Behind The Music: Who Downstairs?

     It was 1992.  My longtime friend, DBX (John Calvert, R.I.P.) had just came home from doing a stint in the pen.  We both started emceeing at the age of 12 years and developed a love over the years for Hip Hop.  When DBX came home, he began telling me his idea for putting together a crew of emcees that would be similar to the Juice Crew (Wu-Tang wasn't out just yet).  His name for this crew - Basement Society.  Along with myself, he named several other emcees and deejays that we had been associated with that he wanted to see in the crew.  I thought this was a good idea because I always wanted to be a part of a crew.  Now, around this time, I was working with two new emcees I had met while DBX was in jail.  The two emcees, who happened to be cousins, were Kee Lo Z  da Cutthroat and N-Tellect da Wyz(wise).  Both of them had unique styles and I thought they would be good additions to this new crew that DBX wanted to start.  I eventually introduced them to DBX, who seemed to get along with Kee Lo.  Upon meeting N-Tellect, DBX started to spit lyrics at him as if he wanted to battle him.  N-Tellect, who was still a teenager at the time, was a little bit intimidated by the veteran emcee, yet, he held his own.  After a few weeks, it all came together.  The four of us became Basement Society, eventhough, it wasn't DBX's exact vision for the crew.  We started a heavy street campaign, going out in the streets and battling any crew we came across.  I realized we had something serious happening when we started a cipher that held people up from going into a party being thrown by the Young Rebels. 

     DJ Suicide, Omaha DJ legend, was our main producer.  Since we had just formed, we were all working with Suicide on solo projects.  The only one of us who hadn't made progress with a solo project was DBX, due to the fact he kept disappearing and them popping up again.  Around the middle of 1992, Suicide partnered up with longtime friend Craig Samuels to head the Hip Hop division of Thumpin Hard Records, an independant label based in Omaha, NE.  The plan was to put together a compilation and release it for retail sale, which would be the first time it would be done by independant Omaha artists.   Around this time, me and N-tellect had developed a working relationship with another Omaha emcee named All Ayz (Antione Douglas, R.I.P.).  We clicked real well because I grew up with Ayz's cousins who were my age, so I was familiar with him.  Eventually, All Ayz became the fifth and final emcee to join Basement Society.  Before we began working on the compilation for Thumpin' Hard, we recorded our first song as a crew.  The song was called "Die Hard" and was recorded in response to an article in an independant music publication about the Midwest Alliance.  The Midwest Alliance was another prominent crew in Omaha, which consisted of the Young Rebels (Rebel Nation), Scribble Crew (graphitti crew founded by Houston Alexander of UFC fame) and the Alliance B-Boy Allstars (breakin' crew also headed by Alexander).  In the article, they positioned themselves as the foundation of Omaha Hip Hop, as if no one else had anything to do with it.  Myself, along with other emcees who remember those days took offense.  We recorded the song on a four track recorder and distributed it through the streets on Maxell cassettes.  It spread like a California wildfire.  The Rebels recorded a response, also spreading it around on cassette.  Unfortunately, I never heard it, only heard about it.  These songs lead to Basement Society and Young Rebel members having confrontations in public places.  After this, we decided we would take it to the next level.  We wrote a more harsh diss song called, "It's Over" and recorded it for the compilation, which was named "Parental Advisory."  This song pretty much shut the battle down.  As far as Parental Advisory, it was a local and regional success, but, there was a lot of mishandling of the profits.  DJ Suicide eventually parted ways with Samuels to start his own company, Crossphade Productions.

      Through 1992 into 1993, Basement Society did plenty of shows.  It was a plus that most of us had previous experience with performing, because we added elements to our performance that other groups didn't have the skill to.  Our live shows turned us into a household name.  According to reports from different show promoters, other groups would argue about who would go before or after us, or if they would go on at all, once they found out Basement Society was apart of the show.  During this time, we also formed Rusty Knuckle Organization (formerly Rusty Knuckle Niggaz), which was a larger Hip Hop click.  I was working with my little cousins group, Lords of Destruction, and they belonged to a click called Fourth World, which was about ten people deep.  With that and all of the other emcees that wanted to be in the Basement, we started the click to keep Basement Society exclusive to the five members we had.  And due to my little cousins group being a bunch of hard-heads, we got into a lot of fights after shows simply because we outshined everybody else.  Not to brag......but, that's just the way it was.  I failed to mention that I had begun learning production under Suicide and my debut as a producer was on "Parental Advisory."  I produced the track for N-tellect's solo called "Im All Dat."  The more I learned, the more beats I would make.  I started making beats for the first Basement songs we recorded and was full time producer for Lords of Destruction.  **(Lords of Destruction consisted of Rampage and Mayhem, today known as Max Supreme and Capital J).**  We started calling ourselves the "24 Hour Lyricists" because we would write lyrics day and night.  On the phone with each other, three way, writin' songs at three in the morning.  It was a good time.

