West Coast freestyler channels spirit of hiphop
SPONTANEOUS, performing as part of the Goodvibe Summer Tour with BAHAMADIA, SLUM VILLAGE and the CALI AGENTS, at the Opera House (735 Queen East), Thursday (June 29), 9 pm. All ages, with licensed area. $25. 870-8000. Rating: NNNNN
While white-trash hick-hoppers battle karaoke-rapping thugs for suburban supremacy, the hiphop underground has slowly begun to surface. It’s happening right now.
Even though there aren’t any stretch limousines or hefty bodyguards hired for the Goodvibe Summer Tour, the refreshingly floss-free real rap road show — bringing together Philadelphia’s Bahamadia, Detroit’s Slum Village, Los Angeles’ Rasco and Planet Asia, aka the Cali Agents, and new threat Spontaneous — is nevertheless an important statement that hiphop’s conscious alternative has arrived.
This ain’t about the booty or the Benjamins. It’s about thoughtful rhymes expressed with house-rocking finesse, and nothing less should be expected when the always amped Spontaneous gets in the mix.
The motor-mouthed 25-year-old upstart has quickly developed a rep for blowing up spots on the West Coast with his fluid freestyle skills. True to his handle, Spontaneous has a knack for creating in the moment, an increasingly rare ability that separates genuine hiphop artists from mere rappers.
“Freestylin’ is the true spirit of hiphop,” states Spontaneous emphatically from a stop in Portland, Oregon. “The whole reason I do this is for the feeling I get when I’m onstage and the entire crowd is wildin’ out.
“I don’t think those cats who are all about making money understand the spirit you tap into when you freestyle. I get stuck for rhymes onstage all the time, and people sense that like, ‘Ahh, he’s fuckin’ up!’ But then you bounce right back and everyone’s with you again. That’s what makes it dope.”
Granted, Spontaneous doesn’t possess the electrifying facility of Supernatural, yet he can wreak havoc with the attack of a street-corner-battle MC and the deeply rhythmic flow of an old-school veteran. It’s fitting, then, that rap pioneer Kurtis Blow appears on Spontaneous’s impressively diverse debut, Spur Of The Moment Musik (Goodvibe), reprising the Krush Groove theme.
“It was back in 85, when the whole breakdancing thing was happening, that I first saw that Krush Groove movie. It instilled the whole hiphop vibe in me. Every Saturday morning I’d pull out my piece of cardboard and do backspins and stuff all day long with my friends. Pretty soon I was imitating rappers like Biz Markie and Kurtis Blow in the mirror, and that led to writing my own rhymes.
“When I met Kurtis Blow on tour in Germany, I told him about my idea about Krush Groove and he said, ‘Yeah, let’s do it.’ So we just knocked it out raw, y’know, old-school style.”
Besides the mighty Blow, Spontaneous also collaborates with Xzibit, Tash (from Tha Alkoholiks), Bahamadia, Rock (of Heltah Skeltah), DJ Revolution and Toronto’s own Saukrates who helped turn Reprezen’n into the hottest joint on the album. Spontaneous clearly has much respect for the T-dot top gun.
“We rocked a couple of shows together in Cali, and he was really down to earth. His tone and his wordplay are dope. He’s definitely got a unique way of spittin’ his rhymes that’s consistent, and he doesn’t use any unnecessary words.
“The track we worked on came together so quick, he didn’t even realize it was done. I know a lot of people are feelin’ Re-prezen’n right now — it’s definitely hot.
“Everyone who appears on my record I’ve wanted to work with for a while. For me, it’s about complementing each other’s styles. I’m just glad the Goodvibe label could make it happen.”
If only Goodvibe were as sharp at marketing Spontaneous, people might actually get to hear his recordings. Unfortunately, the strategy of releasing four singles from the debut album of a relatively unknown artist appears to be fatally flawed.
Since the Spontaneous 12-inch single tracks Next School MC’s, Reprezen’n, SRV1 and Transmit also appear on the album, which is roughly half the cost of buying all four singles, most people will just wait for the full-length.
However, the stores that rack the singles are understandably reluctant to carry the Spontaneous album until the singles have sold. And even if the singles move, the fact that the 22-track album has been pressed as a triple vinyl set makes it cost-prohibitive for retailers to stock. Consequently, Spontaneous probably isn’t selling as many records as he should.
“I’m going through major bullshit. I’ve just gotta be patient and try to handle everything that’s coming my way. It’s hard. I need more promotion — more flyers, more stickers, more posters, more… stuff. Have you got $5,000 I could borrow?”
On the upside, Goodvibe recently cut a distribution deal with innovative online music portal Atomic Pop (www.AtomicPop.com), run by record industry kingpin Al Teller, whose label roster includes Public Enemy and Ice-T. That might not solve the Spontaneous street hassle, but Atomic Pop’s cyber savvy should raise his online profile significantly.
“Atomic Pop is one of the top music sources on the Internet, so I think Goodvibe connecting with them will be a really good thing for me. The stuff that’s gonna happen in the coming year will be incredible.
“I just got my computer in January, so I’m just beginning to see the capabilities of the Internet. But I can say without hesitation that if you’re an artist you need to get connected. The Internet is a weapon available for you to use. There’s a war going on out there, and if everyone else has a bazooka, you better have one, too. It’s a requirement.
“Everyone I talk to now asks, ‘You got a Web site?’ I mean, fuck phone numbers. I’ll go to the mall and ask girls if they got an e-mail address, like, ‘Yo, let me e-mail you some naked pictures of myself.'”
At the moment, Spontaneous sounds too excited about the Goodvibe tour and the possibilities the Atomic Pop link-up holds to worry about the lack of attention his album is receiving.
“I had no doubt that people would sleep on my first record,” he sighs. “It’s just not being pushed like records by Puffy and Jay-Z. But when my second album drops, people who do some research will discover that my first album has all these interesting original rhythms and chants they’ll want to reuse — that’s my pension plan.”