Metro Times features Michigan emcees The Lyricists

Source: Metro Times. Read the original article here.
“We feel we’re the most slept-on group in Michigan,” says MC Illtone of the Lyricists. Slept-on? Indeed. And part of the reason, hell, most of the reason is location, location, location. Illtone (Robert Johnson), his partner-in-rhyme Rym-B (Jewan Reed) and DJ Haus Diesel (Craig Herbert) hail from Port Huron, as in the thumb. It’s an area better known for the Blue Water Bridge. It’s a summer sailboat race destination. It’s anything but a hotbed of hip hop.
“It’s pretty much a retirement community,” B says. “We’re pretty much top dog here … but that isn’t sayin’ much.”
“People here put together groups and do a demo or something, but that’s about it,” Illtone adds. “Everyone wants to catch the quick money by doing something like they hear on the radio or in a Top 40 club. We’re doing the opposite. The radio’s glitz and glam; we’re family guys trying to do something original.”
And that they do. The Lyricists came together in the mid-’90s. The group was inspired — as much of their Detroit indie-rap brethren were — by the jazzy, positive hip hop rising from New York, such as A Tribe Called Quest and De La Soul.
For middle-class kids like the Lyricists — coming up aware of gangster rap’s urban exaggeration, with its violence and bravado, but put off by its crassness and commercialization — the East Coast sound meant a lot. The sound was to hip hop what Nirvana was amid early ’90s hair metal: an oasis of expression and inspiration that wasn’t specific to a geographic location. De La’s “D.A.I.S.Y. Age” acronym said it all: “Da Inner Sound, Y’all.”
Suddenly, hip hop wasn’t about the boast and the toast. It was more about having fun making music; rhymes could be more clever than hard — they needn’t be all about the mean streets. All that was required to create was an inspired mind.
Illtone and B, who are now just into their 30s, both left Detroit for Port Huron a decade ago to, as Johnson puts it, “get away to get my head on straight.”
Lineups would then gel and fall apart, largely because anybody seriously pondering a hip-hop career would get the hell out of Port Huron, as their last DJ did.
But for the Lyricists, Port Huron is home. They’re family men with mortgages to pay, running their own businesses or working for the Big Three. DJ Diesel drives to Warren Assembly each day to punch in at GM. (“It takes an hour to get there, and, if I’m lucky, an hour and a half to get back,” he sighs.)
Rakim once said that “it’s not where you’re from, it’s where you’re at.” The Lyricists are proving that maxim to be true in this MySpace, indie-rap era — yeah, Port Huron is in the middle of nowhere, but the Lyricists are squarely in the middle of it.
The first thing they do right is release music. Most local hip hop flounders at the production phase. The Lyricist drop a new CD, as Pontiac emcee One Be Lo jokes, “Like every six months.” (Lo, you’ll note, is arguably Detroit’s best emcee and certainly one of the biggest underground ones in the country now. He did a stint on last year’s Warped Tour and a record on Fat Beats, the prestigious L.A. hip-hop label.)
“The first time I did a show in Port Huron, I went there with no expectations,” Lo says. “But when they came onstage, I was blown away. One, because they were tight. But two,” he laughs, “because they’re from Port Huron!
“I felt a connection with them, being from Pontiac. It’s like if you’re not from Detroit or Chicago or L.A. or New York then you’re not even on the hip-hop map. But Illtone’s voice is ridiculous. He’s one of the 10 best underground emcees in the country right now.”
And that fact is slowly getting recognized, at least by emcees and producers from other less-likely hotbeds of underground hip-hop activity (North Carolina, Baltimore) who mostly discovered Port Huron’s finest on MySpace.
The Lyricists’ most recent effort is the Get Heard or Die Tryin’ mix CD, which compiles their tracks and emcees rapping over songs created by like-minded talent from around the world, most of whom met online, never in person. DJ Excel from Baltimore, Prov-P from Sweden, RMS TRIZM out of France and Sun 7 of North Carolina, contributed tracks, which DJ Diesel blends, cuts and scratches.
As a mix, it’s laudable; that Get Heard is all tracks by one group is incredible. And for all the emphasis the Lyricists put on their lyrics, the disc’s much more fun than, say, the more experimental production of L.A.’s Madlib or even the spare, soul genius of the late, great J Dilla. From its tight production to its empathetic rhymes, you can actually hear that the Lyricists are grateful to have an audience. Where some underground hip-hop producers go into a self-imposed anti-commercial exile fearing any sort of hit-making would constitute a “sell-out,” the Lyricists, as Port Huron’s lone heirs to the “D.A.I.S.Y.” chain, know how to please a crowd.
“We get a lot of people saying that we have this ‘Midwestern sound,’ or that we sound like other groups from Detroit. But our producers [Pro-Logic, etc.] are from Canada, so I guess you could say you can hear the Canadian influence,” Illtone says.
The group just completed a six-date East Coast tour, performing, as Diesel puts it, “in front of crowds from 30 to a 130.” The group gigged with the likes of Excel and Boston’s Headturners, most of whom they’d never met before showing up in their town for the show.
“Hip hop is like our common knowledge,” B explains. “We ain’t no murderers, so we can meet these people and know we’re gonna be cool with them and then we can talk about bringing them up to Port Huron.” Or in the case of Excel, work with them. Excel’s beats are all over the Lyricists’ next EP.
Still, the band stresses that for all its networking and prolific output, it’s the rhymed word that sets them apart. “We try to reflect what’s going on in our lives without straying into the negative, but it’s hard,” Illtone says. He and B offer verses from “360 Degrees” as evidence.
B rhymes: We never spit the simplistic flow/Check the show/Long wind like Energizer — GO/We’re not no rookies but we’re far from pros …. Intermingled in a world of snakes, test ya fate/Keep it movin’ and help the globe rotate/Appreciate small blessin’s, from life’s lessons, answers to deep questions, power in true confessions.
Illtone jumps in: I tell my lil’ girl, I’ve been around like the earth/so think about things before you do em’ first … Except freestylin’, and be precise when you end your rhymin’/’Cause you don’t want to mess up the next cat’s timin’ …
One thing’s certain, with nothing in Port Huron but Top 40 clubs and bad pop radio, the Lyricists have nothing to do but perfect their craft, and so far it’s paid off, even if social outlets are limited. “If we wanna hear good music we gotta play it at our house and have people over,” Illtone laughs.
Saturday, Oct. 13 at Shangra-La Gallery (1440 Gratiot Ave., Detroit; 313-279-5679) Oct. 13. Go to for details.
Hobey Echlin is a freelance writer. Send comments to

