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A Peak Inside an Emcee’s Notebook

Greetings, Lime Nation!
A Peak inside an emcee's notebookWe’ve gotten many questions recently as to when new music will be forthcoming from the JP Lime camp and I’m glad to finally be able to answer thusly: soon.  We are currently in the pre-production period, a part of our process alive with possibility, exciting in its potential.  Each of the three emcees that make up the JPL trio works slightly differently in their writing process so over the coming weeks we’ll each bring pieces to the table – an idea to a particular type of beat, hooks and verses without attached music, concepts, thoughts, and themes for where our new material should go.  As we engage in this collective process, here at #JPLMagazine we’ll be offering an inside look at how we create and collaborate to bring you the Lime-flavored brand of Hip Hop you’ve grown to love.

Today we’ll be taking a look inside my notebook, browsing a few of the verses I’ve been working on and maybe providing some level of insight into my artistic process.  I am a writer through and through and I frequently face the struggle of continuing to move forward in the moment of lyrical inspiration versus reworking and editing.  Often I am struck by verbal rhythms ahead of the words themselves so throughout my writing are blanks and placeholders, signified by [square brackets], spots to either fill or rework later based on the rhythm, syllables, and concept.  Allowing my brain the time and space to find the perfect word or phrase yields far better results for me than forcing a choice to complete the line.  These spaces can be anywhere from a syllable or two, to half or a full line, even to a couple bars if I know that something I’ve already written fits best at a certain place in the meter (as the beginning versus end of a four-bar measure, for instance).

Perhaps none of what I present below will find its way into our final product but that causes me no trepidation.  It is fertile soil on which we now tread, something awesome is about to grow no matter what.

Most often I write having heard the beat first, drawing direct inspiration from its character and nuances.  But this is not always the case and sometimes I’ll just begin a piece and attach notes on its tempo, such as the nearly complete verse below:

<somewhere around 90 bpm, can get up to 95>

Dependent on a wind blowing westward today
The whims of my sin
And my whiskey intake
My urge and desire for another mind state
I am burning the tires and fleeing today
Onto a tomorrow that’s tipping my way
All I hear is tick tock in my everyday
But the tip of the iceberg is what you see and say
There’s always another fate
Awaiting in the wings
And everything ends where another thing begins
So pick a place to be
Or make a sudden change
No sense in sitting, waiting
In the sunshine or rain
Whether under [the weather]/[achieving]
Or over [disdained]
I am subject to the will of my bionic brain
Got the verbal skills to bend
But unwilling to break
And I will not descend until I’ve made my stake

As we approach this next phase of the Lime I am eager to push our music in new directions, finding ways of expressing my own fascination with the strange, the offbeat, the alternative.  The following 8 bars have no hook or other defined concept attached to them but I know how the track is supposed to feel.

Not but/Only philosophers and apothecaries have need to here apply
We’re peeling back your epidermis to see just what’s inside
What you’re made of, if you will
What Truth you might provide
What vile proof is in your root
And what you can’t abide
Not sounding like your cup of tea?
Then be pleased to see the door
Be sure to tip the barmaid
And the man who keeps the score
From the basement to the penthouse
And on every single floor
We play “Hotel California”
So don’t dare ask for more

Once we have the JPL diamond mine moving at full force, I have two Prof pet projects that I’d like to finally get laid down in 2016.  The first involves my fascination with the circus, its quirky, freaky, slightly dark tone of entertainment and its link to a bygone era.  I won’t go into too much detail here but ‘The Show’ will be an electric soundscape of a Hip Hop Circus filled with color and action, intrigue, perhaps even a hint of death.  One of the later acts is a gladiator-style match pitting man and beast against the warrior known as Axillus.

Ladies and gentlemen, hide your children.  For our final act tonight, a beast not of this earth, known only as Axillus.  Lower the lights! Ready the fighters! Drummers take your places please.  Best of luck to those of you in our Spatter Section and for those of you with a weak stomach or a sensitive disposition, viewer discretion is advised.

{at :34}

It’s the rumble of thunder
Coming from up and up under
Waking the dead from their slumber
Putting the crowd on their feet
It’s the sound of his feet
Forming that ominous beat
Leaving [just ash] in his wrath
A path full of caps
And a crack crack crack in the concrete
With a backpack packed full of cutlery
With a mac and an axe and spiked-up bat
And a double-headed dog on a long leash
So call with me, yes call on he
The demon of ring and arena
Leaving every evening
With the souls of the weak and non-believers
We want Axillus!
The people shout for Axillus!
So bring us Axillus!
[The People’s Champ/Monster], Axillus!
So it’s on, Children of the Corn
Hear the screams and it won’t be long
Til he descends on the scene like a bomb
So hear that chant, just chant along

(hook – a large crowd chants)

We want Axillus!

