The secret Origins of, the "Return" EP
Since Verto Records did the surprise release of my EP (a wild idea concocted by me and the label presidente) I wanted to post up a rare blog about something I've done, giving all you readers out there (all 4 of you) a little secret insight on the tracks on this pre-cursor to my fulll length album, the ominously entitled "Finite."
I have a brief 3 keys to understanding precisely what it is that I do when I make music here, before I start with my track-by-track secret spilling. Keeping these in mind will make your listening experience more fuller:
1.) Every project I do, for me, is a Concept record. It might seem all over the place or hodge-podge but, trust me, its a concept record EVERY time.
2.) I will utilize the most obscure or specific references to get across the point of the song. Noir film dialogue, 90's TV, dated euphemisms, wrestling terminology, comicbook fact AND fiction, etc, etc... I use the entire scope of what it is that I've encountered in my life, if I personally feel that it communicates what the track is about.
3.) My music is basically an extension of my visual art. Every concept record, is like an art book. Every track, is a page with a specific image or sequential set of images to relay the whole to you, the lovely listener. My music and my illustrations are the same expression, just in different style. (Think of it like a movie and a TV show. Both are the same yet, also different.
Okay, now that you have those to work with, go listen to the music. Go on. Go listen. No..wait. Listen to them one at a time, AFTER you read what I say about the song.
Disappear is a song with several different really cool things going on with it. The images I pieced together for the artwork work very much with this song and "Return," which isn't the EP title track. (If you assumed that because the titles are the same, well, you're missing the larger picture going on here) Disappear was written YEARS ago, to this beat by my longtime producer (who recently stopped making hip hop beats and is focused on soundtrack music) Klas Linder. Klas, (who at the time went by Signalias and then went by Error96) was a very admired and underappreciated producer I had discovered through the sphereofhiphop.com forums. He is a master of creating beats that are distinct and gripping soundscapes YET, open enough for an artist to explore and give a tone. This is actually one verse of 3 seperate verses I wrote for this beat. (I had some people vote on them and they chose this as the best of the three)
References therein: the nicknames of the members of De La Soul, whilst also big upping my sister, who's nickname is "Dove Wonder Why," blackbirds, Jared "the Pretender" (not to be confused by Subway's Jared. In late 90's early 2000's, an NBC drama called the Pretender featured the protagonist Jared, a genius who could basically be anyone or do anything he wanted. I was a big fan of the secondary narritives in that show involving the organization whom trained him and its machinations upon him and the agent chasing him, Miss Parker), and "Remember the Future" the debut album by rap group Future Shock,
One of my fav set of lines is the opener, "I wanna leave my attributes of a man to pass by" being one of the truer statements I've made in a song, expressing my desire to pull away from the things of which us men judge our own greatness by. Those things, what we look like, our physical prowess in and out of the bed room, etc...its all nonsense in the meta-narritive. "Raps are simplistic to me but, they won't understand/ I hold art to become real, is it?" is another set of rather interesting lines, making reference to the visual nature of which my words are easily perceived to me but, usually aren't even seen as art to hardly anyone else.
I wanted the track to be one long verse with no breaks or hooks. I know its unconventional, especially in our current single saturated, feature heavy, market but, sometimes a buncha bars long of rapping says a whole bit. The point of this song/image being, through this series of thoughts and struggles, I felt at the point of writing, I could...or maybe should, disappear. And in some ways, part of me did and may not have come back, even to this day...
"Gotta have soul"
Gotta have Soul is the track on this EP that's the most...I guess "Gospel" would be the word. It ask you to really take a look at things and see 'em. This blog is tough because I can't really express further in words how it connects and stuff. I wish you could see it like I do.
Note that I rap really weird, for me, on this track. It was, thusly, the most fun track to do on here because it was a bit unconventional for me. haha.
