Monday, June 22, 2020

Kinship - Black-N-Mild (1995) - 2020

HHE036 - EP - 2020 - Hip-Hop Enterprise  

Kinship originally consists of two brothers Ubiquitous Poet (U.P.) and Eloquent Slave (E.S.). A third member was affiliated with the group, his name was Pookimous (RIP) and he was their older brother. They were from Richmond, VA.  and their unofficial debut EP titled "Black-N-Mild" was crafted in 1995... if you like material with mellow, smooth and laidback productions with a superb Jazzy vibe, this project is definitely for you... 

01 - My Journey
02 - Caught Up
03 - I Feel It
04 - Black-N-Mild
05 - Main Man
06 - Talk To The People
07 - Immaculate Kinception

The release will be available on vinyl (300 copies) and CD (250 copies) through HHE and cassette (75 handnumbered copies) will be available through the good folks at Ill Catz Records.

The vinyl will be available in 3 different versions : 100 on Blue Vinyl w/ White Clouds, 100 on Transparant Vinyl w/ White & Blue Splatters (Vinyl-Digital Exclusive) & 100 on Traditional Black Vinyl.

Order : Vinyl / CD / Tape / Bundle 
Release date: July 15th, 2020.

- Who were the members of Kinship exactly ?

E.S. : "Kinship officially consists of older brother Ubiquitous Poet (U.P.) and Eloquent Slave (E.S.) who were heavy into hip-hop culture. The oldest of the three brothers in the family, Pookimous Extreme was more into the visual arts than music creation. Although Pookimous never aspired to be “in a rap group” he heavily supported his younger brothers and provided inspiration and guidance on an artistic level that really showed up in the Kinship sound, aesthetic, and overall vibe of the group. Pookimous attended Corcoran School of art in Washington DC from 1987-1991 which was actually “home” for the family at that time. Our father worked in telecommunications and had been relocated up and down the mid atlantic region of the country throughout our upbringing. The family lived in North Carolina (Pookimous’ birthplace), Virginia, New Jersey, Maryland, then back to Virginia. So throughout all of that time, the different people, experiences and local cultures all shaped who we ultimately became as performing artists."

- Where did you all come from ? 

U.P. : "The real answer is that we are from everywhere and nowhere at all. So as we were saying, Pookimous the oldest was born in Elizabeth City North Carolina. Our father got drafted and joined the Coast Guard when our parents first got married and had their first child there. They later moved to Richmond, VA which is where our father grew up and still had family there. The rest of the siblings were born in Richmond. Aside from the three brothers we have a baby sister who we call Knocka. She’s four years younger than E.S. so she’s truly the baby of the bunch. She’s the toughest one of all of us too. Opportunities for our father kept coming with the company he worked for so in 1979 we moved to New Jersey. We lived in the suburbs but our mother had family in Newark so connecting with our cousins there was a real trip. It was like being exposed to a whole new vibe. The energy was real different from Virginia for sure, but the foundation for what was happening in that area, being so close to New York definitely took us closer to the epicenter of what was to become Hip-Hop as we know it. Because we lived in the boondocks though, we also got to experience things that shaped our social consciousness too. We were the first black family to move into the neighborhood in Flanders NJ at the time. 2 more black families moved in after we did. The name calling, the stares, the question about our hair and our skin. It was crazy. Pookimous fought somebody everyday. He had the toughest time living there. Because of sports, I was able to make “friends” and gain acceptance pretty easily. E.S. was also pretty well-adjusted because the younger kids his age were not as influenced by race. We all learned pretty quickly that there was a difference between “us” and “them”. This definitely would resurface in our music years later.
After 4 years, we all moved to Maryland, right outside of the DC area in Prince George’s County. After all the years being literally the minorities in our hometown, we were immersed in one of the most affluent parts of the country for black people. It was refreshing and comforting on the one hand, but a bit of culture shock on the other hand.  In the DC area, Go-Go music was predominant, not so much hip-hop, so this represented yet another vibe for us to climb on to.  I loved Go-Go and like all youngins (a DC term for young people) at that time, joined a neighborhood Go-Go band.  This was the mid 1980’s.  Drug culture was pretty prevalent and the high school we went to (Friendly High School in Fort Washington, MD) had a good mix of people from all walks of life, mostly black, but also Phillipino, white, some of everybody.  Underground music in the area at that time (mainly Go-Go) spoke about not only hustling (DC term for selling drugs) or using the popular street drugs like Love Boat, PCP, crack, etc. 
This was the first time we were of the age where we understood a “black experience” as viewed from many perspectives.  From NJ where we were the only blacks in town and those associated feelings to being around other black people who looked like us and how society viewed all of it.  It was a complex blend of issues that helped shape and mold Kinship as artists.  This is where our consciousness came from and why it was important to keep elements of it in what we expressed as artists."

