Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Hope Full

Hope Full

I'm really rather bad at blogging, I think.

I mean, lets face it, a large portion of people blog on a daily basis because they think that people need to hear their thoughts. That's the point of having Facebook and Twitter, right? You want people to know what's on your mind. So, I think my blogging skills suck because, seriously, some days I have way too many thoughts that probably aren't important enough to be shared with the world. I'm doubtful that people would find my ruminations on the lack of focus we as a society have on accomplishing things through hard work, would be that fun to hear. Or, me waxing philosophical on the effects of an overly digitized culture on the future of social skills when being in person with others. That stuff is, quite frankly, wordy and boring. I mean, we have networks dedicated to pundits decrying most of that stuff. Thus, I'd bore (or insult) with consistent blogging, either here or through "social networking."

Still, there are times I just feel like sharing an idea and seeing if it sparks thought with those who may possibly stop by and read what I do on this lowly little page of mine.

The end of the year always brings a stir of emotions in anyone willing to take a second and reflect. We're funny that way, us human beings. We go and live for the moments (or play the role of shrinking violets) and then look back and gaze over things we've done with our time, assessing the importance, stupidity, or relevance of the acts we've allowed ourselves to do over 365 days. Its a funny thing, if you think about it. Some people don't often think of what they've done or are doing. They simply do and do and do until they come to some sort of trans formative moment in their minds. Reflection, it seems, is an inevitability for the humankind. Sometimes it takes a few seconds, other times years and years.

I find that my reflection usually gives me the chance to see what amazing things I've been blessed to experience, whether negative or positive. My perspective, of course, is defined by what I believe though. For me its all about having the opportunity to do things and meet people and grow from that. I tend to think that there are people out there who basically have the same similar experiences throughout a year and come to similar understandings because of that. If that were my life, I'd feel as though it were missing something. I know some like stability and things that are often always the same as that which they understand or call "normal." For whatever reason God has had for it, my life just isn't that way. From year to year, yes, there are a few things which hold true, things like family, my faith, and stuff like that but, I always experience growth and changes that I couldn't possibly have called a year in advance. My life goes through highs and lows and difficulties and victories. Its sour and its sweet and the moments last forever, or pass by so swiftly. My "norm" and my "stability" come from the constant possibility that everything can and will change on me at a moments notice. It has happened to me quite a bit this year, seemingly out-of-the-blue in surprising places, even. But what that does for me is makes me so greatly appreciate the moments as they come and I try my best to absorb as much of them as my meager human mind can muster.

But, the point of this blog isn't really about me at all. Its not even really about the idea of what reflection does or how we use it.

I named this one "Hope Full" on account of what thinking back over 2010 could mean to a person as we embark on another year that I'm sure will be full of challenges and rewards, joys and heartbreaks, surprises and the very expected, and a variety of occasions to make or break ourselves into whatever you desire of yourself. Its Hope Full because until the moment is defined and passed you, there's a possibility for every single day, hour, minute, or second, to bring a different story than that which we've experienced here in 2010. 2011 is potential. Its untapped existence that faces us with every confident or hesitant step forward.

And to me...that's a hope that I find full and enticing. Regardless of whether a huge portion of "me" was lost this year, or "reawakened," or "reality checked," or directed toward my purpose...there remains eternally going forward a hope that each moment can be a fuller and more important lesson or experience than any one before it.

I look forward to entering each second and progressing into more failure, heartbreak, victory, art, music, friendship, maturity, depression, deepening of Faith, extending of grace, fear, hope, and whatever else my path in life leads me to.

Hopefully you may take a second to consider it, that way too.

- Conduct Lionhardt

Monday, November 29, 2010

Conducting Thoughts with: Afaar

After interviewing NomiS and listening to him rave about the new album, I had to track down Afaar (member of the mighty Gallery Drive crew) and see if he'd be willing to do an interview about his new project, pop culture, and the nature of trying to make it in the music biz. Luckily, he and I have spoken before and both have a keen love of comic books so, he was down for it. I hope you enjoy what he had to say:

Conduct: I recently asked Nomis a similar question, since he was also on the Gallery Drive record also but, did that group effort teach you anything that you are now bringing to the release of "Art of Word?"

Afaar: I think it taught me a few things about doing music in general. This album was already finished before we really started working on the Gallery drive projects, which was good because I was able to put all my focus into that. A lot of what it taught me is compromise in music. Sometimes you need to give up what you want, or some of what's closest to you for the greater good. I know a lot of rappers and artists that are not successful because they simply do what they want. No accountability. I did a lot of the hooks and choruses on the album, and there were times the guys just didn't like how it came across. Either they didn't like how I was saying it, or they didn't want ME to say it or whatever. And that plays against your pride as a solo artist, to have cats say "I like your hook, but I don't want you to say it". But that made me a better artist. And that is what makes better records. When someone goes into the studio for 4 months, and shuts themselves off, and comes out with crap, don't be shocked. It's because something may sound good in your head, but NOT good to everyone else. So you have to take that criticism. I did a lot of that with Art of Word. I had close to 40 tracks to choose from, and I let folks hear it and tear it apart until I had what was widely considered a really good project from people who's opinions I respect.

Conduct: One of the most striking things I found interesting about the way you opened your new album here was just how seriously faith-focused that the track was. I've found that most people usually open up with a blazing "rap centric" or "banger beat heavy" track to start off their record. What made you decided to go with this song to open and, NOT use as a closing track?

Afaar: I started my last album "Write to Live" that way. But for this I wanted something a little bigger, more meaningful and epic. I had my good friend Analia sing on this track. She's classically trained in opera, and a bunch of other styles of singing. She's dope! Anyway, I had her actually doing opera singing in Italian in the chorus. The title of the song is Resistenza which means "Strength". I think the purpose for me was to make it something that was really meaningful, because this album was a journey for me, and it was really meaningful. Plus my boys Commoners and Kings killed it! My boy Jason had the spoken word at the end that really summed it up. Our strength is really God's strength that he gives us to do His work.

Conduct: We've talked about the use of your various pop culture references, from cartoons to video games, to comics in the past. I often sit and think long and hard on what references have last effect or end up being just passe. Do such references come to you easily or do you ever have to wonder whether its open enough for the audience you're sending sounds out to?

Afaar: One really flattering comment someone made about my last record was when he quoted a line, that I knew only a few people would get, and he went crazy because he recalled the reference! As a fan of music, when someone brings up a childhood memory, or something that I know about like comics, TV, video games etc. It gives me the feeling that I know this person a little better because that person likes what I like, he has seen what I saw and likes it. Now with the comic references, I really try to tone it down, because I can do it all day, and it becomes not as special if that's all I do. Like playing Tekken 3 with Eddie Gordo, you become a "1 button warrior"! You have 1 move that you play out. So I try to make more general references for punchlines. It's strange because it does come easily. When I write a verse, it feels like being the architect in Inception. I feel like I'm creating it, but I'm discovering it at the same time. I know guys who plan out their lines and bars, and even write out the alphabet on their paper to construct verses. I just.... write. I don't usually think about the next rhyme till I get to it, but usually I get it and it follows the topic and pattern perfectly. I don't know, it almost writes itself at times. I can't explain it.

