Music: War and Peace

Mood and other local artists do battle to gain area Hip Hop a home

 
The Prehistoric Sounds team of Hip Hop musicians from Cincinnati, Dayton, Columbus, Pittsburgh and Brooklyn.



The notes to Mission Control Presents: Prehistoric Sounds Feat. Mood cite Psalms 144:1-9, beginning "Blessed be the Lord my strength, which teacheth my hands to war, and my fingers to battle." The recording's closing, "Outro," sampled from an old movie of unknown origin, promises: "As long as one of us is alive, and remembers how to start a fire, or hold a sword, this war will go on ..."

Jahson, one-third of the local Hip Hop trio Mood, elaborates.

"They both represent real life," he says. "In life, we're always at war. War doesn't mean country vs. country. It's spiritual. You're on one side or the other. There is no in-between."

This battle theme prevails on Prehistoric Sounds, a teaming of Hip Hop musicians from Cincinnati, Dayton, Columbus, Pittsburgh and Brooklyn.

Representing the home team on this disc are Crunch Extraordinaire, DJ Hi-Tek, Reason, Holm Skill, Zerah, Laq-Nun, Five Deez and, of course, Mood. Each member of Mood — Main-Flow, Donte and Jahson — is an executive producer of this project. The avengers assembled here make up Wanna Battle, a guild for promoting the area's indie Hip Hop.

Released last November, Prehistoric Sounds was completed almost entirely at the Wanna Battle Compound, a local recording studio owned by Mood and Hi-Tek. Its 16 tracks are Hip Hop chemical warfare. By the time they're under your skin, it's too late. Wanna Battle wins, as do listeners.

The music accompanying the rhymes is sparse: a Brazilian Jazz-like guitar strum here, a one-finger piano melody there, a soprano's vibrato elsewhere. As the DJs keep the music in the background, the MCs take the fore, and take it they do. The flow is varied, going from a championship welterweight bounce; to a just barely behind-the-beat, nasal delivery; to a slightly out-of-tune yet fun song-speak. This is rhyme-based Rap. Not old school, just back to basics. Prehistoric.

Don't forget: We're at war. The polemics on Prehistoric Sounds describe the lost spiritual battles that result in living fast and dying faster. Still, Wanna Battle isn't afraid of leavening the events with humor. "Hard Heads," credited to Cruel Extraordinaire featuring Daryl of Laq-Nun, boasts, "Back in them days, we'd-a stuck L.L. for his radio." Funny. Sad. Intimidating. Reverent. Ah, the power of well-written, well-delivered verse.

Prehistoric Sounds' "MC-720" also sneaks a rather funny sample from the late seventies Super Friends cartoon. (Thanks, guys.) This is winning indie Hip Hop.

Unfortunately, if area listeners want to enter the live Battle, they can't do it any time soon. As you read this, dates are being confirmed in both California and New York, with none yet in Ohio. Main-Flow, in an e-mail interview with CityBeat, shared the difficulty of booking local Hip Hop shows. This became no easier when Ripley's Alive — a club in which live Rap, Reggae and Urban music flourished — recently reopened as a Chipotle Mexican Grill. Beans and caffeine aside, both the Mad Frog and Top Cat's are doing their share, bringing in Rappers and turntablists, but Hip Hop has never had an easy go in this city. As one of Mood's tracks on Prehistoric Sounds states, "Welcome to the ill side, home of the hillside" ("Transmogrify").

"It's real difficult," Flow says. "It's like a pro football team not having a stadium to play in after they practice all week. I think it's time for the city to recognize the talent coming from this area and provide venues for Hip Hop music. Our city has a lot of nice facilities that would be perfect for Hip Hop, but I think the owners of these places stay away from Hip Hop because of negative attention from the media at times."

Just how hard is it to be a Hip Hop artist in Cincinnati? Flow e-mailed me from San Diego. Wanna Battle indeed.

But don't think this holds anyone back.

"We're looking for a place to have a Wanna Battle music seminar every year," continues Flow. "We would also like backing from the city to throw free concerts for the kids and sponsor music workshops."

Check out the ambitious year Flow has planned. Wanna Battle Records will release his first solo full-length, Main-Flow Solo Eclipse 2132, along with a forthcoming Mood LP, Legendary. Flow is also planning appearances on the Mission Control Tour, the DC Shoe Co. USA Tour and the wannabattle.com Tour, all to be announced (in other cities). And, remember, Flow is only one performer on the Wanna Battle roll call.

This war will go on. Let this bring peace to area music listeners.



For more info on Prehistoric Sounds, Wanna Battle and its artists, check www.wannabattle.com

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