Thursday, May 16, 2013

Acid Reign: Two decades of influence

By Peyton S Owen

Courtesy - Acid Reign
For music, 1993 is remembered as a time when Nirvana and Alice in Chains were international grunge stars, creating a genre of their own. It’s also around the time of the East Coast crews vs. West Coast crews deadly rap war, most notably Tupac and Notorious B.I.G. However, hip-hop was emerging as an underground favorite in L.A., with Project Blowed making a name name for itself with two 13-year-old kids, Gajah and BeOND, making their mark and becoming a part of this close knit group of MC’s. They were starting to define their existence as Acid Reign in the growing Los Angeles underground hip-hop scene.

“Back in the early 90’s when we were young and starting out, the underground scene was very clickish, and all about your own crew. Everyone had their own crew.” Gajah explained. “Project Blowed was a huge circle of many different, competitive MC’s, but everyone was still very close, so when outsiders came in you had to test them.” 

Project Blowed was an event at which those tying to become part of it, or are already part of the inner circle, would test their skills of clever lyricism and creativity through rap battles. It was also a place that many went to see what skills some of the aspiring hip-hop artists really had. As young as Acid Reign was at the time they paid their dues to bring notice to their born talent and whole hearted love for music. They were earning the respect of their mentors and influences.

BeOND explained, “Me and Gajah started a group together in ’93, we were just 13 year’s old. We were young and hungry and looked up to artists like Ab Rude [Abstract Rude] & Freestyle Fellowship.” He continued without taking a breath, “So being able to actually be there and be accepted as part of the movement was inspiring.”

Courtesy - Acid Reign
Gajah then stated, As we got older we realized that everything we did back then stood positive. It was a great way to start because it allowed us to rap with more substance , and deepen our conscious beliefs.”

Paying dues and becoming acknowledged by people who had been already been rapping for decades, was a massive feat of determination and hard work from Acid Reign. They were so young, but had the right enthusiasm and talent to be taken seriously. Instead of giving up they kept trying to learn as much as they could from those who were older than. The observations and ears put them in the position to experiment with what worked for them until a process was discovered, which worked for Acid Reign.

“We definitely put ourselves in the right place to see the underground grow and be a part of that change.” Said BeOND. “Because there weren’t many Hispanic rappers around, seeing us on stage was influential and motivational to many aspiring artist’s of all races.. We opened the door and gave people confidence to go do you and we showed people that through hard work it doesn’t matter if you’re black, white, Hispanic, Asian or whatever , if you got skills and heart, you will be recognized.”

As Acid Reign progressed as writers, finding their styles and observing other artists to figure out what works and what doesn’t in all aspects of the music industry, there was little attention paid to the ridiculous antics going on with the West Coast vs. East Coast battle. These guys had other things on their mind; making music and growing as a group. There was a separation of crews that wouldn’t collaborate with each other, because that’s what they were taught. It wasn’t anywhere near as extreme and hateful, but there was a mentality that was hard to get over and cost Acid Reign some major exposure.

“We were invited to many sessions, but because of that whole mentality that you’re not part of my crew so you’re not as dope, we closed the door on some people.” BeOND continued, “Nowadays if we’re asked to be on a track or album by any respective artist or crew, we will gladly do it. It’s all about the power of networking with people, and making moves, something we didn’t realize back then.”

“We were young so we followed the example and learned from the older cats. It was hard and there was some doubt and slander going on, but over time we proved ourselves.” Gajah added.

A few years went by and MC, Olmeca became a member of the Acid Reign in ‘98. Olmeca, Gajah, and BeOND put out their first professionally pressed album with all three members called Ready Yet?. Meanwhile, each MC put out various solo albums and EP’s, albums with just BeOND and Gajah, etc. But Acid Reign had never ‘broken up.’

Courtesy - Acid Reign
Ready Yet?, released in 2003 was what to some, put Acid Reign on the hip-hop map. This album showed each of their skills and dedication to music. They came together like fire and smoke ready to light up and crew’s ass. Ready Yet? also helped them to continue paving their road to success as independent hip-hop pioneers and members of the Project Blowed/West Coast’s top players in the underground hip-hop world. It wasn’t something that fell into their lap, but straight hard work, integrity, and determination unlocked many doors for the L.A. natives.

Gajah’s quick and smooth flow is perfectly combined with his metaphorical and witty lyricism making his rhymes define his style. He makes sure you hear every word pouring out of his mind like it’s high tide. This intertwines with BeOND’s captivating tone and what could be considered ‘to-the-point’ rhymes. His use of words gives you the impression that his hand is a pen and his palm is a piece of paper always with him. They’re writers whose goal is to keep laying out lyrics, much of which if not all of it, is poetry. With practice they had refined their talents and become better writers, falling into their own.

The two came together creating their unique style, lyrics you want to laugh with, consciousness behind the music, which has made them some of L.A.’s most influential underground hip-hop artists. However, each record they decide to put out is a departure and attached to the process of moving forward with their music. They still stay true to their style with no regrets. This can be heard on their latest EP, Synergy.

Synergy is unlike any of Acid Reign’s previous album since they constantly experiment with their sound. For this EP they teamed up with French electronic DJ’s/Producers, Chrono Triggers, to make the beats and help produce Acid Reign’s project Synergy.

Chrono Triggers’ influence on Synergy is most prevalent on the track “International” where you hear rhymes in French, Spanish, Japanese and English in the form “gymnastic linguistics.” The beat for this track also has a dance hall vibe to it, but not to the point where it’s overbearing and taking over Acid Reign’s sound.

“The album was produced by Chrono Triggers from Paris, France…we decided it would be a good idea to break out and do something different” said BeOND, “And that’s what this album is,  a departure from anything we’ve done in the past. That’s what we like to do, throw 180’s and keep the music progressive.”

Courtesy - Acid Reign
Since the creation of Acid Lab Records and studio, Acid Reign has had more freedom to explore who they are as individual musicians. According to both BeOND and Gajah it was a refreshing move on their part because they now have the ability to experiment, get weird, and creative with their music at will. Synergy is a prime example of this and just how dynamic this group really is.

On Synergy, Acid Reign’s flow is still poetic and engaging, but the beats and samples used are a sign of how their music can change at any moment. Chrono Triggers use their electronic background as a piece of the Synergy puzzle where Gaja and BeOND then use their smooth, conscious rhymes to make this unique record stand alone.

Synergy is also completely outside the generic hip-hop box, yet takes a shit on many of those trying to escape hip-hop standards. It may not appeal to fans who just like one album and can’t open their mind to their favorite band taking a risk. However, if you can’t embrace originality music stays monotonous. We all pitty you…

The track off Acid Reign’s 2006 release, Time and Change called “You and Me” says it perfectly, “…We’re not like you…we’re not like you…”

Acid Reign may have started yet another revolution in music with Synergy. They stay true to their hip-hop upbringing, but twist it into a genre of its own. It’s along the lines of underground “static hip-hop” or “synergetic hip-hop.” Listen to the album and decide for yourself, but seeing this incredible dynamic and bond that makes Acid Reign’s music so amazing, can only be seen and truly felt by going to one of their live shows.

Project Blowed is still alive and going, with some of the older guys like Aceyalone, coming together every so often to create a compilation album on Project Blowed Recordings or just get together with different artists to lay down a track. Their experiences throughout their career have given Gajah, BeOND, and Olmeca the tools to inspire others and keep pushing their music along.

Courtesy - Acid Reign