|(L to r) Tasz1, Ibrahim, 7ish, Orion Box, #9 of Assasyn Dynasty. Photo by Kate Dalton.|
Perhaps one of the most overlooked sub-genres of hip-hop is represented by the work of early '90s New York rap acts dedicated to the Five Percent Nation. Inspired by Nation of Islam founder W.D. Fard, and best articulated by Clarence 13X, the Five Percent ideology centers on the belief that black men and women are the fathers and mothers of civilization, and can find true power and truth within themselves. Artists who claimed membership in the Five Percent Nation included Rakim, King Sun, and Big Daddy Kane, but the music of groups like Brand Nubian and Poor Righteous Teachers best articulated the Five Percenter philosophy. Brand Nubian's "Meaning of the 5%" from their second album, In God We Trust, captured another of the theology's main ideas, referring to 85 percent of the world's population as uncivilized masses; 10 percent as the rich slave owners, bloodsuckers of the poor; and the remaining five percent as the poor righteous teachers, whose mission it is to spread consciousness. Somewhere in Texas, heads took notice.
With its 2001 release, Assasynation 101, San Antonio-based hip-hop crew Assasyn Dynasty established the lyrical and sonic framework that would come to embody the spirit of its work. Rolling pianos, lurching bass lines, and looped strings evoked a RZA-esque soundtrack that cradled the group's conscious metaphors. At the heart of it all was an accessible allegiance to Five Percent Nation teachings, which excluded the stodgy rhetoric often prevalent in early '90s, Koran-influenced LPs. The A.D. camp's latest effort is Outside the Box, an ambitious solo debut by group member M. Allen, a.k.a. Number 9, a.k.a. Mr. Wondarime. Fueled by 16 solid tracks, the album follows in the vocal
Co-produced by A.D. affiliates Droop and Jazz, Outside the Box is packed with gritty arrangements that remind listeners that hip-hop's greatest architect, DJ Premier, is originally from Texas. Standout tracks include "No Matter What," where Number 9 is joined by Assasyn Dynasty members Orion Pax and Tasz 1 on a wicked Mary J. Blige loop, and "If You Broken Down," a keep-your-head-up anthem that recalls the Coup's classic track, "Repo Man."
"I always say that's my nicest song. I've been broken down, and I see my people broken down," says Allen. "Sometimes you just have to let them know times are going to come around. Just rock your crown." Other highlights include "Do the Knowledge," featuring A.D. member Ibrahim, the poignant "Keep It Straight," and "SATX" with its memorable DJ Quik scratches, courtesy of Dish1.
| JULY 4TH INDEPENDENCE DAY MUSICAL MASSACRE |
with TRUE-N-DEED, DJ KIKO, & DONNIE-D, ASSASYN DYNASTY, CIVIL WAR, KRIONIX, SCRYBE, ALL WISE, YOUNG HUSTLERZ, RUIN, AURA, ASTEX, BIKO, DRUPZ, MR. GRINCH, ILLREALEVENT, A-STOT
4pm-2am Friday, July 4
The Lounge at Avenue B
1033 Ave. B, 224-4005
A.D. formed in 1997, when Allen and group members Orion Pax, Tasz 1, Abzolut, and Ibrahim began writing and recording together, sharing various apartments until 2000. Since then, the group has performed in hundreds of shows throughout Texas, and has branched out into promoting events via Culture Sound Records, and occasionally making T-shirts through the Blunt Factory clothing line. The group has plans to release its second album by the end of 2003, and is also awaiting a solo debut from Tasz 1, tentatively titled Put Your Ears On. Upcoming shows include an August 10 date with the Microknots at the Vibe in Austin and a future show with the Alkaholiks.
Throughout it all, Number 9 remains focused on the legacy of Five Percent Nation loyalists within hip-hop. "That's my goal, just to spread the truth," says Allen. "That's the real mission everyone should have, to help the world change. You can do that with your words."
For copies of Outside the Box, go to Hogwild, or contact [email protected]. •