I guess there is no better job than a writer's

As far as I can look back into my childhood, books have always played a major part in my life. Growing up bilingual -which happened to be my case- is also a main asset when you’re a certified bookworm.
From Balzac’s descriptive world, through Goethe and Heine’s emotional poetry, traveling through Kafka s morbid jungle, my eyes also caught the American writer Richard Wright’s Black Boy book, a book that introduced me into the world of ethnic minorities in America.
J.K Rowling managed to captivate my imagination. Detroit hip hop fiction writer Contel Bradford catapulted me into the reality of the hood and increased my passion for urban culture.
I’ve read journalists of all kind, gifted and less gifted columnists. What I can say is that I have learnt from all of them.
The more you read as a writer, the more likely you are to develop your will to develop your writings.
In each successful writer, there is a thirsty learner who is eager to develop his own craft. I think that a writer should never be afraid of criticism, as long as it is expressed in a constructive way.
You can never be plainly satisfied with your writings, even when the whole world is praising your skills or when you think you reached the very top of the tops. A dedicated writer is always in the making, always perfecting his craft, even when you think he is the most outstanding writer you ever read.
The writer is the magician who knows how to choose the right words within a myriad of expressions. The writer is the person who will valuate a description, make you descend into the transcendental and emotional, share and feel what he feels, put words onto colors and sounds, create and re-create images into your head.
The writer has this amazing power to give birth to real and unreal. You will feel his presence, but as you will go on with your read, he will progressively slightly tiptoe and leave place to his unique style, his words, his impressions, his personal descriptions to the reader’s greatest pleasure.
As much as the musician and the performer loves to express in front of their public, the writer s plenitude relies on his readership.
The bigger the readership, the better a writer feels. The multitude of eyes that go through a text also offer a multitude of perceptions, moreover a capability of appreciation of the text creator.
Yes, I guess there is no better and everlasting job than a writer s.
Engaged, passionate, real, the writer often happens to be the spokesman for a generation, a century or a decade. He has this incredible power to export different countries customs and to generate tremendous interest all around the world.
The writer is a symbol for freedom of speech and creativity.
As long as there will be writers, the flame of hope will never extinguish from the face of the earth.
Copyright2007 by Isabelle Esling
All Rights Reserved

