Hot 16…Or More…”BEYOND THE SKY”

‘Yo, you’re a deep guy’ Are the words that my homie Sol-Leks told me after hearing the first incarnation of this song in his fabled Wet Paint studios. I heard this beat that he made from a sample of Sam Cooke‘s A Change Gon’ Come” a year before and pretty much ignored it until it stayed in my head after hearing it a bunch of other times visiting the lab. It eventually ended up on my computer and I decided to record something over it. I started to play with the words in the sample about elevation and what’s beyond our human visibility. Then I wanted to get metaphysical. The verses were broken down from pondering on space missions and what we really know about what astronauts actually do, to observations on what people do for religion while searching for God and what they believe to be a heaven above the clouds, and finallY, to ghosts based on two recent deaths of one of Sol-Lek’s boys and my homie J.D.‘s boy who lost his daughter.

I put that version on Myspace in 2007 and wasn’t pleased with it. My voice wasn’t right and the verses were wordy and made the heavy subject matter sound even more off-putting by sounding more complex and nerdy than it needed to be. I left it alone until I was about to put out the deluxe version of my Crazy 8’s mixtape. I realized that I didn’t have any guest features and wondered if I wanted to make that a conscious choice in the spirit of the first 8. But I knew I couldn’t attack this song without throwing my boy Moser on it. Mos is a really deep dude and all of our conversations around that time were about seeking truth and conspiracy theories. Since I had upgraded my approach to the song now, I was headed in a more succinct direction and I knew he’d hit a point that I wouldn’t. Plus, with Sol-Leks on the beat and me and Mos on the verses, it was a certified representation of my crew, The Balance – so their presence could be felt on the project.

Mos came up with 2 verses and wound up recording both, but I kept this one because I split my long verse into 2. It was one of my earliest recordings with my GemStars family. He chose to discuss the threat of an impending bill that would allow government intrusion upon what they deem as ‘homegrown terrorism and violent radicalization’ and question the mysticism of the alien/God idea and the Mayan’s predictions of the world’s end. I took this opportunity to question the roots of American racism, the transatlantic slave trade and it’s feasibility and the faulty cause that’s attributed to the AIDS epidemic. In the second verse I go deeper about my wariness over religion, the environment and ancient history. Deep shit. People love it. Even better when I perform it and start off with the actual Sam Cooke song.

Now for the breakdown…

Beyond The Sky

“Still, get on that other shit,

cause they love it when I spit that government,

– I heard the Ku Klux was just set up to keep us fucking with each other over race!

So that sheet over the face…

Ain’t the ONLY cover-up,

it gets,

deeper than a mutha – and can anyone show me a picture of a slaveship??!

Even the Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria get depicted in paintings!

While all we ever see is that same shit,

look like a diorama – tied up hands and feet – I wonder how I they lived,

on that transatlantic – hundreds of days spent,

how many slaves DIED up on the way compared to how many made it??!

And nowadays they give us this AIDS bit,

claiming African plainsmen fucking chimps and eating baboon brains man…

I’m all for evolution,

but how we went from being apes, to human beings

-wait!

Who eating apes??!  It’s confusing.

While we feuding over the word nigga – please!!

All the major cities finna drift to sea,

God if you listening…

Intervene…

(‘beyond the sky’)

I mean, lift us please…

(‘beyond the sky’)

Or at least…Send a beam”

(‘beyond the sky’)

 

VERSE 3

 

“It’s safe to say I’m a sinner,

cause your favorite religions,

got too much pagan shit in them,

for me to stay and it’s twisted…

Man made up them sentences

And ain’t it ridiculous homie?

When astrology’s the only thing making sense and it’s all based on the stars….

Exactly what I want to be,

but just the thing that scares me the most when the sky is sitting in front of me!

And since the gold is no longer backing the money – think the Federal Reserve got nerve,

look at your currency (word!)

Word to Number 5,

they just changed the number 5 on the fuckin’ $5 for like the hundredth time

-what’s the signs?!

When they start advertising shit on the moon?

And “going green” is now the cool thing to do…

After all the cancerous plastics and aerosols,

nuclear Arab wars,

smaller countries packing – we attack them,

what we asking for?

I don’t like those hieroglyphics,

undecided if I’m thinking ancient Egyptians was paying alien visits

-Since it’s the writing on the wall,

I been wrong before,

but I’m sure if I even believe in dinosaurs!

