16 January 2017

Ka Auditron Ba - The Final Conflict


Back in October of last year I was in New York and had the pleasure of meeting King Koncepts at his record store, Good Records. We chatted about music and he mentioned that Karma was working on releasing some old late 90's Kemetic Suns music. Fast forward to last week and I received an email from Karma introducing himself and letting me know about the music he posted on his Tumbler. Karma picks up where Koncepts left off when he posted The Bombshelter album back in 2009. I'm not going to try and summarize any of this of, instead I urge you to take some time and read through the detailed posts from Karma and listen to the unreleased Ka Auditron Ba (Karmachi & Hypnotic) album.

I'd like to thank Karma for reaching out to me and allowing me to post this on my site. The insight he and Koncepts provide is rarely seen in underground hip hop and is greatly appreciated.

 When To Walk Away Pt. 1

Preview to The Long Goodbye

***This blog was originally  written by Koncepts and featured as documentary comment on Cocaine Blunts appearing in 2009. Since then the trolls have made it less inspiring for the homie Noz to keep the blog up so I thought I would recreate it here for the sake of background***
 “Fundamentals consisted of me – Koncepts – and Karma. We met each other at Berkeley High, 1992. All I remember was being introduced to this dude who was into rap, and had a little bit of game to him - he knew all the different cats around school, kept good weed, knew how to talk to girls. Quickly we started hanging out, going to parties. We formed The Fundamentals in early ‘93, long before the crew Kemetic Suns came about. At that time, the crew we made was called “Ascension”: in addition to us, we brought in a group called Hijinx (Peekaboo and Embassy), rappers Malignant and Level Z, and Anthony/Ayentee. Before I got with Karma, I was in an awful band that played funk-rock-jazz-rap-fusion a la Alphabet Soup or the Mo'Fessionals – interesting sidenote, playwright Itamar Moses played keyboards in that group. But I wanted to do something that was more straight up Hip-Hop. I was DJing already and I played the guitar. I fell off with the guitar lessons but started making primitive beats. Hanging out at Anthony’s house in north-west Berkeley I started to get hip to funk and latin and freakier jazz music all courtesy of his father’s record collection. 


We all hung out and got busy together, either at Anthony’s house or at my house. Anthony’s house was like a constant spot – there would be any number of kids there, from the graf crew DOA down to West Side Berkeley dudes, friends of his dad, relatives. I was granted use of a narrow boiler room underneath my mom’s house – the “Bomb Shelter” – to record in, and all of the material featured was made there. The beats here were made either on an Akai S-01 (a cheap version of the 950) and a Roland R8 Human Rhythm Composer, or the Ensoniq ASR-10, which I stuck with. Kids would come through, I would throw together a beat or have one I had already worked up, and they would record. Anthony, who made beats as well, occasionally helped out engineering things. I’d do arrangements, hooks, whatever. I wanted people to write songs, not just lay down rhymes, so I tried to focus their talents and that’s how a lot of this stuff came to be. A lot of guys didn’t have any idea how to write songs – like, verse/hook/bridge, or whatever. Some dudes just wanted to spit for like 6 minutes. Off the head. It was a mess.


Most of us were from Berkeley or Oakland. Karma spent some time up in Sacramento early on. Malignant had one foot out in Richmond I think. Around the beginning of 1994 I moved to the Mission neighborhood in San Francisco to go live with my father, but continued attending Berkeley High and hanging out with the crew every day. It was a regular thing to go from school to my mom’s basement where the makeshift studio was, record until 7 or 8, ride the bus back into San Francisco and wash up somewhere around 10 at my dad’s apartment. Peek lived out by Eclipse, in the Union City area, and they were friends, so that’s how we got down with the Mixed Practice crew. Eclipse tells me now that he got real tight when Peek played him some of my stuff, like “who is this other young dude out here with beats??” Karma’s brother Wayne knew Corey/BFAP from the Mystik Journeymen, so we got down with them around ’94 or so, but I think they probably saw us as like, young’uns in the game. We met Kirby around then as well, up at UC Berkeley at KALX – Karma had gone up there with BFAP from the Journeymen. While BFAP was kind of cool on the kid, it was obvious he had incredible talent. Kirby, originally from East Oakland, had spent many years in Stockton prior to coming to Berkeley… had kind of a checkered past, but it turned out he and Karma knew some folks in common from up that way. We would hang out and freestyle in his dorm room but we hadn’t really clicked up in a formal way yet, like we would later.

