DISCLAIMER: KMC is not for the sensitive or faint of heart. They cover some pretty "dark territory". I keep the review relatively clean but just thought I'd give a heads up...it's only entertainment :)
EDITOR'S NOTE: I was able to communicate with Tee The O.G of KMC on my recent trip to L.A. However, we were unable to connect for an interview due to a family emergency. Sending positive vibes, strength and blessings to Tee and his family right now!
KMC a.k.a Kaotic Minds Corruptin' made their debut on the DJ M Walk compilation, “The Union” in ‘89.They appeared on the posse cut alongside Quiet Storm, Double J (not the Flavor Unit one), Funky Fresh, King Saul, and the “rhyme narrator”, Master Rhyme. It was obvious, even from their brief cameo, they had a different way of thinking, with lines like (from Tee The OG of KMC), “I’m swarming thru like a horde of hornets/Since I was born I was warned of sap suckers/Tee The O.G. has a single O not a double O/Buffalo, gopher, how could a gopher rush a buffalo”…and that is just a sampling of a few odd animal references in their rhymes... I admit that I had no idea what they were talking about. It did however prove to be very entertaining and attention grabbing.
Fast-forward a couple years later and they had ADs in The Source Magazine for an upcoming album on Priority Records. I can’t remember any particular text from the ADs, but I do recall that the marketing quotes peaked my interest, as did the grim imagery. Also the title, “3 Men With The Power Of Ten” caught my attention because it just seemed so different. There was no doubt I was going to be buying this album as soon as it dropped.
The album is certainly more diverse than it is given credit for. However, it’s easy to view it as one-dimensional based on the marketing and promotions that surrounded it. Everything seemed to be focused on the dark elements of the album, the style that would later get labeled “Horrorcore”. KMC was at the forefront of this style and are clearly pioneers, preceded only perhaps by The Ghetto Boys (EX: “Assassin” 1988). I imagine the choice from the group and/or the label to focus the promotions on that element stemmed from that very fact of it being so unique, thus wanting to capitalize on that. It certainly rings of logic, but the problem lies in the fact that it also limits your audience. Most every other group to achieve success with the style later did so by tapping into different markets beyond the typical “B-Boy crowd” (with the exception of Gravediggaz who had bigger artist names attached to the project and a great record as well. Not to mention some “help” from KMC, more on that later though...)*.
KMC consists of 2 MCs, Tee The O.G. and Rocc The Jock, and DJ Poison Ivy. Poison Ivy along with Jammin James Carter handle all the album production, which is filled with heavy-hitting drums and creative sampling.
The album kicks off with the title track and really sets the tone for KMC at their best. The opening line, courtesy of Rocc The Jock, reminds us of their fixation with peculiar animal references, “Lyrics that’ll pull a Rhino down/It’s definitely dope vocals moving you around/Walk without a limp and sure as hell don’t stumble/Hard as mutha f***in’ oak, they say your soft as stucco.” He goes on to explain that he’s “On mission to find that other kru, who, has the name KMC and tryin’ to get paid”...taking a jab at the KMC Kru with whom people probably confused them with at times. However, I doubt the two men from Michigan were lyrically prepared to deal with the 3 Men With The Power Of Ten, which included, “The black Terminator, Arnold Swarza-ni**a” as Rocc later refers to himself. At pretty much exactly a minute into the track he hands the mic off to Tee The O.G. who describes the crew with, “Tee is like a moving freight train/Rocc The Jock has the power of a god-damn Great Dane!” That’s not too long after he proclaims, “Poison Ivy has the squeeze of a Python/Strength of a football team minus one is ten”. What?!!? I love it...ha. For the break there’s no chorus, no talking...just music and time for you to let the lyrical assault soak in so you are ready for Rocc The Jock to come back with, “I walk alone at night with my black violin case/Void the violin I’m packing a Mac 10"... A few bars later the transition to Tee is once again handled smoothly with a mid-bar pass-off, allowing Tee to complete his thought with, “I’m a menace who runs around hitting bee hives”. He then proceeds to close the song out perfectly by summarizing what KMC are all about, “Stupid simple minded saps are souped/I swarm the suckers who sing their simple songs/Make a boost on the volume/If you don’t think this is dope you got a problem/Tee Thee O.G., swift as a black crow that is on steroids and I’m devoted to KMC/Love to move a crowd that’s full of fans/Love the screaming and the sound of clapping hands/I punch more powerful than the shocking stun of the strike of a buffalo/On a scale of one thru ten I’m ten/It’s three men with the power of ten”....
