(Music Subseries: 000)
C39 Syndicate – A Composition by Tha Zookeepa, written a while ago. Reposted here to maintain a sense of…something.
My synthesizer, my city, beer, my friendships, the production elements I utilized, depression, my artistic influences, as well as the time era itself, all played a role in creating a period piece to carry perpetual meaning. It’s not important. But it’s important to me.
The lyrics cannot possibly stretch beyond that solitary window of time, but in advancing the spirit of all six of my previous albums, I refused to edit lyrical content. Though, maybe I shouldn’t have. Every iteration of this hip hop platform has been an open forum, and a soapbox for anyone to voice…whatever.
I’ve never been keen on themes, besides maybe a personal or even secret narrative that no one could possibly trace. I’ve always liked the hodge-podge trail mix and match verses, coalescing throughout one nonlinear goal: inclusion.
For the album introduction, I set up my original NES I’ve owned since 1988 and plugged it straight into my MacBook. I sampled some of the iconic 8-Bit melodies from my childhood: The opening for Mega Man 3, as well as Contra, and the sounds of me entering the cheat code for Tyson on Mike Tyson’s Punch Out!, 007 373 5963, mac.
The opening effect for the next track, Foreverton, was the sound of King Hippo blurting out his jaunting, pixelated jeer, sampled directly from live action. Now you’re playing with power…
“Zookeepa comin’ thru – Nothin’ but net. I don’t forget to drink, ‘cuz I drink to forget.”
In an issue of Found Magazine there’s an interview with Dr. Evermore, inventor of the Forevertron, the world’s largest sculpture made of found objects.
Evermore sounds so brilliantly insane, it inspired me to create a track devoted to his monument. Per the interview he thinks Foreverton is a time machine. Perhaps for me, now it is. I read a recorded bit from his interview and I placed it in the song between verses, but other than that, there really are no other references to the sculpture besides an overarching feeling of Dr. Evermore’s masterpiece.
Most of Tha Zookeepa’z verse was based on (aka lifted from, and manipulated out of) the horoscope section of The Onion. I have always loved the darkness of that humor as well as the nature of the puns always involved in those horoscopes. A solid 90% of those are all about people dying in really obscure ways so it lent itself wisely to my poetry: death and absurdity. I met D Code through my friend Alex who worked with him at a paper pressing plant (or something).
D Code stepped through with a really ambitious verse where he decided to come up with a chorus and everything. I should have been clearer with D Code that other people don’t really come up with choruses for my music. I’m not saying it’s off limits, yet I’m implying that I have songs structured well before I invite people to rap on them. It would take a lot for me to “okay” a chorus someone else wrote. I cut a lot of what D Code laid down from Forevertron.
He was sad. Apparently the next day at work, he blasted in to the plant, griping to Alex, “I guess I’m not good enough to be in C39!” Believe me: almost everyone was good enough for C39 after I sat down to edit their verse. One just needs the understanding that the music is goal #1. Chop, shift, alter people’s stuff with heavy effects…everyone thinks they are decent until they’re informed that they’re not. I would consider it humorous if it wasn’t so god damn stressful.
This one guy just flabbergasted me with how little rhythm he possessed. He was so bad I cut his entire verse from Forevertron. Musically speaking, this was one of my favorite mosaics, and it felt like an energetic way to begin the record. That bass line (more like a twisted-up, machine-powered siren), mashed with my Alesis Micron’s version of a xylophone, as well as the sugary sweet melody of synthetic liquidity, were emphasized by the indecipherable female vocal samples I sampled from Fruity Loops. I felt it a good concoction.
Platformer (A Dreamsickle Prequel)
In a way this was a remix. Now that I think about it, that’s probably why I labeled it prequel. Maybe five years prior, Popcorn and I did an EP called “It Ain’t Where Ya From, It’s Where’s Ya Gat”, which featured this synth heavy polished pop-beat. I’m glad this bouncy club track finally found a home here in its final sparkle and uber-master-luster.
I was bummed that Popcorn wasn’t around for the recording this time. But his brother Sugar Ray was there to take the reins. Every time I listen to Sugar Ray’s verse I ponder about how the mind could possibly even come up with some of it. One part cracks me up, though. He talks about this family called the McHughs – when we were kids we used to fuck with them a bit. Not really mean-spirited stuff, but we were just bored out of our minds. Stupid stuff like putting street barricades in front of their front door. One time I got their number and prank called them when their baby, Patrick was just born, being like, “Hey uh, is Patrick home?”
The Sharkula verse is something I had left over from another previous recording session. That guy doesn’t even pretend to know how to rap on beat, and it’s emphasized so much so in the golden gutters of Chicago hip hop lore, I almost find it an insult to chop his raps up. His lyrics are amazing, but ya know…I just made him a cappella here and left it as such. Classic rabid Sharkula madness. Repackaged as Sharkula and Friends 2, this CD was available in a few record stores due to the cameo.
The Milkman verse was impressive since the guy had written it literally a decade before he recorded it, and he spat it all from memory in the studio. His verse was based on a movie we made in 2001 about a fictional faction of the Jewish Mafia.
