HIP HOP QUESTION WHAT IS P.U.N.K.?

Razer here!  (Hell ya boy, it’s  my first post!)  I’d like to start off by saying screw Prophet The Rebel! Razer is the greatest thing to ever grace Midwest Hip Hop.  I’m also the better looking, smarter and once even battled a great white shark with my bare hands…And won!

Now that that is out of the way, I have been asked to tackle the question, What does P.U.N.K. sound like?

Well, it’s not really typical of any genre now, and I think it’s fair to say this is nothing like what you’ve heard before…Cliché, I know.  That doesn’t mean it’s indescribable.  See we love all music…From The Beatles to Lupe Fiasco, from The Offspring to Don Omar, Timbaland to Common, or Kanye to Proof.  Point is, we have a LOT of influences and we had to figure out what was the unifying thread in all this music.

As Prophet said, we have traveled a bit the last few months, met some great friends and artists (We are still hiding who for now), and we had the chance to rap on some tracks with hip hop vets we respect and admire.  During all this…We…without knowing it, were developing our sound as a group by screwing around in those studios and tour buses.

Now that we have officially decided to jump in this hip hop game as a duo,  we  knew that we had to dissect what it is that makes P.U.N.K. what it is.  So we sat down and listed to our freestyle track and all the artists that inspire us and narrowed down what we liked about each of them.  We asked ourselves: What is it about an artist and his/her music that we specifically connected to?  What we came up with is this list….

1. Meaning:  When the lyrics to a song have a reason…whether that be to give a message, convey a memory, be funny or tell a story.

2. Hooks: You know, those lines that hook in your mind and refuse to let go.  The greatest rock, punk rock, hip hop, etc. had lines, bridges or hooks that just flowed with the beat until the voice singing them became another instrument.

Now here is what we noticed, it’s seldom in the hip hop world to have  both #1 (meaning) and #2 (hooks) combine in the same song. The most catchy songs that are played on the radio rarely mean something more then shake your ass, and our favorite conscious hip hop tracks rarely have a killer hook that mainstream can get into.  So we decided to make songs that can move you to riot just as much as it can get you bobbing your head or even get you out on a dance floor. We want to create songs that you want to sing or rap along with, but also, if you bothered to take a second and listen closely to what we’re saying on that track, you would realize there’s more to our songs than just a good sound. We have something to say as well.

Now we are very aware of the repercussions that we might face.  In the end, we are risking our fans in the streets who are saying to us: Screw you guys. This sounds too good, too radio friendly. While on the other hand, the pop charts are firing from the other side telling us: Dammit, I hear what you’re saying, but write something about girls shaking their ass, or drinking Patron.  Why do you guys keep writing stuff about stuff?

The point is…When we write, we let the music dictate the flow.  And who said a good song has to be meaningless? Who said conscious hip hop can’t hit the mainstream?  We will bridge that gap.  The industry and people want us to compare our music to what’s out there to get some idea of the sound, well here you go…

What does P.U.N.K. sound like?

Imagine, if you will, that Timbaland and the Neptune’s had a baby.  Okay that’s impossible so imagine that some laboratory genetically spliced these guys and created a new entity with all the musical sensibility that allows them to make those killer catchy songs.  Okay, now imagine said mutant child was shot with a healthy dose of testosterone and grew up listening to 90’s rock like Nirvana, The Offspring Bad Religion and Green Day so that the music has this edge to it, songs about life and the problems that come with it instead of the typical club track.  Imagine that mutant child loved Sugarhill Gang, Run DMC and the Beastie Boys, and the goal was to bring that old school house party hip hop back.

As one person described us, we sound a bit like the Linkin Park of Hip Hop only with a little more fire and edge.

What we are aiming for is half the tracks to have a real organic east coast vibe tempered with another half of somewhat electronic sounds.  What you never have to worry about is us sounding like Flo Rida or T-Pain ever, EEEVERRRRR!!!!!!!!  One thing I may want to mention, as you will soon come to know in upcoming videos, Prophet and I are rather stupid, silly, joke around way too much, the class clowns if you will so you may have a track that represents our crazyness.  Don’t say I didn’t warn you, lol!

If you say, you can’t make hip hop that’s both catchy and meaningful…I say, Watch us!

We are taking the conscious battle to the front lines, to the people that most need a message and substance.  I just hope the underground conscious scene takes the time to listen to what we say. I hope the underground hip hop scene just doesn’t tune us out because of how we say it.

