Shadow Precinct

Shadow Precinct

Hell on Earth

 

 

  I'm trying to not be sad as I write this post, the last one in my Shadow Precinct Soundtrack series, because of recent events surrounding the group that I'll be talking about next: the Infamous Mobb Deep.  Now, over the last couple of weeks there's been a lot of news concerning beef between Mobb members Prodigy and Havoc.  I'm not even going to go into it, you can use the power of the interwebs to find out for yourself what that's about, but I will say it's another stinging blow to the hip hop that I hold near and dear.  That, and the insistence of cats rhyming over techno beats, but I digress.

 

  Hell on Earth was the first single off of the album of the same name.  Dark, gutter, dirty, New York staircase rap.  The type of rap that scares the shit out of old white ladies.  I mean, the intro to G.O.D. Part III had me real nervous as a youth P's verse on Hell on Earth is excellent to go along with Havoc's suitably haunting beat.  There's an apocalyptic vibe to the song, if the title didn't give that away.  I decided to use it in Shadow Precinct as a preface to a pivotal scene, the last major fight, but more importantly a turn towards a dire set of circumstances that will manifest itself in Part II.  A true hell on earth type situation.  And yes my friend, there will be blood.  

 

   

 

I Ain't No Joke

 

 

This image haunts the nightmares of wack rappers.

 

  What's up family?  I know it's been a minute, but we're going to pick up where we left off with the Shadow Precinct Soundtrack series of posts detailing songs mentioned in the book and why they'r important.  The next song is the classic "I Ain't Know Joke" by Eric B.  and the God MC, Rakim.  Any student of rap knows this song.  Hell, even if you're a student of rock and roll, you probably are aware of the duo.  Rakim came at a time when cats were still using that Kurtis Blow "A huh-HA-HA" flow.  When Rakim started to spit bars, it was like you went back in time with your ipod and stood next to an old timey gentleman playing his gramophone.  They way he put his words together was just like nothing before him.  That's not hyperbole, either.  Even when you hear his flows on records that are almost 30 (30?!) years old now, you can see why he's called the God of rap:  he fathered the styles of your favorite rappers.

 

  This song in particular is an exercise in hip hop braggadocio.  I'm better than you, and these bars of death will prove it.  This was more like a warning for anyone trying to step into the arena.

 

I ain't no joke

I used to let the mic smoke

Now I slam it when I'm done and make sure it's broke

 

 

   No bling raps.  No coke raps.  No raps about money and/or bitches or a new dance.  Just raw word manipulation.  Pure, merciless skill on display.   Something that makes me nostalgic for the old days in the era of hashtag rap (I.E. Come and find me...Nemo).  This song is mentioned in the novel when we flashback to the main character Everett's zealot training days.  I specifically chose the time frames for the story to coincide with some of the best hip hop that we'd ever see as a means of keeping that heartbeat constant throughout the novel.  The ever present soundtrack in our main character's mind.  I picture him as being very much a hip hop elitist, but not into total snob/douchebag levels.  I wanted to create a vivid picture of the training facility and all of the deadly training exercises that they have to complete in order to be an official zealot.  Everett is not one to brag, he let's his actions speak for themselves.  This song seemed like the perfect background music to represent that type of attitude.

 

Like....Blue and Cream

 

 

  In continuing with my series of blog posts about the soundtrack of Shadow Precinct, today I'll discuss how the epic Only Built 4 Cuban Linx influenced me.  Let's go into the way back machine first, and just discuss the Wu-Tang Clan in general, my personal pick for greatest hip-hop group of all time.  

 

  How can you say that shit?  When the likes of Outkast, The Roots, ATCQ, NWA, Public Enemy, and De La Soul exist in the hip hop consciousness?  I think that the stretch run from their debut album Enter The 36 Chambers (almost 20 years ago!) to their follow up double album Wu-Tang Forever, they dropped all types of classic solo records that were, in effect, mini Wu-Tang albums that just happened to feature one (or two) of the clan's members.  It was like the Celtics when they were winning mad championships.  I mean, you had Meth's debut (Tical), GZA (Liquid Swords), Raekwon (Cuban Linx), Ghostface (Ironman), and Ol' Dirty Bastard (Enter The 36 Chambers: The Dirty Version).  All classic albums.  That is an incredible run from a hip hop crew of unprecedented depth and it will never happen again.  I was already crazy for kung-fu movies as a kid, so when they came out blending the two, my mind exploded.  Yeah, you always hear emcees drop references to things that you may consider awesome, and by extension, that makes you look at them in a different way.  It's kinda like the way you would see someone reading a book you consider ill and give that silent head nod of, "You, sir, are cool."  The old kung-fu movie sound bytes, the video for Mystery of Chess Boxing, all of it was so dope to me.  That blending of sensibilities grabbed my attention then, and eventually manifested itself into my writing of Shadow Precinct.  To summarize, Shadow Precinct would not ever  have happened if the Wu-Tang Clan didn't exist.  