For the Platformer close out, I used audio from a prank call that Jordy Pete did back in 2002, waking a poor old man named Bernard from his slumber at 2 in the morning.
“It’s just me and you against the world now, Bernard. Pack your shit, I’ll be right there.”
You’re Turning Violent, Violet!
I enjoyed the evolution of the character of Tea Bag over the years. Seems he started out around 2003 as a proper English gentleman and slowly devolved in to a gritty back alley soccer hooligan. Always raunchy, no matter the status.
Jared B blew my mind by sitting down and writing a full verse about the movie Troll 2 and recording it in just one take, minutes before having to abruptly leave the studio. It was the first proverbial mic-drop I’ve ever witnessed during this process. Fucking amazing to witness, and a fucking incredible verse.
I felt a need at that intersection of creation and nostalgia to drop a reference to Handsome B. Wonderful in a line. I was always perplexed because the first three albums I did it was basically he and I at the helm. We were really close, and then all of a sudden he just disappeared and apparently wanted to stop being friends. I never knew what happened, but this was only the first of a few times that a friend might dematerialize without a word.
“Handsome B. vanished – *poof* – Copperfield”
Probably my favorite song title I’ve ever come up with. In following this album’s trend of female vocal sample-loops, I wove this garment of tracks and processed something over the top, incorporating an appropriated Asian influence. I thought it would be interesting to utilize a sample of a backward spinning analogue tape as opposed to a record scratch to cut in and out the vocal sample.
Uzi Does It
I don’t know if Hazy B planned it or it came about inadvertently, but his pauses at the beginning of the verse are so eloquently plunked down that everything meshed better than a semiautomatic Uzi dance beat spraying rounds at a few sucka emcees.
Personally I think D Code’s verse on this song is the best verse on the whole record. The Chicago references and gangsta shit fit perfectly for whatever it was we were trying to do at the time.
“Put a cold gat against ya neck, watch ya fuckin’ freeze.”
I have fond memories of recording this track with D Code and Hazy B while my then-wife was out of town (because let’s face it, none of this was happening if she was around), and taking breaks to go get tacos and pick up beer to drink on the back deck, aka the Hang Zone. We were completely obsessed with first two Kid Cudi records at the time. This shows through in multiple ways. Somewhat because of the depressed-stoner vibe, and others because of the horror-core type material. In Uzi Does It, we even mention Cudi. It was an all-around fascination at the time.
I tend to feel sad when Frank Lloyd Wrong comes on because his verses were so jam packed with really great references to 1980s and 1990s pop culture, yet no one could decipher what he was saying because he always had a head cold or AIDS or some shit. Mark Summers, Soda Popinski, Ronny Pinski, Book-It!, Aladdin’s Castle Arcade…the list just goes on. RIP FLW.
Musically this may be the only track I have done where I don’t really have a synth lead, subbed and dubbed vocal samples as the actual melody to carry the song. It flows like a creaky gravitron at a small town carnival.
Smurf Berry Crunch Cereal Killer
Ok so the music here got rambunctious and a tad too ambitious with a little too much going on. I remember having so many parts to the music, and I loved them all so much, I kept having to turn each thing up because the volume of the other things were drowning each other out. Yet I didn’t want to lose anything.
My favorite melody that I’ve ever played on my Micron is here. Lyrically it was a bit horror-core, inspired – one part by the show Dexter and again, one part by the second Kid Cudi record.
Comprehend sounds like he recorded his verse from inside a tin can.
Hazy B was trying hard to find his voice at this point in the game. I remember we left him alone for a while to record his verse for this. It was really complex and I liked it, but I felt that it was too…like…raw-nerves-exposed. It was very vulnerable and it was so…out there for everyone to hear. Plus it was really fucking long. I made the executive decision to add vocal effects to it in order to lighten the load. The lyrics are all there, and if people focus they can feel what he was doing. But the dazzling distraction of effects just take that edge off for casual strollers-by who didn’t want to be hit over the head with a croquette mallet. I don’t think Hazy B liked the pitch-shifting or filters, or really got why I did it. I don’t even think I could have articulated it at that point anyway. I just felt the music, and to me it was called out.
My Dark Passenger / The Vile Red Falcon
“I’m like a junior high school without a principal, I got no principle”
D Code’s opening verse rode that beat so graciously it was like hot butter on a stack of flapjax.
Danberry’s verse, establishing him as the Ol’ Dirty Bastard of the Syndicate was a vacillating montage between his prescription psychotropics and quick bursts of rusty lucidity. By leaps and bounds this track was everyone’s favorite.
I got a lot of feedback on this one from all areas of my social galaxy. The bouncy-bassline beat and crystal production were both so succinct, simple and catchy, and I did some of my more pun-heavy, clever rhyming here. Since the music was so clean, there wasn’t much there to mask lyrical content, no citra aroma hops to cover up questionable notes.
My vocal ideas weren’t really lost like they are on so many other tracks, and it was noticeable by the fact I would hear people actually quoting my lines back to me. “My Dark Passenger” was the lager of this album: nowhere for off flavors to hide.