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Even though our style was more on the “backpack”/”houser” thing, a lot of the cats in the crew had street ties, we just didn’t really put it out there like that. It was more a thing you wanted to get away from, if you had ever been close enough to see it. The one exception was The Mental Patients – featured here on “Mental Anxieties” – who were some real street cats from South Berkeley, North Oakland, and East Oakland. But they’d come through, we’d smoke, lay down some music, no drama ever. They weren’t really a part of the crew per se but they showed love, would share smoke or even muscle if it was needed (which, on a couple of occasions, it was). Good dudes. Any time there was beef you had an assemblage of dudes from West Side and South Side Berkeley as well as North Oakland and parts of the east as well. We rolled deep.

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The Ascension crew only lasted but so long, though, and at a certain point, friendly competition turned into beef. Dudes started talking behind each others’ backs, trying to create little allegiances and whatever… just childish stuff but you know we were, at the time, anywhere from 14-18 years old. Embassy and Karma, long rivals in the cipher, came to blows and everyone went their separate ways. I spent several months recording my own material, thinking I’d record my own demo/album, maybe sell it like the Journeymen and Mixed Practice and the other guys I was meeting around the scene at that time. That stuff never got released anywhere, with only one track turning up on 30 Days; much of it is featured here.

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In the summer of 1995, Karma and I were both working in San Francisco. He was interning at Polygram - Polygram had an office in San Francisco! We patched up and started working on what would become 30 Days & A Plane Ticket, our first “real” tape – the title owing to the fact that I was moving to New York City 30 days from when we started. Karma’s style, originally an old school, laid back flow, and at one point a bone of contention amongst the more east coast-influenced crew, had developed into a this tripped out, cerebral scattershot of politics, hood slang, conspiracy theories, and 5% math. A cat he rolled with called Bay-Bay came up with the name Kemetic Suns. At that time, though, it was basically just a loose affiliation of folks we rolled with, some of whom didn’t make music at all. It was just a crew in the loosest sense. Kirby was down at that point, but I don’t recall meeting Hypnotic (another crew member) until 1996 or so, beyond the point at which this comp comes to an end.
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Honestly I don’t know what people will think of this stuff. I’m opening myself up which is always a risk. I think we had some talent. We never made a huge mark, despite being really prolific – due mostly to my ability to record. I had the good fortune to hold onto most of my old sessions. I’m sure there’s a ton of amazing stuff out there that has disappeared… I’ve certainly been met with that response as I’ve sought out material by other groups of the time. We wore our influences on our sleeves – but as kids, that’s just part of developing your own style. Back then, it wasn’t about features, or placements, or even tape sales really – just a bunch of cats doing music. That’s what the underground tape thing was really about. I can think of no better way to illustrate that.”

The Bombshelter Download


When To Walk Away Pt. 2

Preview to The Long Goodbye 

For a very long time my identity and self perspective was shaped by being a member of a family that made music. Had our parents been born in the Carribean in the 60′s and repatriated to the UK, we probably would have been Cymande. Had it been London in the late 40′s we might have been Pink Floyd. I have heard arguments that place us around the world and at different movements. As it shaped out, we were birthed into the 70′s and grew up in the 80′s in the east bay region of the San Francisco Bay Area. In particular, we all cut our teeth in the “small island in the sea of night” known as Berkeley. In 1995 we started our collective and independent label we called Kemetic Suns Massive.