Conduct: Beats are often thought of as being as essential (and, in some minds, more important) than the words which dance upon them. You have a nice set of producers on this project. Do you seek them all out or stumble upon most of the beat makers you work with?

Afaar: Both. I am fortunate to be good friends with Truth B Told, who is ADDICTED to production. (This dude has been known to spend $1000 on 1 beat LOL) I love him like a brother. But he usually finds producers out of the wood work! I'm talkin 19 year olds from Germany making CRAZY beats. And he hooks me up with contacts, or sometimes with beats he knows I'll use. It's nice to not have to worry about. But I did make relationships with a lot of producers for this project. I had some Teddy P production. Cat's a BEAST! I talked with him on the phone, and that was a refreshing change. Usually relationships with producers would be all emails back and forth.

Conduct: Comparison is HUGE in the way people communicate newer artists to their friends so, out of fun curiosity, do you think you have similarities to any emcees out there?

Afaar: In my experience, if people like you, they compare you to people they like. even if they sound nothing like you. I have been compared to Talib, Xzibit, Common, Nas a lot, Biggie etc. One comparison that really gets me is Immortal Technique. People say that it sounds like I'm biting his style.... Which is funny because I never listened to an entire Immortal Technique album, I have heard a grand total of maybe less that 10 FULL songs of his. And people don't compare, they think I BITE his style. Of course I gave it an honest listen. Cat's on some revolutionary, overthrow the govt. stuff!! He's a conspiracy theorist. He's dope! I always knew that from the stuff I heard, but I was never really into him. My style is nothing like his, and my topics are not on the same things, so how am I anything like him?? Funny if you ask me.

Conduct: "Hundred Times" is definitely an interesting track in that you opened the project so Christ focused and then gets here where you talk about your skills and how beastly you are on the mic. How do you deal with the people who find that those two things are in opposition to one another, especially in regards to belief?

Afaar: I've definitely had conversations with people about this. If you want to see the fruit of Christ, look at my life. I have a loving wife, I have an American job while living in Canada (oh yeah, I moved to Canada). We give our tithes, and considering the financial status of a LOT of people, we are BLESSED! I read the word and volunteer at a Christian based youth center. So I have the freedom to have fun and make music that I like! There are a LOT of Christian MC's that touch on every topic, some that depress, some that encourage, some that are pretty much a copy and paste straight from scripture. I think HHH can have the freedom to just spit dope sometimes. I am a fan of hip hop music, and to not make some beastly tracks would go against the reason I started making music. And it becomes not fun anymore. I like coming up with clever punchlines, metaphors, hyperbole's and all that. And people like to hear that. It's just when people want to hear a more heartfelt, conscience, or even a Christ centered song, switch the track. I have those too. I mean, I am not trying to be another MC, if all you want to hear from everyone you listen to is The Ambassador, then listen to the Ambassador.... I'm going to rap. I enjoy it.

Conduct: "Audience" you chose as the video single. What was it about this song that you and your team at End of Earth felt made it the best track to be represented in a video?

Afaar: Dope beat, dope rhymes... It's one of 3 singles/videos we're doing. I think I liked it for a song to start off with because it's upbeat, it's style and pattern heavy, and I figured if people like that song, they'll go nuts over what I didn't show them yet.

Conduct: You know me, I love some good visual stuff and, I've been interested in your album cover since I first saw it. Why go with that revolutionary image for your project?

Afaar: The title "Art of Word" is a play on words from Art of War. And really from the first track it's kind of amping you up to be on that revolutionary vibe. I want to hear good hip hop music, music that I came up with that made me fall in love with hip hop. As a whole how music has progressed, has really been the opposite of progression. I'm not one of those whinny cat's who think everything is whack, and hate on every song that comes out. I just hate that hearing music that I personally like has to be so few and far between. Even in the HHH market. Is it too much to ask for someone who I think is talented to see success? I'm talking Grammy type of success. I'm not saying any names, but the people who are on top of the Christian charts... I don't like a lot of that stuff, it doesn't appeal to my liking, personally. I understand why everyone likes them, and they are extremely talented, just not my cup o tea I guess.

Conduct: There are quite a few features on this record but, I found, that it doesn't take away from you being able to showcase your individual talent. I, love asking this question of people because I feel that the feature game is out of control by people (especially newer artists): Why do you have features on your SOLO album?

Afaar: I have features from artists I respect, and who I feel like I wanted to make a song with. Period. It doesn't hurt from a business standpoint to have bigger names on the album to widen the listening range. I think any artist should have collabs on their record that swallow what they are doing. Moving to secular music for a minute. When a no name artist rhymes with Elzhi, I am only going to listen to the track because Elzhi is on it. And since 9 times out of 10 Elzhi is going to DEMOLISH any no name rapper on the song, it's not a smart choice for a collab. You have to be confident in your talent, and do your thing. And that's what I did, my thing. I never try to out rap anyone, in fact, almost every collab that I sent already had my verse on the reference track for them to hear before they decided to do the song

Conduct: Continuing on features, do you ever feel that certain artists do TOO MUCH featuring?

Afaar: I think I came really close! hahaha! I think there should be a maximum of half the album. You lose your own voice other wise.

Conduct: "Naomi" landed on a few people's repeat tracks list (of people I've spoken too, who heard the record) and its very interesting because most people say they've heard or experienced such stories themselves. How was it to write this track especially since you have a personal connection with the mother in the story?

Afaar: My last album had the story telling track Isabella, which was really successful. I decided to follow suit with a story that touches on the social aspects of the communities we live in. I felt like we have songs about the strength of single mothers, and even young mothers... mothers, mothers, mothers.... Its all about them. What about the child, they're important too right? So I made it about her, and how her parent's decisions effect her. This is loosely based on an actual relationship in my past, the names, locations and events were doctored up. But I think people can draw emotional responses from this. When I showed this to a friend of mine right after it was mixed, I looked back when the song was almost over and he had tears in his eyes... Dude was literally crying! I thought to myself, OK we got it... hahahaha

Conduct: What is your idea for where you want to take this music of yours? What's your goal?

Afaar: The ultimate goal is to do music full time. To be able to tour a few times a year, sell records and live off of money made for music. Plan B is to start my own youth center, that emphasizes art and music for programming. I would love to take what I do, and give it back to young people. That way I can justify making music when I'm 40! hahahaha

Conduct: As a writer do you have a process that you always adhere too? Like, do you find it easier to write in a quiet place all by yourself, around other members of Gallery Drive, or do you just do it wherever and whenever it hits you?

Afaar: I like to write where I feel the most inspiration. Usually that's on my own. I've been known to write on the bus, on the train, on the beach, in writing sessions with Gallery Drive (even tho I usually go in the other room to focus). My process is simple, just write, like I was saying before, it's weird how it comes to me, especially when I'm inspired.

