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Saturday, June 13, 2015

[Comp/Article] GRAVEDIGGAZ - "WHAT'S A GRAVEDIGGA"

Few groups throughout hip-hop's rather brief history has been as fascinating as The Gravediggaz to me. I am mainly talking about the original incarnation here (though I indeed like their two second releases quite a lot but it's just not the same without the original mebers and their impeccable chemistry and common drive during that first album! The Prince Paul led quartet that saw the super producer oversee and direct three criminally underrated lyricists as they mixed what would become known as horrorcore with knowledge of self in an absolute brilliant way. Being that I'm 28 years old, I fell in love with hip-hop in the mid-'90s and one of the first LP:s I truly fell in love with and memorized every word to at around 13 years old was the GD debut "Niggamortis". Of course the album was known as "6 Feet Deep" in the US but as Frukwan says "it was always 'Niggamortis' to us" (Coleman, 2014). I recently read Brian Coleman's excellent book "Check The Technique Volume II" which has an extensive chapter on the album with Frukwan and Paul breaking down the science behind its making and even a track-by-track breakdown. That and my man Pattch82's excellent interview with The Undertaker for HipHopSite about the album's making is all any Gravedigga head will need to read to fully grasp the genius and hard work that went into that classic of an LP and chuckle at all the crazy ancedotes. If you haven't bought that book and it's predecessor and is a true hip-hop fan, I STRONGLY recommend you to do so - both volumes are among the best books I've ever read on hip-hop - related to this thread, it also contains a deep chapter on Stetsasonic's "In Full Gear" where Frukwan, Prince Paul, Daddy-O and DBC break down that album in great detail.

* Did you for instance know that the beat for "6 Feet Deep" (the song) was created almost by accident? While waiting for engineer Scotty Harding to come by the studio, the quartet headed over to the music room of the studio and started playig around with the instruments; Frukwan on guitar, RZA on keyboards, Paul on drums (maybe Poetic on bass then?). Every once in a while they would come up with a little groove by accident, but the whole thing were being recorded. And RZA as crazy as he was back in those days, took home the tape, chooped up some parts he thought had potential, added a beat and brought it back to the guys, the next day. This was also the last song recorded for the album, and Scotty Harding was pissed when recording it, thinking it sounded like a Tom Waits song.

* Did you know that not only Sunz Of Man affiliates Shabazz, Dreddy Kruger and Killah Priest made their debut on "Niggamortis", but also Hell Razah? He's one of the guys asking one of the seven questions of "360 Questions to Ask a Gravedigga?".

* Did you know that Prince Paul produced "Diary Of A Madman", and not RNS and RZA as the credits would have you believe? RZA presented Paul with a cassette of that Johnny Mathis loops that his man RNS had done. Paul loved it and even though RNS wanted credit for them to use it he refused to reveal the sample source, forcing Paul to add a beat to the shitty cassette loop. Then he of course tied it all together, Prince Paul style, with the cinematic court scenario. So RNS got credit because of him finding the loop, RZA got credit for presenting the tape and making the connection and Prince Paul got co-production credit for producing the record. That's just how it goes sometimes.

* "Niggamortis" went through several tracklist changes, many of them last minute, as can be realized not only by looking at some of the earlier promo cassettes but also by listening to the "Rest in Peace (Outro)". On this banging outro RZArector agressively takes the mic for a speech that incorporates a lot of the tracks on the album. This however also includes "Freak The Sorceress", "Don't Be Afraid of the Dark" and "Pass The Shovel". In the end it was RZA who vetoed against including "Freak...", against Paul's wishes as RZA didn't want to go as disrespectful towards the females while Paul couldn't care less. Luckily, he found a way to put it out anyways as a B-side.

Whether or not you know all of that background info or not (and tons of more information like that), "Niggamortis" has stood the test of the time as a true hip-hop classic. Prince Paul has said many times that it his personal favorite of the records he has done and I'm inclined to agree, it really showed he can do those dark, grimey, hardcore beats with the best of them and you can truly hear how he and RZA really inspired eachother during its making. The hunger in RZA's voice and agressive content is probably his best performance ever and he's on every damn track on this album - between his many styles, my favorites are his early RZArecta shit and the introspective shit he spat on "Wu-Tang Forever", and in fact the second GD project. Frukwan never really got the chance to shine as bright on the Stetsasonic albums but here he just murders everything, and his calmer voice is used as a perfect balance between RZA's and Poetic's wild styles. Which brings us to Poetic, who according to Prince Paul was like the lyrical frontman of the group. He had previously only had gotten to release one 12" on Tommy Boy (and a shelved album called "Droppin' Signal" that is another dope lost gem that remained in the vaults for way too long), though Paul tells about this unbelivable demo that he did with his brother Brainstorm and producer Mr. Sime as Brothers Grymm that made him want to sign him to Dew Doo Man before it folded. Speaking of Mr. Sime, a lot of people have wondered who that guy that produced the classic "Here Come The Gravediggaz" which is pretty much his only production credit on an official release. Paul wanted all the members to be involved on the production side as well - RZA of course did "Graveyard Chamber" and together with the rest of the group created the americna title track; Frukwan produced "Blood Brothers", which was a cut from his demo, though I'm not quite sure how the original record sounded as Paul says that he had to replay a lot of it, mix it down and so on so I guess he should at least have a co-producer credit on it; and as for Poetic's production, since he wasn't really a producer back then (unlike later when he made some absolutely amazing beats on the latter GD projects), he wanted to include a song by Poetic's producer Mr. Sime instead (and according to himself, he was pretty hands off on this one).

