The Unity Era

Memories of a legendary Los Angeles Era. RIP Bigga B
Remember the time.

Remember the time.

For a brief period (96-97) we (Self Scientific) were signed to LOUD RECORDS.  Bigga had been paying attention to the music Khalil and I were making and he arranged a meeting with Steve Rifkind and Rich Isaccson.  At the time, Nefertiti was managing us, and had plans of making us one of the groups in a production situation she was discussing with a local, Likwit affiliated producer named Broadway. We always felt like Khalil had ill beats and would evolve to a great producer, so we opted to sign what we they called a “development deal” with LOUD instead.  We were pretty excited… because of Bigga I was a regular at the LOUD office and spent many days smoking on the rooftop on Kings Rd. overlooking Melrose.  Our manager had a great relationship with Diamond D, who was coming off the success of his classic Stunts, Blunts, and Hip-Hop, and his work with The Fugees. We recorded a 3 song Demo at Ice-T’s home studio in the Hollywood Hills for LOUD that included 2 songs produced Diamond D.  The experience was dope, Diamond D is a living legend, however, it also let us know that Self Scientific was meant to be the expressive vehicle for US…we have never worked with another producer since.  The only song delivered to LOUD that was produced by Khalil was “Bullet Proof Cess Dreams” a song Bigga really loved.  Time sure does fly…

For a brief period (96-97) we (Self Scientific) were signed to LOUD RECORDS.  Bigga had been paying attention to the music Khalil and I were making and he arranged a meeting with Steve Rifkind and Rich Isaccson.  At the time, Nefertiti was managing us, and had plans of making us one of the groups in a production situation she was discussing with a local, Likwit affiliated producer named Broadway. We always felt like Khalil had ill beats and would evolve to a great producer, so we opted to sign what we they called a “development deal” with LOUD instead.  We were pretty excited… because of Bigga I was a regular at the LOUD office and spent many days smoking on the rooftop on Kings Rd. overlooking Melrose.  Our manager had a great relationship with Diamond D, who was coming off the success of his classic Stunts, Blunts, and Hip-Hop, and his work with The Fugees. We recorded a 3 song Demo at Ice-T’s home studio in the Hollywood Hills for LOUD that included 2 songs produced Diamond D.  The experience was dope, Diamond D is a living legend, however, it also let us know that Self Scientific was meant to be the expressive vehicle for US…we have never worked with another producer since.  The only song delivered to LOUD that was produced by Khalil was “Bullet Proof Cess Dreams” a song Bigga really loved.  Time sure does fly…

1998. Self Scientific and my brother from Krondon opened for BIG PUN. That still seems crazy to me.  This was Krondon’s first official show.  He was fresh off the buzz of his recent 12” The Rules, that my our brother Truly Odd put out on his label Heavyweights Records.  Krondon recentlyreminded me that he was surprised to be performing in front of so many people, but that’s how Unity was.  There wasn’t any difference in the crowd from when the doors opened to when the crowd left because people came for the experience, the show was just the icing on the cake. Plus, Bigga B was known for breaking artists, he introduced a of lot of groups to the Southern California audience and provided opportunity for many of the West Coast names that you know today. 
XZIBIT was promoting his album 40 Days & 40 Nights and came to the stage wearing a full body bomb suit with Sir Jinx as his DJ.  X always had the illest shows.  Not many people match the type of energy X created, especially during those days.  I haven’t met too many people that love this Hip-Hop shit more than Xzibit.  
If I recall correct Pun performed on crutches because he had twisted his ankle at a previous performance.  Classic shit. RIP BIG PUN

1998. Self Scientific and my brother from Krondon opened for BIG PUN. That still seems crazy to me.  This was Krondon’s first official show.  He was fresh off the buzz of his recent 12” The Rules, that my our brother Truly Odd put out on his label Heavyweights Records.  Krondon recentlyreminded me that he was surprised to be performing in front of so many people, but that’s how Unity was.  There wasn’t any difference in the crowd from when the doors opened to when the crowd left because people came for the experience, the show was just the icing on the cake. Plus, Bigga B was known for breaking artists, he introduced a of lot of groups to the Southern California audience and provided opportunity for many of the West Coast names that you know today. 