  

  Glacier of Ice is the specific song from Only Built 4 Cuban Linx that is referenced in the story.  For every song that is referenced in some way, I imagined it being the soundtrack to the events that transpire.  A more apt description in this digital age, it would be the ipod playlist to our main character's trials and tribulations.  This song comes in right before a major turning point in the story, and it precedes a bloody fight scene.  The frenetic nature of the song itself just struck a chord with me.  I could see bones getting broken and the clash of swords set to this track.  I could see the main character turning this up in his headphones before dispensing out all manners of pain to his assailants.  And that's always how I write, I have to SEE it first.  If I can't successfully convey my vision in a way that infects the reader's imagination, then I'd consider that a fail.  Oddly enough, Glaciers ain't even my favorite song on the record (this is), but it fit the situation more than any other did.

 

Proceed with caution as you enter the symphony

Degrees of punishment increase intensely 

Syndrome was caused by the deadly drums

But the battle was won by swords being swung.

       

I Gave You Power, I Made You Buck Wild

 

 

  It's been a minute, my last post was on the day commorating BIG's death and discussing why his song Warning was influential to the creation of Shadow Precinct.  I figured that I will dedicate this post, and others to follow, with explanations of the songs on the site's playlist and why they are important to the story of Shadow Precinct.  The second on the list is Nas with I Gave You Power off his second, and arguably his best, album, Illmatic It Was Written.  In this song, Nas rhymes as a personified gun.  He tells the story from the gun's point of view and that helps to illuminate the problems that come along with firearms, whether that's irresponsible use or the invention themselves.  This to me, is one of the best uses of personification in a hip hop song, with a nod to Pharoahe Monch who also did it in an exceedingly awesome manner for his joint, When The Gun Draws.

 

  I set the world of Shadow Precinct in an alternate reality where the use of guns is heavily restricted.  There are many events and such that made me land on this particular idea and setting, and I will discuss those in detail in future posts.  In this version of America, though the number of guns in the streets is declining due to the creation of zealots, the specially trained task force that are developed to confront this problem.  Firearms are not a foreign concept to the populace.  That is to say, guns exist in this reality, but in a different capacity.  I didn't want to create a world where the hip hop that was coming out at the time would be severely altered.  If guns didn't exist at all, how could a song like this exist?  That's not just with the music, either.  I wanted all manners of pop culture entertainment, whether that be movies, tv, video games, etc, to remain essentially untouched from this shift in realities.

 

  So, back to the song.  Unlike Warning, which is an abstract way at foreshadowing future events that the main character Everett will face throughout the course of Shadow Precinct's story, I Gave You Power speaks to the world itself.  There is a purposeful irony to the inclusion of this song in Shadow Precinct.  Consider the hook:

 

How you like me now?

I go blaow

It's the shit that moves crowds

Making every ghetto foul

I might have took you first child

Scarred your life, crippled your style

I gave you power

I made you buck wild.

 

  The gun is stating that it is truly the entity of power, not the criminal that wields it.  Essentially acknowledging that it is an instrument of death.  But what happens when a person becomes the instrument of death, as zealots have?  Just because guns are gone, does that mean the criminal element of society also is gone?  Or will they just find new instruments to give them power?  

 

 

 

...Cuz The Greatest Rapper of All Time Died On March 9th.

  It's been 15 years since Christopher Wallace was murdered, and like all icons in entertainment that suddenly pass, he has lived on through his music and reached iconic status.  Kids that weren't even alive when this happened  are well aware of who he is, along with another of hip hop's patron saints, Tupac Shakur.  Both are two sides of the same coin, their "beef" (which ironically BIG helped to define) quickly spiraled from subliminal disses, to blatant disses, to death threats, to a bicoastal war of sorts that left both generals dead and still no one arrested in either case.

 

  You don't really appreciate something or someone until they are gone.  And after all these years, I still find myself equal parts amazed and saddened.  Amazed because, even still, BIG is one of the nicest to ever grab a mic.  Saddened because after only two proper releases, and a bunch of grimey style cash ins perpetrated by Diddy (insert harlem shake shoulders here), I still think what could have been.  Where would Rick Ross be if BIG was still rapping?  Hell where would Jay be?  Would Watch The Throne have been a collaborative Jay and BIG album?  Just think about that.

 

  It's no secret that hip hop influenced me a great deal and it is certainly one of the things that inspired me to write Shadow Precinct.  I was always a fan of storytelling in wrap.  From Slick Rick's Children's Story to Ghostface's verse off of Impossible to Nas' Undying Love.  I was always captivated by someone who could weave an intricate engagine story in under five minutes time.  Beginning, middle, and end.  Characters and foreshadowing.  BIG was one of the best when it came to this.  Niggas Bleed and I Gotta Story To Tell are two of the best examples of story raps ever.  But Warning, off of his first album, struck a chord with me as I was penning the story for Shadow Precinct.  

 

  There's something very ominous about the song itself, aside from the obvious title.  When I decided to integrate certain songs into the story, Warning was the first one that came to mind.  I knew where the story was headed and how it would progress, and the songs I picked reflect the different arcs that the story takes.  All of these songs are in the playlist playing at shadowprecinct.com.  Warning seemed like the perfect song to represent the beginning of the story.  In this case, the call that the main character receives at the beginning isn't a warning call per se, like BIG being warned about cats trying to stick him for his paper, but it's more for the reader as a nod to the fact that some serious shit is about to go down.  I couldn't think of a better song, hip hop wise, that represented that feeling than Warning.

 

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