Tuesday, December 28, 2010
Monday, November 29, 2010
Monday, November 15, 2010
Wednesday, November 3, 2010
Wednesday, August 25, 2010
Monday, July 12, 2010
When the record was recorded, that week was very eventful and one of the things that happened (and a keen ear can hear it in the leanings of some of the music here) is that I was dealing with the sudden happening of my dog, King Ramses, having to be put down. In that...well, the album is bittersweet to me.
Jordan's being in town slightly coincided with McDonald's release of its Sweet Tea so, the line on Midnight Love at 2 am "I need you in my life like sweet tea" was literally because of his obsession with the drink at that time. We had a few trips to get some, thats for sure.
There's a track called Day to Day that didn't make this record, for whatever reason, with a 18-20 bar verse of mine that I can actually rap at any moment, off the top. My friend Noah, at the time, was around so, we allowed him to get in on singing the chorus, which he did off the top of his head and without writing it down. It was fun and, to be honest, I've no idea how it DIDN'T make it on the record.
Originally, we wanted to call the group, "Conduct Lionhardt and Jordan Santana will blow you to Smithereens," or, "the Smithereens." Didn't take long for us, however, to discover a group that went by the name already so, we went back to the drawing board or, in this case, to some stuff that influence us. Big nod to the film "Royal Tannenbaums" for being so awesome and quirky. Thus, we re-christened ourselves the Royal Applebaums. Like a hip hop version of Gene Hackman and Danny Glover. (bet Jordan might put that in a future verse...)
The album cover is my sketchy take on the Original art for the Mad Hatter's Tea Party, from early cover art for Alice in Wonderland. I had this idea (and I will eventually do more than just some random Spider-Man villain images I've done for my nephew) to draw with a pencil and white on brown paper bags. I set out to do that with this cover but, I really messed up by leaving all my art stuff behind in Pittsburgh, as this cover wasn't drawn until my trip to Arizona last year. Ha, ha. So, while there, I went and got some colored pencils and some construction paper (since I couldn't find something akin to brown paper bag there) and did that with 2 different browns, peach, and white. Amazingly, it doesn't look that bad to me...but its far from what I envisioned. The paper bag adds this grainy old look and I can strip the image a bit to make it look like a worn cover. Alas, should have, could haves... But, take note of how freaked out I made Jordan on the image, with me winking to him as to say, "Yeah, it is trippy but it will be okay, dun son."
So yeah, that was the extra bits. Hope you enjoyed them. Next post will be about...something else!
- Conduct Lionhardt
Friday, July 9, 2010
Wednesday, June 9, 2010
I'm a huge fan of the sequential art forms, especially Graphic novels and comics. Some of my favorites have been ones were, either, the artist/writer team was on for a storyline of determined issue count or, mini-series with a predetermined start-middle-climax. I just find some comfort in knowing that a thing isn't going on forever...just because. Ha, ha. I think its really my desire for a thing to relate too. In my life things begin, happen, and then end so I feel more comfortable with my fictional intact doing the same. Or...maybe its more than that.
We often seem to relate a thing's greatness or importance to our own personal "circle" of perspective. If you can attache a moment of your life, or a flight of individual desire you've had to it, its usually more appealing. But (and this could be just me) I tend to think that there's this larger perspective out there which differs from my own that is...well, to be honest, a wider view than my little "circle" allows me. What this has to do with the subject at hand is that, for the most part, we all have portions of existence and experiences that we want to end. A finale, to a certain extent, is a culmination of events that, in the end SHOULD bring about...SOMETHING. That's why we watch a movie all the way through or, watch the last episodes of our favorite TV season. We want that...THING to happen! Spur my thoughts! Shock me! Flip the fictional paradigm! That's what a finale. Its FINAL... in some ways. (finale is a funny word. I thinks its inappropriately used, though)
Its an end, yet, funny enough, endings and finales usually lead to some kind of beginning. Since, as the phrase would have you believe, "Life goes on," when you come to an end it immediately creates a beginning. I finish a graphic novel and then I have choices of what to do NEXT. That's a beginning, people. I have to START what I'm going to do once I've placed that book down...or after those credits have rolled...or after I break up with the girl...or the school year ends and summer begins.