XZIBIT was promoting his album 40 Days & 40 Nights and came to the stage wearing a full body bomb suit with Sir Jinx as his DJ.  X always had the illest shows.  Not many people match the type of energy X created, especially during those days.  I haven’t met too many people that love this Hip-Hop shit more than Xzibit. 

If I recall correct Pun performed on crutches because he had twisted his ankle at a previous performance.  Classic shit. RIP BIG PUN

Freestyle Fellowship more than any group defined the otherside of Los Angeles Hip-Hop.  In a city that was traditionally known for music that represented car gang culture, Freestyle Fellowship lead the way for a musical revolution of sorts.  Their collective was responsible for taking control of the Good Life crowd and turning that scene into something influenced the entire game.  Their first album To Whom It May Concern is a bonafide classic.  The patterns and production on the album are incredible and truly ahead of it’s time.  This song “The 7th Seal” is a solo song by Myka 9.  I first met Myka 9 rhyming at the African Marketplace across the street from the Jungles at Jackie Robinson Park.  Then he was known as Microphone Mike and was already ahead of is time because he would flip his style into the fast “chatting”  flow that Jamaican Dancehall artists were known for, without sounding corny.  In fact he made it sound like he was manipulating the beat by doing so.  Mike, evolved into Myka 9 and took his skill seven further.  He was one of the first people to convince me through example that the voice really could be used while rhyming like an instrument… a horn.  He even began to study the trumpet, and became pretty good under the tutelage of Josef from Madcap.  I am getting off subject , I guess I dont have a particular point here, unless maybe to say that more people should learn to appreciate the contribution Freestyle Fellowship made to the landscape of Hip-Hop in Los Angeles and the world.

Photo Credit: DJ Mishaps

This night was a perfect example of why UNITY was the best club in the history of Los Angeles Hip-Hop.  In 1997 this lineup may not have seemed like much to the general Hip-Hop public, but 2 of the 3 act on this bill Hall of Fame Hip-Hop groups, like it or not.

 UNITY had an extended relationship with the Wu, and Clan shoes always sold well, but at the time the other two opening acts were relatively unknown.  The Black Eyed Peas had just started to figure out that they have a future in the pop world, and this little white guy named Eminem from Detroit had just starting making noise with his debut EP titled Slim Shady.  I had seen Eminem earlier this year at the Rappages Magazine Rap Olympics Battle, where he single-handedly dismantled some pretty well respected Emcees (including PEACE from Freestlye Fellowship), but i was slow to listen to the SLim Shady Ep.  I just remember dude being a savant with the patterns, always respected that about Em, even when the subject matter misses me, his level of difficulty on each rhyme is unmatched.

I went to the show that day with Bigga B, Tyreef Supreme (Wu-Tang), La The Darkman, Eminem’s boy from Detro Royce da 5’ 9”, and his manager Keno. That was also the first day I met Royce Da 5’9” who at the time was, believe it or not, even iller than he is now. I remember him rhyming backstage and I was thinking “what the fuck is in the water in D-Town? ” This was one of the only times Bigga threw Unity at the famous Ese nightspot Florentine Gardens.  Florentine Gardens was one of those spots that always had banging parties but you never went to because it was just too many ese’s who didnt fuck with niggaz.  It was fitting that the first time I partied in Florentine Gardens it was at a UNITY.  Bigga had a way of bringing everybody together.  This show was great I ended up smoking with Truly Odd in the Dj booth most of the night and clowning a young 3H who was all of 16 years old, hiding from security in the DJ booth because he was underage.   Ahh the good ol days.

(Photo Credit : DJ Mishaps)

This was an unforgettable night.  Raekwon had the Hip-Hop world on fire with the recent release of his debut album Only Built 4 Cuban Links.  Bigga was a major reason why that album was so well received everywhere when it came out.  Bigga was the West Coast Director of Promotions for LOUD and because of his close relationship with Steve Rifkind, made a lot of pivotal decisions for the label.  I remember him working tirelessly to promote every 12inch that dropped before that album came out, Glaciers of Ice was my shit.

The Wu had a huge influence on me , and at the time Self Scientific was building our underground fan base through the Unity crowd so Bigga let us open up that night.  We felt we were the shit, because we were opening for the Rae at a time when I was heavily studying the lessons of the Nations of Gods & Earths.  Our music seemed to be tailored towards an audience that was programmed already to understand lyrics coded with God Body language, in many ways we have the Wu to thank for that. 

