Neighborhood Legends: LA (of Wildstyle) Circa '86-'90

Posted on January 16, 2013 by Kevin Beacham | 2 Comments

 


I met LA (aka Les) thru another Homeboy of mine, Vernon (aka Def T). The three of us decided to form a crew, which Def T dubbed Rose Productions. For a DJ we connected with another friend of theirs, Shannon aka DJ Flawless (soon to become Madd Maxx), who lived in Kenosha. Some time in ’87 three of us went to the DJ Flawless lab in Wisconsin so I could meet him for the first time and we could test our working energy by recording some practice tapes. Madd Maxx had a basic set up of some cheap belt drive turntables, a standard cheap Casio toy keyboard, and a tape deck. Def T and I had wrote a song called “To The Max” and for whatever reason LA wasn’t on it. We put the Casio on the “Soul” beat option or whatever it was and recorded “To The Max” while Flawless did cuts, often loudly over our vocals…ha. When we finished that track, LA recorded two acapellas, both, which were lyrically superior to most everything on “To The Max”.

I actually don’t know how long LA was rhyming before that point. I do safely predict that LL Cool J was a primary influence, so I’m guessing he started after the “Radio” LP came out. Before we became a crew he had already done some street tape recordings. There was another local MC named JG who LA rolled with. LA would act as his back up MC and also get a little mic time for himself, but LA soon outgrew that hypeman role and became a superior lyricist to JG, who had a more Old School type style. On one of the tapes LA refers to himself as the DJ, but I never recall him ever really doing the DJ thing.

Rose Productions was a short-lived endeavor, as Def T aka The Guillotine wasn’t as focused on MCing as we were (to give a simply definition), so once we determined we were going to move forward without him as the third MC we wanted to rebrand ourselves. I remember LA and I standing in the parking lot of MCdonald’s where I worked one night, in what I believe was the summer of ’87. We were thinking of a name for our group and finally I came up with Wildstyle. It was meant to symbolize the Old School roots of the Culture by its reference to the movie, which contained many of the Pioneers and it was also a description of our style, because we weren’t rhyming like ANYONE in the area. People would always tell us our style was “wild” or “crazy”, so it fit perfect. From there we were ready to begin world rhyme domination, but we were content on starting in North Chicago and Waukegan first. Our number one priority was to terrorize all MCs!

I was constantly writing ideas, verses, songs…whatever. LA probably wrote only half as much as me, maybe less, but when he did it was always potent. In contrast, I wrote so much that there was a fairly wide range quality, but when LA penned a verse it was always lethal, for he was the “The Mutilator” and the “Legendary Lyricist…” I was generally the largest instigator for calling out MCs, particularly in ’88 once I had hit a innovative writing stride. If I knew you rhymed I made sure you knew that Wildstyle was coming for you. This was a key time for the popularizing of Hip Hop and so many MCs and groups who were innovating and inspiring; KRS One, Rakim, Ultramagnetic, Ice T, Just-Ice, NW.A, De La Soul, Chuck D, Kool Moe Dee, Kool G Rap, LL Cool J, Slick Rick, etc…. The result was new MCs popping up in our school and around the way every week or so. Generally, I would lead the assault. It wasn’t because I was the best, it was because I just had the biggest mouth and I considered LA the secret weapon, partially because was unassuming. He was mixed, but light-skinned enough that people probably considered him white or at least not black. At that time there weren’t any white MCs who were widely known for battling.  In general, the primary white representation on wax was the Beastie Boys, who know no one considered as battle rappers.

I remember the first time I saw LA battle. A new crew had made their presence known. They had started to wear crew jackets to school with their name on the back, they were called the Fresh Federation. Once they made it official like that it got set up for them to meet us at the Youth Center across the street after school. They had two dudes in the crew and at this point Def T was still rhyming with us, so we decided just one person would represent for each crew. We went into the Youth Center bathroom…and I have no idea why out of the places we could go we walked across the street into a small bathroom with like 10 dudes…ha. Anyway, to sort of play a mind game with them I was like, “You can pick which of our MCs represents for us, go ahead and choose your fate…” It was meant to suggest that we were so confident that any of us would be victorious. I never forget what he said, it was probably better than any punchline he did while Rapping, obviously more memorable. He looked right at LA and said, “I’ll take him, he looks the weakest….” It was a nice little diss, but in hindsight it made him look like he was trying for the easy way out, but it didn’t matter that’s not what he got. I’m sure LA was nervous because I don’t think he had a one on one battle before, but I imagine dude saying that got him hyped and he went into a attack mode. He shredded this dude to pieces.

