The Kool Skool's Shucks One Interviews UK Hip-Hop Group Scientists Of Sound
As many people know, the UK scene is a disjointed and under represented world. Even in this Internet age, where you can find the Fitted Cap size of your favourite Technotronic covering Rapper, it’s still extremely difficult to get even the most basic info on the UK Scene. You could lay that down to the lack of investment, cohesion, or media outlets in the early years, or that there was never “that book”, but that is all in the past now. There are of course people like Disorda and his Suspect Packages, http://heroesofukhiphop.com, Discoscratch and many others, but it’s still sparse out there. One crew who is extremely under represented is Scientists Of Sound who between 1992 and 1996 released 3 singles, a 2-piece vinyl and a DJ Evil Dee (Black Moon/ Beatminerz) hosted Mixtape????! Let me just say that again a DJ Evil Dee (Black Moon/ Beatminerz) hosted Mixtape????! In 1996! Anyway, to redress the balance I met up with two members of the group Scientists Of Sound to discuss their Futuristic past, and esoteric future as their new incarnation as Burnt Brasse.
This much we know, the main nucleus of Scientists of Sound consisted of Bam a.k.a. Bob Eskimo, Aqil a.k.a. J-Blast a.k.a. Rylo Steelo, Cherok a.k.a. Doc Holiday and Aybee a.k.a. Strontium God. They worked with producer Skeff Anslem (“he gets props too”), everyone's favourite UK DJ Shorty Blitz, TY, Fallacy and the lovely Mis-Teeq to name but a few, all the while existing in the post Music of Life/Kold Sweat UK Independent Label wasteland. Scientists of Sound a.k.a. SCI-4 became known for their unique style, by mixing Science Fiction References, Official Boom-Bap and the teachings of Dr Malachi Z York's Ansaarullah Muslim Community. Thinking about it now, their sound was probably too forward thinking and original, for the weeded out early 90's Timbo Era Chorus Rap. But hailing from Willesden North London, they represented a generation of UK Hip-Hoppers that took the attributes of the Diaspora to new heights, and expressed themselves in new forms that represented their experience. Now in 2011, Bam (Bob Eskimo) and Aqil (J-Blast/Rylo Steelo) have embarked on an already promising new project, recording under the name Burnt Brasse. So keep your eyes to the skies for that! The Kool Skool will keep you updated!
Shucks One: How did you first become exposed to Hip-Hop Culture?
Bam: For me it was through my Young Uncle Peter and cousin Gilbert who were DJ’s – they played me the Sugar Hill Gang’s Rappers delight....I was hooked on rhyming from there.
Aqil: I heard ‘The amazing adventures of Grandmaster Flash on the wheels of steel (circa ’81) and thought WHAAAAAAAAAT!!!!! Rahtid!!!!!!! I need more!!!! Now!!!!!
Did you do other Hip-Hop elements, or was it always MCing?
Bam: Both me and Cherok were B-boys in a group called Knight Shockers Crew and bombers on the graff front. We were always rhyming but also beatboxed. It was soooooooooo crazy back then cos every kid on the street was into hip-hop or reggae or pop music.
Aqil: You HAD to at least try the other elements. I was an ok DJ, better at mixing than cutting etc, Graf? Put it this way, I just about draw stickmen ok, so that was a no-no, but MCing was really it for me. From what I saw, they got the most attention from chicks lol
What was it about the culture that really affected you?
Bam: I loved the vibe the freshness of it all. It was new it was against conventional music at of its time. It was music and DJing it was dancing (bboying!) It was Art (Graffiti) – for a young boy growing up this was as good as it gets.
Aqil: For me, it was creativity. The chance to hear new music every single week. That was exciting, going to Bluebirds record shop in Edgware road, getting butterflies when I saw a new Def Jam or Cold chillin’ 12 inch. Hearing Melle Mel talk about pissing in the alley, or 2 live crew saying they want some pussy, it was amazing, cos it was all revolutionary middle finger to adults time. Beautiful! Cant beat that feeling mi ah tell yuh!