Poetic had a style that was unmatched, like ODB there were no father to his style and when The Gravediggaz formed the stars were definitely aligned because few groups can boost about such an incredible chemistry both amongst the emcees and with their producer. And RZArector absolutely murdered everything on this album - Paul tells how he constantly put these two emcees against each other to get the best performances from both, as in telling Poetic "Damn, RZA KILLED you on that, you better do it again", and telling RZA the same but the other way around! And it deifninitely worked! Although the original quartet only did one album, luckily enough they did release a bunch of B-sides, remixes with new vocals, demos and soundtrack joints which makes for a perfect compilation for anyone who want more of that six feet deep hip hop ish. I know I do.. So without further a due, check it out, it's the Graveyard Chamber. I only included songs or remixes done between 1992 and 1995 produced or remixed by one of the original members. Most of them are Prince Paul productions but there's a few slamming RZA cuts on here as well. The exception is the bonus tracks I added that I bet has been forgotten about a lot of people, I know I hadn't heard them for YEARS before putting this together. These are bonus tracks however as I really wanted to focus on Prince Paul's work (and RZA's to a lesser extent) making this a sort of unofficial sister album to "Niggamortis" - included are the Portishead remix of "Nowhere to Run", the excellent Underdog remixes of "Bang Your Head" and "Mommy, What's A Gravedigga?". Last but not least, there's also Big Kap's Flip Squad remix of "1-800 Suicide", not a favorite of mine but maybe many of y'all like it so why not include it? These are all official joints, lifted from the many 12" packs Gee Street released in its promotions, as well as a few other demo joints that Prince Paul let loose on "Hip Hop Gold Dust" and his Soundcloud. There will never be a group like Gravediggaz again so enjoy this slamming complation because I know I am! And if you're mentally dead, these guys got the shovels to dig you out so TURN UP THE VOLUME my friends and let Frukwan, Poetic, RZA and Prince Paul take you on a journey to the darkside; 70 minutes of classic, somewhat rare hip-hop at it's finest! ENJOY this dark shit my friends!!

01. "Intro"
[This into comes from the original Gravediggaz demo tape that Paul shopped around to labels for almost one year without any label wanting to sign them - imagine that. Def Jam passed, Geffen passed, and so on. The only one interested was Eazy E's Ruthless Records, Paul even went down there to meet Eazy and Heller but when he saw the contact he was like "Thanks, but no thanks". The demo included this, "The House That Hatred Built", "Ashes to Ashes", "2 Cups Of Blood", "Pass The Shovel", "Freak The Sorceress" and "1-800 Suicide". Now that's a demo!]

02. "The Houe That Hatred Built" 
[first GD song ever recorded and the track that started it all. This song was made during the quartets first meeting at Pauls house in L.I. It's not as polished as later cuts, though Prince Paul did a band up job of making it sound real clear when he dropped it to his Soundcloud in 2012]

03. "1-800 Suicide - New Vocal Version]"
[This is just incredible, "1-800 Suicide" is one of the classic hip-hop songs of all time, so to hear that same beat and that KRS-One hook always puts chills up my spine. The difference here is that this song, which was relesaed on the but new excellent verses from all]

04. "Mommy What's A Gravedigga - Cali Mix"
[Prince Paul gets his West Coast sound on with this one. Uses the same vocals as the RZA mix, but puts it over that cassic moog synths and heavy LA bass which brings out a totally different sonical feeling of the song. In fact I believe that RZA's remix is the one that the trio recorded their vocals over as that one was released several months earlier on the "1-800 Suicide" 12" in 1994. Paul's mix idefinitely dope but I'd go with the RZA remix any day of the week]

05. "The Reincarnation Of Freud" 
[B-side with Prince Paul showing off his DJ skills, Poetic came up with the name. Damn I miss dope 12" records with all these dope reimixes and B-side]

06. "Pass The Shovel" 
[only included on the original European pressings as a bonus track; one of the first tracks GD ever recorded as a group. Paul didn't even want it on the album either way, but Gee Srtreet was adamant about having one more record for the European market so this was the one. As a standalone it has stood the est of the time obviously]