Bizarre/ Blue Cheese N Coney Island CD review

Global rating of the CD: 4.5 stars
D12’s Bizarre is an emcee who is definitely worth his weight. His brand new CD, Blue Cheese N Coney Island is determined to give you listeners a double taste of both cities, Detroit and Atlanta. Our place of birth, our hometown and the place we live in (when different from our hometown or place of birth) deeply shape our habits and , generally speaking, our vision of the world.
The town in which we chose to establish can tailor our mentality and mood. Rufus Johnson aka Bizarre is no exception to the rule. The Detroit native, deeply rooted with the Detroit hood and its culinary habits has chosen to relocate to Atlanta. He is actually the only D12 member to live outside of Detroit.
Rich of both town’s heritage, Bizarre will offer his listeners a panel of interesting artistic collaborations such as King Gordy, Young Miles, Tech9ne, Scarchild, the incredible vocalist Monica Blaire and many more.

A drop of metal electric guitar notes enhanced by some rhythmic drum beats and here comes King Gordy with his dirty hardcore spirit accompanied by his partner in crime, a fat boy named Bizarre.
A good flow, an astute rhyming content, some filthy and hilarious lyrics will guide the listener into an instrumental complex universe.
Let the king of horror core open a devilish world of lyrical depravation that isn’t exempted from a good dose of humor while Bizzy reps in his usual sick hilarious style.
Knock Them Out is fulfilled with tension. Hammering keyboard sounds, catchy drum beats, a King Gordy who is determined to spread terror around him will give the song its whole dimension. Tech9ne s valuable lyrical performance needs to be underlined too.
So Hard is the lyrical jewel of the CD in which Monica Blair s talent comes to shine. The depth, the strength, the warmth of her voice leads the song to a very emotional dimension in which Bizarre puts his passion for hip hop into words. The piano sounds, drum beats, keyboard sounds and claps work together to create a spiritual atmosphere in which the listeners will understand the artist’s passion, his sweat and tears, the harshness of the artistic world and a firm will to accomplish something in this world.
The astute combination of gospel and rap crowns the song’s beauty.
Like light drops of rain nourishing the face of the earth, each note, each cry, each good and bad memory will allow the source of the real faith to spread and grow. The song is also a moving homage to RIP Big Proof.
None of you should skip So Hard, because it is a heartfelt song.
Working with 7 Nation and KB, combining guitar, drum beats and chords, Bizarre will tell you the story of his big hustle.
Raw like the Detroit hood spirit, representing the 313, Young Miles, Kuniva and Strech Money introduce the song with some sharp lyrics and raspy voice. Violins, keyboard sounds, drum beats combined altogether sweat a runaway and terror spirit that defines the Murder Capital.
Get This Money is written on a cool melody based on soft vocals and instrumentals that contrast with Bizzy’s sharp reps and determined spirit.
Got This Addiction: let Bizzy offer your ears a poetic narration of his addiction. Hear the complaint of an imprisoned and empoisoned mind whose pain is musically defined by a subtle combination of guitar and electric guitar sounds.
Wicked that features Twisted carries a dark spirit that is continually enhanced by the monotonous organ background. However light is never too far from the dramatic dimension of the song. Catch the humorous words inside of a world of insanity.
Start a Mosh Pit is a swinging club song. That stuff is much more commercial. Honestly, I found it less likeable.
Cakin features NYC artist Scarchild. Meet an untrustworthy boyfriend during a private party with his fellows Dub, Gam and King Gordy.
Don’t miss Da Fat Boy Dance and its catchy musical background. The master of the ceremony, Bizarre, will teach you how to rub your stomach with lyrical ease and loads of humor.
The album ends up on a funny note with Fat Boy featuring King Gordy. Shake your belly and dance along with Bizzy.
So what is noteworthy in Blue Cheese N Coney Island? Think of the use of different musical genres such as hip hop, metal and gospel. Pay attention to the Southern, East Coast and Midwest musical influences. See how many efforts have been invested into heartfelt memory. Don’t forget to mention the numerous talents participation, the subtle combination of humor plus horrorcore and a spirit that is so typical to D12’s Weirdo.
So should you cop this CD? Definitely yes. Rufus Johnson’s creativity should be given a chance if you ask me!
Copyright 2007 by Isabelle Esling
All Rights Reserved

