Observe – production, vocals
Lucid – production, vocals
Article Exit – vocals
Streetpole – vocals
Known Idea – vocals
Spoken ItelleKT – vocals
Fresh Jes – vocals
Renaissance – vocals
For some reason, I’ve been on a tirade lately about how commercialized hip-hop has become in the past few years. What you see on MTV is such a contradiction to the roots of hip-hop music and culture. It was once a powerful voice for those who couldn’t afford the life of the rich and famous, it spoke of their frustration with the world around them, racism, and their struggles to survive.
Run-DMC did rap about lighter topics and their Adidas, but they weren’t glamorizing $2,000 Timberland boots worn by Jennifer Lopez in one of her videos or fur coats now sold by her former beau’s fashion label, Sean John. They didn’t show themselves flipping Benjamins around in front of their million-dollar crib with a Bentley in the driveway. Their world was accessible by others, including their fans, and spawned many of those fans to go on to create hip-hop music themselves.
I’m not the only one who yearns for the old days. And that’s a good thing. From the top of the heap in the music world all the way to the underground, hip-hop in all it’s various forms is bringing some substance back to the genre – from Missy Elliott’s Under Construction to our own, home-grown groups Accumen1, Dialektix, F.O.S. and Idiolectic Conception.
Most of the eight members in Idiolectic Conception have known each other since they were wee grade school lads in a neighborhood in Colorado Springs, growing up together to become Observe (production and vocals), Lucid (production and vocals), Article Exit, Streetpole, Know Idea, Spoken ItelleKt, Fresh Jes, and Renaissance.
They take a stark, sometimes-dark view of what they see in the masses of society, of CNN’s 24-hour view of our world, of politicians who spew words in favor of war, of the malls filled with people shuffling through their lives of consumerism, of their own spiritual beings and mortality.
For those who don’t carry a Webster’s in your back pocket, idiolect means a person’s individual speech pattern. So when these seven individuals come together, knowing each other as much as they know themselves, these views, thoughts and ideas form speeches flowing atop haunting beats, infused through a myriad of jazz, drum and bass, and rock samples and rhythms.
After Ethos a year ago, they recently released Deep Rest, which has taken their bedroom production skills to the next level, pulling in some hip-hop skeptics and new fans who need those deeper beats to get their attention. And hopefully in the process, those whose ears only perk at the sound of Jay-Z will listen long enough to hear what they have to say.
Hanging in a new favorite live music spot in Colorado Springs, 32 Bleu, Lucid (Charlie Barr) and Article Exit (Joel Aligner) spoke a bit about what fuels their musical creations and collaborations.
Lucid: As far as ideas, and the ways we work and mesh, it pretty much comes out from whomever is producing the music. That’s where it usually starts – having a palette that’s laid out for us, then people writing through it and coming up with concepts. There’s never much clashing, really. Whatever you have to write or say, everybody is really interested.
KB: On Ethos, I want to hone in on one of my favorite songs, “Perception Sessions”, which talks and almost makes fun of some hip-hop clichés…
Lucid: The one where there is a sarcastic tone to it?
Article Exit: Where he’s talking about, “If only I could be as dope as Fabio/rock all the shows/get all the dope and bimbos. I got game/it’s called Nintendo.”
Lucid: Yea, that’s my lyrics on that one. That was really a joke at first. We were recording. I had written out those words and was just playing around. I put it on there, and it kinda struck a chord. I never would have left it. I would have taken it off and put something more serious on there. But they wanted us to leave it.
KB: I think it can be taken seriously. If you think about it, hip-hop isn’t what it used to be when it first came out some 20 or 30 years ago. When you turn on MTV, that crap IS what you see…putting on some façade, talking about nothing but surface stuff like champagne and riding in a jet boat with bikini clad women. The underground hip-hop is the only place where you still find substance and artists getting real about their craft.
Lucid: It’s so against what hip-hop started out as…to alleviate and get rid of that stuff.
Article Exit: It was a real proletarian art form at first. It was about broke kids rappin’ about how it’s okay to be broke. Aesthetically, it’s almost like hip-hop is cloned by a bunch of people that hate hip-hop, who wanted to start a company so they could at least control it and make money off it. They never really found it to be an art form. It’s just a lot of rehashing of the same concepts. You have groups coming out now like Clipiz, which is basically Maze from Puff Daddy, but it’s two of them. They’ve got great beats behind them, but meanwhile, what they’re saying? They’re still rhyming ‘you’ and ‘too’, the ‘n’ word and trigger. There’s really no envelope being pushed as far as creativity. But you gotta remember that the masses aren’t that creative themselves.
Lucid: It’s so prevalent because people don’t want anything that evokes thought. They want something that’s more in the background where they can nod their head to it and it sounds real fresh. But were not looking to them for our fan base. We want nothing to do with that. I want people who want to hear what we’re saying, enjoy what we do…and the mainstream stuff, I want get away from that as much as possible.
KB: So what inspires what you bring to the stage, what you decide you want to talk about, rap about, or whatever? Does it go back to your childhood when you guys were growing up? Is it things that affect you today?
Article Exit: A lot of reading…books that both of us have grown up reading. Things about government conspiracy and the real nature of how our economy works. Some things related to social injustices, and really being inspired by the fact that no one is speaking about it at a poetry level, with the exception of groups like Rage Against the Machine, and other hip-hop act here and there. But for the most part, it’s been vastly ignored. Nobody really likes to broche those subjects. If we had the economy that we had five years ago, we’d be done.
KB: Yea, it’s pretty scary how the recent vote turned out for the Republicans.
Lucid: They basically voted for war. If we put these people in the house, we’re going to war, whether people realize that or not. If they’re willing to accept that, then that’s terrifying.
