Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Secret origins of "Finite"

I finally found the free time to do, what I like to call, "modern liner notes" for my last release (and, oddly enough, oldest material) "Finite." (You can purchase and give a listen on iTunes or at the Verto Records bandcamp page.) I give breakdowns of each track, little anecdotes about how they came about. Shall we begin? Well alright!

"The End"

This song has actually been in the works since about '04. I got the beat from two rookie beatmakers (David Slayer and Aaron Paul) and as soon as I heard the vibe of that sample, I knew exactly what the song was. (However, in nitpicky fashion, I always felt that the kicks on it needed a bit more "oomf" to sound solid and full. Sadly, both guys vanished for a few years and couldn't re-edit the drums.) I always intended for this song to be the last one I ever wrote, hence the title and all. So, it is funny that I ended up writing it a few hours before the recording (in '09.)  This song fits the album theme emmensely and I feel that it is one of the two most important tracks on this record. I wanted to basically state the problem with all things. They all end. Everything fails in some way or shape. The songs pattern goes as such:
1.) The world is no good.
2.) The church is not what it should be.
3.) I am not the good guy or anything special.
 I was unsure where I should place the track in the song order but, Jordan (my bestfriend and engineer) remarked that it would be interesting to start off with a track called "The End" at the beginning. It was the right call, as it went well with the journey the music takes you on over the album. For those into such things, I reference Neogen (of 'Remnant Militia') in my third verse as well as another reference to "The Melancholy Complexion."


The origin of this song is interesting in that I wanted a beat that was comparable to one I'd heard at the end of Jurny Big's album, "The Biggest of them All." I've had a long time friendship with U.K. based producer Re:Flex The Architect and after some time of complimenting him on beats he had made, I decided to ask him if he took really specific beat request. Having him listen to Jurny's track, he then crafted me this beat. I've found that many of my best beats  are ones that instantly reveal the song to me. Upon hearing this one, I knew the song would be about the end of a depression I'd gone through in '05. I also knew I wanted to sing the chorus on it (Jordan also lends some blending vocals.) I've actually performed this song 3 times live, twice at a church, before its recording in '09. (I'll be honest and say that my recorded verses here sounds really..."rusty." I have done it better and will likely re-record  it, at some point, so that they sound worthy of Re:flex's production.) Fun fact: Originally I had no intention of doing full albums and was just going to release multiple EPs so, on this song I use the titles of...I think, 15 songs that I've wrote.

"Hold Me Softly"

Fun story on this one. I got the beat for this one from a cool guy I met through a hip hop forum. He went by Phoenix for a little while then redubbed himself "Phenom." The beat felt good and was surprisingly more radio-friendly than I usually associate with. So, I wrote the song years before recording it. To be honest, I had no real intention to really record the song. So when I did decide to do it I tried to track down Phenom at him about the beat and mixing...but I couldn't track him down. One of the things that sinched this as something I had to record was a desire to baffle people who weren't accustomed to hearing me on beats like this. I also felt inclined to do it because it is rare that I enjoy all three verses of my songs. Normally, my best verses are the 2nd (go back and listen to the second on "Through." Its the best). My favorite line in the track is likely "stress passed their pro-sound to bask in Your life, that's pro-Found." To this day, its the one track that the most people seem to enjoy and, hahaha, I actually want to re-record this one for better delivery too.

"Everything That is Wrong With You" featuring, Jordan Santana

The first thing to know about this track was  that it originally was intended to be a tribute too AND feature, Trendi MC aka Terry Mcfly. (For those not in the know of the guy, ask me about him in person. I'll share a few of his verses with you. LOVE his rapping) EQual One produced this one. Not the BEST producer in the world but,  from time to time he'd make something and swear "I hate this!" which I would take as a challenge to use the beat and, by association, make him love it. I'm spiteful that way, I guess, making people like something that they normally would not seems like fun to me. Back to Terry Mcfly, I tried hard to go through his two former partners in rhyme (Poems and Gr8 Jason, of the LA Symphony) but it came to no avail. He was no longer rapping. Saddened by this, I still went on with the tribute, doing my verses in a Terry-esque way and including Jordan Santana instead. Personally...I think we did "okay." Its my intention to do a song dedicated to the guy on many of my releases so, I'll perfect it at some point. Everything I list in the song is 100% true. I've had a few people ask me about some of the stuff said but I encourage you to LISTEN and think about it. You should do that with all my songs, actually. I pack songs full. Jordan's verses are true as well...and far funnier than mine.

