But blowing my brain is the American way
Coupled with arrogance merriment and general disdain
My hope hangs on good faith and the need to prosper
And the time I took to read Obama’s “Dreams From My Father”
And I’ll tell you I’m too cynical to claim he’s apostle
But I’ll be damned if I the vice-president’s a blanking Pentecostal
Speaking in tongues is my job and I’ve been rocking the road
Opening doors wondering if I want to go home

Friday, September 12, 2008

I heart PRG

Phew... Noon o'clock the day after "The Better Bomb" dropped on Prague City. I am utterly depleted, wiped out, sore, spent... elated, exuberant, relieved, thrilled... moved, mystified, gracious, humbled...

The entire day yesterday was an end to end burner. DJ Rectape didn't arrive from Strasbourg until 6:00pm. Soundcheck stared with the band at 5:00pm, so we had to hustle to get to Lucerna by 7:30pm to check the DJ sound and, um, rehearse our part of the show together. We got to run the essential transitions and feel it out. I wasn't really worried; just wanted to get on the same page. No problem. The 2 hours leading up to the show were a blur of interviews with Bedna TV, meeting and greeting all the industry heads (clothiers, radio DJs, sponsor reps) and keeping tab on the time.

When the needles dropped, it was all butter. 90 minutes of ascending Hip Hoppery, commencing with the classic MC/DJ formation, sprinkling in the beatboxers, showcasing the beatboxers and the DJ, then bringing out the band and the lovely vocalist to bring down the house.

All the artists that rocked with me were so professional, so ill and so chill. It was such a treat to work with y'all. The show looked like a well-rehearsed machine, when in fact it was a seat of the pants snowball. I'd have it no other way. There was so much potential energy unleashed on Lucerna. Truly magical and completely cathartic.

The crowd was tremendous; not quite as large as we'd hoped, but for my first solo billed show in a foreign city, it was overwhelming. Knowing how hard it is to get 100 heads to a show in New York City (after 8 years of grinding there!) leaves me awestruck in light of 150+ heads on another continent, during only my third visit to Prague and first European tour. We busted our asses promoting, got a lot of love from the media outlets, had a ton of good friends in the building and put on a magnificent show. It felt like a treat for everyone there to get such a heavy dose of balanced live Hip Hop; the most humbling thing is the crowd's response: despite not understanding 75% - 100% of what I'm saying, cats were showing so much love and really rocking to the vibes.

So many of the struggles within the music world and entertainment industry are the same everywhere: the true school ethos pitted against the commercial faux gangsters; the big money pork barrelers versus the independent idealist; the party for the ego or the party for the people... It is affirming and uplifting to connect with so many dope human beings from around the world and put together another dream show. The international vision is surely being realized, and every passport stamp is a badge of courage, determination and connectivity. I said it last night and I'll say it again today: best September 11 ever. It was not just coincidence to have the chance to release "Building the Better Bomb" on this unforgettable and shamefully mis-appropriated day. The gravity of the timing was very real for me. For the last 6 years, the last place I wanted to be on 9/11 was NYC, or America for that matter. It is with complete and total gratitude that I bow to to all the musicians that rocked with me (Tomas, Jan, Split, Velocity, Noemi, Jaro, Nasty, Ivanhoe, Dowis, Rectape), to everyone who came out and built, and to my mellow Kuzell. We are on the way brother. Da Ska makes me Say Word.

Thanks again Praha. I loves me some CZ. Can't wait to have the BK crew deep here for Hob-n-Nob on Septmeber 27.

The audio, video and pics from the show are forthcoming. Of course, I only took pics before and after, and neglected to give anyone my camera or flip video. But Bedna TV shot the show with 3 cameras, we recorded separate 16 track audio off the sound board, and there were mad other photographers there, so please hit me off with pics if you have any. I'm saying: this tour DVD is going to be awesome.

Again, much love to everyone who had a hand in making last night so special.

Peace, Love and Blessings,


Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Summer Break Tour Journal Part III Vol. 2: Hip Hop Kemp

"Summer Breaks" adventures at Hip Hop Kemp in Hradec Karlove in the Czech Republic. Farbeon, Rabbi D, Baba & Yako, Beatburger Band...Part III Vol 2 coming soon... Hollers!


I had the first of two rehearsals with the band for the release party last night, and good lord... Not like I wasn't excited enough already. Now the anticipation is through the roof. Crazy arrangement: drums (Tomas from Navigators), bass (Jan from Toxique) and TWO KEYBOARD players (Split & Velocity from United Flavor). These cats rolled up soooo professional, with music transcribed from album songs (yes, they broke sample-based songs down into individual instrumental parts), with samples from songs pre-loaded into keyboards, and amazing energy. I'm so grateful for all of the hours at Sin Sin and the band from the BTBB NYC release party, all of which have helped me develop the ability to communicate with musicians on stage, even when we don't really speak the same language. Big ups to Tomas for holding down bandleading duties, and huge props to Kuzell for masterminding this ensemble.