My overall point? Sweet Christmas, I dunno. It could be plenty of things but, personally, looking at the end of a school year and seeing some of my students from youth group either heading into a summer break or leaving for college, I look at it is both a finale (with all the requisite pomposity of such things) as well as a beginning.
And like any other person who faces the end and then ponders or takes timid steps, I'm looking forward...to what begins next.
- Conduct Liohardt
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
It actually began about 2 months back when some people who have known me for a considerable enough amount of time, were surprised to "discover" I both illustrate as well as write music. It took me aback because, in my mind, these are some of the most apparent aspects of who I am (second, only to, I think, my status as being the definition of my birth name) and are things I talk about THE MOST. However, it was such a strange reaction from these people that it began a PROPER analysis of what, exactly, my image is projecting out there...and whether I needed to change it or not.
I discovered that people believe me to be a staunchly "private person", one prone not to share things that are "really going on with me." Furthermore, I am "soft spoken" and usually a guy who "sits and observes things from the background," with a demeanor thats both "comforting" and "cool."
Some of that stuff (riddled with direct quotes) is a bit shocking to me.
Here's the thing, though (getting to the point before losing the audience): I've started to realize that maybe my view of the Self and how it is visually seen by those around me, isn't the same as the one everyone is ACTUALLY viewing. (cue theme music to "That boy has an EGO") Much like how companies want to create a "brand" for people to instantly recognize, in some ways, we have to do that for ourselves. Now, before people freak out on some "Conduct's going corporate!" I want to clarify here: I'm NOT saying THAT. Far from it, I believe. My thought here is, you can't expect that because you ARE something that people will just know it. Its more than that. Your actions, your words, where you go, who you are with...these things all say so much about the type of person you are and what should be ASSUMED about you. It is up to you to make the right choices in how to approach life and establish the way you will be visualized within it.
I don't think many of people realize this. There are plenty that wish for a "better life" or "better job" who don't get that in order to have your existence change YOU have to be willing to change YOU. Sadly, some people go too far with it and lose themselves in the search for "gains."
It's a tricky thing to peg down. I obviously haven't mastered it, myself. But, as I seek to become better at that while staying true to the Hope I have in Christ, I know one day it will be an easy task for people to recognize all the major aspects of what I am, what I do, and whom I'm all about. That ability to let Self...or (at least) a visualization of, be very apparent to those who's paths I cross, won't be the trouble that it is right now.
- Conduct Lionhardt
Now, look, I just terribly troubled or offended people by saying that. Unfortunately, I think, therein lays the problem and its one you probably never stopped to think of:
"How much importance does music have over my daily existence?"
I know, some of you may not think that because you play music daily that it is a bad thing and, to be honest, I'm not saying that it is...per se. The truth I'm pointing to here is that many of us don't see the option of music being turned off as a viable one.
When you go to drive to the store to get a drink, MUSIC IS ON.
Waiting for the bus on the way to work or school and, MUSIC IS ON IN HEADPHONES.
You are heading out to play some sports or work out and to get psyched up, YOU TURN ON SOME ROWDY MUSIC.
And, those are just some examples. I could have talked about how we use it to heal grief, to have sympathetic connection for our longing, to enhance our feelings of sadness or happiness...its a long list, folks.
But, whether those are good ways (or bad) to use it, well, its subjective. I'm only speaking of it, though, because I had an experience that I found helpful and thought some of you may want to try in that, I read a scripture that I finally paused on long enough to take seriously: 2 Corinthians 6:12 - "Everything is permissible for me" - but not everything is beneficial. "Everything is is permissible for me" - but I will not be mastered by anything.
This scripture made me stop and think and I wanted to look into what it spoke to me so, I began taking things that were "habits" or stuff I just did all the time, and stopped doing them. Sometimes I take a week, a few times I did months. I stopped watching weekly tv for 3 months. I cut my internet time down to 3 hours a week for about a year. I spent 3 weeks without music on.