- Where does the name of Kinship come from ? 

E.S. : "It is really simple.  To be someone’s kin is to be related to them, generally by blood or other strong affiliation.  Being brothers, we’re literally kin with each other.  Beyond our blood relationship though, we also saw how Hip-Hop culture had become a worldwide phenomenon, bringing people together from all over the globe.  This is what Afrikka Bambatta talked about.  His movement and music taught us that.  We wanted us all to be united through this music.  So the name Kinship made sense in that context."

- How and when did you fall into Hip-Hop exactly ?

U.P. : "We were always around music.  Our parents had a love for music and a record collection that included mainly Soul, Funk and R&B as well as comedy albums.  Growing up on Richard Pryor 8 tracks was normal for us.  With our mother being an educator, intelligence and commitment to education was also instilled in us.  We had to know how to read, write and speak well.  It was non-negotiable.  Add to that fact our father’s younger brother was a DJ and he had mad disco, funk and club records too.  So when Uncle Johnny came to live with us for a while and it was then where we further got exposed to that DJ mindset and lifestyle.  When Sugar Hill Gang’s Rapper’s Delight came out it was a wrap.  I knew for sure that this was something that was exciting and fun to listen to, but that it was also relatable.  I got a little boom box for Christmas one year, like in 1980 or 81 and I recorded a song called Tarzan rap.  It was just something that was destined at an early age.

Fast forward to like 1989, I was off to college at Morehouse and E.S. was finishing up high school back in Virginia.  He hooked up with a crew of local beatmakers and emcees and started recording bedroom demos.  One of the guys from this crew was called Smoov C, who had a real knack for making dope beats in his bedroom.  He came up with a way to use his pops reel to reel to splice beat blends together to rap over.  Sonically, they sounded crazy.  When I came home for summer break after freshman year of college, E.S. hooked up a session for us to start recording at Smoov’s crib.  It was on from there."

- When did the music first start for you ?

U.P. : "For me it was definitely after hearing Rapper’s Delight and then Planet Rock.  I became infatuated with the energy and the sonics of rap music.  That’s probably what also caused me to want to produce as well as write and perform.  
In like 1994 Pookimous was a graduate student in Philadelphia working on his Master’s degree and it was there where I went to visit him after graduating from college with my degree in Economics.  I needed a change so I went to Philly.  The scene there was crazy. It had its own flair and energy too.  I met some really cool people in Philly, eventhough the hip-hop scene there was not all that huge at that time.  What was cool though was Pookimous helped me get some additional equipment to produce and record cleaner vocals at home.  My first multi-track was a Tascam 424 cassette 4 track.  I later stepped up to the Roland 8 track digital recorder and ultimately a computer based recording setup.  I kept the ASR-10 for a while then added other units like MPC2000, Roland Fantom, and a ton of sound modules."

- How was the hip-hop scene from Richmond,VA at that time ? were you affiliated with other groups or artists ? 

U.P. : "There was a scene bubbling in Richmond for sure. It wasn’t big but it was there.  A lot of Richmond hip-hop was emulating New York hip-hop.  Being closer to some southern states, it later became influenced by what happened in Atlanta and Memphis and Houston and obviously the West Coast stuff too.  Being a VCU graduate, I ran into a lot of folks doing it back then.  Mad Skillz (now just Skillz) worked at VCU at the same time I was a student there.
E.S. had musician friends that were early collaborators on stuff even before we were recording regularly as “Kinship”.  It’s crazy that one of our first studio recording sessions was engineered by El Bravador who was down with First Priority and did a lot of production work for artists over there (Audio Two, MC Lyte, etc.)  He taught us a lot in those early days about how to record, song structure, mix balance, etc.  One other VCU collaborator was saxophonist Mark Shim who was down with us early on and recorded on some Kinship tracks.  Mark has gone on to have a fantastic career as a jazz saxophonist."

- All the tracks of the album are produced by you U.P, could you tell us when you started as a producer exactly ? What were your hip-hop influences at that time ?  What machines did you use for the productions ?

U.P. : "As a producer I wanted control over the story.  I understood what I liked to listen to, and also what motivated me as a lyricist.  Having a vast understanding of music and being influenced early on by my parents and my uncle’s record stash, it was a natural thing to start playing around with sound and understanding how to manipulate it to create feeling and emotion.

Like a lot of current producers from the Golden Age, I started off making pause tapes.  That’s when you have a dual cassette deck and you play a part of a sound and record it on the other deck and hit pause, rewind the other tape back to the start of the section and record that same part over and over again.  You end up with a loop that can last 1, 2, 3 minutes long.  This then becomes something to rhyme over.

From pause tapes, I moved on to sampling with samplers, incorporating live musicianship, setting up ability to record vocals, then onto mixing and mastering.  I still love the feel of the simplicity of a drum break and a bassline.  Frequencies create emotions and I understood that early on.  Being a writer made me get into production because there weren’t a lot of producers making tracks that I wanted to rhyme to where we were from."

