One Nation, Invisible

The untold story of local hip hop: 1981 to 1996

I wrote all my raps in my cell, quietly. So the first time I performed some of the stuff I wrote in there, I had no breath control.

 

Verb X: When I Self Devine moved to Atlanta in '94, the scene kind of died out a little bit. He was kind of the driving force. Abstract Pack was too young. Phull Surkle were in and out of juvie and jail.

Global Lance, b-boy/MC: After we formed Phull Surkle in '91, '92, we were doing a lot of rock shows at the old Mirage. We played all kinds of hole-in-the-wall rock bars with different punk bands and rock bands. We did that Minneapolooza, a little Midwest tour that went through 10 states. Back then, that's where the people were. We didn't care who was in front of us, as long you were there.

Eyedea, b-boy/MC: Phull Surkle was really intimidating. They still are. Those guys are still fucking scary.

Carnage: Gene Poole just looked crazy to me. He looked like he was going to jump out of his skin and start slicing up everyone with razors and shit. I didn't think his CDs lived up to his performance. Lance was intense, too.

Global Lance: We hooked up with Casino Royale from doing all them rock shows. I met [bassist] Erik Fratzke on the bus. He already knew the other two guys. He was like, "I got a little three-piece. You want to come sit in?" Boom, we went over to the rehearsal spot and sat in for a day, just freestyling. We did that for about a month, and then we just started gigging out.

Jennifer Downham, DJ and Groove Garden host at KFAI-FM (90.3/106.7): I saw Keston and those guys playing with Lance and those guys at the Loring Café, and I went up to them and said, "You guys are like Medeski Martin & Wood, but with rappers." John was like, "You know who Medeski Martin & Wood are?" I said, "Yeah, you want to come on my show?"

Global Lance: We hadn't heard any music like that before we started doing it. The Roots, I don't know if they had come out yet. But that doesn't even sound like us. We were more like acid jazz. We weren't influenced by nobody.

John Keston, keyboardist: That was the first time we'd collaborated with rappers. We were playing the same sort of stuff that a DJ might produce, the beats. It started out as jams, but then we would eventually arrange these pieces.

I don't know if there was a culture clash. There were behavioral clashes sometimes. There were times where we had gigs arranged and those guys didn't show up, and later we found out maybe it wasn't their fault. Maybe it had to do with them being arrested.

Eyedea: The beginning of Rhymesayers was just basically this huge rap group called Headshots. It was kind of like Wu Tang Clan, with all these different subgroups and solo artists that performed and hung out together. The first night I saw them was at Jitters, this half-café, half-bar. Concepts, which was the other big crew at the time, went up there to battle Headshots. That was the first thing I saw: Beyond, who's now called Musab, battling Vibes. Aries was his name at the time. It was really aggressive. I remember one dude walking away, and it looked like he was crying. "I can't rap, I can't rap."

R.D.M., MC: We had such a deep crew, you know--Urban Atmosphere, Black Hole, with Felipe of Los Nativos, the Abstract Pack, Phull Surkle. In any competition, one of us always took it.

Rek the Heavyweight, a.k.a. Spawn, MC: When I met Slug, he was two years younger than me. He was going to junior high school, and he'd always walk in front of my house and give me the finger. I'd chase him down the block. It was a daily routine.

He wanted to be a DJ, and I was going to be an MC. But I was like, "Man, you can rap, too. You should start rapping." So we both started writing and we made a few things on two turntables and a tape player. At first we were called Mental Subject, then Arhythmic Culture. Then we became Urban Atmosphere, and then Atmosphere.

Carnage: Live, Slug was just mellow and cool, and cocky as hell. Sometimes he'd just sit down on a stool and he'd have a mic stand with a cigarette in one hand, just flowing.

Slug: Beyond [Musab] was the dopest in Headshots, easily. And not only that, him and [producer] Ant, they had a fucking library of shit, whereas Urban Atmosphere had maybe six songs, and Abstract Pack had maybe seven. So Musab is like, "Dude, I got 40 songs."

Ant, producer: We went through a couple studios on [Musab's] Comparison, actually. We went to one studio, and it was just a bad experience. So Siddiq was like, "You know what? I'm just going to buy a studio." To me, that's how Rhymesayers basically started, was Siddiq saying, "Fuck everybody, we're just going to do everything on our own."

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