The other main solo battle I remember LA having took place at the same MCDonald’s where we picked our group name. It was a fellow North Chi classmate, Michael Colemen (can’t remember his MC name), who had a affiliation with one of the top crews, and key competitors to Wildstyle in the area, Full Deck. I remember we walked to the very back of the restaurant. All I can recall lyrically was Michael’s opening line, “When I walk into a party I always get respect/Should I slay em? Awww, what the heck…”, which he delivered in a more smooth and relaxed tone. When LA’s turn arose he turned up the volume and aggressiveness, I imagine burger chomping customers getting slightly alarmed at the sudden racket, but I didn’t pay much attention, I was watching the master at work. He added another stripe to his win column.

From then on LA and I were tag team battlers. We would travel wherever to find MCs and try to take off heads. We hit parties, competing schools, randomly while out and about and the Talent Shows of the day.  I promise you, I was always and continue to be his biggest fan. He blew my mind constantly. Wildstyle worked on a few home demos in ’86’/87. The first three in order were “Superior Force”, “Flawless” and “Drums”, but thru all this time we were developing our sound and style. Then in ’88 we recorded “Goin’ 4 Self” and that was the true introduction to what we were trying to do with building a Wildstyle legacy.

For our first official 24-track studio recording we did the “Goin 4 Self Remix” in January of ’89. This track is filled with as many problems as it is positive memories. It was our first time in the studio, so we didn’t know about proper mixing, hence the use of a Roland TR-808 w/o a proper BASS. We were so mesmerized by all the gadgets, lights and buttons that our gritty raw battle song became a futuristic space voyage. Plus on the only version I have the tempo has been slowed down slightly so it drags a little.  Madd Maxx does get nice on the cuts though. I spark it off and then LA has the standout verse of the song when he drops this jewel on his first go round:

"Next up is the Mutilator/LA is the story teller maker/the narrator that's greater instead of better/bite like a blizzard, the grand wizard of word sayers/supreme word slayer.../Gonna penetrate em, annihilate em and break em/being destructive, abusive is gonna be the ultimatum/I write it, recite it, the suckers gonna despise it/and in spite of me making it, gonna take it and bite it/stand on stage when I illustrate, write the rhyme and elaborate/get financially fitted [AMC: "so he can fill up his dinner plate"]/change expression on faces when I be rockin the places/the know the soul is inside me and they don't try to get racist/Maxx does the scratches, while I be rocking the places/the girlies miss me and kiss me and stick around for embraces/cause I love kissing the girls, I love buying em pearls/the love LA because I'm sexy and his nice box curls/crazed killer, illy iller, funky junky fulfiller/[AMC: "if you're sick of that lite s**t, then LA is your Miller"]/cause my horizons are broadened and obstacles overtaken/if suckers fall like they're dying, they better hope they ain't faking/cause I'm gonna take em and break em, penetrate em then inflate em/word fill em like steak-um../[AMC: "Yo, LA what are you??"] I'm insane(((((("

He just kills in some many places there with the flow and patterns.  I always smile at, "in spite of me making it, they gonna take it and bite it"... it just has a certain elegance to it. That poetic nature is also present in lines such as, "horizons are broadened and obstacles over-taken…” In essence, those two lines are effective of communicating two of the leading mindsets in the Wildstyle idealism.

