Friday, February 26, 2010

Run 4 Your Money Too

If you enjoy strange combinations of high and low voices, fast and slow tempos, jazzy and minimalist, then this is for you. That said, it runs a smoothly for 50+ minutos and should be a pleasurable listening experience for any open mind.

Presented by Jim Antlers and I.


01. A Broken Consort - For Nothing
02. Indian Jewelry - Walking on the Water
03. Fennesz + Sakamoto - Cendre
04. Oneohtrix Point Never - Format & Journey North
05. Origin Unknown - Valley of the Shadows
06. Venetian Snares - This Bitter Earth
07. Tricky - Makes Me Wanna Die
08. Ak-Momo - Women to Control
09. Fela Kuti - Trouble Sleep Yanga Wake Am
10. Bugskull - High Steppin' II
11. Killah Priest - Heavy Mental
12. Giuseppe Ielasi - Aix 03
13. Four Tet - The Butterfly Effect
14. Pivot - Nothing Hurts Machine

Friday, February 19, 2010

Divine Seven Interview

Few emcees in Pittsburgh have the ambition shown by Divine Seven. Sev's extensive resume has earned him the credibility and respect that many artists strive for. In 2009, this multi-faceted MC released two collaborative albums and performed at more than 50 live shows. However, before growing accustomed to the spotlight, Sev had more than a decade of experience in creative writing.

Rory Webb: Prior to being one of the most recognized MC’s in Pittsburgh, Divine Seven had notebooks full of poetry. So let’s take it back to the first poem put to paper. What inspired you to begin writing?

Divine Seven: Haha! First and foremost, peace and thanks to you for the interview, good brutha! It’s funny you should ask that, though. I began writing seriously in 1997. It’s weird how it happened though because I actually awoke from my sleep in the middle of the night and just started writing. I wrote two poems that night. The first was entitled ‘I Thank Thee’. It was an ode to the Creator and I was thanking him for the gift and for guiding me through certain situations. I was impressed considering that I never seriously used that form of art as expression.

Life is what inspired me though. I came from a pretty arduous background and experienced a lot of things early in life. Throughout all of that, I was always inspired by music. I loved how an artist could arrange a song, exercise the power of speech, and really move people.

RW: Was your poetry something that you shared or kept private?

DS: In the beginning, I felt a little intrepidation about sharing some of it because it was so personal, ya know? But as time went on I felt more compelled to let it breathe because 1) I thought it was a great way to express myself creatively and 2) I was good at it! (laughs) It’s hard for a creative person to not want to express it with an intended ear, fa’real.

So yeah, I used to share it with close friends and associates. Around that time I was involved in a poetry circle (laughs) and learned how to do spoken word/freestyle. Once I did a joint for an open mic back then, I was hooked. I knew then that I was working with something.

RW: Will you explain the similarities and differences between writing lyrics to a song and writing poetry? And how has your experience in writing poetry contributed to your talent in writing songs?

DS: I used to always say that emceeing is a lot easier than writing poetry because the art and precision with words were different. With poetry, I thought that it was more meticulous because it relied solely on words. I learned to be very conceptual and creative there. I found emceeing to be easier because your personality, charisma, etc. can come out there and really connect along with the words. The impact is different.

In retrospect, I only thought writing poetry was more intricate because I haven’t yet grown into my craft.

RW: In the past year, you’ve managed to release various music projects, both as a solo artist and as part of a team. The Black Connection album had you and fellow MC Ayatollah Jaxx trading verses, while the Seven Wonders EP was fully-produced by BusCrates 16-Bit Ensemble. Can you talk about the significance of networking and collaborating with other artists in the city?

DS: It’s very important for various reasons. It’s essential to network and build with your peers. There is a very talented pool of people here. But even beyond that, it’s important to show the city and the global hip hop community that Pittsburgh artists can collaborate and contribute to each other’s successes. People ARE checking for us, ya know? We have a reputation here in the ‘Burgh of having that ‘crab in the barrel’ mentality though, ya dig?

RW: You’ve also toured an assortment of venues in the city of Pittsburgh. What goals have you set for 2010 to maintain your progression?

DS: Where do we begin? (laughs) As far as shows go, I don’t have a particular goal to attain, honestly. The shows usually just come at a steady pace. I intend to get paid for a lot more shows this year and not just do shows because they’re there. Since I came on the scene in the bottom of ’07, I’ve done over 140 shows in and outside of PA, you dig? Maybe rock bigger venues… I don’t wanna overextend my brand without adequate compensation (mo’ money).

