One Nation, Invisible

The untold story of local hip hop: 1981 to 1996

R.D.M., MC: Stress [Siddiq] opened up his house to everyone else, man, him and Dave [David Fowlkes Jr., president of Davin Wheel Co.]. We called him Super Dave. You know those rims on cars, where they keep spinning when you stop? Dave invented those. He's out in L.A. living it large.

Slug: Comparison was one of, if not the, first local underground rap CDs. The Micranots had made tapes. I.R.M. had made vinyl. But CDs were still somewhat like, "Oooooh! A CD!"

Musab: What Comparison did was show everybody how to make their own album. I don't care what people want to say. You're using my blueprint, man. I did it. I taught you how to do it.

 

Eyedea: I was rapping, but I was, like, 12. We were basically into hanging out and doing drugs. I started getting down with Grandma's Crew because they were partying, you know. And they were like, "Oh, you rap a little bit? That's cool. We hang out with the best rapper in the world."

R.D.M.: Sess [Herbert Ford Foster IV] was like a Rakim. He was ahead of his time.

Eyedea: Max [DJ Abilities] used to have these big house parties when he lived on Marshall. Everyone would come. Sess, Phull Surkle, all the St. Paul heads. Sess was rapping about everything he could think about. That was why he was the greatest freestyler ever. I thought that's what freestyling was, and I still can't do what he was doing back then.

Sess was in Abstract Pack. He was like a rock star. If he was alive, he'd be famous. He had his nose pierced. He was this cocky, strong personality. But he was a weirdo. He played D&D games. He invented his own role-playing game. He'd play it every so often, and invite whoever to come play it. He had this whole universe that he created that he was the god of. I only played once with him, and this was the last time I saw him before he died, actually. The day I played, [the role-playing scenario was this]: He owned all these casinos, right? What he wanted us to do was rob his casino, give him 80 percent of the money, and he collects the insurance money.

He was just a very inventive human being. Rather than play you a song that he recorded, he would put in a tape of the beat and perform it for you while he was driving you around in the car. He was just always rapping. He was basically never off the mic. He liked to party, and that was evidently the downfall of the whole thing.

R.D.M.: Herbie died because of a car accident, a drunk driver. I didn't speak at the funeral. The Pack was just the pallbearers. Man, the story is so ill. His girl Tamara called Glo [Glorius of Abstract Pack], and Glo called everybody else early in the morning, before I went to work. He's like, "Man, they said Sess died." Just like that.

I'm like, "Dude, you better quit playing," 'cause Glo was always a clown. I went over to the house, and I'm hearing screaming, "No! No!" I open the door and everybody's crying. I'm like, "Dude, don't be believing stuff when you didn't see it for yourself." 'Cause I don't believe it.

The whole Pack was there, and we drove down to the morgue. It was 7:00 o'clock a.m. They said he was pronounced dead around 2:00, 3:00 a.m. They brought us back there, and opened up the door, and there Sess was on the metal table, with ice around him. You could still see the blood from his ear, or whatever. And the sight...like, when I'm looking at that cover that's covering his body, there's a big indentation where his stomach is. That's what they were hiding. 'Cause he was in the back seat with a speaker box when the car crashed, and it crushed his insides. We're looking at him, and you know, he basically just got killed, and he doesn't even look dead. He looks like he can just get up and walk away, like, "I fooled you all, fools."

Eyedea: His song "Just Think" is the one that always makes me cry when I hear it. He's just talking about being broke and having to do foul things, and he's like: [riffing on Clarence Carter's "Patches"] "I'm depending on you son/to pull your family through/I could give a damn what you've got to do/You could get to jacking/Or even selling pearly gray/But you've got to get that loot today/I won't be here tomorrow and the rent was due yesterday, yesterday."

To me, that's amazing songwriting. "You got to get that loot today, 'cause I won't be here tomorrow and the rent was due yesterday." That's just like, damn. He's an amazing person. He died when he was 21.

 

Truth Maze: I went to Atlanta after I broke with the Micranots. I started studying more. I became a vegetarian, a vegan. I was practicing yoga. I was just searching, man. I had played drums my whole life, and I started getting in touch with what was going on down there in what would now be called the neo-soul scene. I was writing more songs, writing spoken word. Then I moved back here in '96 and discovered how to make it work with music. Whatever it is--lyrics, a rap, a poem, spoken word--I've discovered that we're doing something that's directly connected to a tradition going back to the Harlem Renaissance. I've connected to music my dad listened to.

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