Last night I went to the EL-P & Killer Mike show at the Fine Line. It was a very dope show. The energy was great and the performances were on point. I went for a few reasons. One, that Killer Mike album “R.A.P Music is one of my favorites of the year and he brought the same energy to the stage. Two, I read that EL-P planned to basically perform his entire new album “Cancer For Cure” and I was curious to how that would work (it was fresh!). Third, Killer Mike’s DJ was Trackstar The DJ and he’s a guy who has always shown me love and I’m a fan of his work, but we have never had a chance to officially meet. Finally, I have known EL-P since before the original Funcrusher dropped and I hadn’t seen him in a while so I wanted to say what’s up.
After the show I got a chance to talk to EL-P briefly at the merch table and it refreshed my memory on how we first came in contact with each other and that reminded me I had not done one of this “Background Check” posts in awhile. These stories are designed to give the reader some behind the scenes info on an artist they are fans of and also some back-story on me and whatever the hell it is I do…ha.
The mid 90s was when I really first started to be active in the Music Industry. I owned my own promotions company, Rage Productions. I was just starting my own indie Hip Hop magazine (along with J Bird and Boom Design), Caught In The Middle, and I was starting my first radio show, Time Travel. As a result of all that I was constantly connecting myself with as many upcoming artists, managers, indie label owner, college radio DJs, and whoever else that I could. One person who was the most helpful in, not only putting me in touch with a lot of artists, but also introducing their music to me in the first place, was Hip Hop renaissance man and living legend, Bobbito Garcia.
I would randomly get copies of the Stretch Armstrong Show Hosted By Bobbito and honestly my favorite shows were often when Stretch was on vacation. No disrespect to Stretch, because his mixing skills and song selection was very much on point, but since he was spinning wax I generally had everything he was playing by the time I would get my hands on the recorded shows several weeks after the air-date. But, when Bobbito was going for dolo, he was pulling out the rare tapes filled with demos and it was always an amazing time for discovery.
On one tape in particular, there were three songs that really grabbed my attention from artists I never heard of. One track was an excellent, but still unreleased song by J Treads that, based off the hook, I call “Depths Of Creation” and the other two were from the same artist, although I didn’t recognize that right away. When I called Bob to ask about them he told the group was called Company Flow and gave me EL-P’s number to get in touch. He also told me that J Treads was the guy that I had met when I was interviewing him at his Hoppoh office in NYC a few years previously, because J Treads was interning there at the time.
In any event, I gave EL-P a call and told him that I really dug what I heard and wanted to support him and spread his music in Chicago via Time Travel Radio and in an upcoming Caught In The Middle article. He was down. It just so happened I was comin out to NYC soon for the Zulu Nation Anniversary.
I remember clearly, it was a rainy day in New York and I was on foot. EL and I talked and agreed to meet in this hotel lobby where a lot of the action for the Zulu Nation was taking place. I remember sitting there and trying to imagine what he might look like so I could recognize him, because I only told him what I was wearing. Funny enough, he walked by me like five times and I just ignored him because he didn’t fit the picture at all of what I was expecting. Once we finally connected he took me to this cool noodle spot to eat and we kicked it and talked about Hip Hop and analyzed lyrics.
Then we headed back up towards his apartment and he took me on a little tour of his neighborhood. The most memorable stop I recall making was by the studio that members of the crew X-Clan ran. That was my first time meeting the famed Paradise of X-Clan. We also went down to Fat Beats to say what’s up to DJ Eclipse. Eventually we ended back at his spot were I got to meet with the rest of the crew, Big Juss and Mr Len.
At that time, it was great to get a first-hand early peek into the world of what Company Flow was about to do because they were on the verge of getting ready to release the Funcrusher EP. Matter of fact, they had just very recently finished recording it and EL-P had a copy of it on cassette. Over the next couple days we kicked it a few times. They showed me the “8 Steps To Perfection” music video that they had recently shot and I don’t think it really saw the light of day until youtube. We sat around and played each other demos we had. I remember playing him tracks from my dude, Immortal Griffen, who had some amazing demos at this time. There was one track in particular by Grif that El was really feeling called “Anuff Iz Anuff” and he had to get a dub of it. I also had recently connected with Dan The Automator and this was before “Dr Octagon” dropped and Dan gave me one of the very first copies of the album and EL-P, being a Kool Keith fan, really wanted a copy of that. He offered a trade. He would give me his one copy of the "Funcrusher" tape (since he was going to have a mastered official promo soon anyway) if I dubbed him the tape, which I wasn’t supposed to dub for anyone (sorry Automator!!). To my defense, I stressed to EL-P the importance of not letting anyone else get a copy of it, so for extra measure he gave me a copy of this demo he had produced for Kid Hood that never released. For those that don’t know, Kid Hood was a MC with a lot of potential who rhymed on the A Tribe Called Quest “Scenario Remix” with Leaders Of The New School and passed away soon after. EL-P told me that he didn’t want that demo to ever leak out, so I promised not to leak that and he wouldn’t leak the Dr Octagon. It appears he kept his promise and I kept mine and never leaked that demo, even as much as I wanted people to hear it. I saw a couple years ago it finally hit the internet and no, it wasn’t me who posted it, but since it’s out there now…
As for the “Funcrusher” original tape, I loved that tape! I used to rock it in my Walkman non-stop and gave it heavy spins on the radio. Me and my team were in the process of working on the third issue of Caught In The Middle Magazine and I wrote a review for the EP. It would have been Company Flow’s first mention in a magazine, but we never got the issue to print and the Company Flow review was only mentioned in a promo piece we did. Regardless, I had sent a copy of the review to the crew and when “Funcrusher Plus” dropped they used one of my quotes from the review in their ADs that appeared in spots like The Source Magazine. EL-P and I used to joke about how I might have the only press quote in an AD campaign that was from article that never even got published…ha.
On a random note, I just remembered that I actually ended up staying over at El’s spot one night because the dude I drove up to NYC with had abandoned me…ha. He disappeared because he got upset with me for not being more interested in attending the Zulu Nation seminars because I was focused on connecting with artists…it was something ridiculous like that. Anyway, I was stranded at like 2 AM and had no one to call…except EL-P, so he let me hit up his couch and we’ve been OG homies every since…ha.
We have stayed in touch off and on over the last 17 years. Mainly connecting at different Hip Hop events like Scribble Jam or I would catch him whenever he was out on tour or something. I’m always happy and excited about people who I knew back in their early stages that are still dedicated to their craft, still pushing the limits, and constantly building their fanbase. It was a great experience last night watching a crowd of a nice range of age groups singing along to his new album and then at the end getting super excited when he performed “Vital Nerve”. It’s moments like that where I remember why I love Hip Hop so much… Shouts to EL-P, Bigg Jus, Mr Len, and of course, Bobbito for the initial connection.