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May 14-20, 2009
The West Coast rap pioneers of Project
Blowed blow through town
by Christian Arcand
This week, Boulder will be treated to the music of a group that changed the entire face of hip hop on the West Coast. Picture this: Early ’90s Los Angeles, two years removed from the riots, Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg and Too $hort are spearheading the blossoming LA gangsta rap movement.
This was before the days of online music sharing, so all the general public had to go by was MTV and local radio, which at the time was dominated by Death Row Records. As jheri curls flowed in the breeze and the P-Funk samples boomed from all speakers, every aspiring LA rapper who came up at that time wore flannel shirts, Compton hats and rapped like NWA.
Well, almost every aspiring LA rapper.
Amidst all of the lyrical gang-banging and g-funk, a new style of hip hop was just beginning, and two guys named Aaron (Abstract Rude), and Eddie (Aceyalone) started a crew called “Project Blowed” that has gone on to put out some of the most compelling independent hip hop in the genre’s short history.
Project Blowed was not always a hip-hop super group. In fact, it started off as an open mic night in Los Angeles and was the West Coast equivalent of New York’s “Lyricist Lounge.” The weekly event grew in popularity until it became a staple of urban music in Los Angeles, attracting celebrity attendees and an ever-increasing group of fans.
One thing that is slightly odd about the LA underground scene at this time was the fact that there were so many people involved, from MCs to DJs to artists to dancers to poets and so on — and they all constantly collaborated. Everybody had a guest verse on everybody else’s songs. Albums were so full of guest appearances that it sometimes became difficult to discern whose album you were hearing.
As the movement grew, the entire West Coast hip-hop scene underwent a drastic transformation. There was still an edge to it, but the
harsh ghetto tales and misogynistic put downs were skipped in lieu of a far more introspective style of rap. The flows were different; instead of loudly punctuating each bar, they would flow through each bar into the next one almost seamlessly. The hooks being written weren’t meant to be chanted in clubs; they were meant to make the listener think. While Ice Cube’s brutally honest tracks left little to the imagination, Project Blowed rappers did the opposite. The tracks interacted with listeners in a way that made them accessible to everyone, not just people from South Central. At the forefront of this movement were the three MCs playing at the Fox this week: Mykah 9, Abstract Rude and Aceyalone, or as their mothers named them, Mike, Aaron and Eddie (which is also the name of the tour).
The West Coast hip-hop scene fell victim to a practice in hip hop that has been known in certain circles as “over-crewing.” The Wu-Tang Clan struggled with this, as well, when they started releasing compilations of underling groups that were all affiliated with the Wu somehow. But unless you became a hardcore fan, it was almost impossible to keep up with who was in what group.
Project Blowed has this same problem. Aceyalone, Ab Rude and Mykah 9 form the group Haiku D’Etat, while Mykah 9 and Acey are also part of the Freestyle Fellowship, Acey and Ab Rude are known as The A Team, and Ab Rude alone is part of Abstract Tribe Unique (which is really just him and two interpretive dancers). Catch all that? If you were to tally up the total collaborations all three MCs have been a part of, the numbers would rival those of Lil Wayne, Akon and T-Pain.
The problem with such rampant over-crewing is that it becomes almost impossible for casual fans to figure out who is in what crew or which album features which MC. These guys weren’t exactly seeking to become shiny-suit-wearing rap superstars, but they were making such great music that even with the over-crewing they became impossible to ignore. College radio DJs weren’t entirely sure who was who yet, but one thing everyone agreed on was that they were straight up dope. Today, they are still putting out copious amounts of music, and even casual fans do not have the same problem figuring out who is who anymore.
Another trend that these guys bucked was the notion that hip-hop groups (primarily on the East Coast) need not release more than one album a year, ever.
Back then, the idea was that if too much music was released, the audience would begin to think that not enough time was put into it and the quality suffered. Snoop Dogg, for example, released the multi platinum Doggystyle in 1993 and then waited three years before dropping the disappointing Doggfather in 1996.
Aceyalone, Ab Rude and Mykah 9 have put out so much music between the three of them that their discographies read like classic rockers spanning several decades, and while they do span two, the sheer volume and quality of music these guys have released is nothing short of mind-boggling.
On Saturday, the three MCs will headline the Fox Theatre and do what they do best: perform. The tours these dudes have put on over the past 15 years have done a lot to spread the word from beyond the left coast, and while their style of hip hop was considered new and revolutionary out there, the rest of the country latched onto it, as well. If you have seen any of these guys live before, you know what to expect, but for first timers, get ready for a non-stop blast of high-energy hip hop that has been refined, perfected and presented to you courtesy of some of the three hardest working men in show business. From overcoming the gangsta-rap phenomenon to somehow managing to stay loyal to all of their crews and groups while still having quite successful solo careers, there are few obstacles in the rap game that these guys have not conquered. The result is an inspiring discography and long careers that are even more impressive considering the shelf life of your everyday underground rapper.
For More Info:
The Mike, Aaron & Eddie Tour with Myka 9, Abstract Rude, Aceyalone, Nocando and 3 the Hard Way starts at 9 p.m. on Saturday, May 16, at the Fox Theatre, 1135 13th St., Boulder,
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