I am, however, going to be more visible and interactive with the fans and supporters. Be it promotional campaigns, radio spots, interviews, collabs, mixtapes, whenever, wherever, whatever (Maxwell voice). (laughs)

RW: So you’ve been working on the new album, Introspect… The LP. Who have you been collaborating with and when will the people be given the opportunity to hear the album?

DS: For Introspect, I’ve worked solely with Pittsburgh talent… L. King, Steez Xtreme, J. Basement, Tabu Mahogany, and Jon Kwest. Plus my DNA fam, Nate Netro and Ayeques. I have tons of local production talent on there as well. J-Pad The Juggernaut, James Moore, Shade Cobain, Freeze, and many more have contributed to the soundscape.

The album is 85% done and should be available by the end of February, early March at latest. I’m looking to get this and all future releases in stores, too.

RW: In your opinion, what are the ingredients for a classic Divine Seven album? What have you done to strive for it?

DS: Hmmm… You would need pounds of creativity, a pinch of passion, a dash of lyricism, concepts, stories, and faith with staying in your own skin… I’ll leave it there on that… The rest of the game is to be sold.

I constantly strive for it though; I wanna make timeless music, man. I’m not comfortable with being put in boxes artistically, so when I release a project, I try to put my all into it and make sure it is distinct from my previous work. I wanna show the growth in my music. Music is life!

RW: Final comments?

DS: Most def… Be sure to cop Introspect... The LP at the top of March, coming to a store and website near you. Be on the lookout for the “Shadow Loungin’” video. Also, stay tuned for the free downloadable EP, LISTEN!!!(The DAT Turner Files) dropping on 4.12.10, as well as The Life and Times of DAT Turner... in the summer (both produced entirely by Shade Cobain). And last but not least, be on the lookout for the Seventh Entity mixtape to close the year out.

Shout outs to anyone reading this down to the letter. Peace to you as well, Rory! People like yourself help the artists on the scene tremendously with what we’re doing here, much love for that. Peace and thank you to all of my supporters and anyone who has contributed to my success. You all inspire me. Also, to my musical peers (there’s too many of y’all to name). You know who you are though. To all the college radio stations showing love, and the movements I move with… STEEL CITY, LET’S GET IT… GYEAH!!!

Divine Seven - "Sometimes," from the upcoming album Introspect

Divine Seven featuring Tabu Mahogany - "Hold On," from the upcoming album Introspect

Divine Seven & Ayatollah Jaxx as Black Connection - "Happiness"

Divine Seven & BusCrates - "Across the Waters," from the album Seven Wonders

Monday, February 15, 2010

Run 4 Your Money!

Me and my good brother James at the SelveHealingMat produced this mix, together we share a common appreciation for the music that tends to be labeled as experimental or progressive. That said, we certainly experimented with this mix... combining abstract, avant-garde, dance, dubstep, electronic, funk, hip-hop, instrumental, jazz, reggae dub, trip-hop, and the undefined.

Dowload link below, check it out and let me know what you think!

1. Lee Fields & The Expressions - Money I$ King
2. Discotheque - Disco Special
3. Divine Styler - Grey Matter
4. Squarepusher - Circular Flexing
5. Amighty Arrogant - Red Rain
6. Ichiro - Jibun no SUMO mix (clip)
7. Mandalay - Insensible
8. SALEM - Streets of Philadelphia
9. Morcheeba - Howling
10. Flying Lotus - Quakes
11. Impact All Stars - Easy Come dub
12. Phaseone - Confessio Amantis
13. Heiner Goebbels - So Wird Der Schrecken Ohne Ende Langsam Normale Leben
14. Aa - We've Come Too Far


Run 4 Your Money Pt. 2 coming soon!!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Wiz Khalifa - Show & Prove (2007)


1. Intro
2. Pittsburgh Sound
3. Bout Mine
4. I Choose You
5. Damn Thing
6. Keep The Conversation (Feat. Boaz)
7. Stay In Ur Lane
8. Stand Up (Feat. Kev Da Hustler)
9. Too Late
10. I'm Gonna Ride
11. Gotta Be A Star (Remix) (Feat. Juliano And S. Money)
12. Let Em Know
13. Sometimes (Feat. Kelly Porter)
14. Locked And Loaded (Feat. Kev Da Hustler)
15. Burn Sumthin
16. Crazy Since The 80's
17. History In The Making



Friday, February 12, 2010

Armstead Brown Interview

Stilltown recently had the time to catch up with hip-hop activist, and one of Pittsburgh's most gifted musicians, Armstead Brown. Whether it be as part of the band at the weekly Release Open Mic, or as a music producer who supplies the heat, Brown has been an integral player in the progression of Pittsburgh hip-hop. His most notable contribution has been to Rhyme Calisthenics, the Official MC Competition. The various categories of the competition demands an MC to add new elements to their artillery. After what many considered to be a disappointing final battle in Rhyme Cal 8, the team has decided make some crucial changes to the competition.