References Therein: Paul Heyman's Extreme Championship Wrestling (Specifically, a wrestler named Mike Awesome who was prone to tossing his vastly smaller opponents through tables...and this was mid 90's, loooong before Vince McMahon's WWF (then later WWE) started lying that they invented such nonsensical violent TV fiction.), my frustrations of my straight edges becoming frayed and jagged at art school, aspects of games usually played in casinos, Ghost in the machine, the win streak that Boston sports franchises had, submission holds, and the announcement that, up next verse, is a feature by my partner in rhymes, Jordan Santana (of which I do stuff with as "The Royal Applebaums")
random tidbit or anecdote: In that first verse I reference how I was used by God to keep some people from falling off the edge of life into death. I had small conversations here and there back then which were brief yet, I've been told years later spoke a more clear version of the love of Christ than any they'd experience through church. I'm...often awkward when people say that kinda stuff to me. I don't really feel like, I guess, pride about it. Its not my intention to have people come back and say stuff like, you helped save my life. I'm no hero. I've needed saving myself. Shoot, my friend Kate very much saved my life. Nobody knows that but, had it not been for her... well, I'm sure you know what I'm saying. Lets continue...
Big secret origin reveal here: Jordan raps better than I. Seriously. Some people say I MIGHT have a better voice for it than him but, structurally speaking, he puts together better bars, stanzas and punchlines than I ever could. I appreciate what we can both bring to the table but his overall understanding of music AND recording makes my attempts at it pale in a critical eyed comparison. His verse snuggly fits in between my verses and, seriously, makes the song fuller and worth listening all the way through.
My second verse starts off about Soul for two reasons. EQual One produced this track and the sample provided the spark for the whole thing. However, it was also one of those weeks where I'd seen a James Brown retrospective and the whole "I got soul" was stuck in the back of my head. Me and Jordan wrote this when I recorded it in '09 (Hot Attic studios, inside Radiant Church, word up.) I like everything after the Soul part, ha,ha. My fav line of this whole verse is, 'Secret lie of Satan is, 'God CAN'T handle alla that', because I whole heartedly believe that its the most useful attack he's ever come up with. If you limit God to what he CAN'T do, then it makes Him less. It's classicly his best villainous tactic: making you doubt what you've been told. Soon as you fall for that, suprise, you're totally easy game for him to play with.
"See The Beast"
I'd be hard pressed to say that this track isn't my favorite on the EP...but it may not be hardly as important as the rest. I'd recently read an article in Relevant magazine when I wrote the song which was called, "The Ironic Class" and spoke on how young adults (a term invented as part of the trickle effect that The Industrial Revolution had, creating the term "adolescence" to keep young workers out of factories so that older employees wouldn't be displaced) are prone to a almost acidic and constant form of sarcasm and irony. Having breached the age level of "young adulthood" myself, I realized how true that labelling of a class was. There was the impetus of the song.
In an interesting twist, the beat you hear on the track IS NOT the beat of which I crafted the track too. My good friend Colby Work, who goes by the nom de plume, Common Child, had recently released an album with a producer named Thought P called "Along as We Go." On it, there was a track called...hmmm, I actually can't remember now but, it was about his wife and marriage. The beat was crazy good and, being one of his close pals, he had sent me a version where the first verse space and chorus line was all beat. I wrote it to that and, Colby, if you're reading this, lemme get that beat to let you hear this song the way it was in my head. haha.
EQual One made this beat using a few 80's records I had requested (in what would be his final batch of beats, no doubt) and I felt it had that gritty old school feel.
References therein: Acid, Music that makes you incapable of acknowledging the right way to go about relationships, the lack of kids being able to speak positivity, sex, inability to looked passed what is right infront of yourself, and the overbearing need for people to be comfortable via the death of going for ones dreams.
Notion picks up that second and final verse here. Me and Clayton go all the way back to when he was in highschool and I was a graphic designer for ad agency, Bynum Advertising so...roughly over a decade ago. He was this amazingly gifted wordsmith who posted up his home recordings online and whom I became a fan, then friend of, based on his epic rap ability and my acceptable critique skills. In recent years we'd lost touch a bit as he'd gone through college and also started making some small waves as an emcee in Seattle. I was blessed when he said he'd do a feature and came through with a great verse that matches the beat and thematic tone of the track, if not its message.
The chorus is my favorite part, easily followed by the saddened ending line, "And it seems, that COMFORT is the new plot scheme/ people awake, to go to sleep with NO DREAMS."