What I ultimately learned is that these things I indulged in, especially music, have their place and time...but they aren't NECESSARY to my day-to-day. I am more than just the songs I listen to and how those relate to my feelings or stir them. Now, when I choose to turn it on, I can listen to music and enjoy it for what it is...or I can sit, walk, ride, etc, without it. I find that those moments are ones where my thoughts are at their most crisp, where my clarity is dominant and shines through on what concerns my heart. Its where I hear God the clearest as I pray.
And regardless of whether you want to take that time to pray or not, I think if you just Stop the Music for a little while, you'll learn some things...and maybe even hear something that usually gets drowned out by the cacophony:
- Conduct Lionhardt
Wednesday, March 3, 2010
However, between the reviews, interviews, and general thoughts I would like to share stuff that is, perhaps, helpful to those going through similar things.
One of my favorite songs is one from a guy named Sintax The Terrific called, "A Mantra to Breath to." He shares a few things in the song I found to be very positive thoughts to have on a day-to-day basis, things that are hopeful and challenging. I'm not much of a lyricist to say I could write as poignant a song as this but, in my devotions, I found a scripture which has really helped and encouraged me through the current situations I've found myself in.
So, this is my "Mantra to Read through." I hope it speaks to you, as well:
2 Corinthians 6:4-10 (New International Version)
4Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; 5in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; 6in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; 7in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left; 8through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors; 9known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; 10sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything.
I don't expect everyone to get it like I do. Its just something that I read and found rather fitting.
- Conduct Lionhardt
Tuesday, January 12, 2010
A member of the rap collective lovingly referred to as the Scribbling Idiots, Wonder Brown and I came to know each other first from message board posts, then last summer in person. I've cherished his thoughtful friendship as well as his unique talent. After hearing an older EP he put together "the Wake," I knew that I would be looking forward to his new work. Here I interview him on a good bit of both personal and professional things, while also speaking on his recently released new album, "the Gallows."
Conduct: I've always been wondering (no pun intended) where did you come up with the rap handle, Wonder Brown?
Wonder Brown: Lol, Wonder Brown was actually born from street ball. As much effort as I put into my music and writing, I used to put into "ballin'." You've seen me in person, and so you know that I've never looked the part. I'd even look stupid on purpose, socks jacked up to the knees, long hair flowing from underneath a headband - even miss a few shots pre-game on purpose - whatever it took to gain an edge. Cue clowning, "hey, look at wonder bread over there" and presto, I've got my edge. I still get the same kind of looks or remarks with rapping and performing to this day. The game starts, and all I had to do was wait for the ball. Crossover, spin dribble, between the legs lay up, and the whole atmosphere would go bananas; and I'd never say a word (except "DRAINO" when I'd shoot a three). Soon enough, cats weren't calling me wonder bread anymore, they were calling me wonder brown because they wondered why I wasn't brown. The only nickname I've ever had became something much deeper.
Conduct: That’s by far and away the funniest and, in many ways, deep story I’ve heard about a rap handle. Ha, ha, ha!
Conduct: The most recent releases I know I've heard you on were, Kings of Tragedy and Scribbling Idiots mix-tape 2 but, just how long ago were the verses written and recorded for those?
Wonder Brown: The verse for Idiomatic 2 was recorded while I was briefly living in
Conduct: So the Kings record is the most recent raps? That’s awesome. Someone totally snaked me for my copy as we were cleaning up the stage and equipment. Ah, you have to love those outdoor shows…
Conduct: So, these new projects you've been working on would be the most current example of your sound?
Wonder Brown: Yeah, "my sound" has been a struggle to find direction with the beats I've been given or come across. Personally, a beat or melody brings something out of me, and the best way I could ever describe it would be to say that every beat has a song, every melody has a word, and my job is to find that word, as freely as possible - while keeping the integrity of the inspiration I've been given and the art I want to express. I love rapping, I love singing, but most of all I love making a good song - lyrical, melodic movies in three minute increments.
Conduct: Yeah, that is how I see songs too. Okay, let's take this back a bit, I became a true fan of yours when I heard "the Wake" EP, that you did over Theory Hazit production. Around what time was that put together?
