In my 30+ years dedicated to Hip Hop I've seen a lot of artists come and go...more than I could ever count. Whether it's MCs/Crews I personally worked with or just an artist who I was really feeling, who had a hot record that never "blew up", many have faded into obscurity. Sadly, furthermore, many have given up music all together; Burnt out by the industry, creatively drained by the relentless struggle.
However, I feel like the truest of artists can't help but create. They are unable to stop, whether society hears them or not. When faced with obstacles that they can't tear down, they regroup, re-route, and press forward...regardless.
That's the story of Prolifik Penn. Truth be told, I don't even know his full story...yet. An in-depth interview is still in the works, so this is just a glimpse into his career.
For now, the story begins in 1989 on Jazzy Jay's "Cold Chillin' In The Studio Live" album. With only a couple exceptions, the album focused on previously unheard or rarely heard artists, such as; Ice Cream Tee*, Ultimate Force, Raheem, Nu-Sounds, D-Ice, Outlaw Gangster, Tony D, Def Duo, and MobVersa.
The MobVersa track, "Def is The Status", is sort of the sleeper joint on the album. Honestly even I slept on it back then. Listening now two things becoming revealing as to possibly why. First, the track, produced by Joe Scruggs, uses the same sample piece of Isaac Haye's "The Look Of Love", arguably made most famous on Jay Z's "Can I Live?". "Def Is The Status" isn't the first track to sample from this, but it's the first to prominently use that same piece as the Jay Z track, which has a uniquely different feel from what was typical sample material at the time. Lyrically, the approach is elegant and abstract, while the hook combines some humming and vocal scratching that sounds a bit like jazz scatting. All in all, a pretty weird track that the average Hip Hop ear probably wasn't quite ready for. Perhaps that is why I never heard of them again...
MobVersa-Def Is The Status
08 def is the status
In 1992 I was pretty religious about going to the mall and buying any rap tape that looked even marginally interesting. One such trip lead me to pick up Kemelions "Basement Arrangements" EP. Truth be told, I held it in my hands and examined it for quite some time before deciding to buy it. I had a hard time confirming that it was actually a Hip Hop tape. The cover was an abstract collage photo piece with various images, instruments, one fairly average looking guy and another with the wildest, most colorful, hairdo I'd ever seen...ha. I finally convinced myself to take a chance since the label was Zoo Street and Zoo had just recently put out the Tung Twista record. Plus a couple song titles had some "rap suspicious" spellings; "Sur-Vy-Vul Skills" & "Nervous Rek", while a couple others sparked some intrigue "Liquid Dots Of Kaos" & "Suiside DJ". I ended up being quite satisfied and impressed with my purchase.
"Peek-A-Boo" is one part sexual escapade and one part venereal disease warning. Even during it's grim warning of a chorus and overtly sexual verses, the song is so playful it nearly sneaks it way into seeming light-hearted. "Peek-A-Boo Pt 2", sequenced at the opposite end of the EP, has more of a jam-band sounding backing track and smooths things out. Lyrically, they tone down the XXX, but still cover the same subject matter.
"Nervous Rek" is the first track on the EP to really flex the lyrical skills. It's this track along with "Liquid Dots Of Kaos" that led to "Basement Arrangements" serving as sort of a bridge between Organized Konfusion's debut ('91) and Sophomore album ('94) for me. I spent nuff time wondering if the two crews were connected in some way and even day-dreamed of a collaboration. There's excellent use of style & flavor. Plus the complex delivery, precise articulation, & ill mind frame is top notch. Joe Scruggs production is at it's illest on these two joints also. It's boom-bap and musical at the same time. There's excellent use of eerie sounds, intense scratching, human voices, & dramatic pianos, all perfectly put together for sonic satifisfaction.
[audio:http://www.fifthelementonline.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/04-Nervous-Rek.mp3|titles=04 Nervous Rek]
[audio:http://www.fifthelementonline.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/06-Liquid-Dots-Of-Kaos.mp3|titles=06 Liquid Dots Of Kaos]
[audio:http://www.fifthelementonline.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/05-Sur-Vy-Vul-Skills.mp3|titles=05 Sur-Vy-Vul Skills]
After this EP I never heard anything from them again...
It was actually fairly recently, within the last 5 years or so, when I finally made the connection between MobVersa and Kemelions. While trying to find search for the Kemelions on the internets, the best lead for info was courtesy the producer, Joe Scruggs. When checking what else he produced, I was lead to the MobVersa track. Further examination of the writing credits on that track and I noted another familiar name on both projects; Corey Morris. Thus confirming the linkage...yet that still yielded no contact.
After recently reading a few tid-bits of info on the Kemelions in the Dan Charnas masterpiece book, that is The Big Payback**, (which I know you are already reading because I been told you it was required reading if you love Hip Hop!) I decided to begin my quest anew and this time I established contact with lead MC, Poepan (Corey Morris), now known as Prolifik Penn.
We've been corresponding back-n-forth for a few weeks now. He's currently 13 joints deep into a new project. He sent me a couple tracks to check out; "Fillet Of Soul" and "War" featuring J Supreme & Rallo. Both cuts showcase that he has never lost that hunger or fire to spit. He's in rare form on both, yet they cover different modes and styles, showing his diversity.
I gave "War" a spin on Redefinition Radio and immediately had a listener hit me up about it. Prolifik Penn gave me permission to give it away for free on the blog as a teaser for the upcoming project. I'm planning to hook up with him when I hit NYC this Spring for my next string of interviews and get the full story on his history. In the meantime, enjoy the joints, old to the new, and stay inspired!!
*Oh yeah, I'm still "anxiously" seeking a contact for Ice Cream Tee! I have questions I need answered peoples...