Conduct: Recently I went back over some of my past "Conducting Thoughts" interviews and found that a few people I had spoken too mentioned a concern with how many people are doing rap now and, that a good amount of them probably never asked themselves if rapping was what their purpose was. Have you ever asked yourself that or, came to a moment of crossroad in whether doing this was what you SHOULD be doing?

Afaar: When I finished "Write to Live" I spent a long time in prayer on the alter. I wanted to know what my problem was. And God answered. I came to the conclusion that I used to do it to prove myself. When I should be doing it to give back to Him. It's a gift, and as Christians we are taught to give those gifts/ talents back to God multiplied. So my progression as an artist, and becoming a better rapper, and man of God is my talent that I am giving back to him... The whole audience of one cliche. LOL

Conduct: How did you manage to get Freddie Bruno on the album TWICE?

Afaar: Easy. I gave him 2 dope beats! LOL. I really respect Freddie. He's a really good rapper, I used to listen to Phonetic Comp. all the time while working out. Which is a BIG deal, because my workout play list is SUPER exclusive. You don't just get on my play list cause I like you. Put it this way. I have 1 Talib Kweli song on my playlist and 3 Mos Def songs. Blackstar is my favorite record of all time. That should tell you something.

Conduct: Nomis just dropped an EP, "Rosario Dawson" which I just interviewed him about. How does it feel to see your other friends from Gallery Drive making these moves on the solo?

Afaar: Well, NomiS is a solo artist. It's good to see him doing well in what he does. I'm proud of him! I've been friends with that cat since 7th grade. My mom used to braid his hair when he had a fro! LOL! That's right I knew him when he was bald headed! That's my boy, he's like a brother, I want him to reach every level of success. Plus, if one of us wins, we all win!

Conduct: Do you listen to much music and, if so, whom makes it onto an Afaar playlist?

Afaar: Like I said, a lot of my music listening is during workouts, but here it goes.... Elzhi, Joell Ortiz, Royce, Common, Little Brother, Kam Moye, Jay Electronica, Gallery Drive, The Roots, Pharoahe Monch.... and others I can't think of right now.

Conduct: What personal lesson have you learned in your walk with Christ that you think you can share with the people out there that maybe you haven't put in your music as of yet?

Afaar: God's grace is sufficient. I have grown up in church, and I heard that a million times. I understood it intellectually, but you don't truly understand it till you've made it through some stuff, and you see other people not make it through. When you really reflect, and see your life, and look at other people's lives, You realize how God's grace stands up. Man! So powerful. I would love to do a song that would do that justice. Maybe on the next record.

Conduct: Now you get to play interviewer here and ask me ANYTHING you want. I will honestly answer it. Go ahead.

Afaar: Ok. What song on this album is your favorite, and which song do you think other people would like the best, and why?

Conduct: That's a tough question. I think there are 5 incredible tracks on this record but, I guess to be honest, its going to be one of these three, depending on how I feel in the moment: Naomi, Resistanza, or Duty Calls-Outro. Ha, ha. I really love records with strong opens and closes.

Conduct: This is the open space to say, plug, or even tell a joke. The whatever you wanna say place. Go!

Afaar: Buy the album! It's worth it, I promise! Plus, look out for my, exclusive song "Motivation"! It is a 100 bar verse! Pure Heat! I put a lot into this one... Be easy y'all PEACE AND BLESSINGS!!!

Thank you, Afaar, for "Conducting Thoughts" with me.

Afaar's new album, "Art of Word" can be listened too and purchased at the link below:

Monday, November 15, 2010

"waiting for the buS" secrets revealed!!

Almost 9 years ago, me and my friend Owen decided to try and form the world's largest rap collective...just for the fun of it. We didn't think anyone would want to join up with two "message board rappers" and just posted up online as a joke. Little did I know that not only would people be interested but that the very act of fun would become the start of my entrance into music and my connection to various people around the planet. Once boasting a line-up of over 35 people, Legion Of Sub Par Emcees has become, in many aspects, a community for me, one that extends to nearly half the planet and most states in America.
Two days after my 30th birthday, we released a collection of songs from our recent history on an EP entitled "Waiting for the buS." I figured that maybe some people would be interested in some behind-the-scenes info on the project and possibly a few small jokes at the timeliness of its release. So, here we go:

Track 1 "Gratitude"
Featuring Sage Sensai and Name Basic aka Tricloptic Nerve on the verses and dj cuts by Dj Ryval, this particular track ended up being one of the better ones that the group has put together. Initially, I wanted to have the collective really do rap music that showcased our diversity of locations and skills. I connected with Sage Sensai (David Whitaker in his civilian guise) when we needed someone to shelter the group. Sage was looking to start up a label and started working with him on that. Interestingly enough, in the course of doing that on the side he found that his calling was to move to Japan and do music and other work there. I hear from him from time-to-time and he's still putting paper under his pen to this day. He lived in Georgia and connected with fellow emcee Name Basic and the two submitted this song, with cuts from, then, Legion member Dj Ryval. I believe I got this song in...'06 from them. Its the most classic rap track on this project and Name really hates how his voice sounds on it now. haha. A majority of these songs are a few years old but I think its really great.

Track 2 "So Human"
Featuring the rhyme stylings of Shaesan and Obstacle (member of another great crew, ShadowFacts) "So Human" is probably one of my favorites from this release. Shaesan is an interesting artist from Canada whom I met over message boards that put out a great independant record called "Combat." I've always loved the thought of how he chooses his words so when he asked me last year if he could submit a track for inclusion I jumped at the chance to have him on the project. Little would I know that he was going to ask for an assist on the song from Obstacle, whom I had also kind of befriended over the years. Now, Obstacle is somewhat of a puzzling emcee in that he vanishes for, what can seem like, years and then pops up in the most unexpected places. His flow styling is flawless and you can totally feel how comfortable he is with rapping. (Legion of Sub Par has a mix of people who've done music for years and relatively new artists) I never thought of having these guys together on a track, one of those classic moments where as a leader you think, "how come I didn't consider what that combo could do?" Here you get the response in a potent 2 verse track that really brings home facts of how Jesus was the Christ. Its a bright message made unique by the beat which, to me, seems dark. I'm hopeful that both of these busy guys can get together with the group for another good song.

Track 3 "Overcome"
The majority of the time the way things work with the Sub Par is that people send me the production and I craft the line-ups on the songs and the song's concept. (Note that the first two tracks were created without me hearing them first or suggesting who'd be on them.) This song and subsequent ones end up falling under my guidance in some form or another. Chef1, a talented emcee/producer and one of the tip top graffiti artists in Cali made the beat and sent it to me. I dug it but really wanted to get some thoughtful people on it to make the track not the USUAL thing you'd hear on this. So, I got to thinking about who, at that time...'07-ish, I believe, would really bring a fresh take on a song with Martin Luther King jr. sample. I chose in 3 of the freshest voices we had in the group, Artofact, Notion, and CommonCHILD. Artofact and Notion I met when they were in high school, each carving out a solid niche in their respective styles of emceeing. These two guys had matured in a variety of ways and of people I've worked and, well, grown in this life with, I am very proud of the men AND artists they have become. Now the last guy was tricky because I had these two young dudes from the west coast but didn't think I should go with another young voice. I decided to hit my peer group age and got CommonCHILD on it. Trying to not sound favoritist, CommonCHILD (who's a year or two older than I, I think) is arguably my favorite "heart rapper." I doubt anyone else expresses themselves and their belief with the spirit this guy puts in a song. I wanted that on here with the other two. Oddly enough, all 3 were big fans of each other, even living near to, and mentioned, in the same circles...Yet they'd never managed to work with one another. I think the collaboration went well enough and, again, I hope that one day I can arrange for these guys to have another go at it together.