Bring us Axillus!

We want Axillus!

Bring us Axillus!

Like Genghis Khan with a soul of stone
With a cross-bone coat and a skull cap on
A tattooed map of his plan of attack
It reads, “Kill them All before the end of the song”
Fresh from a farm in the Northern Zone
Here to fight for you in our Hippodrome
Hide your kids but you won’t want to miss this
Savage misfit, mass sadistic
Don’t don’t end up on his hitlist
Don’t don’t look him in the face, miss
Known to swing for tracheas
Turn bone to dust the way he cuts
Blowtorch and a dutch
He’s cold to the touch
But breathing flames [we all are fucked]
I think I hear him coming now
I smell the town, yeah, burning down
Ready the fighters bring them out
May I announce the arrival of…
Axill-

Here the Ringmaster gets savagely and brutally murdered. Immediately before, upon Axillus’ entrance one would have to figure, screams begin with a note of confusion.   We hear him die painfully as the screams and chaos rise.  After 10 seconds or so of mayhem, the hook chant comes back which then turns to cheers as Axillus begins rapping.

Dr Strange and an emcee's notebookRappers have long had a fascination with comic book superheroes.  A few have used specific ones as creative inspiration for on-record personas such as Ghostface Killah and Ironman, Method Man and Ghost Rider (aka Johnny Blaze), MF Doom and Doctor Doom, while others have simply taken names from them like Jean Grae, David Banner, and DJ Green Lantern.  I’ve been constructing my own rap comic persona of Professa Strange, which I hope to now hurry along in light of November’s cinematic release (which looks pretty awesome, by the way). In this hero’s tale, after a mission to Emcee Supreme to regain inspiration, the Professor unleashes his newly found power on us the listener in a track called “Open Your Mind”.

 It’s ok, my name is Professa.  And the inner workings of the mind are my specialty.

So lay back
Place that seat back in recline
Focus only on my voice
Open your mind
To a [subdermal/whole new] level that you knew but could not find
Searching for you while you colored in the lines
And while you ponder your purpose
And contemplate your kind
Unpack your preconceptions
And Open your mind
To the Truth of the Universe
The Magic and the Time
Three points [of importance]
On the plane that I’ve defined
Is it Evolution, or some Grand Design?
The synergy, the syzygy, the syncopated rhyme
Like a whisper on a wind let it creep up your Spine
Let it seep, let it breath, let it open your, open your mind…

[:43] Hook 1
In these your early days

Your mind is a maze
That you’re wondering through like a fine linen haze
Like a wine let it age
Open to the [sublime]
Let it breath in the Truth
Yes, Open your, Open your Mind

For today’s final piece, I submit a verse whose possible larger context came to me this week.  I won’t get into that just yet as it could still change and that potential is so attractive to me at this stage.  The first few phrases I wrote were the “Now I’m out of time, out of touch…” ones so that may give some sense of the non-linear way I sometimes construct a verse.

I really thought I had it once
And maybe I almost did
But that doesn’t seem to matter much
As I was a foolish kid
And now I’m out of time
Out of touch
And out of place
Yeah, Staring out of windows
Just trying to show my face
See the grays in my reflection
The chances that I’ve missed
Potential pathways and inaction
Where my passion pit exists
Revisit my past actions through the lens of What It Is
The whole world is a distraction from the Truth we knew as kids
There is nothing but our Passion
But it clashes with the id
The laws of gravitation
And this earthly life we live
Living just to work, working [’til we kick]
Attachment to the dollar and the prison that it is
I’m halfway ‘tween a scholar and a junkie for a fix
I’m a sucker for inspiration
And a punk without a bib
To catch the useless drivel always slipping from these lips
And put it back together like a puzzle made of pips

That’s all for today’s peak inside an emcee’s notebook.  We’ll return soon with another look into the JP Lime music-building process as it progresses.  As always, thank you for your support and interest in what we do and keep your ears open for brand new sounds floating your way in 2016.  When we as fans decide we want more from our Hip Hop, there is incredible potential within our beloved art-form to rise up and deliver.  Let’s push it in awesome new directions.

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