 Over the next year or so Wildstyle recorded at least an album with a material and started working on, writing, or "concepting" another couple albums worth of materials...stacks of spiral rhyme note books. Then by the time '89 was winding down, Wildstyle started to have some inner turmoil that would lead to our break-up. The reasons behind that split are story of their own. However, perfectly timed with this transition LA’s writing became sharper than ever. This increased skill level is witnessed on two solo songs he recorded with Madd Maxx. The inappropriately and misleading title, “Techno Dance” and “Listen To The Man”.

“Techno Dance”
Recorded: 1989 
Recorded At: The Rage Cage (Set Up In Madd Maxx's Grandmother's North Chicago House)
Mixed By Madd Maxx and Badd Mixx??
Produced by DJ Madd Maxx and Badd Mixx
Tambourines Programmed by AMC
Lyrics Written and Performed by LA 
All Cuts, Scratches, and Turntable Tricks by DJ Madd Maxx and Badd Mixx
Drums Programmed using the Alesis HR-16 Drum Machine
Recorded with A Tascam Porta One 4-Track                                                                                                                                      
Samples courtesy of the Casio SK-5 Keyboard

I don't know if LA just hit his prime right then or if he felt the pressure of being on his first solo track, but whatever the case he rose to the occasion. He drops so many, what I would call, "classic" lines. He opens with, "Paragraph analyst, the legend can handle this, the Armageddon’s spreading and (I'm) the rapping evangelist. The suckers call me Amity(ville), I'm ripping your anatomy, the lyrical wizard is conjuring up a calamity..." He doesn't stop there it's just non-stop. He ends the first verse with "Freeze you like a snowman, wet you like a row man, burn you like a pale man and serve you like a mail man". Excellence. He maintains a nice balance of serving the suckers, giving props to his two DJs, and dropping some science thru out the whole song.

One thing I don't think I noticed back then was something that was probably directed at me (maybe not a diss, but just a reminder that he didn't need me). It's on the second verse where he takes a jab at Rob Base (we both had a problem with the song "It Takes Two" because it wasn’t “lyrical” and sounded “watered-down”. I've since learned to love it, but back then we were dismissive if it wasn't of a certain vocal caliber). LA unapologetic rhymes, "Speaking of a sucker who thinks he got a breakthrough, it doesn't really take two to make this statement true..." I would say that is obviously his way of saying he can hold it down without me and I certainly can't deny that, but I think if I would have noticed that back then I would have been like, "ouch"...ha. He does however immediately follow that line with, "Positive energy, no negativity/full of ambition, no obstacle can get rid of me". There's all sorts of gems thru out the track, but I'll just hit you with the closing line, "Letting you know that I can and I am/the half breed brother mother man who took you to the Motherland." Oh Word??!!

Another key memory of this song is LA got a gig to do it at this new youth club that opened for a little while in Zion, IL (before too many fights shut it down within a month or two). It was my first time going to a Wildstyle show and standing in the crowd. Technically, I don't think it was billed as Wildstyle, probably listed as "LA and Madd Maxx performing their hit song Techno Dance", but you get that point. I was just standing in the crowd and watching LA do his thing. He did an excellent job delivering all the high-energy verses perfectly and still rocking his lil dance steps and working the crowd. I think he only got to the do the one song, but it was great to witness. I had never got to really see him perform since I was always standing next to him. I have to admit while I was excited and proud of him, there was something "pulling" at my gut. I don't think it was jealousy or bitterness, it was more that it was probably that first real official feeling that the Wildstyle thing was done and I had so much faith in our future and potential. On one hand, It was like watching a dream being burnt to ash, but on the other it was like watching the rise of the phoenix.

“Listen To The Man”                                                                                                                                                                                    Written & Recorded: 1989 (maybe 90)                                                                                                                                                  Recorded At: Rage Cage (My Foxcrest Apt. Location)                                                                                                                                     Mixed By Madd Maxx                                                                                                                                                                            Produced by Madd Maxx for Rage Productions                                                                                                                                        Lyrics Written and Performed by LA of Wild Style                                                                                                                                Equipment Used: Alesis HR-16 Drum Machine, Casio SK-5 Sampling Keyboard & Tascam Porta One 4-Track Cassette Recorder