07. "1-800 Suicide - Poisonous Mix"
[classic RZA '95 production, with Blue Raspberry on vocals. Paul even included this on his production album "Hip Hop Gold Dust" as the only song he didn't produce hismself - saying how this is one of his favorite Poetic verses of all time. There's also a "Guillotine Mix" that's exactly the same beside the fact that RZA's verse is replaced by the one on the "New Vocal Version", see above, which made it seem redudant to include it here]

08. "Don't Be Afraid Of The Dark"
[rare classic, that was neither on the demo tape and remained unreleased until 2005 on the aforementioned Prince Paul compilation It's definitely an early GD song though, as engineer Scotty Harding speaking on the original demo remembers his favorite song from that early era being the Craiig G featured "Don't Be Afraid..."]

09. "Michael Jackson Skit"
[
it's Prince Paul so of course we need some brilliant skits, and this one is just fucking HILARIOUS despite it's a bit morbid knowing about what happened to the King Of Pop ow but still... Gravediggaz interrogating Jackson about stealing some Gravediggaz tapes from the studio, haha]

10. "From The Darkside"
[released in 1995 on the "Tales From The Darkside" soundtrack, and sees Paul take a step back from production as the song is a co-production between Poetic and Frukwan who obviously snapped up a lot working with two of the abolute best and most innovative proucers of the '90s. While it's a Undertaken and Grimm joint, RZA was present for the ssion as it does features RZA on adlibs (could be an interview except though, but still... I know he endorsed it, as I 've heard him play it his DJ sets]

11. "Freak The Soceress"
[This cut is a fucking monster, RZA's just going at it real hardcore. As I stated above, Prince Paul really wanted this on the record but strangely enough RZA thought it was to misgrading to women (ain't you the guy that made "Maria", "Dometic Violence", "A Better Tomorrow, etc, just to name a few?). Prince Paul managed to sneak it onto the B-side to "Nowhere to Run" though so it's a win for the fans and for Paul!

12. "Constant Elevation - Alternative, Original Vocal Mix"
[RZA recorded two versions of his verse here, and in 2005 Paul released his favorite version of the song that he fighted to keep on the album, but RZA didn't hear it. Paul felt this verse was mch more street while The Abbot felt it was too close to his Tommy Boy created persona Prince Rakeem. Which one do you prefer?]

13. "Diary Of  A Madman - No Courtrom Verision"
[While I of course abolutelely LOVE what Prince Paul did with the original album and single version, it's kind of cool to hear the song inerruped. I wouldn't replace tthe album with it but it's no doubt a very interesting listening to hear this monster track with no interrutoptions]

14. "Mommy What's A Gravedigga" [RZA Mix]
[Prince Paul and RZA both did a mix of the very short album cut "Mommy What's A Gravedigga?" for the Double Suicide Pack 2x12", using brand new vocals and extending it from like 1:30 to a full blown track. I got to say that RZA took home this one, mainting that hardcore Gravedigga vibe of New York, while Paul went more experimental]

15. "Ashs to Ashes" [Demo]                
[Beside the "Intro" and "The House That Hatred Built", "Ahes to Ashes"is the only song from the original 7 track demo that has never appeared anyehwere else. Scotty Harding has revealed that beside making them sound clearer they really didn't do anything to the songs like "2 Cups of Blood" that made it from the demo to the album. And it's fucking sick jam too - only problem is the weak sound quality, but you can't win them all right!]

BONUS TRACKS - Official Remixes by Outsiders
16. "Nowhere to Run to Hide" [Portis Head Mix]
17.  "Bang Your Head" [Underdog Remix]
18. "Mommy What's A Graveigga?" [Uptight Cratedigga Remix]
19. "1-80 Suicide" [Big Kap's Flip Squad Mix]
20. "Nowhere to Run" [Portishead Mix 2]

In memory of Antoy Ian Berkely - one of the moder underrated, and of the geatest to it. Buy Gravediggaz music @ Amazon and iTunes.

GRAVEDIGGAZ - "WHAT'S A GRAVEDIGGA?"

6 comments:

  1. Please take this down ASAP. you "DON NOT" own any of the material on this compilation. Not cool man

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    Replies
    1. Relax, dude. It's all stuff you can't buy anymore, so no one is losing money on this. Better that it's out there for the fans to hear.

      Delete
  2. people need to realize that the music game is changing, everyone with minimal knowledge of the internet knows very well how to download a full album for free... if you're a real fan you will buy that album if you like it, that's how i do it.... this is actually good promotion for people to buy "Niggamortis", "The Pick The Sickle & The Shovel" and "Nightmare".

    i've been building with F.T. of Street Smartz about doing a Lost Tapes compilation and he is fully endorsing it, he's got the right idea!

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  3. thanks for posting this and the other gems man

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  4. Great write up, Horrorcore at it's grimiest

    ReplyDelete