     Although we still operated as solo artists, Basement Society as a collective had become bigger than any one of us.  We built up the momentum, so, it was time to drop a project.  We were just missing one key element......da money!!!  Yeah, we did a lot of shows, but, they were all free shows, no pay!  One night, while working on beats at Suicide's, we got an offer that was hard to refuse.  A certain individual with some stacks offered to give us the cash we needed to press.  N-tellect was there with me and we started looking through the DiscMakers catalogue.  Now, this certain individual was nobody to play with, so, I was looking for the cheapest package.  N-tellect, all hyped up, wanted to get the higher priced shit.  We argued about it, but, I over ruled him in the end.  We got a package of 300 cassettes with black & white covers and 300 black and white glossy posters (remember, it was 1994).  But wait, let's go back to how the project came about.

     After all the hype, we decided that we were going to put together a project.  We didn't know how we were going to get it out, yet, it had to be done.  N-tellect, Kee Lo and myself started looking for studios to record in.  After talking to a friend of mine named Perry Wade (aka PureX), we decided to check out a spot where he recorded.  The studio was in the house of a guy named Clifford Murray, who had a project out with an R&B group.  His studio consisted of a Tascam 8-track recorder, that was synched up to a keyboard, all running into a Tascam mixing board.  We ran our tracks through his system and did some test runs.  The sound was clean.  But, after we left, Suicide, who was with us, talked us into going to Rainbow Recording Studio.  Rainbow is a professional studio that has recorded the likes of John Denver and Boys 2 Men(they recorded their christmas album there).  Once we knew we had the go on Rainbow, the work began.  At this time, me and N-tellect had moved into a new spot with another emcee we were close to, named Kryme.  His mother was renting a house where the upstairs had been turned into a 3 bedroom apartment.  Now, I would go over to Suicide's house and bang out tracks to the different concepts that we were coming up with.  Once we had a collection of tracks, we started writing. 

     Me and N-Tellect would meet with Kee Lo at our apartment, then, we would call All Ayz and put him on intercom.  This is how we wrote most of the songs for the EP.  The first song we wrote was a new "Straight Out Da Basement."  It was tradition to update our theme song every couple of years.  Once we knocked that out, we wrote "Dats Da Biscuit."  I got the title from the Erick Sermon voice sample saying, "Boo-Ya, Dat's My Biscuit."  For those who don't know, "biscuit" was East coast slang termanology for a gun.  This was a straight up battle cut, which was what we did best.  Next, we wrote "Backstage Pass" and "Payin'em", which was a cut about the things you go through when payin dues.  When we wrote "24th Street," the concept was to spit battle lyrics in between talking about the different spots you hit while on the Duece-Fo strip.  Eventhough Suicide co-produced this track, I still could not get the kick on my drum track to sync up correctly.  When you hear it, it sounds like it goes off-beat in certain spots.  Out of all the songs we wrote, the most controversy was around the cut called "Pass Da Bat."  We originally had several guest emcees on this song, since they knew that this project was going to be pressed.  One of them was our other roommate, Kryme, who we lost contact with for a brief period when we moved out.  This happened before we recorded.  The other was Big Nube, and original member of RKO.  His verse did not fit the concept or the track, which was dark and grimy.  We narrowed it down to my cousins group, Lords of Destruction and a lot of cats was mad.  OH WELL!   We finished the last track, which was a Suicide remix of "Dats Da Biscuit" and I banged out an instrumental for our shout out track.  That was it.  We solidified the track listing and then, began practicing the songs.  All Ayz would come home on the weekends and we would practice, minus Kee Lo Z, who was always missing in action.  The next few shows we did, Kee Lo would be nowhere to be found.  It was just me, N-Tellect and Ayz.  I should also mention that DBX was living in East St. Louis (his hometown) when this was happening.

