State of The Quan

Okay. I’ve had a number of things happen that have dictated a change in direction for this blog, and this site, and the Bahamut Ali brand in general. So let’s do a “State of the Quan address” for 1st quarter 2016.

  1. The indefinite sabbatical of “The Seizure” has turned into a full-out shelving. I posted my last page on theseizure.com recently, along with my farewell blog post. In a nutshell, I have four more chapters written, but absolutely zero motivation to do the artwork or update the site. Also, I’m letting that site die. All is has been since I foolishly got my google account canceled was a showcase of my wordpress design ability, and I have better examples of that on other sites. If/when I repost all of my Seizure comics, it will be on a free webcomic host.
  2. In the meantime, I still have my MUCH easier to update spinoff webcomic, “Weekend Heroes” available! I just started posting the next story in that webcomic, and I have at least one more planned before that story is finished. Check it out here.
  3. I recently fond out that Red Rose Publishing, the company that published my e-novel Double Entry, is out of business, and has been for the last year. I’ll always appreciate Wendi Felter for giving my book a chance, but I think ti was kind of foul that she didn’t let a bruh know. But I still want my book to be available, so I did the next logical thing: I published the book myself. And now, unlike then, it’s availalbe in print as well as on Kindle. If you haven’t scooped your copy yet, go to this link and do so now!
  4. Development on the new album has slowed down to a crawl. Getting the time to really focus on getting a final mix I like has been the main obstacle, as well as finding the time to do the last couple of illustrations for the chapbook. I can say, though, that the “official score” is ready for upload. I just need to find the time to do it. And is it appropo to make the instrumentals available before the actual album? I don’t know.
  5. I am still creating, though. I’m currently 40,000 words apiece deep into not one, but TWO novels I am writing. They are both high fantasy, but with distinctly different twists. One is “Return of the Tyrant” which is a traditional high fantasy story about a hero having to join forces with his archnemesis to defeat a larger foe. it’s supposed to be the first book in a series. The other novel is “NEEDLE,” which is a high fantasy quest story, set in the Southside of Chicago. I’m having a lot of fun writing both, and I alternate between them: I write a chapter for one, then switch to the other.
  6. I am still looking for proofreaders for my literary manuscript “Queen of Hearts, King of Spades.” I think once I get a draft I like, I’m going to go the self=publishing route with that story, too. If you’re interested in reading a love story about two college sweethearts dealing with the harsh realities of post-grad life, get at me.
  7. Now for the BIG announcement: I am overhauling this website. I created this version as a showcase of my understanding of HTML5. But things and times have changed. I usually unveil a new site every few years, and with some of my links going haywire, now is as good a time as any to unveil a new one. Besides, the old site is not responsive at all, and that’s important. So the next time you see a post from this blog, it will be on a shiny new site design. Thanks for your patience guys. It shall be rewarded.

What will be Quan’s Next Big Project?

For those of you who really know me, you know that I can’t go very long without creating something new. I get bombarded by new ideas on a daily basis, and I have to at least try to bring some of them to life. When I say have to, I mean HAVE TO: there’s some cool stuff (if I do say so myself) I’ve thought up and I don’t want my ideas to go to waste.

So I try to work on at least one large-scale creative project per year. Whether it’s a new album I’m recording, or a new book I’m writing, or whatever. My free time is very limited and will be getting even MORE limited in the future, so I don’t have the time I really need to tackle all of the projects I want to develop.

I expect to be done with this year’s Big Project (my You Only Die Once nerdcore album and illustrated chapbook), and now it’s time to figure out what’s on tap for next year. So I’m going to need your help in choosing which stuff I’ll be working on in 2016. I’ve narrowed it down to 8 options:

  1. I’ve got 30,000 words written on a new novel called NEEDLE. It’s an urban high fantasy thriller about a guy searching for a magical artifact hidden in the southside of Chicago. I’m kinda planning it as the first in a series.
  2. If you’ve read my old webcomic SEIZURE2, you know that I took a hiatus from the story at the halfway point. I’ve got scripts for the next 4 chapters written and they just need art. Should I go ahead and finish the story?
  3. another old webcomic I never finished is my humor strip UNBEATABLE HEROES. I’ve got scripts for another month’s worth of strips, but no art. And plus, the majority of you have never seen the original strips the first time I posted them.
  4. I’ve got two music projects I’m mulling over. One’s an EP, so I can actually knock out both at once. The EP is called SUPERGODS and is full of motivational and inspirational rap songs. The full length project is another concept album called A MAN WITH A GUN, this time based on macho 1980’s action movies. The twist is that I want to recruit my nerdcore buddies to contribute all of the lyrics over my production. This might be the most complicated project on the list because it depends so much on others’ contributions.
  5. I’d like to release my mafia-themed collectible card game SYNDICATE as a mobile-compatible video game, and start developing a prohibition-themed expansion for it. Or better yet, develop my other educational card game RULE THE SCHOOL! As a mobile game.
  6. Speaking of adapting stuff for video games, I want to do a Zelda-styled action-adventure game based on my latest novel, called GODMODE: ESCAPE FROM BAAL.
  7. and finally, I have a completely original idea for a shoot’em up game in the style of either Contra or Operation: Wolf called ZERO SEED. In this game, you lead a crack antiterrorist crew to shoot up a ruthless terrorist anarchist organization.

    so, let’s assume I’ll only have time to work on ONE of these projects next year. If you were in my shoes, which one would you choose? Drop an email or a comment and let me know. Thanks in advance.