Aybee a.k.a. Strontium God, Bam a.k.a. Bob Eskimo and Cherok a.k.a. Doc Holiday
How did S.O.S. come about? Were you friends at school, or did you meet through the Hip-Hop scene?
Bam: Aybee was in a year above me and Cherok at school. But we didn’t really know him as such until a friend of ours in a crew we beatboxed for introduced us to him as a DJ. At that time we really kept the rapping thing to ourselves (me and Cherok that is) until one day one of the guys in the crew we beatboxed for asked to battle as I said he could improve his style.! The rest is history. People didn’t know we were nice like that until we did it. After that Aybee called DJ AA at the time wanted to form a crew called Magic Wardrobe Productions; we used to record on his 4-track in his wardrobe to get the right sound in the Mic. MAAAAD I KNOW. We then called ourselves Scientists of Sound because we had incredibly sparse equipment but could create some sick sounds and beats!
Aqil: I met them as we were all Ansaarullah Muslims studying under the great Doc York (FREE DR YORK!!!!) who was then known as As Sayyid Al Imam Isa Al Haadi Al Mahdi and studied under different Masjids, but was from the same part of town, namely Harlesden. After I did this Likkle Dis song that Westwood championed, things were starting to happen for me, and as we were brothers of the same mind, I thought that we should form like Voltron and see what happens, as we had done so many demo’s together.
For men growing up in the U.K., how important was it for you to express your own experience?
Bam: It was paramount as a lot of the youth programmes had closed there was drugs getting into every neighbourhood – people were not saying ‘oh yeah lets help these young black men become a success!’ there was no myspace or facebook or youtube or twitter! To be heard you had to come with it! Bring da noise!
Aqil: Plus nobody had repped our ends at all. Although you had Jive’s Wee Pappa Girl Rappers (member them?) from Willesden, it weren’t the REAL. So determination helped us to be heard. I remember going on stage and burning pictures of sir Paul Condon, the police commissioner at the time. Imagine doing that now. You’d be up on the terrorist 28 day rule. No one has the education or the cohones to do that now.
"Raise The Flag!"
You had some pretty serious concepts in your lyrics and titles, could you break some of them down? For example what is a Scientist of Sound?
Bam: A Scientist of Sound is a person who manipulates sound to inform, create, deliver a message and changes the consciousness of a person or people. We tried to do this as well as make it interesting for the listener. We also tried to make it fun as well as real HIP HOP as you can get. In terms of subject matter we did try to raise people up to stop feeling alienated to believe in the impossible; to tell them that difference is cool. The whole point of us being aliens and the storyline was to show that you can be different and dope!
How many guys were down with SCI-4 a.k.a. Scientists of Sound
Aqil: There was Zulu King ECHO, Mo Dog, Ty, Shorty Blitz (amazing deejay, just go see him live for proof), Bloodhoundz, Fallacy, Soldier Queen, 4x4 (who later morphed into Mis-Teeq – DONT BLAME US!!!!) Invincible Bullet, Da Bani, Haniel, Black Ice, Mat Ckillz, - There were more, but I can’t remember them all!! Apologies to y’all...
Skeff Anselm in the studio with Q-Unique of The Arsonists
Who was the US producer you guys were down with, was it Sam Sever?
Bam: Nah man hahahaha! It was Skeff Anslem from The Ummah (A Tribe Called Quest).
Aqil: Also the Beatminerz, who heard our stuff being mixed in another studio, and Evil Dee loved it so much he did the Mixtape for free, not just hosted it. A real coup if you ask me...
What labels were you signed to?
Aqil: Bite IT and Downlow
How did you end up signing with “Bite It” Records?
Bam: This is where J-Blast comes in the frame. He did a track called ‘To Break Da Dawn’ with a group called 100% Proof. It had some controversy attached to it as it was a Dis track aimed at PM Dawn who a lot of Hip Hop people saw as too commercial. J was from around the way and was known on the underground Hip Hop circuit we also knew him from the Zulu Nation and other places and shows. He was doing his thing but he liked what we were doing. He introduced us to Trevor Jackson who owned Bite It Records a classic label. We really got on with Trevor who really gave us our first chance thus ‘Raise The Flag’ was born.