Sure it’s a great science of modern lies,

Greek shit on them dollar signs,

on my R. Kelly – I’m really believing I can fly…”

 

Hope you learned something…

 

To hear or download this song, click on the pic of the cover below

Beats Rhymes & Life – A NiteHawk story…

Sometimes you wonder why things haven’t always been a certain way that seems to make the most sense. When walking into a place such as Williamsburg’s NiteHawk Cinema, you instantly hate every movie experience that you’ve had before then. It’s a “could have had a V8” kind of moment where you’re immediately spoiled. I recently went to the theatre this past weekend to see their debut screening of Michael Rappaport’s documentary on A Tribe Called Quest, Beats, Rhymes & Life.

Now, sure, there’s been plenty of theatres with amenities and service features. This is nothing new. And yeah, by now you’ve probably heard or read a dozen reviews of Beats, Rhymes & Life. But what makes this different is that this is the first theatre like this in New York City.  Brooklyn to be exact. And really, it’s not like any other. It’s laid back, with a bar and a hipster aesthetic, but a feel that’s classic New York. Also, this is not any regular review. This movie holds a sentimental place for me because I went to see it with my boys and fellow members of my own erstwhile rap group, The Balance. How ironic that we’re sitting on the footage for our own documentary, 3 years in the making now.

Nitehawk was suggested by the homie Khadj about 2 months ago. He told me the scope of things and I looked it up to see what it was all about, but I couldn’t be prepared enough for what it’s like to really be there. Just pulling up to the theatre feels like pulling up to a Brooklyn hotspot. It looks clubbish. Then the ground level bar adds to the it factor by providing a hangout kind of atmosphere where one can go after or before viewing a film or simply stay if doing neither. This is only bolstered by the second bar upstairs on the theatre level where you’re greeted by friendly staff that will serve you drinks and take your ticket order. The viewing rooms themselves are what the movie experience is made of: Plush red and black seats separated by movable arm rests and triangular tables between them, with so much space in front of each row that you’d have to be Yao Ming to kick the seat of the person in front of you. There is no chance of that annoying ‘excuse me’ dance that people have to do when they have to get up out of their seats for something and shuffle through the row.  You’re then greeted by an accommodating wait staff that will check your ticket, take your order and instruct on how to make further requests after the movie starts. This is what makes Nitehawk special; you’re equipped with a pen and pad on your table, complete with a ringed holder where you can place it to order more items cool and quietly without disturbing anyone’s experience – including your own. The menu is uniquely gourmet and quirky while maintaining a casual movie-friendliness to it. Things that stand out like the fried peanut butter and jelly bites and the other decadent desserts will keep word-of-mouth buzzing, and though there is not yet a way to get served alcoholic beverages while watching the movie, the in-house drink specials without alcohol are memorable. Besides, you can reach the upstairs bar almost quicker than the bathroom by taking one step out of the screening room. Unfortunately, there’s only one bathroom, so just hope for no lines (there’s also one at the downstairs bar). The brightest side to all of this and the cherry on top is the uber-cool manager Jess G, who will greet patrons with a warm smile and is visible throughout – even handling service duties herself.