Rory Webb: First and foremost, what is your opinion of the end result, a tie between MC’s Real Deal and Mista Scrap, in Rhyme Cal 8?

Armstead Brown: I realize from an audience’s perspective you always want there to be a winner and a loser so I realize it may not be the freshest end result for some. But I have to commend Real Deal and Mista Scrap for agreeing to split the grand prize and demonstrate that kind sportsmanship, especially for 2 MC’s who, as far as I know, have never worked together or even met. I don’t mind there being an asterisk next to Rhyme Cal 8 when that asterisk is a reminder that there’s room for more than one winner in this city. Having said that let me put this out there, THERE WILL BE NO MORE TIES IN RHYME CALISTHENICS.

RW: What’s your opinion on subject matter and/or sensitivity in regards to an MC battle?

AB: My opinion is that battling comes from a long tradition of signifying, jazz cutting contests, snaps, momma jokes and so on – so it’s the continuation of a part of our culture. Battles are also a celebration of free speech and a fat middle finger to the notion of censorship. So I don’t have any problems with battles being no holds barred and anything goes just as long as the primary intent is to destroy your opponent verbally. Battling, at its best, is a skillful art form that has a number of components to it – punchlines, metaphors, wordplay, comedic timing, hyperbole. But there is another component to battling – the creative and clever use of stereotypes. Racial and gender stereotypes have always been among the tools used to emasculate and humiliate your opponent. Having said that I also believe that battling still must be about originality, wit and cleverness. And in Rhyme Calisthenics we hold our battle round to the same standards as all the rounds that precede it. You can’t get to the battle round by calling someone a faggot, a bitch or an Ethiopian. So I don’t think anyone who’s relies on these phrases in a battle should expect to win Rhyme Cal or even a regular battle for that matter. I do think that you can be creative with stereotypes, and I think the more creative you are with stereotypes the more accepting people are when you go below the belt – because they understand that the stereotype is just a vehicle for demonstrating one’s mastery of the craft. So to relate this to what happened at Rhyme Cal 8, I think some folks including the judges felt that Deal and Scrap’s battle verses weren’t fresh enough, weren’t original enough to justify all the racial lines and gay references. And I tend to agree. But in Deal and Scrap’s defense I think they were both just kinda burned out by the end of the night, both of them are way better than that last round – their reputations will tell you so. I found the final battle disappointing but not offensive.

RW: How do you plan to prevent a similar situation from recurring?

AB: The simple answer is to say that we’ll have an alternate judge on hand in the event that one of our judges walks out at any time during the competition. We have also developed some contingency plans in the event of a tie. For instance, if somehow there is a tie in overtime of the final round then the winner will be the MC with the most cumulative points from all 4 rounds.

RW: Will there be any other changes made to the Rhyme Cal schematics?

AB: YES! Stretch and I didn’t create this competition to find out who the best battlers are in Pittsburgh. We created this competition to bring the fun back into hip-hop, to bring back the improvisation, the experimentation and originality. We created this competition to encourage MC’s to think and flow outside the box and then use that experience in everything else that they create. So with that said I’m about to shock everyone and say that we’ve decided to replace the battle with a different kind of final round. That’s right you heard correct – no more battle round. Now, we do realize that battling is a part of hip-hop so we have incorporated battle into the game in other ways that I think will really satisfy the crowd’s need to see MC’s get at each other from time to time. And “Comp Killer” will still be on the wheel – and that’s always fun to watch. I’m not gonna say what the new final round will be – y’all will just have to come to Rhyme Cal 9 to find out. And there’ll be a few new challenges on the wheel as well.

RW: When the idea for an MC competition came about, what were your initial short-term and long-term goals?