Track 4 "Radio Edit"
Chef1 again brings a beat that I thought had a very specific sound. I instantly knew it required certain vocal types to be on it. Thus, in '08 when I got this one, I looked at the available roster and found great comfort in getting Kwestion and Silas Sirius on this one, with more vinyl cutting by Dj Ryval. Kwestion was an acquaintance I met through Artofact and we had some very nice talks about Legion of Sub Par and life stuff so, I felt that with him, I could just suggest this beat and he could concept it all out. I want to say it was my idea to get Silas on this with him but, my memory is foggy on that. Probably wasn't, ha ha. Silas and Dj Ryval were part of a South Carolina group called "Inktroverts." I'm sure that's what secured Ryval on the scratches here. I'm fond of this track because of how far it was from an idea the production had given me for it. Plus, lets be honest, not many songs about how the radio and what's played over the air ISN'T good stuff. The play of words on the term radio edit is not lost on me. And Silas' line about how he longs for the term "male enhancement" to refer to a man's character, may sum up my thoughts on various matters. Its a keeper.

Track 5 "Outside the Window"
By far and away the most bittersweet song on here for me to listen too. It features myself, EQual One, and Mr. Freeze who, at the time, were known as the "Hall Monitors." They were local emcees and for the early part of the aughts, my closest friends. After the recording of this song both Freeze and E One would cease music for a long spell of time and totally change from the men I knew them as. We wrote an entire record that will never see the light of day. So, listening to this song, on Dave Slayer production, takes me back to 2005 when we made it happen. From this you get a look at our various takes on the simple concept of what looking outside the window means for us all. Mine was the internal struggles that would send me to depression that year, EQual One's disdain with the events that surrounded his area, and Freeze's creative verse from the perspective of the old man who used to own the house Freeze was then living in. To me, Freeze's verse was the keeper. I was surprised then, when he recorded it, because I didn't expect that take on the concept from Freeze, who was a lot more of a battle rapper. I did the scant amount of singing, always prone to a minimalistic approach, thanks to a fear of not being a good singer.

Track 6 "Tailgate"
Feauturing the full line-up of the Inktroverts (Silas Sirius, Aj, Icthus9, and Dj Ryval) this song with production from 5ive8ight was one of the original tracks put together by this set of guys for the Legion's "still-in-progress" full length "raP buS" (read backwards it spells "Sub Par." neat huh?) When various starts and stops happened due to membership upheavals and a variety of trouble getting musicians from all over the world on the same page, the Inktroverts took the track back and put it on their own album, Headed back Home. Unfortunately, they didn't make the splash they maybe thought they were going too and, in the process of making their own album, Icthus9 and AJ retired to focus on family stuff. The group asked me to include it on whatever was to be the first release by our collective thus, you find it hear in all its crispy mixed goodness. Its another stand-out for me, despite not liking the beat at first. I think one of them was really into the idea of the song so I gladly gave the thing away...And had it returned to me, as gold.

Track 7 "Notebook"
This track does a lot for me. It was a rare occasion to have both Jordan Santana and Freeze on a song together, alone (prior collabs always included another person...or 2) as well as having production from Arizona mastermind, Pac0naut. I desperately wanted to write to this with its melancholy root and tightly crisp drums but, in the process of recording ANOTHER record (the Royal Applebaums "Bipolar Backspin" project) I was unavailable to get in on this. Thankfully, the song (about notebooks left behind by people) turned into a chilling classic, with the two emcees balancing their flows to a similar style (amazingly, because they don't rap similar AT ALL) and Jordan providing just the right tone to that sung chorus. Its totally on that, flipped up Cusack collar sadness and I wouldn't have it any other way.

Track 8 "The Edge"
Originally to be released on a production album, Dave Slayer graciously gave us this track, which featured a bunch of Legion affiliated rappers...and an amazing emcee named Weighword. Starting out the track with a very open and honest verse about his life and struggles, I really found myself pleased to have such a song make its way into my hands. Coupled with Artofact, Sage Sensai, and Micronaut bringing the strong finish, I'm actually glad we went with this as the closer to the project. This song also has the amazing distinction to being the oldest on here, being made in or around '03 or '04.

The Cover
Scroll back up and look at the cover there. I initially had a few extra things on it. There was a few street signage things I was going to have in the minimalist background as well as a kid to represent everyone who was on the project...which you can note from the lack of 2 kids with dreads, that neither I nor Sage Sensai are there. Instead I decided to keep it more toward the reference pic I had with the 6 kids, and I went with complimentary colors. It was done in 5 year-old markers that totally died out on me whilst coloring, ha ha. Thats about all I can say about my art (I've been challenged NOT to talk bad about it). Oh, here's who DID make the cover, from left to right: Dave Slayer (kid in winter hat), Obstacle, Jordan Santana, Freeze, Shaesan (older kid on far right), and CommonCHILD (yawning big guy). Randomly selected, of course.

Hopefully that was a nice short read (despite my longwinded typing) and you'll check it out if you haven't on iTunes or Amazon. Just look up Legion Of Sub Par Emcees. If you dig it, sweet, if not, we're working on the "raP buS" record so, next year, I promise a great 45-an hour of solid rap music...or you can punch me around a bit.

- Conduct Lionhardt

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Conducting Thoughts with: NomiS

"Conducting Thoughts" interviews are back in full swing and I figured I'd start with a guy I've worked with before. That fellow is NomiS (of, Gallery Drive and, formerly, Forgotten Heroes) who's released a free EP for the masses, entitled "Rosario Dawson." NomiS is an emcee on the come-up in a few circles and I was eager to get a few words from him on his project, a few random questions, and hopefully some insights on the "O-side resident." Please read on...

Conduct: Its been quite an interesting last year you had with your crew Gallery Drive, dropping a mixtape and album. Do you feel that the group effort has brought a bit of shine on you and your crew?

NomiS: I sure hope so! ha ha. But yeah, I think the "Psycho" video got a lot of attention and as a result we've made some new supporters. For people who haven't heard "Scratching the Surface", you guys are sleeping big time. I think that album is so freakin good!

Conduct: Gallery Drive dropped a pretty slick looking video for your first single. How important to an artist do you feel "the video" is in this day and age?

NomiS: Wow, these days everybody has access to something extremely "professional" and you have to keep up or get left behind. We live in a visually stimulated society these days so I think the video aspect is such a big help in promoting yourself!

