[Above: Absolution @ CBGB - Photo by Boiling Point]
This piece picks up where we left off earlier in the week, and is the second chunk of a multi-part conversation between Djinji Brown, Ed McKirdy, and me. Stay tuned for more next week as Djinji gets into the beginnings of Absolution and how they busted it live in NYC.
I left hardcore because it was time to go. I'm a romantic. When my heart is broken, it is time to get the fuck out. I don't want to see the broad who broke my heart for a while. And then sometimes it is time to move onto the next thing. When I set that chapter down in my life, I didn't really open it for a long time. Yet had it not been for that chapter in my life, I would not have been able to get to where I am now. And now I really understand that on a performance level, on a confidence level, on a level of just being able to get on stage and hold the attention of people who are looking to you for something...you might not even know what the fuck you are gonna give them, but you do it.
I've been a DJ now for 8 years, after Absolution I got into hip-hop again and started rhyming, rap poetry, and went from performing on the Bowery at CBGB to going down the street to Lafayette, doing the same underground shit. It was about getting on stage with a microphone and lyrics. Being around Jerry Williams, he inspired me to professionally take the route of audio engineering, and it was because of his influence that I went and got enrolled in the Institute of Audio Research, and then in 1991 I got an internship at Greet Street Recording Studios. Once again, God put me in an incredible place at an incredible time.
The 80s were over. I didn't consciously know it, but I was the dude that didn't want to be in the past. I wanted to be the dude that was in the shit that was pumping off now. Even when I was in the hardcore scene in the mid to late 80s, Harley, John, my man Mike, Jerry, everyone talked about '81-'83 really being the shit. When it was just, "Oh My God." So I felt like I had missed the boat to be honest with you. I didn't feel like I was in the middle of something. I was trying to catch up. In my mind, it was already laid down. Fuck it, HR and John already did it, you know? Who else could do it? So I was lucky just to catch the tail end of the '80s. I was like the grafitti crew who caught the last subway train. Like the AOK crew and them cats, Reas, All Out Kings, I knew them cats. But it is such a story that I did get to be there. I'm happy that I had it, though. I'm glad I got to take that blind leap. It made me who I am am at 38. Going into squats, hanging with Gavin...Shit I haven't even gotten into talking about him! But we'll come back to that. I got into some shit, you know?
That makes me think of a funny story about Sergio and me, early on like we were talking about earlier, about how this shit was crazy. We were going to see my Dad who lived up in New Jack City, you know, Crackville, just nuts. We took the #6 bus from the South Bronx across 161st street by Yankee Stadium, into the Polo Grounds over to Sugar Hill and Washington Heights. So we are on the #6 bus. Sergio has a mohawk and I have a leather jacket with studs, freshly painted "Bad Brains," "GBH," "Cro Mags," skulls and cross bones and shit. Sergio always had a cool grimey punk look. Me, I was still trying to style you know? You might call me a poser, but my shit was trying not to be that grimey. Deep down, nah, I wasn't grimey. It was painted fresh. Like a grafitti jacket but painted fresh and hardcore. I was proud of that shit. Sergio had spikes, but I didn't have spikes.
So we stop, and boom, these sisters get on the bus. And they are looking at us like, "Yo dem niggas is crazy! Ugh, look at them!" I'm like, "Nah, yo shut up bitch! Fuck you! You ugly bitch! Look at your nappy headed ass!" I reverted right back out of the hardcore shit into just junior high shit, going back and forth with them just snapping. My lingo was straight that. I let 'em have it. So whatever, we went back and forth. Bus stops, they get off, whatever. Sergio's like "Damn, dude, cool out." I'm like, "Nah, fuck them bitches!" You know, Sergio was way more laid back.
So anyways, at this point we are in Forest Projects. That is where Fat Joe is from. Do your research on Forest Projects. So this whole crew of brothers gets on the bus. And with them are some five percenters, from the five percent nation, who believe a whole bunch of things, one of which is that we were now devils. And I have all these skulls and bones on my jacket and Sergio has a mohawk. So they get on and are like, "damn yo look at these devil niggas back in the bus! Oh shit!" And then we realize that the girls from earlier must have gotten off and told these dudes. And they were a little younger, so they have a lot to prove. They start moving in on me, saying "Oh you think you a white boy, huh nigga? Devil shit huh?" They started getting loud with Sergio too. We were done. Then out of nowhere, in the back of the crew, some dude is like "Yo Djinji what's up!? It's Jerry dude from junior high! Yo don't fuck with this cat, he's cool, he's just on some different shit." And the crew backed off. Damn.
We got to my Dad's house and I told him about it. It was real 1986 shit. He lets me and Sergio into his crack infested building. And he lays it on us. He told us how you know, we we went into enemy terriorty with our colors on. He broke it down on some gang shit, because he used to be in a gang back in the late '40s in Harlem, up in Sugar Hill. So my Pops was like, "Don't wear crazy on your sleeve, but be as wild as you want." My Dad was a jazz musician, he played with all the avantgarde cats. On a jazz level, he did what hardcore did in our time, just distorting the fuck out of what came before it. But he said, "if you are gonna survive and be a warrior, don't wear your colors. Don't wear crazy on your sleeve. You gotta conceal that." But it was tough being a punk or hardcore kid regardless of your race, it wasn't a part of the culture then. The whole rocker, tattoo, punk thing that is cool now, it wasn't like that. That bravado that is ok now, it wasn't cool then. There wasn't no black girls in my hood trying to give me no pussy at all! What?! I'm just keeping it real.