Scientists Of Sound 144 Or Bust "The Replenishing" released in 1996
Your album was called 144 or Bust, where is 144, and what is its significance?
Bam: We took that information from The Book Of Revelation in the Bible. Now lets not get spooky or religious we see all scriptures but this one had a lot of relevance. It’s kinda like saying ‘many are called but few are chosen’. We really felt and to a certain extent still feel that not everyone will get up there and want to affect change in their homes and communities. It’s always the chosen few who will go out of their way to change things for the common good.
It came out in 1996, during a reasonably quiet period in U.K. Hip-Hop, yet you seemed to get a lot of attention, especially in the U.S. and Europe. U.K. acts have as a general rule were always popular in countries like Germany, France and Sweden for example, but not really in the U.S. How did you bridge the gap?
Bam: We had some really good people in the U.S. who just got what we were trying to say! DJ Evil Dee from the Beatminerz really took to us and agreed to mix our Mixtape for us! That was incredible cos at the time no one was connecting like that! Respect to the whole Boot camp Click for their support. Also another Brooklynite The East Flatbush Project they were really good with us. Not forgetting Skeff Anselm ‘Gets Props Too!’ for he put some work in the studio! Tom ‘kick em in the groin’ Coyne at Sterling sound NYC! And not forgetting The Mighty WU-TANG Clan they really understood the message we had and the creativity! It was really weird cos over here people were like ‘oh they aliens’ but everywhere else was like ‘anyone who is alienated form society is an alien!’. I remember going to France and doing an interview and they got us. I was working out in Australia and did a radio interview over there and they got us! It was strange that in the U.K. they kinda didn’t as much.
Aqil: It wasn’t so much that people didn’t get us, it was that people were a bit jealous of what they perceived us to have. Plus we weren’t trying to fit in. That was rules of Hip Hop man! Our LP came out just before ATLiens (Outkast) Of course their production values etc were far better, but people got them. So it was just a natural anti UK bias towards our own that was very prevalent at that time too.
DJ Evil Dee Black Moon Da Beatminerz
The album was very Sci-Fi inspired, what brought that about? Where you all watching a lot of Star Trek or something hahahah!
Bam: LOL Hahahahaha!!!! We were and are still big sci-fi fans. Its kinda crazy watching a Star Trek episode now on your iPAD with touch capabilities just like Star Trek has been doing for donkey’s years. Or talking about Nano technology, which is "now technology". Science Fiction is now science fact!
What have you guys been up to since the Scientist Of Sound days? I know that long time Universal Zulu Nation representer Aqil was a part of The Fat Boss magazine and Soul2Soul etc. What's the Rah-Rah?
Bam: Since SOS I have messed with some unknown bands, which are not worth mentioning from Hip-Hop to Jazz and Rock. I also helped in my community, setting up a radio station as well as mentoring younger artists. Currently I am one half of a group called Burnt Brasse with Aqil and we are also involved with managing some up and coming artists.
Aqil: I did a lot of things. Became a total hypocrite drug dealer, sold keys of weed, got into trouble, dealt with the karma, worked at Sony BMG for a while, made a record with RZA (on his RZA solo CD that came out on Virgin) toured with a lot of US artists, from Busta to Alicia keys to Usher to Diddy to Outkast to Faithless, sound engineered for Roger Troutman on his last visit to the UK, did a cable TV battle show that never jumped off, worked with troubled disaffected youth, helped mentor drug and alcohol dependants, travelled to Egypt (before the riots) and a bunch of other things I cant remember. Oh yeah, and I managed Fallacy for a short like leprechaun while. And get regularly taken up to a ship by aliens from planet RIZQ for debriefing sessions.
The Fatboss an important UK Hip-Hop based magazine that Aqil contributed to.