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There was a time to that time in particular that I would be hard pressed to try to recreate with words. As much as I pride myself on my ability to write into existence, I don’t think I could accurately give the feeling or emotional connection we had to what we were doing. There was different a zeitgeist of sorts as it was the mid-1990s and hip hop was becoming a billion dollar way of telling young people what to do. Perhaps it was the influence of Apple vs Wintel happening in our backyard of Silicon Valley. Maybe there was a factor around welfare reform, new banking models and a sense that another gold rush had come to San Francisco. It could be the influence of self determined cultural giants such as MC Hammer, Too Short, E-40 and Mac Dre who were uncompromising in their independence and standards.
I don’t have the bandwidth or desire to try to explain what brought us to the music or together. Many of these thoughts have laid hidden from me for decades by my own doing. I think my brother does a much better job of describing us here:

Bomb Shelter
 
Then there was also the concept of newly emerging technologies such as samplers, sequencers and non-lineal audio recording. That and the fact that as teenager I stumbled into being an active member of something that would later become called the Internet as well as progenitor of social media. Do not take my word for anything. There are far better curators involved:

It's Cheaper Than A CD

In terms of a business model we were decidedly clear that we would do everything in house. EVERY THING. Tapes, cds, vinyl, t-shirts. Production, engineering, management, promotion. Our greatest asset was each other. I treated the collective like my martial arts gym (which I mistakenly left in pursuit of a full time music career) in that training each other on every aspect made us well rounded, disciplined and allowed us to bring in new skills. The majority of the good work is based on our willingness to skip past barriers in terms of booking, promotion and retail:



From 1995 to 1998 we made 15 different projects ranging from EP to LPs to even putting out one of the first audio books for spoken word and poetry. I can’t speak for anyone else but I actually thought we were going to change the world. Given that our model was more of a social enterprise than a record label or entertainment company. Many of our members were previously homeless, from foster homes and/or faced with tons of barriers toward economic independence. My father, who was and will always be the bare minimum of excellence I strive for, ran a non profit that provided legal services to the poor who couldn’t afford to fight unlawful evictions, custody battles and discrimination. Without explicitly knowing we were into job training, Koncepts and I were adamant that these roles at House Kemetic Suns become employment. 
In 1997, Kirby got an opportunity to study abroad in DC at Howard. He would ride the train to Harlem and record with Koncepts, which later became Konceptual Dominance.


During that time, myself, Hypnotic and Per Aa were doing shows all over northern and central California. Literally from as far as Humbolt to San Luis Obisbo. Initially I only had the Fundamentals material I could perform and Hypnotic had his guest appearances as as he worked on his album. When all of the Suns met up in winter 1997, Koncepts played us Flawless Execution.


As soon as I heard it I knew what it was: Konceptual Dominance. In a time when we could hear everyone else punching in every bar, these two were going for 16 bars with flurries full of flow, punchline, presence and brilliant topics. I knew this was going to be a game changer. To be fair all we did was game changers, whether or not it was quality. Innovation and newness led the day. In response, Hypnotic pulled out the dusty tape of 8-track mix downs of the routines he and I were doing when we ran out of material on stage. I had slices of dub tracks and science fiction movie soundtracks as the thumbnails of beats we were rapping over. The crew loved it and named us Ka Auditron Ba. We were given the mandate to finish our project to release it after Konceptual Dominance and set up for the Kemetic Suns album. Ka Auditron Ba worked for the next year to finish our project called The Final Conflict. 3 label deals, 4 tours, 21 tracks and it was never released as promised. Somewhere in there I just walked away. 

For the few souls who are clever enough to see me on the street and figure out who I am, the question is always the same:

1) Why was the Auditrons never released?

2) What happened to the Kemetic Suns?

As 2017 is here and I do away with old things, avoiding answering these questions is one of those things I will let go. The answers in part III


When To Walk Away Pt.3

Preview to The Long Goodbye
“I’m an A-U-D-I-O”