After the rehearsal last night I had the pleasure of being the midnight guest on Radio One with the legendary DJ Kaya. Word is that this cat was the original Czech reggae selector, going back 22 years. He is hella revered here, and has deep stacks of the irie vibes. But apparently, he was a little reluctant to have a Hip Hop guest. With some convincing from original head Alesh One, we were able to make the spot happen. And I was loving Kaya's face throughout the interview. He played 4 joints off of the album, and then we cyphered; first, I put Alesh on the spot for his beatbox debut, and then I spit a verse acapella from this new joint "Believe it or Not." I never get over the sensation of debunking Hip Hop stereotypes, and last night was an exercise in exactly that.

Much respect to DJ Kaya, Alesh One for working it out, Gee Haad, Sharka, Linda and Dowis for rolling thick.

And Dowis: my heart goes out to you. My man was telling my the story of a dog fight breaking out at his parent's house, between their own two dogs! Basically, the big one clamped down on the little one's neck over some KFC bones, and tore her apart. Some people have an incredible knack for animating story telling, and seeing him replay trying to corral the injured, shivering little one ("Bubble") was intense. But they got her to the vet, and he thinks she will be okay after a month's recovery. Some folks have lived the lives of ten before they turn 30. Strength to you, my brother, and get better before tomorrow. We've got a show to rock!

Ayight, commence le jour. The final countdown begins: laundry, work on a track with Philip TBC, rehearsal part II, await DJ Rectape's arrival, and visualize.

Boudejeme lepshe bombu.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Believe It Or Not

Believe it or not we’re reaching your spot
Gonna bump the speaker box
Till we’re reaching to the top

I’m reaching across the media frost the immediate costs of crossing seas and seeing like broth
The ingredients to mediate the chicken noodle cream of soylent green
Developing the buoyancy to point me free
The point of being human is meeting humans and reconvening to exhume the ruins that’re a product of years of moving
Gears and shifting evolution is a mission not a fact of nature
Live right now then ask me later how I stayed above the equator
Never catered to haters
Still managed to skill the scratch and fader
Masquerader rapping in a native tongue to raise the young
If they can work a PSP then they can probably program drums
Tommy run home
Connie Chung’s on
Plug in bug out to the world of the dumb zone
You done no wrong what’s right is easy
It’s hard to see the light through the Yeezys and Weezys
I call them all Cheesy
Chester like the cheetah
Bonita Bonita Bonita

Believe it or not we’re reaching your spot
Gonna bump the speaker box
Till we’re reaching to the top

It all starts with the cypher catch me in the middle
Where the world turns slows and the forces are centrifugal
Words like longitude beatbox axis
Latitude skats on years of practice
So many miles logged that the maps are useless
Days into shows and the shows to rubrics
Rated on acoustics the food the peeps
The head count the merch sales the hours of sleep
But when the crowd is deep
I’m going in going in
Calling Card Rabbi D do you know the pin
Plug it in to the Vodaphone lock and send
For that Brooklyn Babylon like Spragga Benz
Now the Gods ascend and we’re rolling with Goddesses
Knotted with the novices Unity and optimists
Community and consciousness awesomeness
Now get your head up out the ground like an ostrich

Believe it or not we’re reaching your spot
Gonna bump the speaker box
Till we’re reaching to the top

How mics can I rip on the daily originality is my sickness
So ch-ch-check out my malady
Second class travels for the first class working class
Lou Reed perfect day pray like church and mass
Dirty hands from tags and old cans
Promoting in foreign streets bi-lingual on programs
To visit this old land a blessing like romance
Connect with my Old Earth bewilder my old man
The fact of the matter is it just a stones throw
Away from the culture that we grow in our own home
It’s a Hip Hop Hostel save the hostility
Build with me as verse 3 completes the trilogy
Russian graff heads Swiss beatbox queens
French Turntableast and German emcees
Mujik in Prague where we kick it in Zizkov
Ex-pat rappers who left because they’re pissed off
Dutch producers and Italian B-girls
Old school writers new to the free world
Legends in their own right a pleasure to chill
International relations: Real Recognize Real

Things Europeans Do Better

In alphabetical order:

Beer: Pivo. Bier. Cerveja. The further east I go, the better it gets. It’s pretty tough to beat a Pilsner Urquell draft, though the Czech bartenders swear it is better in the bottle. Seriously, when do you savor the head of a beer? “Oh please, top off my Miller Lite draft with some more foam…” Nope. And it is true: the beer is cheaper than water. 20 KC for a half-liter (about $1.20). Czech Republic is not for the weak-hearted carb counter.

Bread: cheaper, multi-grainier, fresh baked. The diet of the peasant is the diet of the touring rapper. Toss in a couple pieces of fresh fruit, a half-liter of pivo and a hunk of cheese (see below) and I’m sated. The baked goodness also contributes to the superiority of Tabac/Trafika/Bodega pre—packaged sandwiches. You wouldn’t expect to get a decent salami hoagie from a Shell gas station at 2am, but let me tell you, it’s possible. Pizza, on the other hand, is still a work in progress. I mean, seriously, you don’t have to put salmon on everything.