Conduct: Have you found it to be an easier or more difficult task to get a release with a group out there and into the public eye?

NomiS: Well, when you have more people involved your pretty much always going to have a larger audience check for it. 6 people promoting instead of one person is a big difference, even if our audiences are very similar. BUT, the process of finishing the album and actually getting it out is so much more work! Doing music with the Gallery Drive crew is a ton of fun, but its a headache for sure! ha ha

Conduct: Let's get into the new project, its been awhile since you released your last album, "Mouthpiece of the Lion." What made you decide to come back (on a solo project) with an EP?

NomiS: Well, before I started working on this project I was already working on my next full length album (Searching for Alpha Trion). During the process I was getting this feeling that my career was feeling very stagnant to me. I was growing as an artist, but my audience didn't seem to be expanding at an equal rate. So, I decide that i would bite the bullet for one project, make something that I felt was really dope, and then just give it away for free with no strings attached. I try to promote myself in the ways that I feel work on me. For me, if I've at least heard about an artist a few times and I see that they've released a free project, I'll download it and listen to it at least once 7 times out of 10. So my hope for "Rosario Dawson" is to expand my following and hopefully get some new ears checking for me. Once "Searching for Alpha Trion" drops I'll hopefully have a whole new group of people excited and ready to buy it. Ideally this next release will get the proper attention that I think it deserves. If it does, I will finally be able to do this full time and just focus on music. But, that cant happen if people don't support financially. I can be as well known as Drake or Lil' Wayne, but if everybody just bootlegs my album, I'll stay broke.

Conduct: Rosario Dawson. Your thoughts on the actress?

NomiS: I think she is lovely....we can just leave it at that. ha ha

Conduct: What made you want to call the EP "Rosario Dawson?" Was that track just the one which, thematically stood out as what the set of songs was all about?

NomiS: I picked that song for the title track because I felt that was the song that was the best representation of where I was at when I wrote and recorded the project. The idea of people wanting what they cant have (or what isn't important), versus wanting what they really need has just been very apparent to me lately. Its what our country thrives on these days. We teach people what they "need" through television, radio, etc. and as a result we're creating a generation of snobs who feel like the world owes them something.

Conduct: Besides the title track, what made you decide to go with the 2nd video, about human sex trafficking?

NomiS: I picked that human trafficking joint because real talk, that's the most important song I've ever written in my life! The subject matter of "On Behalf of the Silenced" is so important to me, but on a larger scale, so important to God. "Christian Rappers" always talk about sin, grace, eternity, etc. But dang, we have this huge issue happening right now and nobody is talking about it! There are an estimated 27 MILLION people enslaved right now around the world. That's more than ever in the history of the planet as far as I know. Anyway, people need to hear that message, so that's why I picked that song for a video.

Conduct: Do you ever feel that, as an emcee, you can really dig into topics of such a sensitive matter that you wouldn't be able to if you did music of another style?

NomiS: I've been thinking about this concept a lot recently actually. Rock musicians don't sing about being better than other bands, or "killing drum sets" or something silly like that. But rappers do it all the time. "I'll murder the track" blah, blah, blah. ha ha. On the flip side, there are bands that sing about the exact same things for multiple albums at a time! Their entire catalog will consist of songs about "love", but some how they still get away with being redundant. Rappers cant get away with that!!! ha ha. In general, Hip Hop does allow me to be more specific about certain topics because of the nature of the music. Hip Hop requires so many more words in a song. That alone helps to dig deep into a topic. I would love to see more genres stepping up their content though. I think they all have the ability to do it, I just think that people are scared to talk/write about issues like this. It leaves you very vulnerable in the public eye, and its not very marketable. Just look at my two videos that I released a week a part from each other. Right now as I'm typing this, the "Rosario Dawson" video has like quadruple the amount of views as "On Behalf of the Silenced" does.....I wonder why that is? (SARCASM)

Conduct: When not doing music (or music related things) Nomis can be found doing..?

NomiS: NomiS can be found watching The Boondocks or eating at Chipotle. ha ha

Conduct: here's a place to plug something or someone that you think is deserving of attention -

NomiS: Well, I'll plug my homie Afaar's new album (Art of Word) and EP he has done. I'm not sure the order in which they'll be released, but they're both very good; especially the EP. Then there is also a new EP from Insufficient Funds that should dropping hopefully in 2010, but I'm not sure. I'll also plug my next full length solo album dropping in 2011 entitled, "Searching for Alpha Trion". The album is sounding very good so far and I'm pretty excited about it. I'm trying out some new ideas and working with some new producers. Its going to be a little bit of a different direction musically, but at the same time, I'm staying true to what "NomiS" really is. You'll get honest raps, just packaged a little differently then normal.

Conduct: do you have a question you'd like me to answer?

NomiS: Who's your favorite rapper in Gallery Drive? Like, honestly. Not just what you think I want you to say. ha ha

Conduct: Either the guy who said "Get to the choppa!" On that one track off the album, or probably Afaar, for his sheer amount of comic book quotes. lol. YOU have my fav hairdo in the group, though.

Thank you, NomiS, for "Conducting Thoughts" with me.

NomiS' fine music and other things can be located at these fine links:

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Difference

Occasionally, I like to talk about a specific issue I face, in a slightly indirect manner. I blog them here and kind of just ramble on about the general idea, so I can help the problematic aspect drift from my heart and mind. So, on that note...

People are different. Like, everyone is different. Sure, I know there are things we hold in common (with some, there are A LOT of things in common). Ultimately, though, we're all given a life with these very specific and different set of events and circumstances. Thats what makes meeting people, maturing, growing up and, well, life in general an experience that gives the possibility for "true stories" to be interesting. Because of that, it truly BOGGLES my mind as to how so many of us seek to "fix" the people around us.

A few years back I came to the concept of "God Boxing." Now, I'm sure the visual that comes to mind is, you with boxing gloves, and a gigantic old guy with a gray beard and boxing gloves. While funny, that's not what I'm speaking of here. "God boxing" is a predominantly Western concept of how, regardless of what the bible says, God CAN'T possibly be in control of every aspect of life you could encounter. Basically, God has parameters that he's inclosed in, a la, a "God box." Western Religious culture basically states that a lot of the things we know of God are true but, we still have quite a bit of leg room in the parts He CAN'T help out with.

What's this got to do with "the Difference" I mentioned of people? I'll explain:

For the most part, we prefer people being a lot alike us because its something we can understand without much effort. Social classing and racial divides, THRIVE on this. Problematically, the idea of "God Boxing" and its acceptance by most, gives the right to another handy concept I came up with, called "the Circle."
(Okay...Technically, I didn't come up with "the Circle" concept. I got it from and episode of the TV show "House." In the show, House (a rather unimpressed doctor) scolds a member of his team for complaining that they feel sad a kid will never be "normal." He goes on to state that people's ideas of "normal" stem from their view of things outside of a circle in which they exist as being, "ab-normal" or "broken." Thus, when faced with things outside of your personal circle, the response is to "fix" it (or them) so that it becomes more like what is in your circle, i.e. "normal.")
As troubling (for some) as the idea of "God Box" is, I've found that "the Circle" is just as horrible... And one which we all seem to indulge in to quite a heavy degree.