There was a friendly competition we all adhered to when we started. Ultimately it was about the four of us: me, Koncepts, Kirby and Hypnotic being able to freestyle against each other for hours. I mean HOURS. At that time we thought we were okay, retrospect made me realize we were pretty high level. Much of the energy of that competition played out in the dynamics we had with one another outside of the music. Kirby was the master of partnership, I understood project management, Koncepts was our in house technical and Hypnotic did our sales. We were a much larger collective once, at one time being 15 people deep if you counted the affiliates in New York and Texas as well as the younger cats we were mentoring. There is also an argument in there about how influential and selfless cats like Bas1, Eclipse427 (Walt Liquor), Peekaboo and Infamous were so they could be Kemetic Suns. Plus there is a whole other tangent on how strong our ties were to MURS.
Quite accidently, Kirby and Koncepts together were very good as ambassadors. They travelled a lot, they showed up to events and they were able to get our sound into the heads of real decision makers who made sure our records ended up on mix shows, college radio and features. This is part of the reason Konceptual Dominance made so much sense. On the opposite tip, Hypnotic and I were doing shows and selling merchandise direct to customers (fans). I had a pretty high ethical standard which I realize now was a serious handicap for our business in terms of being in the music industry. Other groups could trash the stage, steal from the bar, go over their time or intimidate the promoter into moving them up on the lineup. I never wanted to get too involved in that type of grimy dealings because it was dumb logic to me – if we were going to go that route, forget the music and let’s go back to the streets.

That was another issue we were confronting. Many of the people rapping at the time all came from middle class backgrounds and had a parachute lined up for them afterwards. Koncepts and I tried to address that on Stop The World (the song itself). Where as many crews were diverse economically and ethnically, we were diverse economically but most of our members were two steps from the streets. Meaning we had convinced them to let go of their old hustles in lieu of legitimate enterprises that would be promoted by House Kemetic Suns. It was always a struggle. We didn’t always win. As the founder of the collective, I had the tendency to be the loudest voice in the room even if I actually wanted a democracy. In fact I remember always talking about being the bigger person and breaking up some many beefs. Then one night in winter of 1996, I confronted a mask bound rapper about some personal violations he made in my life. In his drunken indignation, he replied he was not responsible for his actions and he might kill me. I lost it and told him to put up his hands. He had 12 tiny people holding him back, the Suns just watched to make sure nobody jumped me from behind. We never got into it but he knew that night like I know this day that if it went down he was going to end up in the ER. The problem was we had crossed a bridge; our music was never going to be bohemian again and I had lost the credibility to tell my crew to “walk away”. In fact, we turned the ship and headed directly into the storm.

There are some background elements to understand before going in. If Konceptual Dominance was the equivalent of two tenured professors doing panel discussion on human behavior through hip hop, Ka Auditron Ba was the essence of two battle rappers getting their own satellite and broadcasting a 24 hour signal based on the lifestyle trying to prevent a cataclysm. We pulled from everything important to us at the time. Both Hypnotic and I were avid Marvel fans. We owned tons of comics. I read a lot of science fiction and watched a lot of movies. Hypnotic was really into documentaries. At the time I was able to study under Mr. Obenga which deeply changed my life and I was able to see firsthand the aspirations of the progenitors of the Nile Valley culture. Meanwhile Hypnotic’s mother was a reggae journalist and therefore gave him access to elders. One in particular who really influenced us was Scientist. Aside from demystifying much of the Rastafarian thought process beyond the generics and tropes, Scientist gave us the template.

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Thus began the goal of creating an identity: we would outperform. The analogy of individuals who take and never gave back became “vampires”. We knew because we didn’t play the politics game we were hard pressed to get headline bookings in the Bay Area because of the co-opting of the scene happening. Simply put, I was going to kiss anyone’s ass, the big names were haters and Hypnotic was doing things behind the scene that made these dudes shook. If we couldn’t get the midnight spot or the top name of the flyer, we wanted the 1130pm slot and we wanted to be second on the flyer. It was Scientist who told us to open with The Voodoo Curse that we transformed into the chant to take over the crowd: “We are……the Kemetic Suns….” It didn’t matter WHO was the headliner. Our goal was to create and perform music that stole the show. It happened time after time after time. We would watch crews argue with the promoter: “don’t put Kemetic Suns on before us….they tire out the crowd”. The promoter would come to us and Hypnotic would say “don’t worry we’re just the Auditrons”.

There is most of the recordings on Soundcloud. I am not sure if everything is awesome. I know I was rapping in the top 10 list at the time but I am not sure if everything we did was incredible. There are some tracks that really move me and Koncepts. I pinged him to get his take on our favorites from the project:


Karma: Resonance was a tribute to Scientist but all scientists in general. We knew there was some connection between innovation and audio engineering happening from the Jamaican sound clashes to NYC hip hop to what we were actually doing with the drum machine and ASR vocal effects when we performed. This is a perfect example of the routines we would do. Back and forths that would whip the crowd into a frenzy as an opener. Also the djs loved it because it was heavy with break beats and juggling. FYI, this is Neal Degrasse Tyson narrating before you all knew how great he was. I pulled it from a vhs compilation my father got me because of our shared loved of astronomy.