AB: When we first created Rhyme Cal all we had were short term goals. We wanted to create an event that allowed MC’s to work on their craft, not just a showcase or an open mic, but an event that had various exercises for MC’s to work on their stage presence, their freestyles, their vocabulary, etc. That was the goal – to bring MC’s together and have them feed off each other’s creativity and improvisation – something that cats just did naturally in the golden days of hip-hop. Looking back I’m surprised we stuck with it because the first 2 events were not successful at all. With Rhyme Cal 3 I think people started to understand what we were trying to do, we were finally able to recruit enough MC’s and attract an audience. That’s when we started thinking long-term about how to make this a staple within the scene. So far we’ve done 8 competitions, 1 All-Star Competition and 1 College Team Competition. We’ve had over 55 MC’s from the region compete and most recently we created a monthly open mic, The Boom Bap Effect, for MC’s and producers. And then we’ve got Rhyme Cal 9 coming in April and then the release of the Rhyme Cal mixtape shortly after that.

RW: What are your expectations for a Rhyme Cal competitor? Are they different for a first-time competitor, as opposed to an experienced Rhyme Cal vet?

AB: One of the things we expect competitors to do is come prepared. There’s a saying that goes “Opportunity favors the prepared mind.” If you’re going to play a football game you stretch your muscles before you play. The same goes for our competition – those who work on their punchlines and topics beforehand tend to perform better. That’s why we called it Rhyme Calisthenics – because it’s all about the exercises you do to make yourself a better MC. We do have different expectations for veterans and first-time competitors. It’s the job of the veterans to set the bar and show the first-time competitors what a well-rounded MC looks like. We also want the veterans to really showcase their skills and make the competition fun for the audience. And for the first-time competitors – we expect them to show up with an open mind. We expect them to watch the veterans and really listen to the judges’ feedback. We expect these things of them because we want them to come back and do better the next time.

RW: Can you talk about a particular MC or two that has emerged and developed in the competition?

AB: Well, Zone was an interesting competitor, he definitely came out of nowhere and surprised all of us. And then there’s Mac Miller who played in 4 competitions and has really been able to use Rhyme Cal as a platform for demonstrating his skills and widening his fan base. These 2 cats already had a strong skill-set so Rhyme Cal was really just an opportunity to develop their audience and show people they could rock the stage. Then there are cats like Jonny Quest. Jonny has competed three times and has certainly improved as a competitor but more important than that he has really taken the experience and infused it into his lyrics and his studio work. In other words, his Rhyme Cal experience has helped him develop as an MC and for me that’s the most important outcome. And that’s part of the reason why you see Jonny developing a good buzz right now, he’s got a good promotional game and has the lyrics to back it up.

RW: You mentioned that you’ve been working on a Rhyme Cal mixtape. How will the music reflect the competition?

AB: Well, the mixtape is connected to the competition in a few ways. First, most of the MC’s on the mixtape are cats who have played in the competition; there are a few exceptions however. Second, the production team for the mixtape is Shade Cobain, DJ Huggy, DJ Vex and myself – the same team that holds down the events. Third, and most importantly, the mixtape is going to reflect the same topics and challenges that exist on our wheel. We want people to understand that the topics on the wheel aren’t just a bunch or random challenges we came up with – they are real hip-hop based challenges – they are skills that actually apply to real rap music. Being able to tell a story (Storytelling), being able to spit a message (The Message), being able to spit 16 bars on someone else’s song (Cameo), being able to freestyle (Crowd Topics, Grab Bag) – these are real rap skills that are worth developing. What better way to work on these skills than to create a mixtape? And it’s exciting to see cats step up to the plate and really grind at coming up with some fresh verses. It’s also exciting to see work on something that involves a lot of MC’s throughout the scene. I think this mixtape is gonna be an important moment in Pittsburgh hip-hop. No matter what it’s gonna be a fresh project.

RW: Aside from Rhyme Cal, you are an active musician in the city of Pittsburgh. To the producers of the world, can you explain the importance of being able to read and understand music?