Make no mistake, I've totally attempted to "fix" people outside of my "circle." Like I stated before, it is so much easier to have people around who are "on the same page" with you. It allows you to not have to work as hard on things like patience, humility, etc. Still, don't you think that's an "acceptable evil" we play with often? Or, maybe you've never really thought of it that way before. I know I hadn't thought of it for a LONG TIME. Literally, I had been operating in a system where a cocky level of pride about all "my good" was what everyone else should probably be about. And its just wrong.

To say that your life and the way you've lived it and progressed in it, is BETTER than the way others have, takes away from the beauty (or, sure, in some cases, horror) of individual life experiences others have. And we need that difference! Imagine a world where everyone lived how you did and learned lessons in a way similar to yours. How would our fiction read? Our movies? Inspirational talks? Shoot, even the everyday conversations you have with friends or the person who makes your heartbeat race?

You've heard the adage that, "You like a person for who they are, but you love a person for who they AREN'T?" If you had your way, and you "fixed" everyone around you to look like what's in your "circle," You would most likely lose almost everything that you love so much in this life. Really, THINK about THAT. Its not wrong to want better for people. That shows you actually have a heart and can care. I just believe that we have to be able to realize that some people NEED to have their lives existing in another "circle" so they can develop into the unique individual they should always be.

The Difference is important and, we need to always be aware of what we gain (and could lose) by trying to impress ourselves and what lives we've led, onto others.

- Conduct Lionhardt

Writing for the Love of it

I know I promised my friend (Bryce, author of the graphic novel series I'm illustrating) That I would post up a rundown of graphic novels that I think are underrated but, I've had a few interesting weeks and some other thoughts seem a bit more important.

I have wrote, whether interviews, reviews, or fiction for the better part of 10 years or so. It probably sounds like an interesting hobby, I'd imagine, something that people would be interested in hearing some about. Funny thing is, the majority of it is probably never going to be seen by the general public.

I write for the love of it.

My writing has been very much a thing unto myself. Hours and days, weeks and even years of sitting, thinking and creating has amassed a decent sized amount of written material. I've never really had the chance or the aptitude to get most of it up and out there for people to be ABLE to read. And to be honest, the choice to do things that way has really stemmed from a deep seated belief in the following 3 things:

1.) Most people aren't all that interested in reading what I write. (I say this mainly because the things I review, people I interview, and stories I try to write, often skew outside of the usual things that people find popular)

2.) I'm technologically challenged. ( For more years than I'd like to admit, I just haven't been able to acquire the tech needed to seriously write to a degree that would be okay to allow the public to see)

3.) Time ISN'T on my side. (The most obvious of challenges is trying to fit in writing when my life requires me to be a brother, uncle, son, youth leader, artist, worker, etc. At the end of the day, the focus and energy to SERIOUSLY get into writing, just isn't there.)

So, where does that leave things?

Again, I write for the love of it. I'm, first and foremost an illustrator. If I could draw it all, I WOULD. But lack of materials to draw on or with, and the ability to communicate the "images of thought" (a concept I'll delve into on some other blog) have bred the skill to communicate otherwise...Through writing. And after various years of working out the kinks, I found that I love the form of writing, despite the limitation of NOT necessarily being visual.

Things interest me, so I write of them. Sometimes a story (or series of panel images) must be put to the paper (or screen). Other times a person is interesting and I want to ask them questions. These and more motivate the desire and, it's so much more than wanting the world to "see my vision" or "hear my voice." Those of us who are creative can't really afford to contain these things that spring up in our minds by just letting them sit there then slowly dissipate into limbo. We have to DO something with them. So we write... And its true that sometimes the things written are long winded, or wordy, or jumbled into something maybe only we can perceive but, it's still an expression of our thoughts or confusions about the world around and existence in general.

It is very much...One of the oddest passions that people display, the transfixing of words to a form of grammatical or lyrical prose. Whether poetic, sympathetic, or chaotic, it creates a place where the inner can become the outer and both aspects reflect or affect, one another. And while some of what is written through this strange and unusual love can become that which drives the cultural consciousness and trends... I'd imagine that, out there, is so much more impassioned writing that exist in the most intricate and fantastic ways, of which we may never experience.

But it exists and thrives in its small universes of creativity, none-the-less.

- Conduct Lionhardt

Monday, July 12, 2010

More "Royal Applebaums" secrets

Ha, ha, sorry everyone but, after the last post I totally realized I left out a few things. So, here they are:

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

"Royal Applebaums: Bipolar Backspin" Secrets

Interesting days here, as the label I signed too, Verto Records (http://www.vertorecords.com/) has released a free down loadable album of mine that me and my friend Jordan recorded over a few days back in 2007. Going by the noteworthy nom de guere Royal Applebaums, we just cobbled together this record at the last minute. Verto, hoping to start up a small buzz and give people a free reason to look into them, asked me if they could offer up the album for free. I said yes.

So, here I decided to depart from my usual non-insular way of blogging to give delicious scoops on what the tracks are, whom is referenced in them, and maybe some anecdotes worthy of people viewing. Feel free to download the album at the website listed in the last paragraph and join in this track-by-track reveal.


I'm never sure how I decide what makes a good opening track for a record. Here, the deciding factor was the beat by a guy who went by Ill Eagles. He had done quite a few nice instrumentation and this one was the first I wrote too in...I think like, late '04. My verse deals with two people in particular. One was a skater (I use that loosely, and that wrist break portion ACTUALLY happened) and the other a notable emcee who was disrespectful of a female friend of mine. "Dunnies" came from an in-joke sprung from a scene in a hip hop comedy called "Brown Sugar" involving two guys named Ren and Ten. Its classic scene and, surprisingly, one that could be called "Intentionally cross cultural." Check it out if you get the chance.