Koncepts: this beat don’t make no fucking sense. I didn’t make it. but it always killed at shows. watching people try to catch the beat count was comedy. this shit is in like 11/8 or something. Ka and Ba had that rapid-fire flow where they could make it work and trade off like they were freestyling. It’s pretty incredible, actually.


Karma: Black Elevation Station was supposed to be the crunk remix to All Terrain for Internal Symmetry. My father was from the south and I loved southern hip hop. Not just the obvious stuff like Dungeon Family, Geto Boys and UGK. I listened to obscure material most didn’t know about. When I heard this beat I said its smobb music but it’s not southern. At that time, the stuff I was doing with the internet was getting some nods. I was brought to speak at Stanford to a couple of student groups. The idea of creating one’s own content distribution was intoxicating but we were talking to a couple investors who were interested in buying a satellite and setting up a station in San Francisco. When the deal went through, like so many to come after, Hypnotic suggest we just act like it was still going and we had our station on a satellite we owned.

Koncepts: I had this track early on in the process but added to it along the way. a lot of the keys and stuff came in later. I used a few different samples but kept them all in key, I was known for melodic beats but one thing about the west coast style and the Bay underground in particular was this kind of mystical ass sound but with slapping drums. so this was like that, some psychedelic guitar and synths, but at a higher tempo and some 808 sounds. What Ka and Ba did with it was sick, exactly what I had envisioned it for, they flowed perfectly on the beat. A mix of paranoia and toughness in the lyrics. I think I added the later stuff when they were in the studio with the session players - I wasn’t really involved in that and I wanted to tune up my own stuff to keep pace.


Karma: Tapes. Koncepts and I would send each other tapes a couple times a year. He was attending NYU while I was at SFSU. Most of the beats on the tapes he would send would end up on some project: Ambershine, Internal Symmetry, Konceptual Dominance or the Auditrons. Most of the beats I would send back were rough but he would tweak some of them and they would end up on his solo stuff, my ill fated solo album, Prayze The Sun or Internal Symmetry. This beat was clearly for Hypnotic and I. He even put it on the tape. It was Koncepts at his most genius Smokey Robinson. He could hear something we couldn’t in ourselves. He made sure he was with us when we wrote to it. When he started playing it on the speakers, he prompted us with “show them how the flow never ends”. He wanted to play with some of the Nommo concepts of embracing the silence in the groove as well as the volatility in the drums. We were always sure to write what the beat wanted not what we wanted. Soon as Hypnotic mumbled “its vital that you follow our path that is spiral” a voice spoke to me with the chorus. I looked up from the pad and said “I’m an A-U-D-I-O”. At first they didn’t get it, but I wouldn’t stop. When I saw their eyes light up after the third repetition, we knew did something. This might be my favorite memory of music.

Koncepts: this is definitely the big one. coulda maybe done some numbers. had all the elements. smoothed out but conscious, a hook you can understand and repeat… the label Ka & Ba were messing with brought this into a bigger studio and I was able to add the live guitar and percussion. But they had a boy band and brought them in to do background vocals… kind of not what I had envisioned, image-wise. it worked for the sound, as far as that was concerned. The label was just trying to get on a vehicle for their boy band though. They kept trying to push them into the mix of what we were doing and I had to step away from that situation. that’s one of the things that messed with the delicate equilibrium of the project and the crew.


Karma: There was a lot of money to be made being an independent rap group if you were willing to compromise. We weren’t. Managers would tell us we were unmanageable; too head strong and not needy enough. We made far less money than we should have based on our morals and pride. The way to keep the boat afloat was to subsidize the business model with pieces of my check. At first I worked at a smoothie shop that got bought, stole all my recipes and became Jamba Juice; different story for a different time. That wasn’t going to work for me. Doing minimum wage at a mall. Also in my young fiery mind, “how does this help my people?” I got into working for a few non-profits and did harm reduction outreach – needle exchange, violence prevention and street worker advocacy. I was seeing young people being mistreated as wards of the state.

