“‘Please Listen to My CD-R’: Underground Hip-Hop Music from the Fans” by Anthony Kwame Harrison

by Jessica Dilday on March 4, 2015

“‘Please Listen to My CD-R’: Underground Hip-Hop Music from the Fans” by Anthony Kwame Harrison by Iaspm-Us on Mixcloud

In winter 2001, I served as Assistant Tour Manager for the Ground Control U.S. Tour—sponsored by the now-defunct underground hip-hop label, Nu Guv Alliance. Over the course of thirty-four days, the Ground Control All Stars—comprised of Los Angeles’ Aceyalone, Boston’s Ed O.G., the Bay Area’s Rasco, and New York City’s the Masterminds—put on twenty-seven shows in cities and college towns across America. By the time we returned to San Francisco, I had accumulated eighteen CD(-R)s from aspiring hip-hop musicians or affiliated promoters we had met on the road.[1. This number is likely higher; I am certain that at least these eighteen CD(-R)s were acquired on the tour. There were a handful of others I am unsure about.] Some of these were handed to me directly, others were passed on by the touring artists who seemed to have little to no interest in them. The CD(-R)s ranged from three-song promotional singles to twenty-five track albums; a few had high-quality professional packaging complete with barcodes, others were simply marker writing on a CD-R—one even came shrink-wrapped in Saran.

CDR3

Following the tour, I immediately resumed my job at Amoeba Music. With so many obscure used hip-hop CDs available through Amoeba’s employee loan program, my collection of tour music mementos was soon discarded. Fourteen years later, I’ve unpacked these CD(-R)s in order to reflect on their significance for my 2015 IASPM-US presentation (“‘Please Listen to My CD-R’: Unpacking the Music ‘Momentos’ of a National Hip-Hop Tour”). In the process, I made this mix. With the exception of the one CD-R that would not play, I have selected at least one track from each unit.

Looking back, it’s not surprising these musical offerings were so quickly cast aside. For they arrived in the hands of tour members twice devalued. First, as independent hip-hop music—in some cases coming from out-of-the-way locales like Saratoga Springs, New York—they were vying for legitimacy in a genre still largely governed by record-label name-recognition and established regimes of geographic capital. Second, most of these CD(-R)s were not coveted but rather thrust upon us by show attendees and presumed fans; thus meeting one of Christopher J. Washburne and Maiken Derno’s criteria for “bad music”—that which is unwanted.[2. Christopher J. Washburne and Maiken Derno. Bad Music: The Music We Love to Hate. (New York: Routledge, 2004), 1.]

In making this mix, I have sought to re-value this formerly depreciated music. While a track like the Dirty Luggage All-Stars’ “Dirty Luggage/State 2 State” is certainly obscure, claiming any song featuring legendary Project Blowdian Mikah-9 as “devalued,” to some hip-hop fans, may be a stretch. Yet listening to other tracks, like Paradigm’s “Questions”—featuring guest emcees Mr. X & Mr. Sin Que—I’m reminded that some of these songs likely represent one of the few opportunities an aspiring artist has to record. So many hopes and aspirations (w)rapped into one forty-bar verse. I hope listeners appreciate the varied production sounds—ranging from the excess distortion of River Edge, New Jersey’s dälek, to the muffled hisses of Phoenix’s Unconventionalz, to the crisp keys and snares offered by Colorado Springs’ The Procussions. The mix closes with Aceyalone’s “Five Feet.” Ironically, this lead single off the tour headliner’s then-just-released album, critiques the very behavior through which most of these CD(-R)s came to us.

CDR2

Track List:

  1. Arkitech (Audio Aerosol) – Track 5 [Colorado Springs]
  2. Kabir – Track 1 [Cambridge, MA]
  3. Organic Mind Unit – “Chemically Imbalanced” [Chicago]
  4. HAAS – Track 1 [Phoenix]
  5. Kanser – “My Own Two” [Minneapolis – given to me in Lincoln, NE]
  6. Unconventionalz – Track 10 [Phoenix]
  7. Paradigm – “Leverage” [Somers, NY]
  8. Extreme – “Werk Ya Self” [Minneapolis – given to me in Lincoln, NE]
  9. The Procussions – “All That It Takes” [Colorado Springs]
  10. Dirty Luggage All-Stars (featuring Mikah-9) – “Dirty Luggage/State 2 State” [Los Angeles]
  11. Paradigm (featuring Mr. X & Mr. Sin Que) – “Questions” [Somers, NY]
  12. Drunken Immortals – “1999” [Tempe, AZ]
  13. dälek – “Swollen Tongue Bums” [River Edge, NJ]
  14. Alias (Ellis Bancroft) – Track 1 [?]
  15. Legendary Axe (featuring Mic Stylz) – “Big-N-Nasty” [Boston]
  16. Organic Mind Unit – “The Good Shhh” [Chicago]
  17. The Procussions – “Move Yer Self” [Colorado Springs]
  18. k0ng (featuring Jes Hudak) – “How Can I be” [Saratoga Springs, NY]
  19. Drunken Immortals – “MOB U Philosophy” [Tempe, AZ]
  20. Dirty Luggage All-Stars – “Suicidal Soldiers” [Los Angeles]
  21. Aceyalone – “Five Feet” [Ground Control Records, 2000]

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