You Only Die Once Update 7-4

Happy 4th of July!

I just received the art for the promotional poster for my concept rap album You Only Die Once from Jennifer Prentice, who is an awesome illustrator and an old friend of mine. She did all of the hard work: all I did was add the movie credits. Some of the money I’m raising will go to pay her for her services, as well as bringing more illustrators I know aboard for some more cool art.

YODO-movie-poster

The lovely lady pictured with me is Nyima Funk, a ridiculously talented actress and comedienne I met during my freshman year of college. Her credits include starring roles on “Who’s Line Is It Anyway?”, “Key & Peele,” “Wild ‘N Out” and “Undercover Cupid.” She has graciously agreed to be “Cast” in my story as Agent 69, a secret agent sent from MI-5 to back up Agent 008 ½ in his mission to recover a stolen Neutron Bomb.

This image is available as a poster to everyone who contributes at least $20 to the campaign, and they’ll receive it along with the illustrated chapbook and three bonus songs.

I’m also going to have this available on YODO-related merch, so if you’d like to see this image on a T-shirt or coffee mug, that will be available also.

Oh, and in case you were wondering what type of role Agent 69 plays in my story, she is a major part of the song “Find Out,” which I’m giving you a sneak peek of…right now.

Like what you hear? Then PREORDER THE ALBUM! You can contribute as little as $5 to get your copy reserved at the link below.

http://www.gofundme.com/jugghead-yodo

You Only Die Once update 6-28

As all of you know, I’ve been working diligently on my new album “You Only Die Once.” You also probably know that I’ve started a crowdfunding campaign to raise the necessary loot to put the album out myself. Well, I plan on giving you all periodic updates on how the album is coming along.

As of this posting, 14 of the planned 19 songs of the album are completed. Well, actually, 12 are completed. One song – the theme song – has the music and lyrics done, but I’m waiting on a special guest singer (my sister Tia Callee) to lay down the vocals. She really liked the song, so I’m giving her first crack at it. The other track features my cousin Mr. Wre and my brother LyriCal. We’re waiting on LyriCal to lay his verse down before that one is done. It’s a bonus song called “From The Shadows” and will be available exclusively on the Deluxe version of the album…but those who contribute to the campaign will get the song before everyone else does.

 

I’ve picked the singles for the album already, and I went ahead and created cover art for each one. Check them out below.

The QuartermasterSeduxion Where am I?The Henchmen

The fourth one wasn’t originally planned as a single, but it came out so well that I felt it would be a crime not to release it. Kudos to Rex from Flint’s Lost Millenium crew, to my man Nic Bolas, and to both Masdamind and Unique the Eskimo from the Nerdcore collective for lending their guest verses. You guys are the reason why I’m making this song into a single.

Oh, I guess you’re wondering what I’m talking about. The song is called “The Henchmen.” It’s a remix to my song “The Henchman,” and you can hear a sneak peek rough version of it right now.

Here’s hoping this makes you want to invest in my album. More updates as they come.

SUPPORT MY ALBUM! Click Here to preorder your copy of You Only Die Once. There’s bonus goodies in it for you if you do!

#YODOiscoming

Lookin’ for Hip-Hop in all the Wrong Places

I’ve heard from quite a few people lamenting about the state of today’s hip-hop. Whether it be the lack of innovation and creativity, or the redundancy and general ignorance and foolishness of the lyrics and subject matter, or the oversimplification of the lyrics and instrumentals. You’d think from listening to these people that there’s no other alternative.

And yeah, if you think I’m talking about you, I probably am…but you’re not the only one I’ve heard this from.

What bugs me is that these people complain so much about the “ignorant stuff,” the Street/Trap/Drill rap, the club/party rap, the pop rap, the stuff that’s popular on the radio and in the mainstream, and yet they neglect to acknowledge that there are plenty of established, successful rappers who don’t fit into that vein.

These are the guys who say there’s no more pure lyricism in hip-hop, but have nothing to say when I mention rap legends Talib Kweli and Pharaohe Monch forming a new rap group with 9th Wonder. They complain so much about Iggy Azelia’s pop rap but ignore and underground queen like Jean Grae. They say there are no more real musicians in hip-hop but refuse to acknowledge The Roots, who are rap’s first – and still best – live band. And they talk about Lil’ Wayne and Boosie Badass and everything wrong with hip-hop without acknowledging J-Live (who just released a new album), Lupe Fiasco and everything that is right.

Mainstream audiences are what they are. We always insinuate that the record labels are pushing some agenda on music listeners and are trying to dictate what is trendy and popular. But I’ve actually worked with the young audiences that buy and request the majority of this stuff. I’ll play some so-called “real” hip-hop for them while we’re riding around – the type of stuff that I and my fellow hip-hop snobs love to listen to, and basically get no reaction from these kids and teens. But then I switch to an ig’nant club/street song like “My Hitta” or even Myley Cyrus’ “23” and the kids are instantly excited, dancing around and singing along with the ig’nant lyrics. These audiences (youth, women, dudes in the street) want something for them. They want rap music that’s catchy, that they can dance to, seduce the opposite sex to, or feel like the toughest/richest guy in the world to. And as long as these are the majority of the people who buy and request rap music, this will always be the case, for better or worse. Back in the late 1990s, Neo Soul was a big subgenre in R&B music. D’Angelo and Erykah Badu were breakthrough artists that created a demand for it, and the labels catered to that demand until audiences decided they wanted something else. You could argue that without the Neo Soul Movement, there would be no Alicia Keys, and Angie Stone and Raphael Saadiq would be strictly making songs for other people instead of putting out their own music.