Hypnotic was doing group home work given he had been in one himself. We would trade stories about the issues we were seeing with young people and the bureaucracy. More and more it felt like young people were being experimented on rather than treated or helped. Both of us had some experience at young age in terms of “recruitment” that made us a bit more suspicious. Now with the popularity of Stranger Things, Hunger Games and Ender’s Game, it doesn’t seem so far fetched. I know.

Maybe there was also a piece of falling into the formula. Doing it every time because it worked last time. I remember be asked “whats the sci fi movie song on this album?” well before we even wrote Cryosleep. It’s possible we had become trope.

Koncepts plays the bass on this. That’s why its so rich.


When To Walk Away Pt.4

Preview to The Long Goodbye



Karma: There was this great kung fu western flick my god brother Kenny brought over called All Men Are Brothers: Blood of the Leopard which was adaptation of the Chinese classic Water Margin. It was the story of a high level government official who must choose between his position and his allegiance to a rough street monk who is very anti-corruption in the government. It represented so many relationships at that time. My god brother Wayne was really loud and boisterous, but when I was around he was always calming me down to learn discretion. When he died of cancer in 1997 it put a large hole in my heart. Somehow I ended up becoming that person that was calming folks down and was caught between the diplomacy and the ethical outrage of the people I was around. We would leave shows in San Jose, San Luis Obispo or San Antonio. It would be 3am as we drove home. Somehow at every gas station there was a group of young men about to fight. Somehow there was some kid at an IHOP looking at his pager like “I’m going to get revenge”. Somehow I always seemed to put myself in the middle and talk them down. Somehow I never got shot.

Koncepts: just a perfect song man. we were all really vibrating on the same frequency. I love the little glass clinks and crowd ambiance from the sample. and the kick drum knocks so hard. that’s that Bay Area shit man, a mellow ass sample and deep bass.


Karma: We would perform a lot in the “hip hop” room at raves. That was the culture of the 90’s. Hypnotic hated it because he didn’t feel techno. However to be quite honest, the women at raves were thousand times better looking and more stable than the women who went to hip hop. The baddest of them used to hang in the “jungle” room – a rough amalgamation of actual jungle, trip hop, drum and base as well as what would eventually be dub step. Kirby and I loved going back forth over those beats. We could rap for hours over the stuff. For me it brought me home to Jupiter, Florida. It put me in the red clay of Georgia. It gave me the woods of Mississippi. I loved obscure southern rap and especially enjoyed the bounce aspect. I also appreciated the underestimation that California and New York put upon southern rap. It paralleled the mistake many crews in the Bay ran into. They dissed us on tape, we responded by snatching the mics at their show and serving them. Then they took it outside to battle and got demolished. Then they wanted to throw hands and lost there too. This track is a narrative to that. At the time we wouldn’t have seen it that way.

Koncepts: I feel a way about this song. It’s fucking amazing - the beat, the rhymes, the hook… my god. and when we dropped this at a show? bedlam. but it has a kind of ignoble history. My partner Zvi and I had this Delia Gartrell 45, which is this brutal ballad about a woman’s son dying in the Vietnam war, and we chopped it real slow. Zvi had the idea of chopping up Skull Snaps and doing a bounce pattern with it. It was unique, no one was doing bounce drums with samples, especially not old school breakbeats. Anyway, we kinda fucked up the money because we also gave this track to Mazzi [rapper with our other group the Soul Purpose] and it was like, ok, let’s see who does what with it… Mazzi made an incredible track called “1 and 9” about being from the hood in Jersey. It was super ill. So we had this issue, who could use the beat? Nobody even cares about shit like that anymore, but back then it was a real problem. Zvi wanted to roll with Mazzi’s version, I was on the fence. Anyway, I feel like that disagreement was another one that ended up torpedoing the project. And what’s sad is that neither song ever came out - the Soul Purpose project fell apart not too long after and the album we were working on never made it out of the demo stage. Nowadays I prefer “Ashes” to “1 and 9”. But at the time I couldn’t call it.