Recently one of our good friends listened to a pre-demo track and thought we sounded like sell outs because he couldn’t get passed how, in his words, “good” it sounded.  He said, “I don’t know. It’s good, it’s something I would expect to hear on the radio, but I’m not into that whole scene.”  Then we let him read the lyrics.  That’s all it took for him to understand and say, “Hell yeah! Hip Hop needs this. Hip Hop needs P.U.N.K.”

P.U.N.K. has arrived!

P.U.N.K. has arrived!

Never Give Up On Hip Hop

Never give up on hip hop. Never give up on a dream.  That’s what I learned this week.

As you know, last week sucked.  My B-sides debut went horrible, my mom has been struggling with her health, and Dwayne screwed me over big time.  My sanity has been pushed to the limit and as you could probably tell, I cracked just a bit.  But Razer would not let me slip for too long. Thanks to him, I headed back to B-sides.

As I got off the bus and walked up, you could hear the freestyles from up the street.  MC after MC spitting their best rhymes trying to outdo the other.

“Yo man you wanna jump in the cypher?” A guy shouted out to me.

Razer’s words came back to me: You want to be a legend or battle on the streets for the rest of your life?  You want to be a rapper or an artist? A battler or a hip hop poet?

“Naw I’m good man,” I said and headed down the stairs to B-sides.

I sat there a bit…Worried…anxious…second guessing myself and occasionally peering over at the exit.  I remember thinking to myself: I could walk out now and no one would even know. Almost as soon as I thought it, I shook my head. No Proph, you will stay and prove you have something to offer Cleveland hip hop.

Just then one of the hosts said, “So where are the noobs tonight?  Who have we not heard from?  You there, the ruggedly handsom man with all the women (okay I added that), we haven’t heard from you yet!”

Proph: “Uhh me? Yes you have. I was here last week.”

The host quickly fired back: “Yeah, but that was a freestyle.  Can Prophet The Rebel spit poetry?”

How could I walk away from that challenge?

I stood up and said confidently, “Yeah. Yeah, I got something to say.”  Truth is…I may have sounded confident but inside, I was dying. I was a complete mess and on the verge of a full blown anxiety attack.  I stepped on the stage, closed my eyes, and sent off a quick prayer: God please be with me right now, I need your help.

As I opened my eyes, all I remember is those bright lights, my palms dripping with sweat and a microphone that at that moment seemed to pick up every single subtle sound and amplified 100x over the loud speaker.

Here we go… “Now listen. No word to your mother I’m serious. Quiet down and listen……”

Somewhere on that stage, a transformation occurred.  I heard my words echoing behind me; My own syllables and rhymes were blasting out the speakers, the audio waves physically crashing against my back.  My fears were now gone. The words and I were one in the same, and before I knew what hit me, the phrase exited my mouth.

The silence erupted with applause, snapping me back to reality.  Isaiah Isaac had finally become Prophet The Rebel.

A Cleveland Hip Hop Debut To Remember

What could go wrong?  I had my bus money. I had my cover charge. I had a positive mind frame, and I had a game plan.  I would get on the bus, head to Coventry, enter B-Sides round 9pm, watch some artists, hit the stage at 10:30, and then head back home.  Simple, right?  WRONG!

I got in B-Sides fine. And at about 9:30/10ish I went to sign up to perform.  I was scheduled to debut at 10:45pm.  There was no turning back now.  Cleveland Hip Hop was about to welcome a new MC, one Prophet The Rebel.

While I was waiting for my stage debut,  I mingled with some cool cats, watched some amazing Cleveland poets and started to flirt with two very fine looking women.  Two things began to hit me at that point.

1)  I had to get ready for my performance.

2)  Why the hell am I flirting with these girls!?  What am I supposed to say at the end of the night “Hey you wanna come back to my place?  The bus will be here in about 45 minutes. We can hop on and go back to my crib.”

FOCUS PROPH

Yeah, I ended up leaving my new found friends and headed on up to the stage.  While waiting in line, I started talking to the guy ahead of me.  Somehow in the conversation I mentioned that I was an MC.  That’s when the guy in charge says, “You’re a rapper?  You can’t go up!  Rappers don’t go up until the second half of the night.”

FUCK!

Immediately, I started the calculations…If I can’t go up until the second half of the night, then I wouldn’t get on that stage until 12:30am at the earliest.  Problem with that is that the buses stop running at midnight.  But I said I would do this…I said there was nothing that would stop me, so bus or not, I was gonna stay put.