That line has a few different meanings both in general and specifically for me. I've had more people want me to be "comfortable" than to seek out my dreams than I could count. I'm also very convinced that its why so many people end up drifting or walking away from me but, I really wouldn't be happy comfortable. I feel I'd just get fat again and start to unappreciate all the wonderful moments shared with folk, who'll never really grasp how amazingly terrific they are and could be. And perhaps that's the point to it all. That we'd rather do all this nonsense than really get ourselves somewhere close to the dreams we have. No doubt, I believe that is why the gaps between kids and adults grows. What are we showing them to be?
Return...this is a really old song. Ha, ha. You'll find on the first...lets say 3 projects I've got coming out that, most of the best songs were written before my epic depression of '05. I dunno why but, for me, I peaked at '06. But that's a bit off subject. Return is a good place to break down my usual approach at writing rap songs. Its a cool structure of, first verse to interest you, second verse to showcase clever lyrical stylishness, then the third is the point brought home to some degree. I've changed it up a bit here and there but, it seems that this way of writing is kind of my bread and butter. I got this beat from LOTTOJ (pro-nounced "low-taj") years ago back when he crooned less and made beats daily. It was him and EQual One who got me to start rapping in 2000, when they were putting together a record and needed singing on the hook to a track called "Improvise." I wrote this song pretty darn quickly too but it would take 3 years for me to let poor LOTTOJ get a listen to the verses. haha.
There's singing on this track, or I should say, what some people call singing. I've never been really good at singing and wouldn't claim that this track is the best singing I've ever done. (that would be my "Thanks Jules" LP, a completely sung album, which is in "the Vault." more on that project in 2012...) I performed this song live and enlisted the wonderful skills of David Bowens to sing the chorus with proper alterations. I prefer that version of the hook but, Jordan tells me I'm just too critical.
References Therein: Bill Gates, Steel gates, Major League, peoples bibles staying on tables instead of being read and used, wolves in sheeps clothing, sharing your faith with those around you, Selfishness, shunning the shiny things we get distracted by, wearing joy in a way others can see, and who I was, am, and will be.
The last couple of bars on the final verse are actually the "Return" of the song, being the very first bars I wrote for a rap song. I did a song with EQual One and Real Deal (Trevor Weller, "Real Deal,"whom has since risen to the level of a star in the rap battle scene, having near classic battles with emcees across the country in the "Grind Time Battles" you can see on youtube) called "Renaissance emcees." we were going to do an all Pittsburgh emcee record and the track called for you to introduce yourself. So, from "I be the thought for the Art most forgot to start..." what you hear on this songs final lines is VERBATUM, my very first raps.
Ultimately, what's the point? Well, "Return" is a concept record wrapped around the idea that you are called to seperate yourself from the world, find out who and what you're supposed to be then, you return to the world and show them. In this way, you catch some of that in this EP and its introduction of me. The two outside tracks are about me at two different places of strength, one running away from it all and the other being, my call to return and do battle with life the only way I've ever known, through my real life namesake, Christian, a follower of Christ. The two inner tracks aren't about me but about what I see in us, humanity. Its almost like, I leave in track 1, observe from my raven's purch from the outside for two songs, then come back to help in the last track.
People often ask me where the name Conduct Lionhardt came from and what, if anything it means. my friends gave me "Conduct" because of how I act and expect others too. "Lionhardt" came through a few different sources but, I almost didn't use it. It wasn't until I realized something about Jesus that I guarantee 85% of "christians" don't: His life, how he approached it and what He did with it, was two things, a life lived through pure love of heart and a nomadic journey that was undoubtedly hard. The level of how hard his life was and how much it was about showing heart to people, that combined the two to form the part of LionHARDT I use in the name. Thus, when read correctly, my name (and I feel its more my name than my birth given one, at this point) is: Act like Jesus' heart, even through the most difficult life you may have.
And its funny but, for those who know me, and those who may get a chance, I'm sure they can pick up the correlation between the name and the way of my existence.
So, hope you enjoyed it and listening to it was fun. Its just a set-up for the main course of my LP, "Finite," which I believe is coming out the end of summer. Congrats to those who read this blog all the way through. I salute the two of you.
peace, peace, peace,
- Conduct Lionhardt
You can listen too and purchase "Return" (and freely download my 2007 The Royal Applebaums group record,"Bipolar Backspin") at the link below, courtesy of shamless self-promotion on my part and, the mighty mighty, Verto Records.