"Reject Star" featuring Jordan Cutter

My cousin is the one who shoehorned me into DOING rap music. I never had the intention to do it. Even to this day, You're more likely to hear me speak to people about my illustration work, THEN my music. ( It is one of the most perplexing things in my life that MOST people know me from my church volunteerism and music than for my art. Illustration and Design are what MOST of my time is spent doing...) Strange... anyway, my cousin made this beat on the very first beat machine I had ever seen in person, a machine called "Dr. Groove." So, yeah, not the best or most clean beat of all time, right? Apologies for that. This song spoke a lot of elements from the depression I had in '05 and some things I'd overheard others lamenting about, at the time. I think in life it is easy to cast people aside. I know we all star in our own lives and those roles can take us off to school, relocating because of work, etc...but we really do move in and out of people's lives so quickly. This song speaks on the impact of people being there and then going. Many of us don't REALLY deal so well with it. The chorus on the song is totally a re-working of the song that Peter Panning's daughter sings, in the film "Hook." I felt that song always adequately spoke to my feeling alone. Infact, when I performed this song live, I always sang her version at the end of the song. Yeah, I have weird live shows. I was truly honored and blessed to have my engineer surprise me with the appearance of Jordan "Gabi" Cutter for the chorus, the day we recorded this. They reworked the chorus to suit her vocals and my design for the song, beautifully. I look forward to working with her again some day.

"Meek Willy"

This recording of "Meek Willy" is the fourth one we did of the song. Its possibly the oldest track on the record, the beat having been around since '02, I believe, by my friend Chris (who at the time went by Micronaut, and was in a rap duo called the Insomniaddicts). I've not been in contact with him but always wondered where he got this great sample from, of a small group discussing the possibilities of a song being spun out of Psalm 25. Cracks me up everytime I hear it. My first attempt to record it happened the very first time I met my bestfriend, then a few years later recorded it again, and then again in '07. Everytime, something messed up in the recording process and I was nearly convinced that the song was cursed to never, ever, record well. This version, done in '09, is the best it could have been done and is arguably the single best recording on the album (outside of "The End" and "Get.") Surprisingly, the lack of upfront kick doesn't taint the track for me (something that usually does). I love the "Ha" I toss in on the second part of the hook.

"Suspect Cats" featuring, Common Child

This song's backstory is simple. One day at the basketball court I saw this really weird (and likely drug or mentally, messed up) guy lurking around the area, looking as if he was going to mess with or possibly harm, my younger cousin and his friends. Later in the day, we saw him from a distance still upto no good. I referred to him as "suspect cat" and it entered our interpersonal lexicon. I wrote it, not long after, in '05. I orignally had 3 verses in mind, then my cousin wanted on and he was on one, then he vanished and I was left with my one verse (the others weren't as good) until one day I realized me and CommonCHILD (despite being in the same crew) had never done a track together. I pitched him on the concept and he, strangely, knew about that kind of sketchy person. And thus, the one song I feel fits perfectly in the theme of "Finite" despite being such an...odd track. If you've ever been around a sketchy person, or situation, then you can sing that hook.

"Keep All The Everything"

This is not a romantic song. I always have to tell people that. This isn't about being in love with a girl. The song is about friendship. Its about friendship being so great, helpful, and you simply not wanting it to end. The verses speak about youth, friendship, the tight bonds of such occurances, and the feeling of a swiftly approaching and inevitable, end. I wrote this song specifically as tribute to one friendship but I wrote it in such a way that the lyrics can be shifted to fit anyone. You can use this song. This song speaks to your clinging to a GOOD friendship. And, maybe like it did for me, that friendship was one that saved your life. Fun Fact: I always wanted someone to guess whom this song was about so, I literally put the person's name in the song. It takes a good listen and a knowledge of my life to get it but, people who KNOW me, can easily figure it out.

"Concrete Jungle" featuring, Jordan Santana and Abstract1

Much like my need to pay tribute to Terry Mcfly, I also have intention to pay tribute to Remnant Militia on every release. "Concrete Jungle" is actually inspired, by concept, from the album cover for Remnant Militia's "Anthem of a Life" record, which depicted a large tree meshed with recording equipment. I loved that cover and so, feeling this Re:Flex the Architect beat (he named the beat "T'Challa" after the real name for superhero and King of Wakanda, Black Panther) I took the idea of the jungle and meshed it with a city. Visually, my verse (and those of Jordan Santana and Abstract1) are a mesh of both jungle and cityscape, making an image that works like this: I'm a business man/top of the foodchain predator, Jordan is a guy working his way up the ladder/monkey or tree climbing animal, and Ab1 is a small floor of the forest living creature/blue collar worker. We each speak from our perspectives of existence in the "concrete jungle." I wasn't sure those two would get the vision I had for this but, they automatically got to writing and, in my opinion, did the better verses on it. In my head, the verse I wrote sounded like Black Thought (of the Roots) rapping> In reality, it just came out sounding like a verse from me. Ha, ha.