As far as Rappaport’s foray into documentary filmmaking, his obvious fandom comes across. He doesn’t waste our time with an introduction of himself, assuming that if you don’t already know who he is, then it’s inconsequential to the film. The doc begins predominantly as a Q-Tip show, with a lot of the focus on his thoughts on how the roots of Hip-Hop shaped the movement that fueled the group. And while members like Jarobi and Ali Shaheed Muhammad are introduced and interviewed one by one, their roles are never really explored or defined. This is not helped by the fact that a great deal of time is spent praising Q-Tip for his sampling and production genius. There is no real denying that Q-Tip is the nucleus and leader of A Tribe Called Quest, and he spends as much time refuting that notion as he spends crediting himself for most of the groundbreaking elements of the group. This is what allows the viewer to see the Tribe dilemma from all angles. It’s probably the biggest point of contention for any reservations or apprehension stemming from the group itself about the movie. You either love Q-Tip or don’t like him as much after watching the film and apparently Phife leans more toward the latter. Although Phife is introduced and noted here and there in the first half of the film, it’s not until the last half where he gets the most attention when discussing his turmoil with Q-Tip and his battle with diabetes. Between Phife’s obvious underachiever pattern and desire to stake his own claim in life (as seen by his foray into sports journalism) and the iconic lure surrounding Q-Tip’s career during and post-Tribe, it’s easy to see why the group fell apart. This is the climactic point of the film that brings the life out of it. Jarobi and Ali just come across as commentators and bystanders who either sway towards team Phife or team Q-Tip (in this case, Jarobi being Phife’s best friend, and Ali appearing to rock more with Tip by default).  It’s wise to infer that a significant portion of the film got scaled down and edited out, as made evident by the slew of cameo clips in the ending credits from rappers and industry insiders whose interviews did not make it into the documentary. This is probably disappointing to true fans who would have loved to hear more from artists like De La Soul or Busta Rhymes, who actually have a longstanding working relationship and friendship with the group, and less of Pharrell drooling over them (which is cool by the way, because his commentary served as a highlight, but still…). A great job is done on emphasizing the importance of the group’s catalogue, but Rappaport seems to be a bigger fan of their earlier work. He uses a couple songs more than once throughout the film instead of throwing in some other classics, and when the film approaches their later releases, they just get glazed over. Rappaport ends things with footage from the group’s newer tour efforts and a suggestive blurb across the screen that informs that they are still obligated for one last album under their original contract with Jive records…Leaving hope for Tribe Stans still crossing their fingers.

At the end of the day, nothing beats getting that Midnight screening V.I.P. service (Thanks Jess). But more importantly, nothing beats seeing this kind of film with my crew and thinking about the similarities in our own story. We cracked up at the coincidences and the comparable traits between Q-Tip, Sol-Leks and I. We spazzed out as the classic verses dropped and rapped along, and Sek kept asking when me and WhoIsNumber5? are going to get to work on our documentary. A Dope moment in history and a great effort by Rappaport to document what no one else would…and get it into theatres at that. Good to know that it came from a fan. I’m not even technically one of ATCQ, but their music is a huge part of my life’s soundtrack so it can’t be denied. I’m inspired to work on this doc, and to step up my movie theatre game. I suggest you do the same. And NiteHawk is an excellent place to start.

“Ayo Shaheed, take us the F*ck outta here!”

Opportunity Knocks, Sek-Won Breaks!!…New Instrumental Album

It’s the First of the Month.

And what better way to set things off than with a New release by my boy, Super-Producer Sek-Won??!

The project is titled Breaking Down Doors and you can sample it here…http://sekwon.bandcamp.com/album/sekwon-breakingdowndoors

This is the sophmore follow-up to his first album of beats, Earn A Name, and sees him reaching a point of refinement in his career as both a producer and album-maker. There seems to be a clean and clear point being made here. He lets the beats ride out with purpose and brings you into the identity of each one. Sure, there’s some repetition in the sounds he chooses, and with titles like “All Ya’ll Dumb Fucks Get Punished”, there is no denying that this is a Sek-Won project, made by Sek-Won. He puts his personality into his work and it shows. He can’t help it. He’s a kid straight from Washington Heights raised off salsa and underground NY Hip-Hop in it’s rawest form. You can hear his influences from tracks like “El Bochinche” to “Ma Rhumba”.

My favorite track is “Back At It Again”. Don’t be surprised if  you hear me make a banger over that one! I’m proud of my fellow former Group member from my defunct crew, The Balance. He’s Breaking Down Doors for sure…Just don’t stand in the way.

Sol-Leks Show Monday Night!!

My boy Sol-leks got himself a show tomorrow! Sure it’s with a few other guys, but still…

I’m proud of the kid. If you remember, I’ve stated before that Sol-Leks is my favorite rapper that I know. His music is always refreshing, thought-provoking and melodic.

Perhaps I’m a bit biased, because he’s like my little bro since High school and the leader of our fabled Balance crew.

But in any case, a Sol-Leks performance is  a rarity. I actually have no idea what the the kid is gonna perform, but I’ll be in the crowd shouting out Spanglish phrases via my honorary Dominican status. Get familiar with the kid.

2 new Music Vids – Brandon Carter’s “Around The World” & Sol-Leks’ “Always Like This”

2 of my Favorite Rappers that I know!