“Lyrical Tournament” continues on the same tradition of confronting the sucker MCs who they refer to as “Lyricants”, because they “can’t”, ya know, get lyrical. Poison Ivy & Jammin’ James pick up the pace with a nice use of Isley Brothers’ “Fight The Power”. The line that always stood out to me is Rocc’s, “Pandemonium speech you don’t understand/Yeah, I went platinum in Pakistan”. Tee’s not slacking here though, as he flips, “Your wack ass junk played out back when brothers stopped combing their hair with natural combs/You’re coming up short like a man bleeding in the ocean floating on shark’s territory...”
The albums first single was “2-N-1" which I have to say was a bad call. I’m not sure where to place blame, but I definitely would like to point the “index” finger at them. Yes, I know on the surface it’s the “obvious” single track. It’s basically an up-tempo dance track (Rick James sample?). The concept is that they rhyme most all of the song together completely in unison, merging two MCs into one unified voice. I don’t even think it’s a bad track. It’s just completely misleading to the rest of the album. It seems to me that if Priority really worked the single and were able to make even a marginal hit out of it (which they didn’t) it would have probably backfired. I’m going to take a guess that the people who would see that video or hear that song on the radio and become fans would not be equally entertained by the rest of the album. By the same token, people who may have enjoyed the album could have even been turned off to the group if they had heard “2-N-1" first, if that song had taken off. I suppose for better or worse it didn’t make much of a impact.
The single had two B-sides (which are also on the album), “Grim Reaper” (which I’ll cover later) and “Gangsters”. KMC hail from the streets of LA and “Gangsters” speaks on the problem of Gang-Banging. It illustrates the point thru a story of rival gangs going thru the motions of a gang war and all the senseless deaths and jailings that result from it. This theme continues on the album with “The Streets Are The Battlefield” which tackles the problems facing the people of the inner city surrounded by an seemingly endless crime wave. On the other side, “Living In The Ghetto” addresses the outsiders view of the crime, gang banging, and poverty in the ghetto. It’s not a theme song to glorify the ghetto, but rather just the cold facts of the challenges facing those forced to live there and also dealing with the perceptions of those who do not.
“Approachin’ A Threat” is a stand along song and is somewhat different than anything else on the album. My favorite part of the track is Poison Ivy’s scratched vocal sections cut up in small segments thru out the chorus from MC Lyte, Chill Rob G, Eazy E, & LL Cool J. The song takes a different approach to the "Three Men With The Power of Ten" concept. It’s a story rhyme about a crew of thugs trying to roll up on the crew and KMC hold it down with 3 minutes and 40 seconds of fist fights, shoot outs, and Poison Ivy even throws a few records into necks like ninja stars. I love how the mood is set with the opening line, “We was chillin’ in the ride, ni**as was drinking brew, I really don’t like the taste so I had a look-alike apple juice”...awesome...ha.
As previously mentioned the focus of the album is on the “dark” side of things which is represented with 4 tracks; “Terrifying Tracks”, “Murder”, “Grim Reaper” and “No Title For This”.
“Terrifying Tracks” starts off with them in the studio saying they have dope lyrics and need some dope beats. A couple of up-tempo funk classic samples drop in which they decide to pass on. Then a loop of a small portion of ESG’s “UFO” comes in and is manipulated just right to give it a eerie twist and they both agree that it meshes with the verbal onslaught they are about to unleash. Tee’s second verse is possibly the best verse on the album. He gets creepy-ily graphic with, “Have you ever seen a live performed crucifix/Ever once hear the sound of a bone twist/ Thought of or witnessed the sight of a snapped bone/Looked at or peeped at a scattered human dome/Or scar a man’s life, laugh then **** his wife/Cut him until he’s obscene, then frame the guilty knife/Split the sea like Moses, greet you with black roses/Come to your funereal ceremony in bloody clothing/With a sweatshirt on that states ‘murderous’/And on the back it would read ‘the lyricist/ sniper’. Roaming the hills for a saw mill/Not for trees but for the next sap I kill/Chop him in half and sling his body in a black hearse/Sharpen my axe because I’m late for my concert/So now I’m rolling in my hearse with a corpse in the trunk looking for his boys on my terrifying track”.