Karma: Perhaps the most honest writing anyone was doing in (w)rap™ at that age. I was in my early twenties trying to understand what it meant to be a man while facing a divorce like end to my long term relationship. There were some rules we made up to protect our esteem. One of them was we wouldn’t date women we met in the industry because it led to hardship later. I think that put so much expectation on the women we fell in love with outside of music that when those relationships crumbled it hurt us even more. On top of which, Hypnotic and I were facing this same debacle every time: why does it seem like self-control and discipline gets punished. Simply put, we both were in faithful parties in long term relationships that ended when our romantic partners were not faithful. That combined with life in show biz, turned us bitter when we stuck to the honor code. 

Koncepts: this beat is mad mournful with that one drawn out note that descends and ascends in the chords. I used an SP1200 on a lot of the Auditron drums courtesy of my partner Zvi and you can hear the programming gets a lot better and the drums are chunkier. Ka and Ba perfectly wrote this for how the beat felt to me. Vulnerable and hurt but still standing strong. It’s a shame the project never came out because there are so many tracks that I felt were just the perfect distillation of a feeling, this was one of those. Probably my personal favorite now.


Koncepts: I love this song man. Ba really showed his heart on it. And it takes skill to rap over something like this which is kinda mellow and laid back but not like, sad or down. the loop just gets me in a zone; very based. this might have been an intro beat or slated for Per Aa Ra’s project originally. There were earlier takes that I felt like Ba nailed it a bit better. But you couldn’t save takes back then and we had that stupid belief that a) we have to deliver everything in one take and b) we can definitely do the next one better. so it goes.

Karma: I remember when this was done and I would drive around with mix downs, this was the soundtrack to getting through traffic. It became synonymous with “things are going to be all right”. I struggled for many years to explain what this meant without falling into esoteric answers or metaphysics. One thing my Dad was very good at impressing upon me was “don’t feed steak to children” meaning don’t waste your time trying to explain complexities people don’t want to learn. In of myself, I was learning how to be more efficient and not waste my time. This song really gave folks a sense of optimism.


Karma: Why a final conflict? One thing I have come to terms with and this album should evidence – I can see things before they happen. I am not going to spend a single second of time on weirdos defending it. I will just state – people were downloading music from www.kemeticsuns.com three years before Napster. Towards the middle of 1997, something was changing in the Bay Area. I was starting to get fans who worked at something called a “tech company” who would invite me to work as a contractor. They had website that had millions behind them but they couldn’t tell you what they did all day. They wanted to pay me to tell them what was cool. More and more I saw a reliance on machines as the new free labor. The dot come boom was becoming a second gold rush and I was aware it had it limits. In 2017, the largest obstacle facing the American worker is not automation. It is the perception that automation demands a better quality of life for all. There are some very good thinkers on this subject but I would direct attention at Berkeley’s own Phillip K. Dick, Frank Herbert and William Gibson.

The point being, the matter of artificial intelligence is not an if, it’s a when. Once this consciousness evolves, it will split in its belief systems. If humans can be cruel, please believe there are machine gods that can be crueler. I am reminded of the quote by Francis de la Rochefoucauld, “Man believes he has abandoned his vices when in fact they abandoned him long ago”. Now looking at where we are with a new year, self driving cars and a new a president, I suspect we are at the placed I had hoped to avoid. Maybe there are some jewels in here for our fans in the years to come.
The album in its entirety is below:


When To Walk Away Pt.5

Preview to The Long Goodbye

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Ultimately I believe it was this album that transitioned the Kemetic Suns. We didn’t break up. We didn’t quit. We moved on. The stresses of this album may have been too much. These songs were performed a lot and got us two label deals. Both deals had the same dynamic: this is GREAT. Then you get into the studio to re-record everything and the labels sends in their composition army to get hands on your publishing. Once the songs are done, the contract amendment comes and it requires 36 months of touring with a live band to play all the songs the label wants additions to with $30k of tour support split among 8 people. How many times do you do the same scenario before reaching insanity? How many times do you get bumped from your show time and not want to snap on everyone from the promoter to the venue? How many times do you choke a promoter for the money for your show money, plane ticket money, hotel money and per diem only to go on stage rapping about helping people before your mind fizzles? More and more. Also there was a reality that Koncepts and I came to realize at SXSW in 2001. We hated the road. Touring was living on the road. Living on the road was being a grown latch key kid stuck between parent’s homes. It was miserable. At 16 I was already thinking like a 26 year old. Imagine where my head was at 24, being asked to make drunk and high 19 year olds of suburbia happy on stage for 45 minutes night after night. Most of the guys who adored that life look like Larry Holmes now – flabby, sick, soft and slow to answer. Meanwhile Eclipse and I were making much larger checks pulling strings behind the scenes without needing to be in the spotlight.

Diagnosis

Perhaps the final moment for me was August 2004 when I discovered my mother couldn’t walk. She could barely eat much less explain the pain she was in. After seeing over twenty different doctors, it was clear my mother would need surgery and would need a full time caregiver. I made the announcement to the Kemetic Suns that I was bowing out to free up time for my mother. Mostly everyone was supportive. I disappeared as quickly as I emerged. During this time Kirby and Hypnotic did their Kirb and Chris album

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In June of 2005, my father was diagnosed with stage two Alzheimer’s dementia. The doctor took his license on the spot and told us to focus on “quality of life” because they didn’t expect him to live past two years. My mother’s illness combined with my father’s diagnosis and the demons of the road pushed me over the edge. I crawled inside a bottle for a time. I was convinced that I had hurt my parents with my music. I burned my rhyme pads and decided to never write a rap again. When I emerged I had a new path and oath to keep to my father.

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Over the next five years, I became a new person in learning to go from being a Kemetic Sun to being the best son I could be. I found that many of the skills I learned through the music, were transferrable to helping my father. I also learned a great deal about my willpower, drive and commitment. My father was and is my world. My reason for being. A strong, hard, magician of a man who was loved by all he came across; even his enemies had to respect him. In 1995 when I handed my father a copy of 30 Daze and A Plane Ticket I had no idea the journey I would take. When I asked him what he thought, he played the Daddy Please skit for me and asked if I was talking to him. I vehemently denied it but I was deeply hurt that he thought I was airing him out. I shouted him out at the end of the album but he didn’t seem to hear that. I don’t think he believed me. That never set well with me.

Quality Of Life

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When my father died, I had a brand new appreciation. I couldn’t just nod. I had to act. I knew he deserved some act to offset the notion that a song had been laid against him. I began writing songs about caring for my father. When things got very bad, Koncepts and Peek started sending me beats. I don’t know why. They don’t either. We are all being polite around the fact that they were worried about me. I would drive my father around to different appointments and play the beats that I was given. Music was good for my father’s moods. During the late nights in the emergency room, I wrote science fiction in my head. This project ended up becoming The Paper Thrones. During the mornings when I was trying to pay for everything, I wrote rhymes as I drove. The combination opened my eyes to the amount of people who were just starting the journey I was on. More and more I saw signs of millions of people caring for a parent with Alzheimer’s and no one speaking for them; or to them. I knew I had to say goodbye to you fans, to my father and to any hold this disease thinks it may have over me. I will not die of Alzheimer’s. If I do, it is because I went down fighting and I hurt the hell out of it.

Sometime in the near future I will release to you this tribute called The Long Goodbye. A 21 track album that is both a tribute to my father and also my way of closure with the people I meet who tell me how much good Kemetic Suns did for their lives. This will be the solo album the fans were promised. It absolutely sounds like a Kemetic Suns album; I am told it sounds like a grown man Ambershine. I have ZERO interest in selling the album. My goal is to see how money we can raise to fight Alzheimer’s using this album. Some simple value proposition such as “If you donate $1 to this cause, you get a code to download the album”.

I hope this answered the questions. I hope this gave you what you were looking for. I hope you will join me one last time for The Long Goodbye.


Links to the original posts on Karma's website.








2 comments:

  1. Great post. Thanks to you and Ka. Listening to the album right now and really liking it.

    ReplyDelete
  2. amazing album. so much soul put into the songs, so much conciousness.

    ReplyDelete