AB: Well first let me say that there’s something to be said about hip-hop – it’s one of the genres of music that has created a community of producers who don’t know how to read music but who are extremely talented, and in every sense of the word they are musicians. I think that’s where a lot of the soul of hip-hop comes from – it comes from cats who cop a beat machine or a sampler and just start banging away until they have something fresh. In hip-hop it’s more important to have a good ear and a good set of smacking drum samples than it is to be able to read music. But in the last decade hip-hop has become much more keyboard based. There’s a lot more synthesized sounds in hip-hop. And a lot of producers, even those who still use samples, also use keyboards to add synths, basslines and piano parts to their tracks. So for that reason it becomes a real asset to be able to understand some basic music theory. It expands your vocabulary of musical ideas. It also allows you to collaborate with instrumentalists like violinists, horn players, and bass players. If you understand music you can speak their language and be able to explain to them the type of melody or chord progression you’re looking for. If you look at some of the real successful producers who have emerged in the last decade – Kanye West, Illmind, Black Milk, they all have a real strong understanding of the basics even though none of them actually play an instrument or read music. And then there’s a cat like Scott Storch who’s a beast on the piano – one of the reasons why he dominated the game for a few years. In fact if you look at Dr. Dre’s entire production team, it’s a whole gang of dope hip-hop bassists, keyboardists, and guitar players. Being able to make beats and understand music allows you to cross-over into R&B production – and being able to do both really well puts you in a position to make a lot of money.

RW: In December of 2007, you released the album Fieldwork, which was locally acclaimed. Do you have any current or future marketing plans to help expand your listening audience?

AB: A lot folks may not realize but I’ve sold over 500 Fieldwork albums and that’s not including digital downloads. That’s no record or anything, but I’m just saying it’s out there – and it’s still available at 720 Records and on itunes if I can give a quick plug. I also have some things in the works for re-marketing Fieldwork with some new twists. And in addition to the Rhyme Cal mixtape I’m also working on a new project – no release date yet but I’ll keep all y’all posted.

Armstead Brown - "Fire," from the album Fieldwork

Armstead Brown featuring Subconscious aka Subcon - "Fieldwork," from the album Fieldwork

STillToWn Presents CHICAGO: Only Cold Winds Blow (2010)

Sudden Def - Def's Penalty
Tung Twista - Suicide (Original)
Immortal Griffen & Freeloadaz - Freeloadaz Freebasin' Non-Stop
Rubberoom - Synapse Gap
E.C. Illa - On Ill
Whatnoxic - Contortin'
Distortionists - Geographics
Off Da Wall - One After Another
Stedy Serv - You Know the Time
Epicentral - Compare & Contrast
Spalaney's - Universal Language
All Natural - This Is How It Should Be Done
East of the Rock - Galaxy Rays
Example - Recollect


Wednesday, February 10, 2010


Follow the new Stilltown twitter page for constant updates:


Monday, February 8, 2010

STillToWn Vol. II

Artwork by James Acklin @

New music coming straight from the best MC's and producers in Pittsburgh, PA.

Download links below.

01. Divine Seven - Shadow Loungin' (feat. Jon Quest & Beedie) (Prod. by Shade Cobain)
02. Gneticz - Havok On the Hill
03. A.P.E.X. - The Cypher II (feat. Ayatollah Jaxx, Jon Quest, Living Proofe, & Vaig) (Prod. by Mysterious)
04. Ayatollah Jaxx - Killin' It (Prod. by B-FreeDaMisfit)
05. SikkWitIT & B-FreeDaMisfit - Attack the Wack (Prod. by B-FreeDaMisfit)
06. Living Proofe - Movin' (Prod. by MassAppeal)

07. Kid A - Get Away (Prod. by BusCrates 16-Bit Ensemble)
08. Reverrb - In the Flowers (Prod. by Shade Cobain)
09. Ayatollah Jaxx - Sucka For Love
10. Jon Quest - This Ain't Captain Save A (Prod. by Big Jerm)
11. Idasa Tariq - Concrete Properties (Prod. by Idasa Tariq)
12. Sha-King - Streets Gave Me (Prod. by Akim Mathematics)
13. Living Proofe - Rollin' (Prod. by Akim Mathematics)
14. Jasiri X - Exhibit X
15. Dutch Rollin' Rebel - Time Has Come (feat. Greazy Duzit) (Prod. by DJ Thermos)
16. Reverrb - Sideshow

17. Divine Seven - Sometimes
18. Verbs - Fluent & Frequently
19. Sha-King - Namesake (Prod. by Gneticz)

20. SikkWitIT - The Realness (Come Equipped)
21. Therm & Soul - Unusual Suspect (Prod. by DJ Thermos)
22. Living Proofe - Say You Will

Mediafire is the fastest but it has errors now and then...