Although that may be as good as it gets I can’t front on Rocc the Jock who paints this vivid and disturbing picture, “Another sin from the rebel on a critical case who keeps twisting necks like The Exorcist/Even with the speed of Ben Johnson you won’t escape/The howling of a black man in a black cape/Hurting suckers so bad that later I have to drag/Their body on a chain and stuff it in a body bag" and "This is ni**a coming straight from the gates of hell/With blood on my mic because I just betrayed the devil/A grim reaper on a track that’s killing people/Or should I say ‘lyricants’ who keep stepping into my evil/So I slay em and then lay em on platter/Cut em in two like a big fat black butcher/Then let Poison bust his head with a spike bat/And watch em bleed to death on my terrifying track”.
“Murder” used to be my partner’s, Zeke, and my theme song!! It was the perfect audio back drop back in the days when we were not-so-young, but still stupid and would roll around in his car passing a bottle of Cisco back -n- forth (Yes, while in the car....that is already covered under “stupid”) and looking tough...ha. Zeke once told me that he really liked KMC because they didn’t try to convince you that they “meant” what they were rapping about. They made it obvious and clear that is was entertainment. They wanted to express an untapped form of expression in Hip Hop...something for fans of horror movies, halloween, and things of the such. To ensure you didn’t confuse it with reality they let the darkest of things take place in an alternate reality that they called “Murderland”. Most times the people they did much harm to weren’t even people, not even Mcs, but abstract beings known as “Lyricants”. I too shared Zeke’s appreciation and that’s what made “Murder” our perfect theme song. It starts of with the type of music that you would find in segue ways on a TV News broadcast about a serial killing. Then a man with a altered voice tells the story of 3 killers who have committed 42 unsolved murders in “your” area and that they are now back to “Murder”!! Then it goes quiet for a second before a voice matter of fact-ly offers, “Here are some scenes from the movie”. From there some hard drums drop that are soon joined by a ill guitar (Me and Zeke had this on a tape back to back with CPO’s “Homicide” which flowed perfectly from one to the next). They proceed to tell stories ofmurder as Rocc and Tee each take a verse to partake in robbery, police chases, hangings, and blood baths. The last verse starts with more of the same, but at the end takes a turn with, “...so damn murderous parents think that we are devil worshipers/but wait a minute y’all are thinking crazy/Why would we thank G-O-D on the back of the LP?/Yo, That really makes me upset/like it or not because a murder can’t be edit(ed)/Cause Yo, once you are cut, blood spills out/You see the barrel of an AK (47), you chill out/A Cop tells you to spread em, you spread out/A punk talks smack when you’re strapped, put head out/A rapist finds a girl he rapes her/So since we have a psychotic mind we murder!" I suppose that’s logic of convenience... I think or at least hope (ha) what they are trying to say here is that they have a odd way of thinking of things (perhaps not truly psychotic but then again I don’t know them personally...ha) and so they are only writing what is natural in the way they think and that doesn’t mean when they leave the studio that are torturing bodies in basements.... Let’s even say that if they were indeed insane and had the urges to do so perhaps venting it in song form feeds the beast and cures the hunger. Whatever the case it’s all to be taken as entertainment.
“Grim Reaper” is high paced fury that allows them to flex their knack for intricate flows and brutal lyrics. It’s for those reasons that it was one of my favorite tracks when I first got the album. It doesn’t really have anything that I particularly feel the need to quote, they just sound good rapping here.