My Dad supported me though. He was glad we weren't into drugs and all this other shit. My Pops though used to run in the east village in the sixties. So he knew what I was doing and what I was up to. He knew the streets, he knew the Bowery. But my Pops at least, on a musical level, to me he was just like, "man, your shit is crazy. You niggas is just nuts. You don't know shit." But he supported it, came to shows, and he never forced me to be a jazz musician. He recorded with and shook hands with John Coltrane. Coltrane to him was like my HR, on some real shit. I didn't fully embrace jazz music though.
My Mom on the other hand, well my parents seperated but even on welfare my Mom got a degree from Smith College and then her Master's. She was real educated. And my Mom was a hippie in the 60s, with an afro walking barefoot on the subway, people were like "what the fuck are you doing?" She was going to sit ins. My Mom was like the soul sister, younger than my Dad. My Dad was way more serious with jazz, older. She didn't want me growing up listening to this crazy avantgarde jazz music though. She liked my Dad playing it, but she didn't want me listening to it so much. So she would spin The Jackson 5, and shit with a beat. Yeah, shit with a beat! She would say, "you want to listen to rock and roll? Listen to Muddy Waters first." She was very universal, but also very proud of her culture. She wanted me to be a man of color who could operate with all groups of people, who wasn't ashamed of being black, and wasn't just a street hoodlum.
So there was a balance. But with jazz, at times I thought I should play jazz, but I never really wanted to. Now as a DJ I kinda think maybe I should have. But back then, no. To me I though all the jazz musicians kids were nuts. I hate to say that and I don't mean any ill will to those kids who grew up with jazz parents, but they all seemed nuts. For me, I just wanted to play. To be into jazz, you had to be a serious motherfucker. And kids weren't listening to jazz. I wanted to speak to people my age. So instead I did hardcore, hip hop and house music, because I wanted to speak to my generation. By then, black people stopped dancing to jazz and started studying it. I didn't want that. I want to dance to the music. I want to make people dance to the music. I don't want to look at food and study it, I want to eat food.
Still, I remember I took Harley and John one night to see my Dad play with these cats, and we went and checked it out and hung out in the back dressing room, drinking, smokin' hash with the jazz musicians, just chillin'. It was a trip. I was bringing my mentors to meet my Dad.
But still, jazz was such a mental thing, and instead, I just wanted to get out there and just hit it. Go out and get it. Fuck the rest, go get it. That was what hardcore and punk rock did, so did hip hop. Fuck learning it, go out and get it. Do it. So many musicians from that era were self-taught, they just did it, just picked up their instrument, and it turned out incredible. Whether they were playing guitar, making beats, painting trains. They went out and did it, they didn't study it and read books, and all that. And it was colorful. And that was what the hardcore experience was. Think about the colorful people! It was living graffitti, physical grafitti. Shit coming to life. And I had to be a part of that.
When I met Gavin, man, he was a terror. That scene was a safe haven for kids who didn't just go there for fun, but instead because they lost very important things in their lives. Like love. There was a lot of kids who didn't have families, had abusive families, learning disabilities. Some of us made it out, and survived those problems. Some didn't and passed away, and rest in peace to the ones who didn't make it. There was some deep shit. To see John Bloodclot at 45, doing what he is doing, knowing the shit he made it through, that is a testament to the fact that there is a spiritual life out there that anybody can find. And to know what Gavin had been through, you can apply that story to so many other kids in the city and the world.
And to think of it as just a part of humanitarianism, those kids needed a vessel. And that's what I wanted to do, I wanted to be able to touch those kids, to get on stage at CBGB and be part of that vessel and touch people. I could touch them, and they could touch me. I could jump, and they would catch me. And that went for everyone. How fucking incredible is that? That trust... you are so safe that you can jump and people will catch you, they won't let you fall. We didn't have that fear of people not catching you in the hardcore scene, even if nobody else anywhere in your world would catch you. We could close our eyes, and fall blindly, and be caught. How fucking beautiful is that?
You can't even do that shit in hip hop. I'm gonna keep it really real. But in hardcore, you could close your eyes, do a front flip off the fucking stage, and you could get caught. A few kids got hurt, and paralyzed, and fucked up. But most all of us were ok, and we kept doing it. Because we trusted each other. That's something that most people on the outside looking in didn't see. They saw crazy and violence. They didn't see the honor amongst us. They didn't see the battle, and how we didn't let our men get hurt. We all had that shit for each other. I couldn't articulate it then, but I can now. I have an 11 year old daughter, and so much with her as she is growing up makes me think of when I was young. So, it brings it back.
This Absolution thing, it is a family reunion. We are still connected as a family. And with family, there is a lot of pain. And in the New York Hardcore family, there has been a lot of pain over the years. And I haven't been there for 20 of them, you know? Hopefully, if I can go on stage and make some people happy, and maybe heal some of the wounds in the family and the pain, and bring us together again, then let that be the first order of business. From the bottom of my fucking heart. I want to be able to look at Gavin on stage and bug the fuck out. And I gotta heal some of my own wounds. That's the mission with the music.
[TO BE CONTINUED - DJINJI MEETS GAVIN / THE BIRTH OF ABSOLUTION]
Friday, May 9, 2008
Posted by DOUBLE CROSS at 12:03 AM