I added myself whistling at one point with a tinge of reverb. On the same token, there were mousy cheerio notes in the form of oxidized lyrics I really should have cut. In fact, I can’t even show this song to anyone nowadays because of it. But that was my fault and my commitment at the time to the open forum model. This track, once a proud tongue-in-cheek comedic statement in my cellar, has now mostly become a drain pour.
The lean-in effect was from a children’s toy that I warped years ago when I held circuit bending as a hobby. I added buttons and dials to manipulate the sound and I even added a 1/4” output jack.
The chorus came from an idea I had while driving to Indianapolis from Chicago for a class one morning. I’ve always enjoyed being up early, before everyone else, while it is still dark out. On my drive down to Indy, I remember feeling bummed that the sun was rising. “Darkness is my friend” was actually literal in one sense. Of course there is a lot more to that twisted multiverse, but the literal meaning on that countryside interstate is the least dark path.
Originally (as shown on the back of the OG CD cover, below) I had a track in this spot called Velocillator that was basically a freestyle song featuring a lot of D Code and not a lot of cohesion. I deleted it.
Thee Amulette was a definite afterthought, added to the album after everything else was complete and everyone else was asleep. I did it solo, and in secret. Well, Michael J Glocks knew. But he is also me. By this point I had sold my Micron and bought a midi controller by Oxygen. I figured I had found and used every sound on the Micron and I wanted to try the controller at some point, so I played some of the music for Thee Amulette with it.
All this song was, was basically an outlet for the fucked up state everything was in at the time. By the end of the recording process, my situation had grown dire. I missed the idea of “being in love” and I equate it here to being a drug like heroin. Both leaking neurotransmitters. I went in to a legally binding contract assuming that the emotion of love was not only real, but was also something sustainable. I can’t think of a more absurd idea to this day. When the illusion quickly evaporated, I still figured that people can and should hold up their respective ends of the bargain when a contract is formed. Even after that was found not to be a reality, I still gave a deep chance. This sort of thing is enough to crush anyone. If not for inputs like alcohol and outputs like writing, I don’t know what in the world I would have done at the time.
Like everything people write, it starts out feeling profound. Some of it doesn’t age well. As an emotional piece overall, this track is silly. But when I look through the scope of where I was at the time, turmoil was mostly all I had to offer, and dejection is just what came from it. There was nothing else for me to write about.
All-Star Crowley (68th & Cottage Groove)
“Curly G and Hazy B met a girl named Tondra. They had a three-way, it was a double on Tondra.”
Double entendre. I got quite a bit of good feedback for that line, though now it feels weirdly misogynistic. Someone said it was like the movie Inception – a pun inside of a pun.
The Spice 3 verse, not unlike most Spice 3 verses was written by me, screwed together with pieces of leftover lines I had in my notebook. Most of them were references so obscure I couldn’t use them, but I decided that I’d have Spice 3 do them in order to entertain my future-self. It has worked.
The chorus was meant to be a joke or a spoof on a motivational theme. Basically you should go live your best life, Joel Osteen style – because we’re going to murder you a week from now.
I don’t think everyone involved understood the joke and it sort of reflects in the content, but that’s ok. In the scheme of things I should have either just kept this track as a B-side, or taken way more time on it.
I love the beat in all its Fruity Granulizer glory, I definitely would have salvaged it for a future project. But here she lies, buried in the track-listing of Analogue Dreamsickle, and called up for duty from Soundcloud once every few years.
Starpeggio, What the Telepho?
Starting off with a voicemail from some idiot I used to work with. He was one of those guys who had a high potential to be cool. But he had no basis on making decisions and he slipped through the cracks.
No one could seem to pronounce the title of this song. Which…was fine since there are two words in it that are not actually words. I always loved the contrast between Hazy B’s verse and the immediate follow-up with Rosco P Coaltrain’s verse. You’ve got Hazy B rapping about depression, drugs and glory holes, and then you’ve got Rosco jumping on and rapping about God and being Christian mouthpiece in the mire. It’s hilarious to me personally, that Rosco got on these projects and literally rapped about God, yet it also could be seen as sad or as a cheapening of the faith in general, because…come on.
Either way, it cast a perfect reflection of what I always wanted the project to be: different voices and vocal tones coming together to explain various vantage points of life. I was proud of the final product even though some people didn’t understand it. To me it reflects the patchwork of my friendships in general.
The album was mastered by my friend who runs Quiethouse Recordings in Boston. I paid in him bottles of beer.
The creamsicle-with-blood-droplet album art was fashioned by Spice 3. The symbolism and symbology of the cityscape and sad moon, respectively, self-evident. The leaf-looking thing is a hop leaf. If I had known anything about brewing at the time I would have recommended the more recognizable hop cone. Also pictured is a Theremin. There is no Theremin on the record. The cryptic symbol is for something I can only take to my grave. Some of these memories feel as hazy as “B”, yet I’m tethered to them by a vague emotion.
So there’s that. The original Soundcloud rap. I also had a few hundred CDs pressed at the time. I literally own only one of them still, and I’ll always hold on to it the way I’ll always go back to those memories of the era, whether fun or painful… For horror or nostalgia.