KB: History has shown us that wars have had a positive impact on the economy, but my God, there’s gotta be other ways to get us to a better place.
Article Exit: I don’t see this war as one to help the economy. One of the things I see as a problem with our planet right now is overpopulation. I think that there’s a fair amount of people in power that look at everything going on right now, all the chaos now can be used to increase de-population. What better way to increase de-population than to send all your young men to war to die?
Lucid: That’s what I’m looking at when trying to do our music – being more politically and socially conscious. There’s bits and piece throughout …a lot of it is purely introspective and it’s just about us. But I want more conscious lyrics, speak in a more educated way, and better myself so it comes out in our music. That’s what I’m looking for.
Article Exit: I think there’s a general consensus to increase our own awareness, increase other’s awareness, and have a clearer sense of reality.
Lucid: I think that goes back to our inspiration. A lot of it can do with your family and the environment you were raised in. We’ve been such close friends for so long they’re like my brothers. So that’s an inspiration in and unto itself, you know? To take what’s going on in our world that so tightly knit, there’s never any bickering about what to do or the direction we want to go.
KB: Well, I could see where you would have an advantage in having as many people in the group as you do and still be able to work together as a unit since you do know each other so well, versus a group that’s only been together a year or so.
Article Exit: I think music or no music, we would all want to hang out and spend time together.
KB: So in terms of the music and producing side of things, Article Exit says you’re kind of the man behind the controls so to speak.
Lucid: For the most part, yea. The CD Ethos is mainly my production. The first release we had back in high school, that’s when it all started to come together. My friend Justin does some of the production too.
Article Exit points out certain tracks on the latest release, Deep Rest, “Bluelight Special”, “Makeshift Anthem”, and “Skeletons in the Closet”, that to him, really represent where the group is going lyrically and beat-wise.
Article Exit: They’re almost at a pop level. They’re powerful, but they’re also aesthetically pleasing to the ear. For kids that are listening to hip-hop right now, I think some of them will be excited about it. There’s a definite growth on this one compared to Ethos.
KB: I think on Ethos, the emphasis was more on the lyrics and no so much on the music behind it. It was more underlying soundscapes, with the exception of the instrumental, “Death of the 3 Strings”, which I really, really liked.
Lucid: Really? The kids from Laymen Terms, and my friend Justin who plays bass, we were trying to use some of the shit that they do. That’s what I’m looking forward to – the fusion of everything. We’re not musical people, per say. So that’s what holds us back on certain things.
Article Exit (sarcastically): Yea, we steal other people’s stuff.
Lucid (laughs): Lyrically, we’re very strong. Musically, we need to catch up. That’s what I’m trying to get myself to doing. Just concentrate on the actual music.
KB: So as far as the music, the instrumentation and such, are you producing and doing everything in a home studio type of situation?
Lucid: Yea, everything is done in our bedrooms. The collective that our group is, it’s huge and it’s real malleable. I want to work with everybody, you know. (Pointing to the group’s name listed on the CD of Deep Rest) that’s why it says, “…and Friends”. There’s a core group, but there’s so many people that come in and out of it because we’re not sitting there writing songs on instruments. So I can have a song ready, and a stranger can walk into my house and add something, then record it. It’s really open. Its just people that want to do this.
KB: You mentioned the new music was a little more pop…
Article Exit: I just think it’s a little more sonically enticing compared to the stuff on the other one. I don’t want to say it was Radiohead influenced…and I love the beats on Ethos. That’s what I want hip-hop to sound like for what my ears really like. But I think you could play these tracks [on Deep Rest] for kids that are into Jay-Z, or a traditional, mainstream rap band that you would hear in a record store, and they love it. They may not pick up on the lyrics right away, but they’ve said, “Man, that beat is hot.” These are the kids that are wearing chains that come down to their belly, with all the crazy bling, bling. So I think the tracks on this attract that ear. Then after they hear the lyrics, they may go, “Hey, you’re right…”
Lucid: I think that’s the first thing that attracts someone to any music – the beat. So it’s growing a little bit and being able to know what I want to do musically before I do it instead of just making something up as I go along. It’s about gaining the knowledge to know what I want something to sound like, then being able to accomplish that. I think that’s what those songs [on Deep Rest] have shown. I think there’s the side that’s purely hip-hop, where the lyrics are more in the forefront. Then there’s the stuff that’s more electro, and drum and bass almost. That’s the stuff I’m into. I want to be producing every range of music that there is. Hip-hop is a learning tool for me because it’s basic. Anybody can start making hip-hop with samples and a drum machine.
For Lucid, those samples derive from his vast vinyl collection of blues, jazz, bossanova, to indie rock and electronic dance. In particular, his interest lies in the area of bringing hip-hop together with drum and bass, originally inspired by others before him – from Jungle Brothers to a local artist Alias. As a group, Idio feeds off their mixture in musical tastes, ranging from Motley Crue to Built to Spill, to add vibrancy to their sound. But getting off the predictable hip-hop path does have its challenges.
Article Exit: It’s hard though, because there are kids that only listen to a particular kind of hip-hop and they view music as this whole identity. And they don’t want to compromise what they consider to be their identity.
KB: They want to be keepin’ it real.
Lucid (gesturing with his hands in the b-boy fashion): Yea, they gotta be dope.
Ethos is available at Independent Records at all their store locations. Deep Rest is a complete DIY package – from a recycled CD case, photocopied CD cover – done cheaply so they could sell it cheaply from their web site, www.idiolecticconception, and at shows.
Idiolect Conception New Year’s Eve Show with Against Tomorrow Sky – 32 Bleu (Colorado Spring)
… read more about Against Tomorrow Sky