This is the one Wildstyle era/post era track that I had completely no involvement with. It has a dance/house feel to it in the tempo, swing, and the choice of some of samples that Maxx uses, yet it still has a hardcore edge to it. It's only 3 short verses but that is all LA needs to rip the track to pieces. Peep the first verse:

"Listen to the man and think about the ambiance/traveling your speakers with the whistle of a missile launch/taking control of, minds with a load of/explosive intelligence that's relevant to the soul of/rhythms, words and rhyme you never heard of mine/brother with the (cau)casian color, taking it further, I'm/show(ing) superiority with lyrical authority/It seems to me you'll dare to be, but I'm the one with the clarity"

The second verse maintains intensity and adds a layer of criticism to the industry, "Bass Drum energy, snares peak infinity/Fidelity incredibly smoother with the melody/Setting a trend with the style that I send/Many thoughts thru the heads of those who pretend/to be wise on the rise to the top for prize/but the weak it sounds its clear to the eyes/and the ears when we listening, tears'll be glistening/Ideas are like spears, but the thoughts keep missin' em!"

The opening of the last verse is the one that just leaves me hungry in my thoughts of where LA was headed lyrically, "I come across on track that's dope, in fact  it's more than that/it's all a fact, read it in your almanac/and when I'm done they'll still be trying to play me though/the only way they're going to play me out is thru the radio..."

After hearing this I just knew Madd Maxx and LA were going to go on to big things. For that time period (’88-’89) I don’t think any other MC in Lake County was as potent as him in terms of the overall package; writing, delivery, voice, and versatility. The music by Madd Maxx was commercially accessible and the lyricism was invigorating. However, no other tracks would follow. LA went away to the Navy and the MCing took a back seat to life. Regardless, I think of him as one of the legends of that time for us in Lake Country with the potential to have been a verbal threat on a global skill given the opportunity. For years I have re-referenced his writing for inspiration. Even today when I listen, it ignites a creative spark, the Lyric Legend lives on… Wildstyle forever you suckas!!

Written By Kevin "Mr Fan First" Beacham

LA & Coolie circa '86/'87 AT MY HOUSE IN GREAT LAKES/NORTH CHICAGO, IL:


ROSE PRODUCTIONS: DEF T (aka Guillotine), LA, and Coolie (in pink suckas!) circa '87 AT NORTH CHICAGO HIGH SCHOOL:


ONE OF VERY, VERY FEW PHOTOS OF ALL OF WILDSTYLE: LA, MADD MAXX, & AMC A.K.A COOLIE AT MY FOX CREST APPARTMENT '89 STYLE:


LA AND AMC STYLING IN '89/'90


LA CHILLIN EARLY 90s AT BLACK MAN ZEKE'S CRIB


I'M EXCITED TO BE IN POSSESSION OF THE LYRIC SHEETS TO A DECENT AMOUNT OF LA'S LYRICS, AS WE SHARED NOTEBOOKS AND I KEEP "EVERYTHING"...HA. HERE'S SOME SCANS OF SOME OF THE VERSES FROM TRACKS ABOVE:

LAST VERSE OF "TECHNO DANCE"


"LISTEN TO THE MAN" FIRST VERSE (EARLY DRAFT, AS THE LAST PIECE ACTUAL GOT USED IN "TECHNO DANCE" (ABOVE)


"LISTEN TO THE MAN" FIRST VERSE BUT IS TWICE AS LONG WITH LYRICS NEVER USED


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2 Responses

Kevin Beacham
Kevin Beacham

January 22, 2013

Thanx Tracey! I always remember you as someone who was supportive of us way back then! You hit the description of Les perfectly. We were definitely serious about the music…but we did still find some time to chase girls too :) Love ya homegirl!

Tracy Adams Brown
Tracy Adams Brown

January 21, 2013

Wow! I remember Les used to be so secretive with his writing. He was such a mysterious person: red afro, freckles, smart, quiet. He was always a gentleman, whether he was at the arcade (Belvidere Mall) or rhyming with his boys. They were the guys that chose making music over chasing girls. They were SERIOUS! Lol. And that’s why they are respected til this day. Thanks for the trip down memory lane.

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