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Wintry Mix 2010

So, being that this mini blizzard stranded me in my house all day, I decided to get some things done. What I'm presenting to you now is a hip-hop mix I put together for the winter season. I've been meaning to make some mixes for a while now and this is hopefully the first of what will be many that get done this year.

I just listened to it after I made it, it's cold. Forty minutes of flavor.

I'm gonna do like Alkuttraz does and try to generate some activity here by having y'all put together the artists and song titles. Basically, if you know what the tracks are, leave a comment about it and I'll fill in the blank. I'll even start it off with the first and last tracks listed.

01. Ras Kass - Jack Frost (Test Press Version)
02. Roc Marciano - Snow
03. De La Soul - Millie Pulled A Pistol On Santa
04. Dynospectrum - Winter Moon
05. M.M.O. - Freeze
06. Mood - Illuminated Sunlight
10. Immortal Technique - Harlem Streets
11. Mixed Elements & The Bredrens - Northern Exposure
12. Da Cryptic One - Life After (Instrumental)


Saturday, February 6, 2010

Jon Quest Interview

In the pack of Pittsburgh's new school hip-hoppers, few are as versatile as MC Jon Quest. Three stints in the Rhyme Cal MC Competition have helped to craft this artist into a well-rounded MC. Local respect has earned this MC nominations for Lyricist of the Year and Underground Artist of the Year in the 2010 Pittsburgh Hip-Hop Awards. Jon Quest hopes to continue his progression with multiple releases on deck for this year.

Rory Webb: What are you goals and aspirations as a person and emcee?

Jon Quest: My goals as an emcee are to simply put out good, quality music and to deliver a good mixtape to the people, as my introduction into the Pittsburgh Hip Hop scene. As a person, my goals/aspirations that are separate from my music are to finish college and graduate, and to just be the best the person that I can be as father, student, human, emcee, worker... whatever it may be. It's been going on for quite some time already so I'm' just going to continue the cycle.

RW: What do you consider to be your greatest strength and weakness as an artist?

JQ: That's a dope question right there. Truthfully, I feel that my greatest strength is my lines. I saw some things that I've never heard anyone say before, which is good because a lot of lines get recycled with rhyming in different forms and etc. My weakness would be my stage presence, in my opinion. I've only rocked the stage a few times, but I've been going to a lot of open mic’s lately to correct that. It'll come over time I guess, ha.

RW: You've been a participant in Rhyme Calisthenics 6, 7, and now 8. What has the competition taught you about emceeing and how have you developed as an artist since your first Rhyme Cal appearance?

JQ: The competition actually taught me a lot about emceeing. When I write a song, I'm always thinking of wild concepts to keep me out of that box of the normal topics you hear emcee’s rhyme about. Rhyme Calisthenics will have you rhyme about anything, at any given moment, which definitely helps out your writing skills, thinking process, and creativity. It's played a big part in my emceeing journey, if that's what you want to call it. I will say that when my CD drops in March/April, you will definitely hear that Rhyme Cal experience from beginning to end. I have a wide range of songs for that tape and I’m still not finished.

RW: How has your preparation for the competition changed since your first appearance in Rhyme Cal 6?

JQ: Well, my very first appearance for Rhyme Cal 6, I really just threw myself in a lion’s den, not knowing what's going on. I didn't know any of the emcee’s in Rhyme Cal. Over the past couple one’s, since I've been doing music and getting my name out in the city more, I've become friends with most of the emcee’s, if not all that have been in the Rhyme Cal. And I go to more events as well.

The practice still goes on before Rhyme Cal comes up, but I also feel that I'm more prepared now because I know the emcee’s and the game. The team on Rhyme Cal have been helping me out and showing me love as well, so shout out to James Armstead Brown, Thelonious Stretch and Shade Cobain!!

RW: On the Rhyme Cal wheel there's a category called Cameo. The DJ spins a record and the artist needs to fit theirself into the song, as if they were a guest feature. If you could be on the remix to any song in hip-hop history, what song would it be and why?

JQ: Hmmmmm... that’s a tough one. I might have to say Big L, "Ebonics" ...Big L was and still is a beast, R.I.P. But I've picked “Ebonics” because there's a whole bunch of words now that can easily bring that song back around in 2010, for a part two. It's sad that his life was ended short.

RW: This year will be a busy one for Jon Quest. You are working on your mixtape, "The Real Adventures of Jonny Quest," which is due out by March. What can the people expect to hear on the tape?