Wonder Brown: "The Wake EP" was a mash up of songs and ideas I had in my head, and my rhyme books, that I was able to record in sessions at Theory's house. He was always so busy working on his own projects, recording many different artists around Cincinnati, making a eleventy-bagillion beats, etc, that I was trying to find where I fit in - which is something I always do. Plus, I had no clue what I was doing, just following a dream I'd had my whole life. I was surrounded by a hundred "gospel rappers," and I thought that was an interesting approach, but not even close to what I wanted to do. Mix in a fragile era in my faith walk, and my world ever-changing and always in the midst of some issue or drama, that I was seeking peace with my art - firstly, my spoken word/poetry, secondly, my rapping abilities and musical aspirations. Eventually I got to a point where I felt all these old songs I'd written couldn't clearly reflect where I was artistically, spirituallly, etc... until Theory stepped in and urged me to put something out. "The Wake EP" was born.
Conduct: My favorite jam, as I've mentioned entirely TOO MUCH to you, was “Namesake,” about your father, stepfather, and mother. It is really an impactful song to me, even though my experiences were vastly different. What things acted as a catalyst to you writing that song?
Wonder Brown: I learned, over such a strenuous, tumultuous time in my life, that simply putting my pen to a pad of paper was all I needed to exorcise demons, if you will. To release frustration and "say something" as well. Previously, I had been a part of a poetry movement at the
Wonder Brown: I play with the experiences, sometimes purposely trying to write free-verse poetry, sometimes picking a topic and sticking to it, and sometimes just seeing what comes out. Diversity is immensely important to me, and it keeps my spirit open to possibilities where the Holy Spirit can come along and use me for who know what. A good song is worth the journey, no matter what happens from start to finish, and the less the expectations, I've found, the better the song.
Conduct: Wow. Lately I’ve been finding that out as well in my writing. I used to have precise structure and the concept mapped from start to finish but, as with my illustrating, I’m finding that the journey takes me to better places when I’m…I guess “open.”
Conduct: I've been thinking about music this year and, for me, I haven't really found too much that's inspired me, when it comes to our neck of the woods in Hip Hop. How's do you feel the year has been for newer hip hop releases? Anything good or inspiring stuff you've run across?
Wonder Brown: To be honest, I've been so busy working on music, performing all over the midwest and east coast, and mixing and mastering new projects, that I haven't listened to much new hip hop. I'm inspired by eclectic sounds, so coming across the newest Radiohead last year, has really inspired me for this year. My crews music really inspires me... I've truly been blessed to be surrounded by my homies who are truly unselfish in their approaches to art and expression, which spoils me - I never need to check for something that just dropped when I can hit up one of the Idiots for what they're working on...and best believe it's always dope!!
Conduct: Your crew, Scribbling Idiots, is a really active group. To mind, I'm thinking that within the last 365 days that either digitally or physical CD release, there have been, like, 8 projects you've put out. Is this by plan or have you all been stocking up material to just flood the world with?
Wonder Brown: We had a plan, which was to record and perform with each other for a season, and then build each other up while recording solos and side projects. At first, it seemed like our plan would be a disaster, since our true desires to tour together never really came to fruition, but part of our desires in building each other up were also in God's plans. What you hear from us is really kind of an exponential effect of continually working on music, whether together or apart, and since time is of the essence, we don't really have the luxury of sitting on projects and trying to spread them out. One thing that we have done together is take the EP idea and created S.I. monthly, spinning off of CasMetah Monthly, and we'll be dropping a new EP every month for people who subscribe. Just what you need, more of us to love!!!
Conduct: On the same token, do you ever think of what the other side of that many projects being released can be? We live in a world that's gotten really comfortable with the "instant gratification" and being able to get a million songs on your player in a day. The music business is having to constantly change the aspects of how music is reaching the consumer and with the advent of these things, is it a better idea to drop projects more frequently to remain in the mind of listeners?