Dairy Products: milk, yogurt, chocolate, cheese. Couple this fact with the variety of great breads and you have some dietary irregularities, but some fantastic snacks. Your household isn’t complete without a non-stick sandwich maker. Grilled cheese 5 times a day☺ And you know how Canada/Britain had the “Aero” bar but we didn’t? Multiply that jealousy ten-fold. Lion bars, Lindt and Sprugli goodness, Lykodors… I could go on. The milk bugs me out a bit: non-refrigerated and boxed. Seems very space age, but it gets the job done.

Graffiti: it is everywhere, first of all. I know there are some spots in NYC that are laced, but lord, every train ride in and out of a city is like rolling by a living museum. Berlin was out of control, a fact that one can connect to the history of visual artistic expression on the Wall itself; Holland was wild as well, but everything was slightly “enhanced” there; Prague is simply incredible. Mind you, I’m getting the graf tour from my man Dowis, a pioneering Hip Hopper who is regarded as probably the greatest writer in Czech graffiti history. The Praha “Walls of Fame” are 2 km long stretches of murals and LEGAL SPACES! The throw ups around town are incessant, and the burners at the legal galleries are incredible. At Dowis’ club “Pantheon” (maybe the only underground Hip Hop & graffiti club in the world of its kind: see “Sketch Battle Mondays”) I have met writers from Germany, Russia, Holland, UK… They share their stories, pictures and black books as they wait for the morning to snap a pic of the train cars that they bombed earlier that night. It’s inspiring to see youth culture so hellbent on getting up. And seeing true school Hip Hop in it’s nascent stages, based on graffiti, beatboxing and jamming, is kind of like time traveling. I have had this sense that the development of Hip Hop culture repeats itself in nearly every country it reaches: begins with graf, breaking and DJing, then becomes MC-centric, co-opted and commercialized. The progression is expedited based on precedent, but the resistance to corporate stylings and marketable bullshit is omni-present. Hence, the kids stay loyal to the spray can. And I think this also explains why American “underground” rappers eat so well in Europe. The True School aesthetic is valued here, so artists like Masta Ace and Redman and groups like EMC and Non-Phixon are huge! When I give my friends the low-down the domestic (un)popularity of these cats, they are like, “W-w-wait. EMC is not on the radio?” The graffiti mentality runs constant through Hip Hop culture here, which explains a lot. No one lives Hip Hop quite as ruggedly as writers, and that lifestyle is oozing into my soul. Maybe it’s because I did my first piece on the Prague “Wall of Fame…”

Environmentalism: bikes bikes more bikes, economy sized cars and efficient public transportation. What more can you ask for? NYC does it right for the most part, but I also do my part to bike my ass off around town. Come on: how hard is it to have a display clock in each train station telling riders when the next train is due? You haven’t seen a bike rack until you’re seen them in Holland: Amsterdam has BICYCLE PARKING GARAGES for crying out loud. 3 levels and thousands of bikes. They (along with Berlin) also have public bikes, which you can access by calling a number, punching in your pin, and unlocking the chain remotely. As far as the cars: rarely do I see anything much bigger than a 4-door hatchback. Comparatively, European roadways make U.S. streets look like exercises in idiocy. Downsize, bike more, strive for fuel efficiency. Or wage oil war against the third world. Oh, oops.

Music Festivals: Granted it is festival season, so I am getting my fill, but heads know how to do it right. From the sound systems to the venues to the diversity in acts (and the cheap beer; did I mention the cheap beer?) they are a blast. So far in the CZ I have borne witness to Hip Hop Kemp (the biggest Underground Hip Hop Culture Fest in Europe), Semtex Culture and Joyride. Joyride was yesterday, and is an extreme sports and music festival. I saw some motorcross jumping, waveriding, dope reggae from United Flavor and BMX tricksters. Did I mention it was free? The sound is always banging, the crowds are love-filled and the people always eager to grab a promotional flyer. Yes, I said it. Folks are actually coming up to me to grab flyers.

I’m sure there’s a lot to be said for Universal Health Care and public assistance, but thus far, fortunately, I haven't had to experience either one of the aforementioned. This list is also a reflection of my reading material on this trip: Bukowksi, Neruda, Chomsky. Some boozing, some romanticizing, a whole of political sciencing. My kind of living.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Video Journal Part II: Berlin to Prague & Live from Kemp

A couple more videos from the road. The footage is stacking up and the clock is always running, so I've been running low on time to edit, but I'm up through our first stop in Prague. Working on the Hip Hop Kemp highlight reel, but here's a clip of Farbeon and I rocking "Hustle" at the Vestax Hangar on Sunday night.

It's been a mad media tour leading up to the release party next Thursday, on top of the DJ grind in Prague and party planning. But the good news is that my man DJ Rectape is coming from Strasbourg to hold me down on the 1&2s at Lucerna Music bar, and the band is going to be off the meter. The insanity of it all is that Rectape doesn't arrive until the afternoon of the day of the show, and rehearsals with the band don't start till Tuesday night. But I'm not worried; the beauty of the power of Hip Hop improvisation always prevails.

A more comprehensive literary update is in the works. Just some multi-media for the meantime...

Say Word "Summer Breaks" Video Journal Part II: Berlin to Prague

"Hustle" Live at Hip Hop Kemp