"Dark Blue"

What is an album without a song about heartbreak? The point of this record was always to convey that everything in life is finite...and only that which is outside of life and time, is NOT. Everyone has had a relationship begin and end. Some of us have had plenty. The origin of this song is actually in a relationship which did NOT happen. I'm sure you either know or have heard a tale like that. Something means everything to one person and the other person simply doesn't feel anything to the level of which you did. For me, it actually depressed me to a point and period of time I deemed (rather dramatically) the "Dark Blue Era." So, this song is both deeply personal yet, I hope, open enough for anyone else to attach themselves to. I really love the visuals that I chose lyrically for this song. As usual, I feel the 2nd verse is the best. Ha, ha. Funny story about this beat: back when I began doing music, my cousin made most of the beats. He then, randomly decided to stop making music because his church deemed hip hop unacceptable for Christians to be doing. I am TOTALLY not making that up. Anyways, I lost the guy who was making my beats and needed someone else to do it so, enter young Cornelius Winthrope, who went by the name C-Dep (aka Christ-Dependant). He was...a difficult and bull-headed kid but had a knack for making off-kilter and melodious beats...not saying this is one of those but, since I wrote to the beat, I recorded to it. I think it works and its actually one of the tracks that most non-rap listeners have said they enjoy. *shoulder shrug*

"Must Be Lust" featuring, Jordan Santana

That "Lust" which I say at the beginning is a tribute to the air of fun I thought a group like Slum Village would have. Dunno why, it just sounded like something they'd do. Every time it played back while being mixed, it made me and Jordan crack up. Still does to this day. Though he was not a part of this record, producer Error96 had a buddy of his make this beat, complete with its fantastic intropelation (I should spell check means a replayed version of something someone else played, ya know, a sample that isn't sampled) of the tune from a motown hit. Pretty straight forward song about Lust overtaking a guy (my verse) and a girl (Jordan Santana's verse). I totally love my verse. I wrote it without a beat, years before, and then when this one came in over the email, the verse and beat made a perfect match. I'm not a fan of my singing all the time but there are rare occasions where I think I sing somewhat decently. I actually haven't heard much about any of the singing I do on the record so, maybe I am wrong thouhh. Ha, ha. Jordan Santana kills his verse. He's so passionate with his delivery.

"Word is Bond"

I had high hopes for this track, with the second David Slayer beat on the record. I love the hook and I like the writing of the verses but, listening back on it, I actually feel the delivery is way off. I really don't like making rap bars that are like...I guess I'd say, "trendy" references. I feel the game is filled with so many guys who do that so...I dunno, I just try to stay more focused and a bit more topical than trend-riding. Anyways, there are some funny references on this one, The double stuffed cookies jingle, "Bird is the word," a reference to an image I saw of rapper Playdough holding a brown bag with a hole in it, Mars Ill's "Breath Slow" song. etc, etc. This song was written back in...I wanna say '04. At this point on the album, I guess the intent was to have this start to slide the theme of the record toward the other side of finite thinking, that God is infinite. Ultimately, I wanted people to think about how omnipotent he is and start to get that the point of life is finding the reason to exist...and once you find that, to dive all the way in.


I said at the beginning that "The End" was one of the two songs that are most important on the record. "Get" is the other. I feel like, even though the record is this journey, if you listen to "The End" and then "Get" you sort of capture the point of the whole album. Everything ends, it always comes to a close...with the exception of that which is timeless. For me, that's God. So if life is a pursuit of the meaning, then you have to "Get" it in order to live a life that made any part of a point. The beat was by EQual One and was in the last batch of beats before he retired. Love the sample and the drums knock it out of the park. I love all three verses I wrote. Even though the 2nd (with its pro-wrestling references to Ric Flair, "Macho Man" Randy Savage, and the "American Dream" Dusty Rhodes) is surely a stand-out for me, I feel all of them work well. One of the lines in the hook isn't as tight as the others in it, though. (Yes, I am honest and nitpicky) Its one of the songs I have memorized and did have memorized pretty well when I recorded it. I also have an idea for a video that I have yet to get around to filming. I've never done it live either, oddly enough. I wrote it in '07 in less than an hour. 2 people have said they loved it, one person said it was their favorite song.

And, well...that's it. That's "finite" the album. Its both strong and weak, dark and light, funny and serious, and totally me yet, something people can personally attach to. least I hope so. Things are subjective, I guess. Music has that tendency. If everyone heard it how I meant it to be...its possible it may not be as enjoyable. I liked making the record and learned alot. I've taken what i've learned from the experience and used it on newer things (like The Royal Applebaums "Earth" EP.) If there is any enjoyment, head nodding, or thought that it gave to you, then I am very pleased. If you listened and it didn't do much...I hope I can capture your ear with the record I'm creating now. Either way, thanks. Music isn't anything if it can't be shared, whether loved, liked, or dismissed.

- Conduct Lionhardt