And guess what? There will ALWAYS be kids who gravitate towards simplistic guys like Soulja Boy Tell ‘Em. There will ALWAYS be women who want to see “urrbody in the club getting’ tipsy” and do the latest ratchet dance. There will ALWAYS be dudes in the streets (or wannabes) who think the street stories of Jeezy or Meek Mill or Rick Ross match their lifestyles or their fantasies. That’s not going anywhere. So wishing those types of music will go away is a pipe dream.

But even with that, there is still a solution. If you don’t like the types of rap that permeates the mainstream, there are alternatives, and this is the thing that I want you all to recognize. Judging hip-hop strictly by what’s popular in mainstream audiences is like saying your local WalMart needs to be completely overhauled juts because the produce section has rotten sweet potatoes. If you really want quality hip-hop that doesn’t fit the mold of the street, club and pop rap, then all you have to do is look and dig a bit deeper. These guys are out there, but they may be a bit harder to find because major record labels don’t sign them. They are signed to smaller, indie labels like PRhyme, M.I.A. and J-Live are. They put out their own music like Ras Kass and Jean Grae do on Bandcamp.  They have better-paying dayjobs and put out albums only when they feel like it like Common, the Roots, Mos Def and Ludacris do. These are rappers with smaller but fiercely loyal followings like Mega Ran and Adam Warrock, who tour relentlessly and constantly keep their fans in the loop. These are veterans emcees like Masta Ace and Rah Digga who still find ways to stay relevant even as Hip-Hop changes and evolves. These are guys like Childish Gambino, Chance The Rapper and Run The Jewels, who have sidestepped the record label machine altogether and reinvented how music is consumed. Once you stop looking in the usual spots for the next big thing and really broaden your horizons, you will find that there are more than enough quality rap acts that are closer to what you want than the stuff that you’re complaining about now. And don’t forget, there are a handful of guys in the mainstream who put out quality, non-typical rap, too. The top MCs in the game now (Kendrick, Big Sean, Drake, J-Cole and Big KRITT) didn’t get to that status by putting out bad music.

My point is that the only reason you don’t see a quality alternative to the “Bad” rap is that you aren’t really looking for it. But it’s still out there, and there’s plenty of it. Ghostface Killa, Pharoahe Monch, and Black Thought are three of the most well-respected emcees in rap music, regardless of whether you acknowledge them or not. Techn9ne and Hopsin are two of the most creative and technically proficient rappers in the game, whether you acknowledge them or not. Lecrae leads a whole subgenre of Christian-themed rappers that fit all of your criteria, and they are successful whether you recognize that or not. Slaughterhouse will be rap’s number one group with or without an endorsement from either you or Eminem. And Run The Jewels II is still one of 2014’s most critically acclaimed rap albums, regardless of whether it was on your list.

Just like all of you, I wait for the day when mainstream audiences start demanding more thoughtful, intelligent and creative hip-hop: the labels won’t change until the people who give them money change what they want to listen to. But I’m not holding my breath. In the meantime, I am going to find and enjoy (and in my case, write and record) the type of hip-hop that speaks to me. Let the lil’uns have their Soulja Boy, Meek Mill and Iggy: I’ve got something else altogether in my music player.

The Taste of Humble Pie

I’ve always said “if somebody can prove their point, then i’m big enough to acknowledge it and adjust my opinion.” Not to sound arrogant, but that hasn’t happened a lot. usually there’s enough truth in my opinion or my way of viewing a topic that I can stick to my guns, even when I have to acknowledge the truth in the opposing arguments.

So until recently I didn’t realize just how HARD it is to actually admit I was wr….
wrrrrr…..
wwrrrrr……

Dude, I can’t even write it. Let’s just say the perspective i was basing my opinion on was inaccurate with the circumstances at hand.

But I can’t argue the facts. Sid called me up after my last blog post to settle our disagreement on the free music thing once and for all. I actually appreciate that. I encourage healthy, respectful debate. If we have different ways of looking at things, let’s talk about it. maybe
our differing opinions and perspectives will help round out each other’s views. I don’t like when things degenerate into namecalling flame wars and things like that. There are no ideas being shared, and all it becomes is a bunch of stubborn idiots trying to prove how much better they are than the other guy by any means neccessary. And yes, I’ve been one of those idiots before. we all have at some point in time. Part of the reason of that is that’s it’s so hard for one to admit when he or she is wr…..
wrrrrr…..
wrrrrrrrr…..
see? it just won’t come out.

Usually, when discussions degenerate into arguments, or it appears as if we’re about to cross some lines, i’m at least civil enough to make my bottom-line point and then agree to disagree. But for some reason I couldn’t let this free music debate go. maybe I just wanted to justify my own behavior.