"Jazz it Up"

My cousin, who goes by Lottoj (pronounced "low-taj") is a crazy good producer who just hasn't really pushed hard enough into getting known. Here is a beat he made...I don't actually remember when but, when he stopped by with a CD of music, we found what we thought would make a decent single. The concept is simple, talking about how what we do jazzes up the sound in ways people rarely did that year ('07). I know, cockiness, yeah? Anyways, what you hear from me is an attempt pull off an Abstract Rude flow (which I fail miserably at), inspired by listening to Haiku De Tat Cd's. Jordan loved the idea of rapping to the jazz horn sample and, thus we have the song. (note: Jordan references "TRL" which still was on air at the time. Welcome to the world of quickly exiting relevance to witty one liners)


Personally, this is a tough song for me to listen too. I'll explain later why this time was INCREDIBLY tough for me on a personal level but, you hear a verse from my bro-in-law EQual One...which is about my sister...yeah, its not really something to get into but its tough to listen to what he says in any of his raps about her and family. Jordan's verse is about a very trying time of attempting to love beyond the first big relationship he had, something I was privy to watching flourish then burn. Tough. My verse...Ha, ha, my verse is pure fiction. Its a long story but, Conduct Lionhardt and love (of the romantic variety) don't really work out. (I will say that, I do have one female muse that comes into play in future music I will release. I'll share that with you for sure. Its fun heartbreaking yet hopeful stuff)

"Get your verse written for $.32"

The basic idea to this is, we each wrote verses and had other people rap them. Oh the troubles I had with doing this because, since it was me and Jordan mostly, and then EQual One and my other cousin on some songs...I have a very specific way in which I approach music. My verses usually mean more than what you catch initially. Any who, EQual One does Jordan's verse, I do EQ's, and Jordan...poor Jordan, had to do mine. Since we liked the idea but it was going to be hard, we took this sparse beat and lazily did the chorus. Note that Jordan changes up the "1,2,3" thing with a "mom, dad, 1,2,3" on the last chorus and, of doing EQual One's verse I am most proud of the ad libbed Rick Flair "wooo!"

"Midnight Love at 2 AM"

Jordan's friend Carly lived in Pittsburgh and we wanted to make tribute to her for being our friend. We waited till 2 am though. Ha, ha. What you get with that is a weird tale of how me and Jordan (whom weren't romantically interested in Carly) had a disagreement over who gets the girl. (side note: she sat next to Jordan. Historically, they always do. Ha, ha.) Its all tongue-in-cheek fun, though and my verse has two great references, one visual ("picture her as wineglass scripture" Think about that for a little...) and then a reference to "Clue" with my use of the butt of the candle to take Jordan out.

"Get Medicated"

My young pal, Cornelius Winthrop (a.k.a. C-Dep or "the Christ Dependant") crafted this beat here which came out of Jordan telling me how, when he was in Texas, he witnessed a dance that, when done, was cheered on: "Oh! Get Motivated! Oh, Get Motivated!" From there, I decided, having come off a headache, we'd switch it up and make a dance and song for "Oh, Get Medicated!" Ha, ha! The chorus was a fun treat since, the whole project was recorded in my sister's empty bedroom (she was married and lived LITERALLY 30-45 min on the other side of town) and everyone who was in the house that day (bout...5-6 people) were yelling it out loud. My verses have so many great lines that, I'd wager, its probably the BEST thing I've rapped. EVER. References to Shaq's muscle heating pads, how I' bring more Heat than Dragnet, bumba clot, the whole run on people at clubs, how my rhymes "dually bust", and the first of a series of references to the "Blade" movies, which were on back-to-back, that weekend. Its one of my favs on the project. "Sure as shootin' Kansas" is a strange reference to the character of Rusty, from Big Guy and Rusty the Boy Robot, a slightly small project that Geoff Darrow illustrated. (Geoff Darrow is one of the visual minds that created a good deal of the tech and future look for "the Matrix". Rusty, often said "Sure as Shootin." (OH...and we did craft a "Get Medicated" dance...just not the weekend we recorded this project)

"Blink and you'll Miss it"

I've had the blessing (cause I know its gotta be from God) to have received production from some of the most talented unknown guys on this planet so, this track has the really great honor of having Re:Flex the Architect (a MONSTROUS emcee/producer from the U.K.) as its creator. The song concept, again, soooo not a huge breakthrough to new ground or anything but, the twist here is that, my verse (the 2nd one) is all about...me. Really, it is. Listen to it and realize that everyone of those lines was about me and how I was in 2007. I didn't even tell Jordan or anyone that until now so, yeah, big scoop.

"Whatcha Tryin to Do"

Freeeeeeze. My cousin Jeff (a.k.a. Mr. Freeze) was a KILLER rapper and totally came on this track and decided to depressively sing on this track about how girls had messed with our hearts. Again, I used my skills at fiction to ride the beat and make it seem like I was miffed at some girl for her actions of taking my heart then going with someone else. Jordan...ha,ha, that verse he rhymes was initially not delivered as crazy. I think he was going over it, did a weird infliction and we laughed at it. That made him go forth with the wild delivering. We often made each other want to do interesting things because, for the most part, we make music we find fun to listen too.


Ha, ha...I like the song it kinda, fits that very straight forward Christian rap kinda vibe but, for me I don't have too many points for this one. My verse is shorter than I usually write and, its very tough for me to do that. Very tough. I wrote a longer verse then did some editing it down until I ended up with that...12 bars, was it? The beat was made by EQual One and he didn't make it the length we needed so, since it would have been 45min to and fro...I had to take the short straw on this one.

"Saturday Sand dune Jamboree"

My sister likes those beach party movies, ya know, the campy ones from the technicolor film days and, this just spoke to me like that so, with some BLATANT SAMPLES (which this FREE album is riddled with. And I MEAN riddled with) we composed what each person would be performing as character's in a fictional film called "Saturday Sand Dune Jamboree." The funny thing is, that's not something I shared with everyone involved, either. Ha, ha! I would have...if we'd made a video for it, though. Would have been epic mini-movie styled. Anyways, you can almost visually see the song as a trailer with each of these random beach moments happening from each person's perspective. My sister (Dove Wonder Why) is on the hook with the weird effect on her vocals. I wanted more of her on this record and, sadly, it just didn't work out that well. She doesn't think of herself as musical but there are things she brings to the table that allow me the better expression. It may just be knowledge of how I am and the lack of having to explain what I'm trying to get across, though. (EQual One is on various tracks of this project, simple because he was there. Me and Jordan were having such a creative time we just allowed whoever to join in)

"Shake, Rattle, and Roll"

Jordan brainstormed this one up and, it has the distinction of being the ONE song on the album that had pre-existing verses on it from everyone. Most of this thing we just wrote on the spot on the fly and recorded. No major MAJOR planning involved. This one was due to Jordan having his verse and wanting to rap it to something, so me and Freeze just found some stuff that we liked. Frankly, my delivery to the verse I did is atrocious in my ears. I can't stand it. I'll re-record the verse on something mixtape-esque to make myself feel better some time. Its a good verse, writing-wise, though. Not AMAZING but good. My frame of references is usually from old Hollywood movies, comic books, old tv shows, archeology, professional wrestling jargon, East Coast rap music, Jazz, and of course, The BIBLE. A strange brew but, it makes some intriguing stuff...well, I think. Hm...that doesn't have too much to do with this song except a few lines from my verse and Freeze's. Me and him were TIGHT back then. That "Now for a Break" sample can be found on older versions of the beat program, Fruity Loops.

