"They couldn't understand how I feel when I'm on the track board turnin' the knob switch/ Moms keep talkin' that ol' 'Get a real job' shit."
— Phonte, "All That You Are"
When I say everybody knows Kreid, I mean everybody who ever felt a beat and knew that shit. I'm not lying.
My girl Dani was an undergrad a few years back at Columbia University in New York. Standing on the opposite platform, some dude noticed something "Cincinnati" about her. Maybe she was rockin' a T-shirt or reading a CityBeat. I'm foggy, but this did happen.
"You from Cincinnati?" he yelled across. "You know my boy, Kreid?"
She was something like shocked when she recently put it together about Kreid — Kristofer + Reid, formerly Kris 2X, Kris at family reunions.
He and I are cousins. Our mothers aren't just sisters, they look nearly like twins.
Any time I'm in the Zip code of Hip Hop in this city, someone says to me, "Yo! You Kreid's cousin? That kid is ill! Tell that nigga to call me!"
In "One Day It'll All Make Sense," CityBeat's award-winning 2003 Hip Hop package, many wise men named Kreid as their favorite beatmaker/producer. Hanging out with Jibri a few weeks back, we talked about Kreid, about disappointment and about drive.
"So much talent in one family," Jibri said.
"Kreid treats me like I'm a Rock star, but he's the Rock star, man," I said. "He's so talented, it's ridiculous. Everybody knows that dude. I sit in the car with that cat at family functions listening to beats, and he's got shit nobody's ever heard. I've still got a mixtape he gave me a long time ago with some of his shit on it, and I be in here flowing over his beats. That shit is old, and it's still dope as hell. Aaaah!"
I was exasperated. I am exasperated by what I know is Kreid's ability in proportion to his station.
His beats are immediate, infectious. They beg for flows. A beatmaker with an innate gift for creating polyrhythms bolstered by sweet and grimy melodies, he's also a closet lyricist who knows how to make a beat because he knows how to flow over one.
Kreid didn't get with Hip Hop when it was fashionable. At Princeton High School in the late 1980s, he was the kid with record albums strewn across every surface and an elaborate Frankenstein of turntables, samplers, drum pads, keyboards and speakers stacked up in his lab/bedroom.
And tapes. Cassettes littered the floor like discarded scratch-offs in front of the bodega.
He started building with other Hip Hop addicts, making whole songs that actually made sense and were good. Then his father died and about then he joined the Nation of Islam, became an incense-selling Black Muslim, changed his name to Kris 2X and squandered his inheritance.
When he returned to serious beatmaking, he started orbiting Hi-Tek, MOOD and a host of New York-based producers and lyricists who paid him for his beats. It's cool for art to be commerce, so long as it's not commercial.
I don't know what Kreid does with his money, but the purpose of art as commerce is advancement.
Kreid — like Jibri, Kenny P, Holmskillit and every MC waiting to spit at every open mic, every DJ playing bad music at a wedding reception just to play one gem and every lyricist scribbling words in a journal — has talent and vision the rest of us will never know. But they live and do battle with something akin to a hump they can never quite hurdle.
What does them in sometimes? Is it the lack of motivation? Self-loathing or self-sabotage?
Whatever it is, it's assailable. But sometimes we, the overly familiar and tactless public, are responsible for how fucked up the almost-star's life can be.
Jibri constantly gets pelted with "Hey! Aren't you...?" and "Whatever happened to you?" Sitting in The Greenwich recently, the barmaid asked him that.
"You used to be the bomb," she said. Now that's Gangsta Rap.
"If I'm fucked up, then what does that make you for working here?" is what he should've said but didn't. Because it's all about pacing — you know, the beat.
An artist who will overcome, be creative and productive and who will aspire to whatever definition of success he's ascribed for himself must choose his battles if he intends on longevity — not only of career but also of spirit and character.
When Kevin Britton, Mildred C. Fallen, April Martin and I planned this issue, we wanted to give props to an era in Cincinnati Hip Hop by writing living eulogies to the MCs, DJs and lyricists you thought fell the fuck off and whom you relish in telling so. We also wanted to invoke the yesteryear of Cincinnati Hip Hop before record deals, production deals, crack, riots and when we still had the Kool Jazz Festival and "The Wiz" played Hip Hop about being the best MC and not a whispered threat to "beat that pussy up."
"They Reminisce Over You (T.R.O.Y.)" is about when clubs like Kelly's, The Apple and Jello's were open and you could actually dance to Hip Hop; when the Skywalk Cinema showed The Fat Boys' movie and the State Theatre had midnight showings of She's Gotta Have It; when Speech macked chicks in the back of the tour bus in Bogart's parking lot before taking the stage to spit "Lord, I've really been real stressed. Down and out, losing ground."
And now every time I a play Speech CD at my house, a guest will say, "Speech is still making records? Whatever happened to him?"
Maybe, like every other almost-star I know, he got hyped, got free of it and now he's doing what he wants.
Thank God Kreid just got out of his deal with Hi-Tek. (Check yourself, Tek.) Now his beats are his own again.
And just this second I decided that I don't give a fuck if Kreid never becomes a Hip Hop household name like Kanye West. So long as beatmaking makes him happy and he loves himself for being happy, it's fine by me.
I still have that mixtape and that joint he did with LaRon X. All the right people already know who he is.
Yo. I'm Kreid's cousin. ©