It was a lot of gangstas in the building that night too, the Hacienda was a decent size club that was actually underground and only had one way in and one way out.  It would get hot as all hellfire down there but it mad for a great Hip-Hop environment.  A lot of people rocked at Unity but the Wu had a special relationship with Unity crowds , so when Rae finally performed for his solo album everybody showed up, shit was crazy…

Emperor Al was a short Filipino brother that was part of the One Nation crew.  I remember always seeing Al at spots like Hollywood Live and Venice Beach on Sundays passing out fliers for his parties.  The best club Al ever promoted that I went to though was Funk Jungle.  Funk Jungle was always dope to catch Dj’s like Mark Luv, Yutaka, Tony Dee etc.  I would often go to Funk Jungle with Bigga B (who was a friend of Al’s) and meet my homies there to cipher , “shock out”, and smoke weed.  No bottle service, no VIP lines, just good music and believe it or not black people, at an underground club.
The music is what made clubs during the Unity Era the most fun.  DJ’s then were not just competing with one another, but also competing with DJ’s in other parts of the country to establish their reputations.  Before it was possible to watch your favorite DJ’s on U-Stream in the club, word of mouth would earn your check, and boost your status.  It wasn’t just UNITY clubs such as Jamaica House, Mental Mondays, Funk Jungle, United Nations, Hollywood Live, and Guadalinda’s would have a rotation of DJ’s that spun an unforgettable mix of Afro-Funk, House, Reggae, Jazz, and Hip-Hop. 
We actually danced, I mean really danced, spinning on our heads and all that shit!!  I know brothers that did time for manslaughter and were really gangbanging that were also respected…dancers, LA is crazy.  The Unity Era.

Emperor Al was a short Filipino brother that was part of the One Nation crew.  I remember always seeing Al at spots like Hollywood Live and Venice Beach on Sundays passing out fliers for his parties.  The best club Al ever promoted that I went to though was Funk Jungle.  Funk Jungle was always dope to catch Dj’s like Mark Luv, Yutaka, Tony Dee etc.  I would often go to Funk Jungle with Bigga B (who was a friend of Al’s) and meet my homies there to cipher , “shock out”, and smoke weed.  No bottle service, no VIP lines, just good music and believe it or not black people, at an underground club.

The music is what made clubs during the Unity Era the most fun.  DJ’s then were not just competing with one another, but also competing with DJ’s in other parts of the country to establish their reputations.  Before it was possible to watch your favorite DJ’s on U-Stream in the club, word of mouth would earn your check, and boost your status.  It wasn’t just UNITY clubs such as Jamaica House, Mental Mondays, Funk Jungle, United Nations, Hollywood Live, and Guadalinda’s would have a rotation of DJ’s that spun an unforgettable mix of Afro-Funk, House, Reggae, Jazz, and Hip-Hop. 

We actually danced, I mean really danced, spinning on our heads and all that shit!!  I know brothers that did time for manslaughter and were really gangbanging that were also respected…dancers, LA is crazy.  The Unity Era.

(photo: egotripland)
Kingston
Kingston 12 was a club started by a brother named Rusty (Irie Nation) from Venice.  He created a destination that was one of the first real Reggae/Dancehall clubs in Los Angeles. The spot it was held in was a small, dim lit, U-shaped club that welcomed a healthy mix of raggamuffins, gangsters, and weed heads.  Rusty himself is an interesting figure… a true Rasta, and a respected street dude from VSC.  Kingston 12 would always have the ill Reggae DJ’s, and “cultural” breezy’s plus you could burn in there so, I always went.  I remember this night because my cousin Bigga B was a contracted promo rep for Laface. He was taking Goodie Mob around in Los Angeles, and was a host/promoter for this event.  I was with Bigga the first time Goodie MOB ever went to Roscoe’s Chicken & Waffles. Imagine a younger, way more hood Cee-lo Green talking about how good the #13 is, that shit was too fucking funny!! They also performed at the Music Machine on Bundy in Santa Monica for an event Bigga did, I cant remember if it was a Unity or not.  Goodie MOB is one of personal favorites. There aren’t any clubs left in Los Angeles that have the vibe of Kingston 12. (*cue Mad Lion - Take It Easy)