JQ: You’re going to hear EVERYTHING on this mixtape. It’s my introduction tape, so I'm really having fun with this and not holding back anything… why would I? Some people may get lost with the things I say, but I just hope the people enjoy it. It's going to have everything from concepts, to your female songs, to your freestyle tracks of just straight bars, all types of stuff man. It's going to be good. The toughest part about it is just picking what is going to make the tape and what’s not going to make the tape.

RW: You've also teamed up with fellow emcee R-Sin to form Dem Suburb Boyz. How did this collaboration come about and how is it different from working on a solo project?

JQ: R-Sin been my homie since High School. I started rhyming with him and a few others, all throughout high school, and we both had similar styles as far as rhyming. We wanted to form a group along the lines of The Cool Kids. When you hear the name, Dem Surburb Boyz, people will be thinking, "Oh these guys are gonna be trash, they can’t rhyme." But just wait ‘til we touch the mic, in my opinion The Cool Kids are like that.
Also, we picked the name Dem Suburb Boyz because we have moved all around the city, and just happened to also live in the suburbs before, but it doesn't mean that we are from there. People get that idea twisted when you say you live in a certain area.

The differences between doing a solo project and a collaboration… it's a lot different, because I'm the only one who's really getting the shine right now. You can say that I'm trying to open doors for everyone as far as connections too, definitely not forgetting my team. But I choose to take the solo route for a first time go, because it's hard for us to do group stuff all of the time and be on schedule for things. Conflicts as well, we are both busy people, but you'll definitely hear work from us real soon. He will be on my tape.

RW: Final comments?

JQ: I just want to shout out Rory Webb for giving me the opportunity for this interview and also for the love that you've been showing me too fam! Appreciate all of it heavy!

Jon Quest - "This Ain't Captain Save A," from the album Stilltown Vol. II

Ayatollah Jaxx featuring Jon Quest, Beedie, & Dominique LaRue - "I Don't Wanna Know," from the album Nothing Like You Ever Heard

Divine Seven featuring Jon Quest & Beedie - "Shadow Loungin," from the upcoming album DAT Turner

APEX featuring Ayatollah Jaxx, Jon Quest, Living Proofe, & Vaig - "The Cypher II," from the album Struggle City

Listen to Jon Quest's first single, "Emcee University":

Friday, February 5, 2010

Concrete Elete EP (1996)

I've been patiently waiting to post this gem from Pittsburgh's past-time. After a year of sifting through blogs and forums for obscure hip-hop vinyl, I decided to make a trip to the legendary Jerry's Records of Pittsburgh. The first record I picked out was Da Noe Doe Network's "Next Stop" 12", which I had recognized as a personal favorite from Diaz's blog. Already feeling priviledged to get this rarity for $3, I grabbed a couple more 12"'s and left with a smile on my face.

As an experienced hip-hop head and blog connesiour, any name that I didn't recognize stuck out. When I saw the Concrete Elete EP, I took a close look and saw that the contact number had Pittsburgh's 412 area code. "Sheeeeeiiiitt" I said, doing my best Clay Davis impression. Got the record, threw it on when I got home, and have been digging it since. Only problem was, I couldn't find any info on the crew.

Eventually, I came across this picture and recognized Jasiri X, a Pittsburgh native who has remained a significant artist locally while gaining props worldwide. That said, I contacted Jasiri and he dropped some knowledge on the record and the Concrete Elete crew.

According to Jasiri, this particular record was released around 1995 or '96. I'm not sure how many other releases the crew had, but he did inform me that they released an album in the late '90s. I'm hoping to get a hold of this album soon. But in the meantime, check out this classic from the depths of the Pittsburgh crates.


Concrete Side - Performed by Concrete Elete, produced by Asiatic.
01. Patten Leather (Street)
02. Patten Leather (Radio)
03. Patten Leather (Instrumental)
04. Survive (Street)
05. 32 Bars (Street)

Elete Side - Produced by Asiatic.
06. Put U D. (Street) - Performed by Roughside Players, Fat Man
07. Put U D. (Radio)
08. Put U D. (Instrumental)
09. One God (Radio) - Performed by Furious Styles (aka Jasiri X)
10. One God (Instrumental)


Thursday, February 4, 2010

Ayatollah Jaxx Interview

In 2010, you will find Ayatollah Jaxx in the studio, churning out quality tracks like few in hip-hop can. There's a good chance of you running into him at one of the hip-hop shows in Pittsburgh, which seem to go down damn near every other day at this point. It's a guarantee that you will find Jaxx in the final four of each and every Rhyme Calisthenics event, Pittsburgh's Official MC Competition. That said, this confident MC isn't former anything, the same elements that brought him up in the hip-hop scene have remained by his side to this day.