All eyes are on Bizarre this month…

Dear readers,
I admit that Bizarre’s music might not be to everybody’s taste.
However, since he released two CDs within a short period- more precisely a CD and a mixtape-I will focus my efforts on reviewing his work.
I just completed the Blue Cheese N Coney Island CD review and will offer you my thoughts on the Bizarre’s world mixtape hosted by Young Mase very soon.
To all of you who really like the artist, enjoy your read. Well, to the others: I promise to focus on other hip hop subjects too, so please be patient!

Bizarre/ So Hard/ video review

Global rating of the product: 4.5 stars
There is a major misconception about D12’s Bizarre: too many people-including fans- often think that Bizarre has nothing consistent to say in his music. Those whose knowledge of Rufus Johnson is limited to his mainstream songs often define the artist as a clown who raps about crazy things and whose music doesn’t make sense.
Little did you know about Bizzy if you’d like to summarize him to a kind of hilarious clown inside of D12 who can’t rap. One who has listened to Bizarre’s Rap Guys and to many of his other underground songs perfectly knows that this is totally untrue.
Today Rufus Johnson intends to introduce his viewers into the harsh universe of the D-town. He intends to communicate his passion and dedication to hip hop. Through the So hard video, the artist offers his viewers numerous flashbacks about his childhood and his struggle to make it in the music industry.
The video features local emcee King Gordy and an incredible vocal talent Monica Blaire who enriches the video with a wonderful warm and deep voice.
So hard is a subtle mixture of gospel and rap. Travelling through the past St Andrews Friday Night Sessions, the song revives the faith and the passion a dedicated artist put into his talent. So Hard shows all of us that talent alone isn’t enough: you gotta keep pushing on, no matter what. Only determined and perseverant are likely to see their dreams come true.
The price can be high, but behind each well earned success, there is a part of sacrifice to pay.
Travel through Bizarre’s childhood, be the witness of his Friday fishing sessions with his granddad, catch his words for Proof, Kuniva and Swifty.
The instrumental background made of catchy beats, claps, keyboard and piano sounds is softened by some intense vocals that will transport you into a godly universe.
If you love black music, you should definitely watch So Hard, a video in which Bizzy put his heart and soul.
Copyright2007 by Isabelle Esling
All Rights Reserved

Brand new Bizarre video!!!

It is entitled So Hard. You can watch it here.
Credit to Le Tunisien of RHB and his friend The Realest Homie, who happens to be a friend of mine too lol.
The video clip you just saw is wonderful as far as I am concerned. You cannot stay indifferent in front of Monica Blaire’s talent either…i love the gospel spirit of the song and Bizarre letting his true emotions go…

Main topic of the week: Eminem's birthday!

Since I am not sure to be online (due to an already busy schedule) during the next days, I will post my birthday wishes for Em today.

On October the 17th, 2007, Eminem will be 35. You will be able to read my recent thoughts about his upcoming, recently announced and long awaited album here.
Feel free to post your own wishes and comments.
Please no obsessive nor any insulting message. They will be removed straight away-as you probably know.