(photo: egotripland)

Kingston

Kingston 12 was a club started by a brother named Rusty (Irie Nation) from Venice.  He created a destination that was one of the first real Reggae/Dancehall clubs in Los Angeles. The spot it was held in was a small, dim lit, U-shaped club that welcomed a healthy mix of raggamuffins, gangsters, and weed heads.  Rusty himself is an interesting figure… a true Rasta, and a respected street dude from VSC.  Kingston 12 would always have the ill Reggae DJ’s, and “cultural” breezy’s plus you could burn in there so, I always went.  I remember this night because my cousin Bigga B was a contracted promo rep for Laface. He was taking Goodie Mob around in Los Angeles, and was a host/promoter for this event.  I was with Bigga the first time Goodie MOB ever went to Roscoe’s Chicken & Waffles. Imagine a younger, way more hood Cee-lo Green talking about how good the #13 is, that shit was too fucking funny!! They also performed at the Music Machine on Bundy in Santa Monica for an event Bigga did, I cant remember if it was a Unity or not.  Goodie MOB is one of personal favorites. There aren’t any clubs left in Los Angeles that have the vibe of Kingston 12. (*cue Mad Lion - Take It Easy)

Divine Styler feat The Scheme Team - Word Power was probably the most influential albums of its time.  The group consisted of Cockni O’ Dire, Chameleon, Kalonjee (Charlie B) RIP, and Divine Styler.  Divine is originally from Brooklyn, NY but moved to Los Angeles where he would become the most eclectic and forward thinking member of the Rhyme Syndicate family.   Rhyme Syndicate consisted of Ice T, Afrika Islam, Bronx Style Bob, Donald D, Nefertiti, Everlast, and the brothers DJ Evil E, and DJ Hen G. I know I’m forgetting some people but bare with me, I ain’t google fact checking here, I’m running of memories).  Before The Chronic Era kicked in Los Angeles could have easily become more known for this type of Hip-Hop, much like groups who came later such as The Pharcyde, and Freestyle Fellowship. I remember hearing this song at every underground club back then, at least 3 times a night.

Word Power was released in 1989 and quickly became an underground favorite because of its mix of danceable rhythms and the esoteric/Islamic lyrics of Divine.  The ill thing about Divine wasn’t just the music, he was the first to bring that eclectic, hood vibe to Hip-Hop in Los Angeles.  These brothers would be performing in spray-painted Jumpers, and customized motorcycle jackets, taking acid, and waxing poetic about Islam.  Divine was on some other shit, his second album was called Spiral Walls Conataining Autumns Of Light.  The Scheme Team were all very talented as well, Cockni O’ Dire is an accomplished DJ to this day, Chameleon is an incredible painter and one of the most legendary breakdancers / dancers in the history of Los Angeles.  Kalonjee passed away years ago and is greatly missed, and Divine, I am sure he is somewhere sitting on an incredible collection of thoughts that he is no rush to share with us humans.

This video brings back sooo many memories. here is a bosip moment at the beginning of this clip the first face you see is Mary J. Blige’s husband Kendu…..Divine Styler - “Sayin Nothin”

Yomo & Maulkie released their album “Are You Experienced” in 1991 under Eazy-E’s Ruthless label.  Yomo , i knew since high school, he played basketball at Shoup Park in the valley all the time and we would often build about music, life in general.  Yomo was the more artistic , industry hustla in the group.  I very seldom remember Maulkie being around.  Yomo was also really good friends with Epic ( who produced for BBD, and formed the group Crazytown) and was in a group called Blood Of Abraham with Ben, and Mazik.  I haven’t spoken to Yomo in a long time but at one point, we talked on a regular basis and he was always the connector for a lot of people.  Before I had access to a studio and was just writing raps in my notebook, he would invite to his homies studio in Woodland Hills to record sometimes.

This song was one of my favorites when i first heard this album, and was part of the reason why when I heard Bone Thugs N Harmony’s version , I hated on it.  Looking back you cant deny the melodic genius of the Bone Thugs N Harmony, but this version was killer at the time.  Eazy is the real genius for realizing he could bring this back with Bone.