First up…

The boy Brandon Carter Took advantage of his time in the islands and shot a video on location for one of my favorite joints from him. I was in the vid, via our time in the Grand Cayman Island yearly carnival, but alot of scenes got cut during editing.  Shout out to Brian on the camera work!! Let the video take you away for a minute while we up here above the equator deal with this Global Warming-induced iffy weather.

And second…

My boy Sol-Leks is a master at sampling. He took liberties with this song and made it his own. This is just a taste of what’s to come as he’s got 2 mixtapes dropping soon. Washington Heights’ own…He’s a problem. Shout out To Who Is Number 5? on the video! My crew, The Balance is still in full effect!

The MOS Post

So my boy Nelson (you ‘know him as M.O.S, but you can call him Mr. Jerez!) is about to be bouncing from the country, so I’m dedicating this post to my homey. Not like he won’t be up on the damn internet and doing his thing, but still…

He’s taking a little break from the cold, from the rat race and recession rouse, to soak up some more family time, some more culture, inspiration and provide a better life for his son.

It’s Real in the field.

I’ve known Mos since my high school days where he was the quiet young’n in the crew of rowdy kids taggin up most of the time and we barely spoke.

It was him that actually was the key to my start back into music and my beginnings as a solo artist because while working as a Real Estate agent, he walked past me and recognized me but I didn’t recognize him. After I grilled him in suspicion, and then finally remembered him and exchanged info, he reconnected me with a bunch of my peoples who I left a legacy for after departing from high school.  See, I helped found an afterschool digital media program that one of our teachers ran and taught us basic music production on the software called Acid. Most of us were nice with it – My boy Killa being the NICEST.

But I remember the one kid Sol-Leks being a dope spitter and once Nelson informed me that they had all been continuing and built a whole catalog mastering the Acid program, doing things I never imagined were possible on such a basic and forgotten application, not to mention teaching some of the other younger heads that didn’t produce back when I was at school, I knew I had to keep in touch.

(What a run-on sentence if I ever saw one!)

So this reconnecting manifested into the forming of our crew into a music collective called The Balance. We figured since we all make music together, why not make music together?

At this point, Mos wasn’t really around as much so we weren’t really counting on him to be a strong part of the group. Plus, I had never heard a full rap from this guy until we began recording the album. I didn’t even know dude was a serious writer!

Little did I know that he would prove to be a great leader and ultimately, the glue that held the group together when it started looking shaky.

He’s the resident conspiracy theorist although he would hate to be considered that. I know better than to try to label the kid, but I figure that term would be the easiest for you all to digest. Son has put me and the rest of the crew on to so much information, and even if we don’t believe, he forces us to never think the same way about things ever again. He’s a true music head like me, with a deep love for Hip-hop and it’s power to affect change.

He’s stubborn as hell, is a backpacker on the low who refuses to slow his rap style down and make it easier to follow (despite me an killa’s pleas for him to try), a little over critical and kinda arrogant.  But a good dude, good father and somebody with a super dangerous mind who will fight for his people. When he’s focused – it’s a wrap!

For a young Buck, dude is crazy wise beyond his years. That Fatherhood will grow niggas up quick won’t it??!

I wish him nothing but the best in this next year’s journey and I say it now like it’s been said before,

It only gets better!

I leave you with the Greatest Hits and Misses from that Balance era and our First and Only project ever, The Shift – which came out earlier this year with a dope Release Party!

Peep the 3-videos-in-1 trilogy where Mos sets it off with his song “System Revolt”.

This part of the video went over alot of peoples’ heads because you can’t get the full effect from hearing this song in pieces. This is a real conceptual song where Mos uses the layered metaphor of bombing (referring to graf ‘bombing’  and terrorist ‘bombing’) to weave a story that basically is a call for going against the established status quo of inequity and corrupt hippocracy. The song starts in a train, henceforth he’s in the train station.

Peep the Marker skills!

And then peep his verses on these balance joints from The Shift

The Full “System Revolt” song

http://www.zshare.net/audio/69912962b3f6d26f/

“Fuerte”

http://www.zshare.net/audio/699213821dddd

“Piano Man”

http://www.zshare.net/audio/69921546496af1c1/

“1 Eye Open”

http://www.zshare.net/audio/69921686001ff911/

And this unfinished Gem that never made the album with me & Mos produced by Hasan Insane (who also hosted The Shift);

“The Strength”

http://www.zshare.net/audio/69922023a5264885/

Peace Homey.