One a.m.  roles by, and it’s FINALLY my time.  I headed to the bathroom real quick to get my head right.  Looking in the mirror (ironically, it reminded me of that  scene in of 8 Mile), I tried to shake my nerves and compose myself.  I hear the last MC finishing up (my cue that I’m next), took a deep breath and went up on the stage.

I stood there…Lights burning down on me…Crowd staring, and the band behind me anxiously waiting.  Three, two, one…I took one last deep breath and thought, My freestyle was not going to fail tonight.  I was determined to live up to the hype.

The band fired up, and we were off.  I let loose in a verbal onslaught.  My words and the beat started pounding through the speakers, filling that basement club with my hip hop debut. Both the crowd and time itself seemed to melt away as I performed; I was completely lost in the moment.  Finally, after 4-5 straight minutes of non-stop rhyming off the top of my dome, I finished my last few words perfectly in sync with the band.

And then it happened…….

Nothing!  Absolutely nothing!  I stood there, and it was silent…Not a sound…Not from me, not from the crowd, not from anyone.  You could hear a pin drop.  It only lasted 5-10 seconds but it felt like an eternity until finally my two lady friends from earlier clapped which really made me seem more pathetic.  The ringleader of the night was like “Okay thank you Prophet” in an almost condescending way. (Then again, I could have been reading into that reaction too much.)

Nothing?!  NOTHING?!  I got NOTHING?!

It could only mean one of two things–I either killed it and people had no words; or I sucked, and people were not going to applaud.  I, of course, figured it was the worst of those two options, grabbed my coat and headed home.

I did a lot of thinking on my 30 minute, cold ass lonely walk home.  I arrived back at my crib pissed and confused.  That’s when I decided to call Razer.  I went off on his voice mail, venting all my frustrations. I told him all about the wonderful reception I had, and I told him about how my beat makers haven’t been doing shit lately. I even complained that if  he tells me one more time about how having a car is expensive and a pain in the ass, then I may punch him. Then I wrapped it up saying how fuckin pissed I was and how I  needed to focus on my freestyles and battle raps. Of course, I ended on a high note: “Damnit! Something has to change, and if you have a problem with it, then go fuck yourself!”

So folks, that was my night!

FYI:   I was a little more level-headed and in a little better spirits when Razer aka The RZR called me back this afternoon (Granted, this was after I wrote the majority of my pity-party post above).  So now, I am not as angry as I was when I wrote this but it does represent how I felt at that moment.  So I will leave it as is.  Expect more in the future because B-Sides, I ain’t done with your ass yet!

Razer Hip Hop Two Cents

So Razer The RZR calls me up this week and says,  “What’s up Proph? How was B-sides, and are you ready to go on our next lil trip?  It should only take a day to get up to this studio, and this guy is psyched to hear you do your thing!  I’m not even gonna tell ya who it is cause you’ll flip.”

Remembering that horrible night at B-Sides and how I thought the hip hop sky was falling, I responded: “I don’t know man.  I’m just not feeling it right now.”

I told him the whole story and waited to hear him tell me how much I blew it or how there will be other days or something.  But he didn’t.  In fact…his take was entirely different from what I had expected.  He said simply said, “So?!”

Proph :  “Uh what do you mean, so?”

Razer :  “I mean so what!?  Look, it was just a battle, just freestyling…So what?!  Come on, it’s not talked about much, but you and I both know that the truth is 75% (if not more) of “freestyling and battling” is pre-written or pre-practiced rhymes.  MC’s go into their mental rolodex and grab a line here or rhyme there and paste together a flow in some juvenile attempt to make the other MC look bad (minus maybe you and a select few others.)  After all, who the hell else can rap about Star Wars on the cuff like you pulled off on the radio.  That was crazy and hilarious!”

Then he went on, “You know what? Freestyles don’t sell!  At best, freestyles are what their name implies, “free.”  I (Razer The RZR) got tired of hearing my rhymes on other peoples stuff  back in the days, but what do you expect when you hand out freestyles?  People aren’t downloading freestyles onto their Zunes and iPods. They aren’t played on the radio, and they don’t make music videos to them.  The hours rappers put into crafting their mental rolodex could be better spent working on song structure, learning how to write a hook and how to best “ride” a beat.  Nas said it best man, ‘Hip hop needs to grow up.’  We need to focus on the music, not on lyrical cock-measuring contests.  So you got beat in a meaningless freestyle.  But can you write better then him? Can you compose a more meaningful rhyme?  There is a reason why people like Nas and Saul Williams grab a pen and a pad and take time crafting a song…Because their rhymes are poetic hip hop masterpieces.”

Razer finished up by saying something like this: “You want to be a legend or battle on the streets for the rest of your life?  You want to be a rapper or an artist? A battler or a hip hop poet?  Oh and as for that review, just never let it happen again.  Work so damn hard, practice so damn much that critics may be able to say they don’t like your music. After all, not everyone’s taste is the same. But they will never doubt your drive, determination and sacrifice to the art.  That’s just my hip hop two cents!”

So I admit…He may have a point.  It kind of picked me back up. I ended up telling him: “You know…You may be right.  I’ll be ready in a few hours to head out.  And with that I am off to hand out, network and meet some more people in the “Industry.”

But I’m also interested in hearing my Punk Revolution Blog readers’ take…What’s your 2 cents?

Drop me a comment.

Cleveland Hip Hop’s Sky Might Fall

The sky might fall; It may have fallen; It is falling! However way you want to put it, Tuesday night’s rendez-vous at B-Sides sucked!

It’s been a long time since my battling days, and I admit, it’s been a long time since I battled people in hip hop on a daily basis. It’s been an even longer time since Kid Cudi and I faced off.  Why am I reminiscing on my rap battling days, and where am I going with this?  Well, let me bring you up to speed on how B-sides went…

The night started off on a bad foot.  A few hours before I headed over to B-sides I decided to read some of my reviews for The Aperture.  It all started well enough “Isaiah Isaac presents a far more pleasant human being, but” (there had to be a “but”) doesn’t quite have the discipline or acting chops to stay in character…” . I know that criticism is part of the learning and growing process, but this one really hit me hard.  I couldn’t help but start thinking: Where does this guy get the right to tell me I don’t have the chops?  If I was that horrible…Then how did I get the part? How was I able to breeze by to the top of the class in the theater department? How come no one else seems to think so low of me? I’ve been getting raving reviews about how far I have grown as a performing artist…Until now.

Of course last Tuesday, somewhere deep in the back of my mind I let this critic get to me. I started thinking, “Maybe he is right.”  Not that I don’t have the chops…But maybe I did not dedicate myself enough to the role.  I’ll admit, I have trouble buckling down, staying focused and doing what has to get done.  When I should study, I don’t. When I should be practicing, I often chill with my friends instead. When I am supposed to write…I’d rather play video games.

Maybe the review stings so much because I know I could have done better. Although I think he was too harsh, maybe some part of it was true.  (Side note: This is not the mind frame one should be in before their debut, but that’s exactly where I was when I picked up the bus to B-Sides.)

I headed in and asked about the night’s events.  They gave me the 411,  but told me I had to leave until the open mic night began, which fortunately for me was another hour and a half wait.  I figured that I could use the extra time to clear my head.

I headed back outside where a bunch of people had got together to cypher (a circle in which people take turns freestyling).  One group caught my ear because of how hot one of the MC’s was spitting his game.  I jumped on in the circle and waited until I got my chance to jump in.  When the timing was perfect, I stepped in and began flowing, but I got a little overzealous.  (I say this because this friendly cypher was about to transform.)

As I did my thing, the crowd got hyped, and the air filled with the sound of “ohhhs.”  This did not sit well with the cypher’s original star, Freddie.  He cut me off and switched it from freestyling to direct attacks at me. The battle had begun.  He came at me, and I cut him off and spit right back in his face. The crowd grew silent, he took a step closer into my personal space. I took a step closer into his. We were eye to eye, nose to nose. His rhymes got more and more vicious until finally….finally… I just stopped.  I was beaten, hands fuckin down beat.  This 18 year old kid had me.  For the first time, the crowd erupted with an earsplitting “OHHHHHHHHHHH,” and this time it was not for me.

Defeated and at an all time low I headed into B-sides.

Door Guy : “Five Dollars!”

Proph : “Huh?” I responded.

Door Guy : “Five Dollars to get in,” he said.

Proph : “But I was already in the bar, you guys told me to step out a sec so you could get all set up.”

Door Guy : “Yup, and now it’s five dollars to get in.”

Proph : “But all I got is bus fare!”

Door Guy : “Then sorry bro you’re not getting in.”

With that I headed back up the stairs and waited for the bus and wouldn’t you know it, at a bone chilling 40 something degrees, the rain came pouring down.

I made it home soaked, defeated and thoroughly depressed.

It was not a good night…

Prophet The Rebel out!

Hip Hop Gods: Enter New Guy – Stage Left

So I’ve been working with this guy on the job.  We hardly work together because he is only there like once a week, if even that.  He’s only there as a very part time side job.  He’s a pretty cool guy, but what is really bugging me is that his name sounds familiar…Maybe just cause his name is a sport. (This kid’s name is pronounced “hockey,” and I don’t have a clue if that’s really how you spell it!) Anyway, his name sounds really familiar, and I keep having this feeling that I’ve met him before. At least that’s what I thought until I went to a freestyle session with my boyz and told them how we gotta have this guy over to play some Xbox 360, (Chemist still has his).

When I said the name, someone looked at me and said, “Is this guy from Detroit?”

“Uh…Yeah! How did you know he was from Detroit?”

“You idiot! Don’t you realize who you are working with?!”  He ran over to the CD rack and dusted off a three-year-old hip hop album from a Detroit rapper named Razer. I looked through the CD booklet, and sure enough, the guy I work with is Razer.

My boy told me, “Razer was hot shit back when his CD hit the Detroit hip hop underground scene, but finding info on him now is slim to none.  He disappeared almost as fast as he appeared.”

Then it all came back to me, I am an idiot! I just met him a little while ago at a concert and took a picture with him and Matisyahu.  Hell I was so hyped about it I  even wrote a Starstruck post about Razer and Matisyahu! I completely did not recognize Razer at work.  (Hey in my defense, Razer has grown out his hair long, has a beard, and was not in his usual attire.)

While I sat there wondering how I could have missed it, my friends jumped onto the internet. Twenty minutes and a Google search later, we verified it. He is/was the guy once known, Razer or The RZR to some, a Detroit rapper who is one of the Midwest’s finest emcees, IMHO.

That’s why his name sounded familiar, and that’s when I had an idea. He may be the key to this whole crazy midwest hip hop plan.  Stay tuned because  I’m definitely gonna confront this guy about our project, and find out what happened to him, and how the hell he winded up in Cleveland! And when I’m done compiling his story, I’m going to convince Razer to help me out with my hip hop dream!

First thing’s first though, I’m gonna get a picture with him for my Punk Revolution Blog to prove that I’m not a total moron, and he really does look different.

Be You

Another change in my life recently occurred.  I have a bad back, a really bad back that got messed up in a sparring match back in the days. Probably due to my work and finished off by moving my furniture, my back has literally become a pain in the ass.  So much so that although I loved my last job, I had to move on.  Bouncers with bad backs don’t last long.   I decided to pick up a job surrounding myself with something else I love…video games! A friend of mine was working at Gamestop and got me a job there, and it’s been great so far.  Well the job is great, the waiting at a freezing ass bus stop is not so much.  The thing is, even though I moved on a bit, the free stylin battles from my old gig followed me to my new one.

Last night, an old friend came to visit me and brought his cousin, a man who quote “was a real emcee.”  He heard Prophet on the radio and you guessed it, wanted to battle me.  I asked my boss if I could step outside for a second, and we were off.  He was good, real good actually. But in the end, I won.  He told me how great I was and asked me if I had any tips, which was a first for me.  Most people aren’t that respectful.  I thought about it and realized that I did have some advice.

I told him “Be you!”

“What do you mean?” he asked.

“I mean be you!” I said. If there is one thing I have learned recently, it is that you need to be true to yourself, truly be you.  “Look, you got skills man, but I can tell your trying to be a cross of Lil Wayne & Soulja Boy.  And when I look at you, your clothes, the way you talk, its obvious that that just isn’t you.” I continued. “Either you’re posing in your dress, or you’re posing in your rapping style, and I am betting it’s the rapping style you’re copying.  I get it. Those guys are big, and it’s easy to emulate whats on the radio…what your friends like, trying to please everyone but yourself…But that kind of a lifestyle can lead you down a dangerous path. Trust me, I’ve been down that path, and it ain’t pretty. You end up losing the ones you love and hurting yourself.

As those words came out of my mouth, I realized that I wasn’t following my own advice.  Yeah, I have come a long way from my days of acting like a thug, but here I was rapping with the Alumni Elite about guns, drugs, bitches and real life.  The only one of those topics that was “me” was the real life part.  I decided right then and there that whether my crew likes it or not, I need to branch out musically and do what feels right. I don’t care if the streets or the underground or the radio like it or not.  When I am me, that’s when people gravitate towards me. So you’ve heard it right here right now. It’s time to really be me, a nonconforming, undefinable punk in every sense of the word.

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