Category Archives: Blog

Proseed Interview With Stereo Stickman

Recently, Proseed was interviewed by the online music magazine Stereo Stickman. He discussed his new album, Songs and Seven Blunders, as well as his writing and production process, and the past, present and future of Music by Proseed. Read the entire interview over at Stereo Stickman.

Michael Raasch, CC BY 3.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

That Time Grandmaster Caz Emailed Me

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When I was around 15 yrs old, I built a hip-hop website. Likely hosted for free by Geocities or Tripod or one of the other major hosts in the late 90s, the site was a simple celebration of the “best emcees ever.”

This was the age of web 1.0 when static websites were king. I had this trick where I’d hide tags in the body of my homepage by making the font of the tags small and dark or similar to the color of the background; essentially the same trick being used today on social networks like Instagram when users post Stories. This helped me draw in 100s of visitors a day from search engines like Yahoo, Excite, Alta Vista and others, which to me, was a surprising success at the time.

One day I got an email from hip-hop pioneer Grandmaster Caz of the Cold Crush Brothers. His name was included in his signature in bold blue letters. The signature highlighted how he was a member of “The Legendary Cold Crush Brothers.” His email was hosted by Hotmail. He had found my site, and he wasn’t impressed.

A pioneer from the late 1970s, Caz didn’t like my list of the top 10 emcees. While I can’t recall all of them, I distinctly remember Pharaoh Monche and Most Def making the cut, and if you told me Mr. X to the Z Xzibit was on it as well, I wouldn’t say you were wrong.

My list clearly had counted out old school pioneers. In all honesty, it reflected poorly on my listening habits, which definitely included artists who first appeared on the scene in the 80s like KRS One. KRS likely made the cut given my appreciation for him which predated the site, but most of the list was weighted heavily toward younger acts at the time.

While the list would be different if I were to compile it today, many of the artists I included would be considered among the most skilled and culturally influential emcees in the last 25 years, many of which are still consistently putting out music as I write this.

But Caz had a point and I knew it. I can’t recall exactly what I responded back, but I’m confident I was respectful and acknowledged that my list was a poor assessment of roughly a quarter century of hip-hop music.

I never heard back from Grandmaster Caz after I replied to his email. He was featured on DJ Revolution’s album In 12s We Trust (2000), explaining the story behind Grandwizard Theodore’s spontaneous invention of the scratch.

I also remember his appearance in a film on hip-hop (the title of which now eludes me) when he explained why hip-hop music was created, humorously, as an outlet for people, implicitly inner city Black Americans, who didn’t have access to tennis courts.

Now in his 60s, Caz remains an outspoken, vocal ambassador of hip-hop. He continues to spread his message, one which is reminiscent of other artists from his era who believe, correctly, that mainstream hip-hop culture has been led astray by corporate greed and pop culture. Part of me wonders if he’s still using that Hotmail email and contacting every lonely Wordpress blog that celebrates today’s latest crop of overrated rappers: mumblers and bad singers who clearly didn’t grow up on poets and pioneers.

That Day Q-Unique Wrote Back

This article is also the content of episode 12 “That Day Q-Unique Wrote Back” of the Feel the Void podcast.

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I must have been around 16 years old. I know this because As the World Burns, the classic debut album by the Arsonists, dropped in 1999, and I had been obsessing over the album as I always did when I found a new hip-hop album to immerse myself in, analyze and play again & again & again, from start to finish.

That puts me a few years into writing verses. I wasn’t getting very far as far as I was concerned. I may have reached the process where I emulated other MCs like Defari or Evidence, but I still wasn’t Definite, or Focus, or whoever I was calling myself at the time, let alone Proseed.

Aside from those West Coast emcees, there was another emcee that captured my attention. Out of all the gifted lyricists and wordsmiths in the underground super group the Arsonists, Q-Unique’s command impressed me the most.

Lines like,

“Now this be rated PG, for Perfect Grammar I be sentencin’
Street speakin’, incredible heat-seakin’
Disintegratin’ rap groups in high priced attired
Extinguisher, fireman now puttin’ out the fire
We takes it higher.”

Q-Unique of The Arsonists, “Backdraft,” As the World Burns (1999)

Those lines had me hooked.

I decided I’d write a letter to the “pyromaniax” expressing how much I admired their music and how much it had influenced me as an emcee, but I also regretted how I hadn’t yet found my purpose or voice in the music. Middle class kid. No underprivileged back story. Suburbs. I was blessed, but what did I have to say that would relate to hip-hop heads? I was too young to express this at the time, so I just kept it simple, vague, and said I hadn’t found my voice or purpose. The letter was sent to the address of Matador Records in New York City, an independent label founded in 1989.

A few weeks later I received a small package in the mail. Inside was an Arsonists t-shirt and a printed letter back. Some 20 years later, I’m sure the letter is stuffed away in some shoe box with other mementos from my adolescence, but I can still recall the two most valuable things about the letter: one, it was personally written by Q-Unique, and two, he encouraged me to “keep emceeing.”

It wasn’t long after that I did finally find my voice. I kept writing, and I’ve kept emceeing ever since. Q-Unique released his solo debut album, Vengeance is Mine, in 2004 with Ill Bill’s label, Uncle Howie. I woke up this morning thinking about the album, and the lyrics from Q-Unique’s track titled “Father’s Day” in which he talks about his childhood and being raised by an abusive father figure. Whether it’s his biological father or not is left up to the listener’s interpretation.

“I got smacked if I stood brave. He puffed weed in my face, screaming behave and get good grades.”

Q-Unique, “Father’s Day,” Vengeance is Mine (2004)

And now I think of how different our childhood and upbringing really was. He grew up in a tough situation with a “soul of a dark heart,” and I grew up in a middle class home with a father I could count on. The one thing we have in common he acknowledged through the letter he sent back. A love for hip-hop and what it represents and stands for. Self expression, especially for marginalized voices. Hip-hop is a counterweight to entrenched systems of power, or as KRS ONE has put it in recent years, it is an anti-colonial culture. This may sound oxymoronic given the billions of dollars mainstream hip-hop music has brought in for decades, but at its heart, just like any culture, hip-hop is anti-capitalist.

If Q-Unique is to ever read this article or hear this podcast, I want to say thanks and express just how much the letter back meant to me. I really appreciated it as a teenager struggling with my musical identity 20 years ago, and yes…

I still have the t-shirt.

– Proseed