“No Title For This” is the last track on the album. It’s the only track with multiple writing credits which are split among Tee, Rocc and the albums only guest, Drew Rock (formerly of His Majesti and later Psycho/Cyco of Insane Poetry). The title is expressing the fact that the song has no real topic, direction or purpose. It’s just three MCs left to rhyme about whatever they choose to flex skills. However, of all the songs like that on the album both Tee and Rocc come their least impressive here, but both are still solid verses. This allows the shining moment to go to Drew Rock, who gives a preview of what is to come from the Insane Poetry “Grim Reality” LP that dropped a year later. Oddly enough, this song was the A-side to their second single. I definitely don’t understand that choice. I agree that it was probably a difficult choice to decide what direction to go in. Perhaps they (‘they” meaning whoever made the call whether it be KMC or the label...) were trying to “correct” the choice of the first single. Personally I think a better option could have been the title track, “3 Men With The Power Of Ten”. It’s well produced and it is KMC at their lyrical best on the album for the most part. Plus it’s a nice “middle ground” to what the album represents, as it isn’t completely dark as “Terrifying Tracks” but it’s not completely unlike the rest of the album, a la “2-N-1". Another choice could have been “Avalanche” which definitely has a more “bouncy” feel courtesy of some Booker T & The M.G.s “Hip Hug Her”. However, it’s still got a battle rhyme edge and Poison Ivy drops nuff hardcore scratching. Then again, at the end of the day it doesn’t/didn’t really matter because all the attention on the 12" goes to the new unreleased cut on the B-side, “Pyscho"!
“Pyscho” is their “masterpiece”. It’s the proof that a second album would have more than likely been better than the debut. I know a few people, besides myself, who really love this song (Vakill comes to mind). Their already high level writing skills are, at least, slightly elevated and the delivery is more intense, which lends to the aggressive lyrics that are part “gangsta”, part horror film, and part battle MC. For example, it just sounds so ill when Tee The O.G. says, “Murdering sap after sap with no remorse/Because my punch leaves more than a charlie horse/Something like cracked ribs, black eyes, split skulls/Ripped up windpipes, and fractured chest bones”. It’s already a pretty intimidating statement, but you combine that with the fact that he says it like he really means it and it becomes even more powerful. There’s so many other things to quote that I don’t know where to start... There is a wealth of ill patterns, word-doubling and things of the sort. I guess you just need to hear this for yourself. I will tell you that Rocc The Jock ends his verse lovely referring to himself as the, “Black Norman Bates/Doing things that reporters love and FBI ni**as hate/Hitting hard with a body blow/Straight jacking and thangs because this mutha f***a is Pyscho!”
The only other offering from them that I know of is on the Insane Poetry debut album, “Grim Reality” that I mentioned earlier. They appear on the Posse Cut, “Stalking With The Nitebreed” with Death Blo, Joe Cooley, Shakespeare The One Man Riot and of course, Psycho (a.k.a Cyco). That was the last I heard of them…I think that stands true for most people. To make it worse I was particularly expecting the follow up release because I had some “inside info”.
I went to high school with Shakespeare. When he graduated he went off to LA to make it in the rap biz. He eventually wound up as part of the Nitebreed and him a Cyco were also writing and producing a few projects. On a visit back to Chicago, Shakespeare told me about a nearly completed or perhaps it was “completed” new KMC record! I seem to recall him saying something like 21 tracks… I waited a couple years before I got the feeling I was never going to hear that album. I have locked in plans for a KMC interview, so the mystery shall soon be revealed...
Written By Kevin Beacham, with assistance from his darkside, Nikoless Skratch...KMC "Three Men With THe Power Of Ten" Sampler:
*OK, I was being a bit dramatic with “KMC helped the Gravediggaz” quote. However, Jammin James Carter did do a remixes for “1-800-Suicide”. On the 12” he’s credited on the “Gangsta Mix” and the “Dig Deep Mix”.
**One thing I remember noticing is that every song, with the exception of the last song on the LP, only credits either Rocc or Tee in the writier credits. I assume that means they never wrote the songs together and that one or the other just wrote the full songs for both MCs. The "credits" are split evenly with five tracks each.