WARNING: Vooodu! is not for the squeamish, easily offended or if you are sensitive about...anything.
Let’s just open by saying you know you are an ill dude when you automatically attach the appropriate punctuation to your name. Indeed, the exclamation points below are not per my typical over-dramatic usage, nor are they a result of my standard stylistic loose placement of punctuation. No, in this case, it is a permanent fixture adjoined to his name. Fittingly so, because while partaking in a Vooodu! verse it is likely the volume range your brain is emphasizing for the experience.
Vooodu! was a part of a couple legendary West Coast Crews, namely, Western Hemisfear (w/Ras Kass, Bird, and Meen Green) and West Coast Avengers. He released some hard to find material in the early 90s, among his earliest work is one song and a verse, on a rare piece of wax called the True Sound Sampler. There is said to be a CD version of this sampler with additional tracks, including more Vooodu! material. In ’93 he had songs featured in the film Strapped, which underground collectors still seek out, myself included. He was also making a name for himself on the L.A. scene for explosive performances at The Good Life. If memory serves I first became aware of Vooodu! from an interesting photo (the same photo included here) and a couple mentions in a RapPages Magazine article (July 1993) called Sunshine People that talked by the rising underground LA scene coming out of the Good Life Café*.
After being alerted of his eventual arrival, I first witnessed the talents of Vooodu! via his production skills, which were also high caliber. He is the producer behind Ras Kass’s debut 12” b-side, “Remain Anonymous”. On the Ras Kass debut album, “Soul On Ice”, Vooodu! produced “Nature Of The Threat”, “Evil That Men Do” and “Ordo Abchao”. Other notable productions of his include tracks for Mykill Myers, Key Kool & Rhettmatic, Meen Green, etc…
I believe the first time I heard him vocally was on Key Kool & Rhettmatics’s posse cut from their debut album, “E-MC2” featuring LMNO, Meen Green and the man himself. Vooodu! sparks it off and immediately commands your attention with his deep looming voice that tends to bully any beat that he is on, assuring his vocals are the prominent attraction. In his quick appearance he reveals he is in possession of a “Catastrophic esophagus, larynx avalanche” and refers to himself as the “Walking exorcist…” However, it’s the dark poetic introduction that is the most memorable, “In the beginning there was darkness, then God made light and then that came/And soon after that he invented the planet and Vooodu! was its name…” While this verse sparked interest, it wasn’t until later that year when I heard his next offering that I was on the edge of my seat and fiending for more.
Undoubtedly, Vooodu!’s style is dark and filled with shock value, but to me that isn’t the source of his true skill. His finest moments are when he applies those elements to morbid graphic details, showcasing literary skills worthy of a horror novelist. This is perfectly showcased in “Pay The Price” from the Immortal Records “Next Chapter” compilation (1995). The track begins with some dialog that you might find on a late night history channel exploration, the narrator dryly exclaims, “Here is a monarch who boasted in records left for prosperity that he tore of the lips, as well as the limbs, of captured kings...who made a common Prince wear around his neck the severed head of his conquered king…” If grim tidings such as that don’t alert you something intense is about to take place then I imagine nothing will. He lightly manipulates the in-action sound of the Bionic Man, altering its mechanical nature into something decidedly more menacing. That mixes in with some minimal drums, lightly screeching keyboards and bells of doom. His first words are, “I prayed to the Lord on the floor/I swore I’d bring on World War 4/Why? Because Rappers wanna walk my path/But they don’t know my path’s like a plane crash aftermath…”
The second verse comes in even iller, utilizing a slight pause style, dropping in after the one count for effect, “Your blood ain’t even worth shedding/There’s no cure when my infection starts spreading…” He continues on a couple bars later with some hurtful words for hopeful competition, “You must be children of a lesser god/How am I able to crash your heavens and leave them scarred?” He later lends credence to the possibility of him being more akin to a mad scientist than a raving mad men with lines such “One ill rhyme gives life like enzymes”, but that balance is blurred with his final words, “I’ll break you down to liquid…”
The following year he released a 12” single on Patchwerk Records, the same label that launched the career of Ras Kass. The A-Side, “One Life To Life” showed a slightly different side of his character not fully revealed on his last few releases. Rather than the grisly mystic style of his last few appearances, it takes a more musical approach to the production and hook, while the verses are more grounded to survival tactics on the streets of LA. It’s not a complete departure from his previous style, just less over-the-top with the content, but there are jarring moments. In the first verse he vents his frustration by stating, “F**k the world and its inhabitants!” He veers back to his standard approach with, “I draw blood like the Red Cross/Double cross and inherit a bloody sidewalk/Whenever I feel pressure I’m going to take the pentagon for hostage/And have the devil’s head on my dresser!” The fact that I haven’t seen Vooodu! on any Most Wanted posters, I’ll assume he was using these moments of exaggeration to illustrate some of the radical thoughts that may plague the mind of someone struggling to survive, rather than intended to be taken verbatim. In the second verse he experiments with creative flow patterns and paints this painful image, “Crazy s**t done changed since I was little…/From chasing ice cream trucks to eating peanut brittle/To hospitals and gravesites/From hide-n-go-seeks to chain snatching and murdering n***as for some favorite Nikes…”
However, it was the B-Side that was crucial in locking me in as a full-fledged fan. “Two Deadly Sins”** features Meen Green and, if I have anything to say about it, is an underground classic. The beat comes in ill with a sample from the original Wild Wild West TV Show, flipping it into an anthem for the West Coast. Vooodu! is masterful in exploring various flow patterns, painting abstract images, and gives a perfect canvas for him to delve further into the dark arts of rhyming. He has a gift of saying very basic things, but phrasing it, as well as delivering, in a fashion that gives it accented potency, such as, “I got the nickel-plate pressed against your face!” There’s nothing new about gun talk in a Rap song, but that just gives enough additional detail for it to linger in the mind a touch longer. One of my favorite moments comes after a Meen Green verse where one might logically anticipate the chorus to follow and Vooodu! waits a full half-bar before announcing, “Expect the unexpected/Life is precious, but n***as still don’t get the message..” It’s those little things he does that adds additional excitement.
All of this was a perfect set up for building considerable interest on where he would next take things. The result was a combination of mystery, disappointment, and perhaps his finest lyrical moments yet...
Check back for Part Two tomorrow!!!
Written By Kevin Beacham
*That same article built the anticipation for artists such as Urban Prop (who they talk about just signing to Capitol Records), S.I.N (Medusa and KoKo), Dark Leaf, Qyet Storm, Ganjah K, Funky Trend, Big Al, etc… Unfortunately, most these artists would never release their full projects or only had limited releases. The most successful groups out of that article would be Pharcyde, U.N.I.T.Y Committee and Rebels Of Rhythm (who joined to form Jurassic 5), Freestyle Fellowship, Abstract (which I assume was Abstract Tribe Unique/Abstract Rude), Volume 10, Mad Kap, Hip Hop Clan, Chillin Villain Empire, etc…
**The track also features what is probably my all-time favorite vocal performance by Meen Green.