     Our next big show was in October of '92 on the UNL campus.  They were having an event called "Octoberfest" and the show was a contest.  The winner of the contest was to win $100 and an opening spot for the upcoming A Tribe Called Quest concert, who was coming with De La Soul and Souls of Mischief.  We were able to enter because All Ayz was a student there.  Flow EZ, who was a member of Supreme Soloists, another Omaha group, was also in the contest.  But, since his partner went to school in Atlanta, Flow had to enter solo.  Since he was performing to a song that I had produced for his group, we decided to help Flow out with his stage show.  The name of the song was called "What Could Be Betta(Im High)."  I sampled some smooth harmonizing trumpets from off of a Duke Ellington record that Suicide had in his collection, so the song was a get-high-and-mello-out type.  During Flow E-Z's performance, we had four chairs on stage set up as if we were riding in a car, with Flow as the driver, Ayz riding shotgun and me and N-Tellect in the back.  The only other props we had were four Phillie blunt cigars, no weed in them, just the cigars.  We each had one and lit them, puffed on'em and passed'em around to each other.  For some damn reason, people in the crowd thought we were actually smoking weed and ran to the edge of the stage, yellin' out, "Eh man, let me hit that," or "pass that to me, man!"  We performed right through it.  Afterwards, the judges gave their results.  Basement Society was named third place and I forgot who was second.  They had announced Flow E-Z as first place, but, turned around and disqualified him for smoking on stage.  I thought that was bullshit!  So, the first place award was given to this guy named Ray, I forget what he called himself because the dude was whack.  The Black Student Union also thought he was whack, because Linda Morgan, head of the Union, called All Ayz that next week and asked him if Basement Society could open the show.  She also contacted Flow E-Z and offered him a spot too, since he was, originally, the first place winner.  So we both opened. That whole night was off the chain.  During a technical malfunction, Q-Tip of A Tribe Called Quest gave us props and asked the crowd to give it up for us.  N-Tellect and All Ayz got to drink Heinekens with members of Souls of Mischief and we had a discussion about the inner workings of the business with A-Plus of Souls.  A good night indeed!

     Now, it was time to go to the studio.  That morning, only two things were missing......Kee Lo Z and the rest of the money for the session, which N-Tellect was supposed to have.  As for Kee Lo, he was caught up in his back and forth love affair and was not where he was supposed to be when it was time.  As for the money, N-Tellect kept tellin' me a story about where the money was, yet, I found out minutes later that the money is no longer in existence.  Of course, I'm mad as fuck, so , I call Suicide and tell him to cancel the session since we don't have the money.  Suicide tells me to just go anyway and record and we'll worry about the loot later.  We go and snatch up All Ayz and head out to Rainbow.  Once there, Suicide hooks up his board and loads the tracks.  Then, the engineer, J.E., sets up three mics inside of the booth, each running into a seperate track, but all open.  Since it was, and had only been, me, N-Tellect and Ayz, we went into the booth and in 4 1/2 hours, the ep was completely recorded and mixed down.  J.E. was cool and knocked an hour off of the time.  How was it paid for?  We have DJ Suicide to thank for that.  Once we got the dat tape, the next move was to see how we would press it.  Now, we go back to earlier in the story, when me and N-Tellect were at Suicides house debating over which package we were going to get after being offered the money by some one you don't play with.  Again, we got 300 cassettes and 300 glossy posters plus all the other shit that came with it for around $1100.  When I gave our financial backer this total, he looked at me like I was crazy and said "is that all?"  Then, he joked that he spends that in one trip to the mall.  Anyway, he cut me the check and the next stage of the work began.  We got with Flow EZ from Supreme Soloists, who was also a photographer, to shoot the cover shot and a shot for the poster.  The picture for the poster was taken on my mother's front porch, while the pic for the cover was taken while we stood on the next door neighbors roof (that house is no longer there).  With Suicide's help, we gathered up the rest of the material and data needed and shipped it off the DiscMakers.  Within seven days, they sent back a test copy of the tape and proofs of the cover and poster.  Once we hit'em with the phone call to let'em know we liked everything, production went into effect.  About two weeks later, the Fed Ex truck backs into my driveway and drops off a large and a small, slim, yet, heavy box.  It was the completely packaged cassettes with extra j-cards and the posters.  

Next, I sat at home and made some cassette singles to help promote the upcoming release.  The lead single was "Dats Da Biscuit" b/w "Pass Da Bat".  I did all the packaging and labeling by hand, then, made flyers to promte with the singles.  We moved'em in the O, but, All Ayz pumped plenty more out of his dorm room on UNL Campus.  I also supplied him with posters so everytime someone came to his dorm room to buy a single, they'd get a free poster. BOOM!  It worked like a charm, because it got us even more shows in Lincoln, including our next big show, which was opening up for Da Boss and Onyx.  That took place in February of '94, on UNL's campus.......TO BE CONTINUED!!!!