- Could you give us more info about Pookimous who features on the track "Main Man" ? 

U.P. : "Pookimous was our big brother.  The first born.  The oldest son of the family.  He was 22 months older than me, who is 26 months older than E.S.  He was an artistic genius. He was a very big person in stature, standing over 6’3” 250+ lbs.  At the same time he was very sensitive and in touch with his spiritual, metaphysical self.  He was a photoprapher, writer, poet, just an all-around renaissance man. 

As a child he had minor health problems but his health began to deteriorate in his 30’s.  He suffered from diabetes and it eventually wore on his body and spirit.  He passed away in his home in August of 2017 at the age of 47.  He left behind a son, Mason but more importantly, he left his mark on all of us.  

Getting Pookimous on the track Main Man was a blessing because he never really aspired to record like that.  He had a vast music knowledge and collection and exquisite taste, but it was not how he saw his creativity manifesting.  He wrote the poem which ended up being the intro to Main Man in one time block.  It may have taken him like an hour or so to come up with it and he just knew how his cadence was going to be.  He loved Funkadelic and George Clinton was a major influence of his.  I think he channeled George on that performance.  It set the song off for sure. "  

- Black-N-Mild came out on tape in 1995 on the record label Godd Squad Music, who did manage this record label ?

E.S. : "That’s not actually how it happened.  Black-N-Mild was independently funded, recorded, and produced solely by Kinship for the initial purpose of shopping to a record label with major distribution. I funded the Black-N-Mild recording sessions with help from one of his Navy buddies.  Godd Squad was the name of the management team we were with at that time. Shakiji Abdul ran it.  He was out of Riverside, California.  I’m not even sure how we hooked up but I think it was through some rap publication that was out at that time but somehow our paths crossed remotely.  To be honest, we never had a traditional artist/manager relationship.  Godd Squad did try to shop us and did what they could but the deal never came.  We got some placements on things that helped put our name out there (like the MVP Records Nu Movement volume 1 placement of “I Feel It”) but nothing big.  It was after the demo never got picked up that Godd Squad decided (against our wishes) to release the cassettes as promo items.  Seeing that our relationship had run its course, U.P. and Pookimous moved to Atlanta in 1996 and the relationship with Godd Squad ended.  It’s a part of so many artists’ stories that things just didn’t happen for them the way they may have envisioned it."

- Why was there no more release from Kinship after the tape in 1995 ? What happened ? 

U.P. : "From 1996 through the mid 2000’s I focused on producing more than rapping.  I honed my craft in other areas.  Some of it was definitely being soured by the early experience not getting signed to a major label early on.  In retrospect, that was probably the best gift that the creator gave us.  So down in Atlanta I recorded and provided mentorship with so many up and coming artists.  I met some of the coolest people on that journey. Big Tah, Fort Knox, Hotep, Strictly Jewels Productions, Binary Productions, Jax and the whole Binkis Records crew, Lucky Charmz, Willie Joe…the list goes on and on.  It was a lot of fun to be a part of so many classic underground movements in the Atlanta hip-hop scene in the late 90’s early 2000’s. 

Kinship started recording again together in the mid 2000’s and we knew it would be what we wanted to say the way we wanted to say it.  An example of that was the album Out of Place Art of Facts that was a concept album that talked about things that the world still doesn’t understand.  We continued to explore ideas and be creative while also growing into positive, successful adults with families and careers, and all that. 

Understanding the business side of it all was important to us.  Being owners and controllers of our creations was important to us.  We’ve ventured off to turn Out of Place Art of Facts into a comic book series, a short film, children’s book, toys, etc.  It’s been a heck of a journey, all independent."

- What did you think when Michel Mees of Hip-hop Enterprise asked you to release on vinyl this project 25 years after the first tape ? 

U.P. : "I was speechless but also I felt validated.  It was like what we were doing was appreciated, even if we didn’t hear that enough at the time we created it.  Michel was really cool and understanding of our position and where we were now as grown men with a completely different perspective on things compared to who we were back in 1995.  I felt like the time was right for someone else to tell the world about who we are and what we did, in a way that allows us to look at ourselves through new eyes.  It was pretty refreshing and mad cool to have that happen 25 years later."

This project is dedicated to Daniel Hoover aka Pookimous Extreme... Rest in Power.
Mad props to U.P. & E.S., thanks for your time.
Big thanks to Michel Mees for the connection. 

1 comment:

  1. Just found your blog mate. Incredible stuff. I wish i never threw all my source magazines out from back in the day. I will be trawling all these posts finding new music from the golden era that i couldnt afford to buy back then. I would often only have $20 for a record so i ended up missing out on so much music. Great work