Wonder Brown: You know, I've thought about the ramifications of everything I've done, from the words I've recited and sung, to the sounds I've used, to the continual release of new material, and I've found one answer to continually ring true in my heart. Stay true. To the art. To yourself. To God. The rest will take care of itself. Even our mixtapes have been of mostly original material, so what you hear is a clear reflection of us as a collective, as well as each of us as individuals. As far as I'm concerned, if the music drops every month, six months, or six years, staying true will ALWAYS be relevant.
Conduct: That’s a great mindstate to have. So, uh, how did you and MC Till hook-up to form "Kings of Tragedy?"
Wonder Brown: MC Till and I inevitably were gonna work together, and two years ago that finally happened. He had moved to
Conduct: I found that seeing the presentation you and MC Till bring to the Kings of Tragedy live shows is very different to what alot of people are doing in Hip Hop. Was it a love of drama that made you guys go that route?
Wonder Brown: Our original set, which incorporated miming with overdubs in between the tracks we mixed together on a cd, came out of a mutual desire to do more than just rap on stage. In the convos we had while at GMA's, we lined up on a lot of creative ideas, and both believed that rapping live was boring. Most hip hop shows are wack, especially if the crowd isn't engaged. We also both agreed that forcing the crowd to move wasn't our cup of tea, so we decided to go a different route. While brainstorming for our trip, I thought playing off the trip as part of our set would be dope, with a little acting, but didn't have the time to come up with a bunch of dialogue, so on a lazy Sunday, we got together and created a set from scratch that would incorporate all the sounds of a road trip, and came up with a script that we could record in between beats, and mime as if we could read each other's thoughts - the type of odd things that might happen on a long road trip. That experience kinda opened our eyes to a mutual desire to act, that if given ample time, we could truly incorporate into our live presentation, and even our music. With the Kings of Tragedy LP, we were able to do that on all levels, and really flex our creative muscles.
Conduct: I thoroughly enjoyed the live show you guys do. It is really interesting because, it has the space to adapt to any kind of audience and, to me I’ve always felt that in many regards, rap shows can be a tough sell to people who really aren’t that into the style of music. Most of the people you performed for at the show I co-hosted weren’t fans of rap music. But they left with a real love for the show and the music you guys did. Have you received a lot of response like this from the various shows and venues the Kings of Tragedy play?
Wonder Brown: Yeah, we actually have! Our objective was to do just that, with something original, something thought provoking, something simple, something that could reflect the dichotomy of simplicity and complexity within the Truth...but mostly just to have fun and share that exact desire to others. It just so happens that we rap and sing.
Conduct: This is the portion of the interview where I offer you a free space to place whatever comes to mind and share something funny, informative or profound to the people. Got a word for them?
Wonder Brown: Free space hey? I have a quote on the front of my myspace page, "I believe in free will and unconditional love"...I think if the world, especially the Body of Believers, were to contemplate those things and put "them" to use, I wouldn't have to write another word. That day would be divinely sweet, waiting to exhale, death and the reception of heaven's peace kinda sweet. Check the new material for more words and stuff.
Conduct: Last, but not least, I give you the chance to play interviewer and ask me one question. What do you want to know?
Wonder Brown: Okay, question. What kind of legacy do you think the Scribbling Idiots will leave for this world? Second question (can't help myself), why is what we do necessary?
Conduct: This is actually a tough one. I haven’t seen way too many groups leave a massive legacy in rap so, since there are a great deal out there its often tough to pin down which will “make it” or not (especially with each crew’s distinctly different view on what “making it” is.) For how I see your group, I’d think that you will leave a legacy of interesting styles of hip hop, under the banner of a “crew.” What you do is necessary because, regardless of what preferences some prefer, your group is striving to get the music OUT THERE to the people, not just your fans, but to THE PEOPLE. A lot of crews have a different way in which they operate and seek to get across their message. Scribbling Idiots do A LOT of live performing and put out stuff monthly. I think that’s needed to both, battle with the pace of music’s availability as well as, to challenge/inspire other artists to get serious with their work ethic.
Thank you for “Conducting Thoughts” with me.
(Wonder Brown's "the Gallows" can be previewed at http://www.myspace.com/wonderbrown and purchased at http://www.scribblingidiots.com/catalog)