Your presently working on the upcoming Burnt Brasse project, what is the thinking and direction behind that?
Bam: The Burnt Brasse Project is exactly what the words say almost like saying Dirty Metal or Dirty Hip-Hop. We are taking the Hip Hop element like as if it was an element on the periodic table and superheating it with other elements like Dub, D&B, Rock, Dub-step, Electronica but still with a social disposition. We have travelled and seen and heard and are still influenced by soooo much music so we wanted to come with that on this project.
Should the fans expect a 144 Or Bust part 2, or the full S.O.S. line-up?
Bam: Sorry fans the 144 or Bust part 2 which was going to be called Reservoir Gods, (Suns of Thunder). that is on a tape in one of my vaults on an island in the Pacific.... one thing for sure it was going to be a beast of an album but it just didn’t happen. The BB project is a completely different expression of us as 4 have become 2 like the phonetics of each group.
Being long standing fans of Hip-Hop, what are some of the things that you think are good about New School Hip-Hop?
Bam: New School in some cases is a bit old School to us in a good way as there are a lot of Electronic elements from a production point of view. This was like back in the day with Soul Sonic Force, Nucleus, Man Parrish, Egyptian Lover etc. The sounds are old but the raps and position is new. It’s crazy when people go ‘Oh my god they are rapping over a rock or indie rift’ when this has been done before. I think sometime some New Schoolers need to dig in themselves and bring out something incredibly new! Also where is the DJ???? Especially in the U.K.!
Egyptian Lover (Baby)
What are some of the things that you personally do not so positive Hip-Hop Culture?
I love the fact that some artists are getting paid what they deserve and are renown worldwide, but this is the only side we seem to see on TV or online is this domination of wealth again substance. It still leaves the rest of music thinking that the Art form of Rap music is a sub-species and not as creative as singing or playing an instrument. Graffiti is now almost a fashionable addition to modern art and not a central piece. That’s why we love people like you who bring it!
Aqil: My issue is that there aren’t alternative mainstream hip-hop views repped in the media. It’s all so 106 and Park-ified now. Selling out is good. Don’t upset the apple cart kinda ting. There are a lot of people who were 5 years ago, at the forefront of Hip Hop over here, most of them are not here now. Why? If you make disco hip hop like a lot of people are doing, then you gonna go the way of fast food cartons. In the bin when we done with you.
As conscious thinkers, what role do you feel Hip-Hop has in propagating Knowledge of Self, and encouraging a new generation of intelligent beings?
Bam: Hip-hop has the responsibility to be Responsible! You cannot be in your 30’s or 40’s and be acting like a 16 year old that is just sad! Children look up to their elders and if they see themselves then how can they progress in life.
UK Conscious MC Iron Brayds
Do you feel that there is any place for Consciousness in Rap culture anymore?
Bam: There are still conscious rappers out there who are bringing it Mos Def, Jay Electronica, Talib Kweli, Immortal Technique, Iron Brayds. to name but a tidy few. Its like in any musical form you will get those few who don’t just talk bubble gum ish.
To “add-on” for some young artists out there, what are some of the pitfalls that you might have fallen victim to that they should look out for?
1) Know what you are signing. Get a GREAT not just good music lawyer
2) Know your team of people
3) Get a GREAT not just good manager
4) Learn to expect crazy ish to happen when money is involved so keep that tight.
5) Get a GREAT not just good accountant.
6) Learn the mechanic of how an artist gets paid e.g. PRS, MCPS etc.
7) Discipline. If you and your guys sweat to get a deal, how close are you? Can you be divided? Will a few quid (£100,000 is a few quid at that level) make a man forget his marbles? Ditch his mates? Or are the mates just hanging on? Work these things out with a SOLID PLAN that everyone knows and can recite almost. Then get to it sun!!!! Peace
Burnt Brasse are busy in the studio and keeping a low profile, but like I said, as soon as I know, you know!
Burnt Brasse are busy in the studio and keeping a low profile, but like I said, as soon as I know, you know!