"Here we Go Again, As Opposed to the Last time you heard us, which was probably Bananas"

This song has a crazy history to go with that title (I'm uncertain if the full title was attached to it but, yeah, thats it) Me and Jordan first met up in Ohio of...'03, I believe, when I hopped a Greyhound to meet my Internet/phone musical friend. We built up a nice fellowship and started our tender steps toward doing music together. The most notable song that time, was a track we did on a Lottoj beat he had crafted with a beat machine called Dr Groove, which was entitled "Bananas." Thus, this song is the direct sequel, like a lot of them, that took various years to get too. I have a habit of wanting to challenge the ways I've rapped on things before and, since "Bananas" had been done in a double-timed delivery, I felt that this one should too, but with a slight twist as I slowed it down at one point. Its not very impressive but, at the time, I was pleased I could do it and it not come off as REALLY bad. I like parts of this verse, some cool Nintendo referencing to a game I played a ton...Oh, I introduced a concept that is a part of things I'll do later on in that, the line about the "Pray Boy" shirt. I did make a mock shirt (which no one knows about till this very second) and I intend to press up some more soon. The basis is I took the image of a "Play Boy" shirt and re-drew it into a boy with hands in classic prayer gesture. My intention is to get up a web/blog site for notable and unknown Christian men to post up essays and thoughts on stuff in a manner that kind of is a more "clean" version of Hef's rag. it'll be different but, for me, I've found that not many men's magazines and such, offer a perspective on stuff that interests me the same. There should be. Its kooky but If the opportunity presents itself, I'll build the site up. All the same, if anyone is interested, email me and I'll get you a shirt.

Ah yes..."Fin." Originally, this didn't exist. EQual One (again! I know!) had made this beat for his brother to rap some thuggin and buggin on. Jordan got a listen then ask if we could somehow get it and EQual's brother agreed, since he doubted he'd write something anyways. Thus, we decided to go with an ending track to match the production's bravado. Freeze gets things started, makes reference to how this is a piece of what we're capable of. (He would end his recording association with us on this song, finishing up high school then working. Far as I know, he's only done a few verses on one of his cousin's records and doesn't actively do music anymore.) EQual One thanks us for allowing him to get down on the record. (It would be his final musical act. He's stopped rapping and making beats, after this.) Jordan starts to build the intensity with his verse then I go. I like this one alot. It has a great presence to it, I think. My verse is one of those fun things I do, to challenge myself. I took all the tracks before and referenced them in my verse. My opening lines take into account that me and Jordan were doing this record, then let the others in on it. I tried (again, unsuccessfully) to do a Remnant-style on this track with my verse. (Remnant, or Remnant Militia as some know them, WAS one of the best rap groups ever. They combined a vibe that worked on both a mainstream and underground sensibility and were my personal pick to make a real impact on a wide range. Everyone I played their records to, didn't just like them, but LOVED them. The year I recorded this, they broke up so, this verse is the first of what will be a few tributes I do to them. haha. They'll be better too. I promise)

"Rap Your Own Verse, for $1.03"

Again, Not sure if the title stuck but, this is a response to "get your verse written" where we each rap the verses we "ghost wrote" earlier. The thing that sets this one off for me is that we did it on this crispy Fab Da Eclectic production. We reworked the hook where we alternated the 1,2,3, count. I had a terrible time recording this cause I have sucky timing when it comes to matching up vocals for emphasis. Seriously, I suck at it so bad. Listen to it again, my verse is WAAAY more timid than the other two guys on that chorus. I LOVE my verse though and rapping it how I wrote it is the thing that lets me fly. I think my fervor could have been a touch harder on it but, for what I managed, I'm pleased. I am a huge believer in the fact that a relationship with Christ is essential for a full and complete existence. My verse, of course, ends up being the more "Conductful" one, for lack of a better way to say it. You'll hear my second Blade reference in "Should I grab the Bible or Snipes, to swing the harder Blade," also making note of how the Bible is referred to as a Christian's sword. And finally, this track is accredited to the work of the Holy Ghost, whom I prayed to guide (a.k.a "write") us in our expression of rap.

Hopefully that adds a little extra to your listening to the project and, keep a lookout for my ACTUAL releases from Verto Records this year: "The Return" EP, and my full length debut, "Finite."
Hmm...feels weird doing that whole, "artist plugs his upcoming stuff" thing. It'll take awhile to get used to THAT not being strange. Now excuse me, I have to go and prepare character sheets for "Rex Roy is: Dr. Divinty...Bookseller" to send to the author.

God Bless and good listening,
- Conduct Lionhardt

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Finales, Endings...Beginnings?

This time of the year I notice that a lot of things seem to be ending and, as some of you may be aware, the idea that everything is "finite" is of interest to me. So, if you don't mind, I'd like to speak on this for a second.

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

Self...or a Visualization of

So, I've put a good deal of thought recently into the fact that, sadly enough, I don't believe I'm doing a good enough job representing myself to the general public.

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

Stop the Music

Right now, you should stop listening to music.

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

My Mantra to read through

Lately, I have been having a rough go of things in my current set of circumstance. I've often checked out blogs from people where they go about using it to basically vent their troubles and, for me, thats not really what I'm seeking to do with this one.
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

Conducting Thoughts, with Wonder Brown

Before I post up, I have to extend an apology to Wonder Brown. I had every intent for each interview to be accompanied with an illustration but, technical difficulties are going to make that dream impossible for the time being. So, Sorry man! (I will post it up as soon as thats possible, though)

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 San Francisco last year, just coming off of my first Kings of Tragedy tour. The Kings album was composed, written recorded, mixed and mastered late last year, 2008, in preparation for another summer tour of this year - where I got a chance to meet you and your wonderful community of Believers in Pittsburgh.

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 University of Cincinnati which really opened my eyes to a gift our Father had given me to freely use - poetry. People were very supportive of this gift, and realizing this fact was so instrumental in opening up worlds of potential/oppurtunity. One thing I also realized early was that a desire to get things off my chest and be transparently open was inspiring to others... God would use all of these instances to build me up, preparing me for artistically expressing myself and performing in front of others who would realize similar desires from being around the creativity. The culmination of all these instances gave me the freedom to say what I want to say and be firm in my convictions amongst all of these people who were judgmental about whether or not you said Jesus 100 times in your songs. The track is called "Namesake", and the beat, simply, pulled what you hear out of me - I let myself be guided and received a Ton of freedom from that experience. I still like listening to that song to see where I've come from and where I've headed since.

Conduct: When you sit to write, is it usually motivated by something on your mind or the beat that you have available to write too?

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 Cincinnati from Evansville five or so years back, and quickly met k-Drama and D-Maub, brothers in Christ who have been around and really putting in work. Eventually, we got to really hang out when he accompanied the Idiots to the GMA's of 2007. He was there to pick Plastic's brain about the industry, and hob-knob with all of the other shenanigans that go on that weekend. After coming home, we stayed in touch, and later that year we hooked up some shows together... The Kings of Tragedy was later born when, out of shear genius, knew that I was moving to San Francisco sometime in the coming months, and also knew that MC would be meeting his family in Oregon for spring break. Tour on the way out there, together, arriving there just in time for MC to vacation with family? Don't mind if we do... We booked it together, MC being the business mastermind that he is. We created a set together, mixing mainly my part of "The Have Nots" and his album "Beautiful Raw." We eventually toured a couple more times, and in all, performed around 100 times together, and had the time of our lives.

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)