Rory Webb: You began as a battle emcee. How has your experience in battling contributed to your progression as a studio artist and live performer?

Ayatollah Jaxx: Looking back, I was always multifaceted, but I did start off as a straight battle rapper. I think harnessing and releasing the aggressive, in your face energy required to battle was the catalyst for artistic evolution. Like, I'm very forward in person, pretty abrasive, caustic even, but it all translates for the better when I network, when I do perform, because that’s how I am, moreover, it's who I am. You get me? I'm very passionate and sometimes that passion can be perceived as anger or aggression.

RW: Do you set goals as an artist? If so, how have they changed since you first started rhyming?

AJ: Mos def. I started off as an idealist. Now I'm 24, I overstand the business aspect of the game and I have learned lessons that you can only experience first-hand. I think my only goal I really set was to make a difference. I wanted to be upright and steadfast in my grind, that was like really the only goal I set in concrete.

RW: In the past few years, can you describe the impact that venues such as the Shadow Lounge and Z-Lounge, and events like Rhyme Calisthenics, have had on you as an artist?

AJ: I owe a lot to these venues and showcases/promoters and hosts, because it helped craft my stage presence. A lot of work was put in at those venues and it prepped me for my subsequent shows in different cities and countries. Rhyme Cal in its self is a completely different animal. There are shows, jam sessions, all that, then Rhyme Cal is entirely by its self in another category.

RW: As a Rhyme Cal vet, what advice would you give to a first-time participant?

AJ: Be prepared. Bottom line.

RW: On the Rhyme Cal wheel there is a category called Grab Bag, which requires the emcee to pull items from a bag and spontaneously rhyme about them. If the items in the grab bag were selected from Jaxx's home, what would an emcee find inside?

AJ: If I told you that, I'd have to kill you ... Sike, ha - not really. Probably some martial arts weapons, boxing gloves, my Karate gi, umm, plutonium, a flux capacitor, depleted uranium shells and the schematics for Metal Gear Rex. Possibly Jimmy Hoffa.

RW: You have joined forces with producer Fundamental, of Toronto, to form the group Good Company. Can you talk about your relationship with Fundamental and explain the motivation behind the group?

AJ: Fundamental is my best friend, like word is bonjovi. Off this music thing, Alex & Farooq are friends, I'm cool with his parents and all that.

Good Company is just like, two friends who love Hip Hop, who live, sleep and breathe this Hip Hop thing. We wanted to do something that hasn't been done before, pause. Like really and truly, the name says it all. In all honesty, when was the real last time you seen a really talented and serious producer/mc duo create amazing music and achieve real accomplishments in Hip Hop? Don't worry, I'll wait. We just wanna make good music, no pun intended, and go above and beyond. I don't think his answer would be that different.

RW: How will Good Company's music reach the different cultures in Canada and the U.S.?

AJ: Well, Fundamental and I have completely different tastes in Hip Hop. So we're gonna combine a whole lot of sounds, you know? As cliche` as it is, we got something for everyone, even if every one ain’t for us. We're different in a lot of respects but when it all comes together in the music, it's great chemistry, you get me? A lot of science is laid down and the product is intended to reach farther than the backyard, pause.

RW: You also have your solo album, "Hello, Hip-Hop," due out in March. How will this album be different from your prior releases?

AJ: Man, how much time you got? Ha. In all seriousness this is me approaching the game for the first time, all over again. This Is My Jihad was kind of esoteric in that, I was in a different mind state in 07-08, and it was made for people who shared that train of thought. So with H3, I'm really executing the art of song writing and being a real artist. I wrote all the hooks that other artists do except for one. I'm singing on here, like on some true to life carrying tunes. I worked on this album for a whole year, actually writing music, altering keys on the piano, working with Chim on the beats, the whole nine. This album will be the first complete real album I ever produced.

Ayatollah Jaxx - "Killin It," from the album Nothing Like You Ever Heard

Ayatollah Jaxx - "Wha Gwan (Sound Boy Burrial)," from the album Hello Hip-Hop

Ayatollah Jaxx & Divine Seven - "Happiness," from the album Black Connection

Check out the new single, Ms. 416 (Produced by Fundamental)

For more info and to get connected with Jaxx: