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.
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