I’ve downloaded my share of free music and I’ve offered my own projects for free. I offer my stuff for free mostly because I know I don’t have the time, budget or motivation to “properly” release and promote an independent album (which includes doing shows, getting radio play and scraping up the money to get my stuff professionally mastered) and as you probably saw in my last post, i don’t trust record labels to do it for me.
But I still get these ideas and I want to share them with my people – most of which wouldn’t pay 10 bucks to support their boy regardless of how good the music was (I know because I’ve tried. people say they liked my songs, but there are still copies of 48505 sitting somewhere collecting dust). so I give it away because getting you to listen to my stuff is more important to me than making money off of it. (and yes, Uncle Bo, I do have the luxury of a dayjob, freelancing, books and other ventures to fall back on. I’ve never put all of my eggs in one basket. If all I had to feed my family with was music, I’m sure my perspective would be quite different, which is what Sid explained to me)

Most of the music I’ve downloaded is either old albums that are out of print and I literally couldn’t get any other way (you know your album is rare when neither amazon nor ebay has it available. i recently bought the single “Rag bag” of an old Dave Grusin album via emusic. I ran out of money so I had to save up to get the whole album, and by the time I did, they had taken it out of circulation! Now how am I going to get that one song Biggie sampled?), or new artists I’m discovering. Some of the stuff is music I really don’t like, which is why I’m glad I checked their music out before I actually wasted any money on them. But the vast majority of artists I’ve downloaded free music from I actually support financially in some way, shape or form. In fact, a good number of artists who’s albums I buy consistently now I discovered via a free album (Slaughterhouse, Mega Ran, Mister WIlson, Lecrae, Childish Gambino and Run The Jewels come to mind). And a few more like Sammus, Wordburglar and Adam Warrock are on my “must buy” list – I even asked a few of them their rates for dropping a guest verse on my next music project (kickstarter is your friend).

When De la Soul offered their entire back catalog for free, I was quick to snatch that. But I’m one of the proud milion that actually bought “3ft. high and rising” when it first came out, and have a few De la albums (that i paid actual money for) in my CD collection. Believe it or not, I do believe in supporting artists, so if you offer a free album I’ll take it…but whether it be buying your next album, or some of your merch, or coming to your show, or contributing to your kickstarter campaign, if I like you, you’re still going to get some of my money (if I don’t like you, you’re SOL. stop making crappy music.)

The mistake I made was thinking the majority of audiences do things the way i do them. and yes, Sid very eloquently pointed that out to me. Among other things. Urban consumers are notorious for not wanting to pay for anything. So if I give you a free album now expecting you’ll buy my next album or come to my show, I’ll probably end up sorely disappointed. and i had actually seen this happen before with other urban artists, which was why it was easy to concede that point. i just never took part in that culture or way of consuming music.

Sid also pointed out some flaws in my “free album as demo” argument. back when i actually was doing shows at hole-in-the-wall clubs, hustling for radio play, shooting videos and doing all the other stuff independent artists did to build an audience (waaaay back in the year 2000), it wasn’t uncommon for a rapper to build a nice following underground this way and get the attention of a major label. that’s why i listed guys like Fiddy, Drake, Nikki, Bino and Soulja Boy as examples, because offering the free album was just part of their grind of building their audience. Sid brought up another group who did the same thing – Mackelmore and (what is that guy’s name?). but their difference is they were in a more supportive (re. non-urban) music culture that was more supportive (and let’s be real, more white). It’s not 1984 anymore, but it’s not 2000, either, and labels aren’t looking for those kind of credentials anymore (wchich is kind of backwards to me, but then again, a bunch of Detroit rappers got signed that way back then, and almost all of them flopped, so it is what it is).

And so on and so on. most of the stuff Sid pointed out was stuff I would point out to others in music conversations, just pointed in a way that directly addressed my arguments. When a
guy convinces you that your opinion is really closer to his than to what you thought your opinion was, it’s time to raise the white flag. I’m pretty sure he could hear me tapping out on the other end of the phone. My wife definitely heard it, and after my conversation was over, she had no problem reminding “mr. know-it-all” that he got pwned.

So you win, Sid. You got your point across and I’m not going to bother you about the free music debate anymore. As much as it pains a bruh to humble himself and admit he was schooled, i was indeed schooled. ‘Nuff respect due.

That all having been said… I’m still giving a bunch of my music away for free. Maybe not my next album (trust me, y’all. it will be worth every penny of the five bucks I’ll be charging you. this next album will be EPIC – and it might also be my last. might as well go out with a bang, right?),
but definitely select albums in my back catalog. so if any of you want some free vintage Jugghead music, get yer butt over to jugghead.bandcamp.com NOW before I raise the prices.

And if an artist i support offers me a free single or album, I’m still taking it. Childish Gambino just offered a combo free Gangsta Grillz album and regular “pay for me” EP and i copped ’em both. I downloaded the free one, and then shelled out 9 bucks for the EP.

So there ya have it. I was able to concede my argument without actually admitting I was wr……
wrrrrr……
wwwwrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr……

(give it up, y’all. it’s not gonna happen.)

The Free Music Phenomenon

One of my Facebook buddies is UncleJamz, a longtime music industry insider and manager of some pretty nifty musicians in Indianapolis, Charlotte, San Diego, Phoenix and Davenport, Iowa. He’s an old friend of my Uncle Bo (of Midnight Star), and he’s a really cool guy. He and I have been disagreeing on some aspects of today’s music industry. Namely, the whole “free album/mixtape” thing that has been going on for the last few years. I (obviously) don’t have a problem with it, but he thinks it is bad for the music industry, comparing it to shopping marts like Kroger and Meijers giving away their wares for free.

I took this as an opportunity to speak on the larger issue. I don’t think the free music thing is really about money, but about power. and my response to him explains why. check it out and let me know what you think…

UncleJamz said:
“The reason free is bad is because you don’t have right to give away someone else’s intellectual property away. If the indie acts wants to give away their own, stuff, well have at it – but makes sure you own every bit of the song, perhaps the music producer or as they call it “the beatmaker” is not in agreement with that. Major record labels gave away free goods to retailers, media and deejays, but not to consumers unless it was contest. The free goods were not charged against the artist’s accounting books. JuQuan Williams ask your uncle if he is happy recorded music is not selling and being given away – IJS If Kroger gave away all their food, Meijers, etc, would have to go out of business. ”

I say:
“but that’s the thing. the music industry is not Kroger or Meijers. you can’t judge it on that merit. Intellectual property has an entirely different set of rules.

I’ll use myself as an example. I honestly don’t care if I don’t make one dime off of my music. I just want people to hear my music, and I don’t mind giving away a bunch of it. I am not beholden to any company. nobody owns the rights to my music. I write, produce, perform, record and promote my own music. so if i decide to offer my album for free on bandcamp (which I do at http://juggghead.bandcamp.com), or even to sell a 15-song album for a buck (which I have), then I have nobody else to answer to but myself. nobody is in my pocket.

And many independent artists are similar. they might not do everything themselves, but they are paying for everything out of their own pockets, so the product is theirs to determine how they market it. if they want to take a lump sum of money upfront to give the album away for free (like U2 and Jay-Z did), then that is their prerogative. for every $10-$15 CD sold, the artists only get about $1.50, that they have to split with everyone who helped make the music. the guy losing the $1.50 isn’t losing as much as the guy losing the $8.50, but the guy losing the $1.50 is the one who actually created the product the guy losing $8.50 is so worried about. That model works fine in a place like GM, where the average assembly worker is part of a team of hundreds mass-producing a car. but intellectual property is not and should not be mass-produced.

and heck, if you ask Bunny Debarge how much money she made off of “Dream,” she might as well have been giving it away for free. Despite the fact that that song is a Motown classic and has been sampled by the likes of Tupac and Blackstreet, she hasn’t gotten any of the royalties for it. She sells her current single on her website (http://bunny-debarge.com) for a buck, but if she chose to offer it for free as a way to get you to buy her book (or vice verse, even) then that is her prerogative because nobody is in her pocket anymore making more money off of her music than she is. Ras Kass had to fight Priority tooth and nail for ownership and the right to sell his own music, when all they wanted to do with it was throw it in a vault and let it rot. So who was looking out for the artist then? BTW Ras won, and now sells the album for $9 on bandcamp, right next to his latest single, which he gives away for free.

The music industry is more akin to the book industry. the advent of digital books has made it easier than ever before to get a book published, just like with music, and there are a gaggle of authors giving away free downloads of their books, just like with music. but the authors who give away their books use that as a marketing tool to promote their other projects, like other books they want to sell (Marvel and DC do it all the time), or paid speaking engagements, or merchandise, even just visiting their blog and where they can make money off of the ads.

There are new models of garnering income from your music other than record sales. My uncle…and my mother…made waaaaay more money from publishing than they did from record sales. not every artist is a songwriter, but every artist is a performer. and every independent artist is an entrepreneur. two of the artists I support that give away free music are Run The jewels and Random. Yes, they have music available for sale, but they also offer free music. the free albums are actually a marketing tool to get people to come to their shows and buy their merchandise. In fact, they have both held kickstarter campaigns and raised money directly from their fans in exchange for the free music. Random offered his latest album for free…to everyone who came to his shows. He still makes money off of his music, and the fans who support him get some exclusive music as a bonus. so who gets cheated?
and Run the Jewels just raised $45,000 via kickstarter off of their free album. So who got cheated? a record label that would have taken most of their profits anyway? I’ve seen way too many record labels screw over the artists responsible for their big profits to feel ANY sympathy for them.

for a lot of other artists, offering free albums and mixtapes is no different than shopping a demo – which is also giving away music for free, right? except instead of paying an agent or a lawyer or a manager to do it, they let their fans to the heavy work. Drake, Nikki, Soulja Boy, Iggy, Fiddy, Childish Gambino and KRIT all owe their careers to the free music phenomenon. That was how they all got discovered (or in 50’s case, rediscovered).

You know I got nuthin’ but love for ya, Sid, and as an industry insider I understand and respect your stance, but as an artist and creator I obviously don’t agree with it. It’s not 1984 anymore. the free music issue is only an indicator of the larger truth: Times have changed, and the old mode of doing business has gone the way of the newspaper. the industry has to evolve or die, and right now the power is shifting out of the hands of the record labels and directly into the hands of the artists…which is where it should have been in the first place.”

The Origin of Jugghead

The Origin of Jugghead

If you’ve spent any time with me or on this site, you’ll know that I dabble in music. I was fully immersed in the rap game from the mid 80’s until about 2001. I took a break from it for a few years, but after I got married, I started rhyming and producing again. If you visit my Jugghead site, you can listen to a bunch ofmy music, and download a few albums for free.

Many people have asked me why I gave myself the stagename “Jugghead.”

And the answer is a loooong one.

My first rhymes were said waaaaaay back in 1986. My and my Buddy Ed were playing on his brand new Vetrex (wow), when his older sister Ebony (Who I thought was fine as heck but I couldn’t holler at her ’cause she was 16 and I was 11) came in bouncing a mixtape featuring some guy named Doug E. Fresh. Me and Ed was feeling it so hard, we put the video game aside, picked up his old Casio keyboard with the wack preprogrammed beats, and started dropping rhymes as “Eazy E and DDT.” I was DDT because that’s the signature I use whenever I get the high score on video games. We did about three wack songs that night, but our interest in being the next great MC’s lasted about as long as our attention spans, which suffice to say weren’t that long. By the end of the night we were watching Leave it to Beaver reruns (like you didn’t. don’t front) and playing with Transformers without one single thought about getting into the rap game.

I didn’t get serious about rapping until 1989, when I First heard the D.O.C. That album is basically what sparked me to want to be an MC. It was listening to “The Grand Finale” that I wrote my first ever real rap song, “No Mars” which was a battle rap. I liked what I wrote so much I followed it up with a few other songs: “Just a Decent Guy,” “Somebody Cut The Cheeze,” and “I am The Law.” If you think those titles are corny, the actual lyrics were worse. Back then I didn’t have the nerve to actually say any of the songs I was rapping, so I just wrote. I didn’t even have a stagename.

I moved to a new neighborhood in 1990, and met up with Proffessor Crookyd (Back then he was called “Kid Vicious” I kid you not.) we got bored one day and thought, “Hey, why don’t we start a rap group?” My Moms was a professional songwriter, and had a small studio in our basement that she used. She was happy to see me take an interest in the “family business” (My dad was a bass player in a group that featured Babyface and members of Midnight Star before he married my moms) so she let us use her equipment, just so long as we didn’t break anything. We got a couple of the other boys in the neighborhood and formed “Tha Master Assassinz,” and I was MC Will, co-group leader and the producer of the group (it was my studio, so naturally I made all the beats). We did a few freestyle songs, and PC actually got me to perform those dumb songs I wrote way back, but it was nothing really serious.

That changed when my Moms got us a performance at a summer talent show on the southside of Flint. We decided that the “Master Assassinz” thing wasn’t cool enough, So we needed a new gimmick. We became “Codename I.C.E.” (No, the I.C.E. didn’t really stand for anything) after all the rappers who had ice in their names at the time (ice Cube, Ice T, Smooth Ice, Ice Cream Tee, Mixmaster Ice, you get the idea). We all had to have an ice-related name: We had R-Tek Ice, DJ Ice, The Snowman, PC was Cold Ice and I was Chilled Ice (although by the time we did the show I was Crush Ice). The performance went pretty well, to the point where we thought we could actually be a successful rap group. We were always rehearsing, and in the studio working on new demo material. since hip-hop was transitioning from the political stuff to the Gangsta stuff, our gimmick was that we were “hip-hop terrorists.” Don’t ask where we got it from. By the end of our first summer we had finished our first demo “The Debut,” which I still have a copy of somewhere, actually. I then did a solo joint (which I lost) called “Tha Monstaman,” where I tried SO hard to be the next Chuck D (but then again, who Didn’t? Everybody wanted to be the next Chuck D back then).

When High School started, the pro-black, conscious stuff was officially passé, so PC suggested we change our name and image. Now we were gangsta rappas, and our group name was ADG, for “All Day Gangstas” (Of course, ADG was also PC’s initials: Anthony Deshay Gray. Coincidence?) I changed my name appropriately to “Gangsta De” Don’t ask me where that came from. We QUICKLY changed to something else. We evolved with hip-hop, and around the time Tribe, De La and Digital Underground all dropped their second albums, we became a more laid-back, stylin’ and profilin’ hip-hop group. “S.T.Y.L.E.” was our name, for “Steppin’ To You Like Enemies.” Crook became Shay-D, and I started off as Furious Styles (yep, just like THAT Furious Styles), but after seeing the movie “FX” I changed it to Furious X. I could still do my pro-black shtick (having the X in my name), but then I could abbreviate my name to F/X and be the producer behind the scenes (Clever, huh?) S.T.Y.L.E. only lasted one demo before our members started pursuing other interests (namely, girls), but as Furious X I managed to do about 4 solo albums (“Save the Drama for Your Mama,” “Mind Games: The Next Step,” “Army of One” and “Also Known as Peasy”) before The fam came on hard times, and Moms had to pawn off all her studio equipment. (AND sell the pawn tickets. what chall know about that kind of struggle? WHAT!!!)

Now, I’ve known Hookdiggy, Waxo and Devastator for EVER, but I didn’t find out until high school that Will and Jon were doing the hip-hop thing. After we traded demos and stuff, and I told Hook about my non-studio dilemma, he recommended I get at Wax and see about laying some tracks with him. Jon was happy to do some stuff, and by graduation day I had recorded three more basement albums (“Return of the Pease,” Pease Plus: the remix album” and “Peasyman: Nuff Said.” Notice a theme?). After a while, I introduced PC to Wax and they started doing stuff. Yes, many of these songs were over other, more established artists’ music, and yes, we gave away these albums for free? You now what that means? That means we were doing the “free album/mixtape” thing approximately 25 years before it was cool. Respect.

Junior year, Crook and I formed a two man group called QnA (Quan and Anthony. Get it? CLEVER! CLEVER!!!), and he had us recording our demo “S.T.Y.L.E.” at his studio. I had gotten rid of “F/X’ and changed my name to “Peasyman,” after a nickname I earned in high school for my perpetually nappy hair. All of our peeps guest starred on it: this led to Hookdiggy and I doing our first collabo track together (“Nuthin Kan Sayve Ya”) and to us meeting Don Dada, who is related to PC and had also started recording there. Crook and I decided to go our separate ways for good after that, mainly because he wanted to take his music in one direction, and I wanted to go another way. but at the time Dev had starting rapping, so the four of us decided to form our own “supergroup” called Menace 2 Society. Then that *&@$&#$% Movie came out, and every rap group under the sun started calling themselves Menace To Society. so we just abbreviated our name to M2S and told folks that it didn’t stand for anything. We did our first basement demo “Strait Frum Tha L” and I swear we were the biggest psychopathic hardcore gangster killers in the world. We must have killed the entire population of Detroit on that album. Twice.

With that out of our system, we mellowed our sound out a bit (okay, a LOT) and around the time we went to college, we got really serious about getting our music heard. I had also decided that “Peasyman” was WAAAAY too corny a name to be up in the industry with (If I had known the industry would see such clever names as Juvenile, Magoo, Silkk Da Shocka, Trick Daddy and Lil Boosie, I would have reconsidered.) So I was about to call myself “Juggernaut,” when surprise, surprise, somebody else dropped an album going by that name. so I took the “jugg” and added “head”, and my current stagename was born.

what’s in a name? I have no idea what in the world possessed me to call myself “Jugghead.” Honestly. I tried to put some meaning behind the name, like saying my flow and style is laid back like the Jughead in Archie comics, or even going the abbreviation route like “Jesters Underestimate the Greatness of God, but He’ll Eventually Ascend from Darkness.” but nothing’s sticking. So eff it. I called myself Jugghead because it seemed like a freaking good idea at the time, which is pretty much why I do everything I do.

Next, whenever I get around to volume two, I’ll discuss the “Phalanx” years. If anybody wants the movie rights, holla.

Mood Music

Got something on my mind I need to get your input on.

You all know I’m a huge music buff. I listen to just about everything, but one my biggest loves is intellectual or “backpack” hip-hop. and over the past few months, a few of my favorite artists have released new material I’ve been peeping.

First of all, Comedian Donald Glover (from community and 30 rock) moonlights as the rapper Childish Gambino, and he’s actually pretty good. he released a concept album called “Because the Internet” which is about the confusion in his personal life and how we all have been negatively affected by the internet. Good stuff.

I’m also a big fan of underground rap legend Pharoahe Monch, and he released an album called PTSD which is actually kind of self-explanatory. It’s a concept album about depression and its causes.

The third album I picked up is from Royce Da 5’9, Joe Budden, Crooked I and Joel Ortiz, collectively known as the battle rap supergroup Slaughterhouse. It was a free album called House Rules which is a preview of their upcoming major album. but on House Rules they talked a lot about their personal struggles like losing family members to cancer and being so po’ you can’t afford the o and the r.

And the latest album i grabbed is by by my favorite rap group, The Roots. Their album is called “and then you shoot your cousin.” and it’s another concept album about dumb rap cliches and the sad, hopeless people who live by them.

Real cheery stuff, right?

Well, I didn’t think anything of the subject matter at the time, I just liked the music. I was listening to these albums on heavy rotation for the past couple of months, especially the Roots album. it’s musically brilliant and the songs haunt you. I mean, they REALLY haunt you. right now I’ve got the melodies and lyrics of a few of the songs stuck in my head. And therein lies the problem.

I just had a dream of trying to commit suicide. Believe me, guys, i have absolutely NO desire to kill myself. yeah, there’s a lot of crap in my life I wish would improve, but things could be a ton worse. I have a beautiful, loving wife, a job, a house and two cars, family that supports me through thick and thin, and great friends like you all who give me reasons to smile. I like myself, and I like my life. but in my dream, I’m literally wrestling with myself mentally, telling myself the only way my family will be safe is if i died. this dream bothered me for the rest of the day. I wondered why would I have these thoughts even subconsciously.

I had to take a serious look at the music i was listening to. Specifically these four albums, which I had been listening to more than anything else as of late. it’s basically a whole lot of sad songs about sad people leading sad lives. everyone in these songs is miserable, and I’m wondering if that has somehow filtered into my mind and made me miserable too.

Am I offbase with this? is this music really affecting my mood that much or am i overanalysing things? either way, i think I’m going to take those albums off of my playlist for a while and listen to some more positive, uplifting music. doesn’t necessarily have to be gospel, but some of that will be on the menu too. Any suggestions?

The New Breed

I admit it: I’m an old fuddy-duddy when it comes to music. I have become the guy I hated when I was a teenager: the one who hated the new music and swore that his music from his time was better than the new crap that is popular today. And for the most part that still holds true. I stopped truly paying attention to new rap artists after 2005, mainly because the stuff I had been hearing either on the radio or in the streets has been so bland and disappointing.

But recently I’ve had reason to rethink my position. I still think the vast majority of today’s hip-hop is crap, but I have to acknowledge that there are a few artists in this new generation of MC that interest me. And in my opinion, they’re all pretty darned good at rocking the mic.

So here is my informal, unofficial top ten list in no particular order (except for the #1 guy) of rappers who debuted post-2005 that I’m into. This is not an all-encompassing list, as I might (and probably will) stumble across some new MCs in the future that I want to follow (I’m looking at you, Sammus and Wordburglar), but these are the top guys on my list right now.

  1. Random. When you hear the phrase “Stay humble, stay hungry,” you don’t think that applies to most music stars. This has been the epitome of Mega Ran’s character. This is the reason why he is atop my list of “new” MCs that I follow. The fact that despite his status as a rising star in indie hip-hop, he makes himself VERY accessible to his fans. I feel less like a fan and more like a colleague and a peer: he has been a FB friend of mine (under his government name, no less) for the past 2 years, and I correspond with him regularly like I do with my closet and most trusted friends. I even sent him a link to my latest rap album (you can download it for free at http://jugghead.bandcamp.com/album/chapter-2), and he said he liked it. In addition to being a great MC, he also comes off as a likable PERSON, and that’s more important.
    on top of that, he has redefined the game for indie rap artists, proven that rappers can be successful and build careers for themselves by giving out free music, and has become one of the faces and poster children for Nerdcore. He is a master wordsmith, and quite frankly NOBODY is better at putting together a concept album. It’s basically his calling card.
    Every time he releases something new, I’m putting it on my “must grab” list. His song “Doubt Me” is one of my morning anthems to get me ready for my day. And at every opportunity I’m telling people about this guy and even sharing some of my favorite Mega Ran songs with them.
  2. Kendrick Lamar. For the longest time I was trying not to buy into K-Dot’s hype. The whole “New King Of The West” talk must have been hyperbole, right? After all, they said the same thing about Game and we saw how well that panned out. But when one of my kids finally convinced me to give the guy a shot, and I heard of the Grammy nomination, I had to dig deeper into his style. After peeping “Good Kid, mAAdCity” – and looking up the lyrics, I am firmly in the K. Lamar camp. The boy is The Truth.
  3. Childish Gambino. I don’t watch a lot of Television, and I don’t really try to get into this new breed of rapper, so in pretty much every way conceivable I slept on the work of Mr. Donald Glover. But then I hear via the blogvines about how great this “Because The Internet” album is, and I decide to give him a chance via his “Royalty” free album (I refuse to call it a mixtape). To say I was blown away would be an understatement. The dude’s use of wit and clever wordplay coupled with his Gift of Gab-like willingness to change styles and deliveries – oftentimes in midverse – along with his thoughtfulness and honesty, and you get a nice combination of talent. Oh yeah, dude also can sing and he makes his own beats. I finally checked out BTI –mainly because I’m a sucker for a concept album –  and I recommend it to everybody. Finally, unlike 99% of he MCs who claim to be rich, Bino actually has the numbers to back up his boasts. He was a superstar entertainer long before he picked up a mic.
  4. OMG. Ice cube’s youngest son carries his father’s legacy well. He has a voice similar to Cube’s and he has the same amount of confidence on the mic that Cube had, too. He claim’s his dad’s Lench Mob crew and works with Lench Mob member DJ Crazy Tunes? Bonus. I wish he’d deliver a little more social commentary like his father did, but even if he doesn’t, I like him the way he is.
  5. Yelawolf. I didn’t know anything About Yeller until I heard he got signed along with Slaughterhouse to Shady Records. I checked him out on Youtube and was immediately a fan. He has a very unique voice and delivery style, and while everybody nowadays is rapping double-time, few can do it with a style that doesn’t sound carbon copied from other rappers. Yelawolf is one of those few.
  6. Lecrae. Being a Christian fan of hip-hop, I’m actually a bit ashamed that I don’t support Christian Hip-Hop more. Aside from the likes of Da TRUTH and T-Bone, I really couldn’t tell you anything about Christ Rap. Lecrae’s mixtapes really opened my eyes to what could be done with that medium and that message. Dude is honest and insightful, without delving into a lot of the tired clichés that you hear from a lot of gospel rappers.
  7. Jon Connor. I’m not just putting him on this list because he’s from my hometown. Jon is a talented MC who actually knows a few people I’m connected to. He’s a pure MC with awesome punchlines, and a unique story to tell, which is actually a consistent theme among the new rappers I like.
  8. Big Sean. This is another local flavor, as Big Sean hails from Detroit. He’s another one I ignored “just because he’s new,” but like some of the other guys on the list, I gave him a try on his “Detroit” free album, and I was impressed. And his single “Beware” was flat out brilliant. The guy is a very polished lyricist and performer, and has a style similar to Drake’s without copying. I actually think he’s proven himself more clever.
  9. Wale & Big KRITT. The Roots endorsed these two. That’s good enough for me.

 

When you get a chance, check these guys out. I think you’ll like them as  much as I do.