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Rammellzee Interview (R.I.P.)

Wednesday, June 30th, 2010

Rammellzee & K-Rob – “Beat Bop

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from Beat Bop 12″ (Tartown, 1983)

For those who have yet to hear, avant rap and graffiti legend Rammellzee passed away on Tuesday. Details still are hazy at best but it appears to be a sad truth. Ramell always maintained that the word was a form of mathematics and there’s no series of equations that could properly do his life justice. I tried at the Village Voice but don’t think I came close to doing him justice. He was a legend in two games and probably the single most unique human I’ve ever been blessed to have an awkward phone conversation with. As such I’m bumping the said conversation below.

To me the most fascinating part of this interview was not the mythological Rammellisms – the tale of crumbling up Basquiat’s lyrics, the live-performance-as-bank-heist theory, the dentistry aspirations – but rather when he began to crack jokes about his wife getting on his case. It was like he briefly became Al Bundy, a victim of domesticity. That’s was what seemed incredible about interacting with Ramm – for someone who was always wearing masks and worshipping mechanics there was also a vast amount of humanity right there on the surface. Or maybe he was just a robot trying his best to seem human. One other funny interaction that didn’t make the final edit but I think was sort of indicative of where Ramm’s head was at: halfway through the conversation he told me he only agreed to do the interview because he thought it was going to be with Nas, the rapper. This is odd because I set it up via email, so the pronunciation similarities should have been overshadowed by the spelling difference. I suspect this was another instance of his deep deadpan humor but I can’t be entirely sure.

Hit the jump to read the Q&A, which first ran here on 4/24/08 and then check the Tumblr where a full scale Rammellzee tribute has been going down. (more…)

The Mello They Call The Ramm-El

Wednesday, June 8th, 2005

Rammelzee & K-Rob – “Beat Bop
from Beat Bop 12″ (Tartown, 1983)
K-Rob & DJ High Priest – “Live
date/source unknown

Rammellzee provided the blueprint for avant garde rap as we know it, but most of his successors (except maybe ultrmagnetic and de la soul) lacked the level of finesse he displayed. The striking thing about this record is not necessarily it’s experimental nature, but that it’s able to rationalize that approach to create a banger by 1983 standards that still holds up today. It’s ten minutes long and it still feels too short. I don’t think I’d be exaggerating to call it one of the most perfect hip hop songs ever crafted.

The originals go for like a thousand dollars because some Basquiat dude did the artwork (and may or may not have been the producer, depending on whether or not you trust Rammell’s word over the word on the label). But as outlandish as that price may seem, I’d say that it pales in comparison to the musical value of the record.

I know this is not a particularly obscure record, but I feel it’s one that everybody should have an opportunity to hear. So before you cynics come at me on the “I think we’ve all heard Beat Bop” tip, I’ve also thrown up a clip of K-Rob freestyling and kicking his opening “it’s pathetic dope addicts like to be abused” verse live. You got that one you cynical haloscan shit heads? I think not.

K-Rob went on to drop a few more solo singles on profile. I thought I had his “I’m A Homeboy” 12″ somewhere but I can’t seem to find it. I remember it being “pretty good”, but really, when you make a debut as strong as “Beat Bop” it’s going to be a hard act to follow.

Ramm did some interesting projects with Death Comet Crew and Slinky Gym School (which you might still be able to grab from this soulstrut thread a less than interesting Bill Laswell collabo under the Gettovettes moniker, plus he continued to do the grafitti thing which eventually evolved into his whole gothic futurism shit. He recently dropped a new album (his debut solo, actually), reuniting with K-Rob for a “Beat Bop pt. 2”

I hope heads like the new look around here. Yes I borrowed shamelessly from the old school source code site. Respect is due to Dusty Kid for scanning all those, whoever runs toledohiphop.org for hosting them, and, of course Phase 2, Buddy Esquire and any of other old school designers for developing such an ill and unique style. That I was able to only poorly emulate despite having technology that they couldn’t have ever imagined on my side.

Also, I made this other blog of mostly found s (either google or real world) images and not hop mp3s. Maybe I’ll add some text at some point too, I don’t know.