Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Djinji Brown / Absolution - Part IV

This is the fourth and final installment of a gigantic and great conversation with Djinji. While there is plenty of left over material that may get released down the road, this is where we are gonna wrap it up for now. Thanks for reading, and major thanks again to Djinji for being on board with us. See you all in New York!

-Gordo DCXX

In addition to having been around all of the racial issues that were in the hardcore scene, that we thought weren’t gonna be there in the first place or thought we could ignore, I also saw a lot of my friends just getting heavier and heavier into drugs. A lot of people were doing heroin or doing crack. I didn’t want to be a part of that. I had gotten away from it in the Bronx! So why would I wanna be back around it when I wanted to escape it in the first place? That was just a track of destruction. I didn’t want to end up around that, with people not having jobs and sleeping on couches.

When you break up from your band, it’s like a divorce, and I didn’t want to go through that. You go from being Djinji Absolution, to just being Djinji. That was tough. Now I needed something. So for me, it was like, “Ok, I’m not gonna go to college, but I need to get a skill.” So I went to the recording studio after that, it was Jerry Williams who lead me to that. I went to the Institute of Audio Research. Prior to that I was working at health food stores and thinking I would end up being a bike messenger. That’s what I wanted to do at 17 and 18, because that’s what my friends did. My parents didn’t see that though, they didn’t want me doing that, even though they didn’t tell me what to do. Still, I rode like one, carried a bag like one, got hit by cars like one…I just wasn’t getting paid. But Jerry Williams lead me to becoming an engineer, and that was my safety net. Now I could have a career, and record hip-hop acts, rock acts, jazz acts. Now they needed me, I didn’t need them. That was a sense of empowerment for me, so I wasn’t relying on other people now.

Now I was going to studios and passing out resumes to get an internship. And I got into Green Street Recording Studios in Soho. And now I am in a studio with gold and platinum records on the wall by artists such as Run DMC, Public Enemy, Ice Cube, Chaka Khan…then Eric Sadler of Public Enemy, Pete Rock, Q-Tip, Notorious BIG, Junior Mafia. Man, I don’t care what type of music you listen to…Biggie Smalls! From 1992 to 1994 I lived on Biggie’s block in Brooklyn. In that time, 1992 Brooklyn hip-hop was like 1982 Lower East Side hardcore. What! You could come out of the train and see Biggie Smalls smoking a blunt talking with Nas. I’ve seen it! I had the Junior Mafia in my car, I remember when Lil’ Kim didn’t have fake tits! I recorded her, at least twice or more in February 1995. I remember KRS-One, DJ Premier, Brand Nubian, M.O.P., the Boot Camp Clique, and that was when I worked at DnD studios from ‘97-‘99. I used to watch Big Pun shoot pool, I even recorded him once. He was such a funny dude, just a cool ass dude! It’s just beautiful. It is crazy to me. That didn’t have to happen, and I am very thankful it did. That was just all spirit, for that to have fallen into place and have been in the same room with all those people and learn.

And I knew it was special. I knew it when Pete Rock and CL Smooth created their first album, Mecca and the Soul Brother, I was there as an assistant engineer on 15 out of those 18 songs, and I saw it created. And they had a song on that album about a good friend of theirs they lost, called “They Reminisce Over You” about Trouble T Roy, one of Heavy D’s dancers, who passed away after he fell down some stairs backstage at a concert and that lead to his untimely death. It was just some tragic shit that didn’t have to happen and it fucked everyone’s heads up. So while recording this song, there was Heavy D in the studio, and Charlie Brown from Leaders of the New School, all these heavy weights, because they all knew this album was poppin’ off and it was special. It was probably like when the Bad Brains were recording at 171A…if you knew about it, you knew it was special, like “just be there.” With this, I knew it, and I felt it. I knew where I was at, 1992, that was special. I knew it was the shit.

When I was able to meet and hang out with Harley and John, and meet Dr. Know and Darryl Jennifer, that kinda fulfilled my dreams. I could leave. At the time I couldn’t really see it, but looking back now, yeah, it was time for me and I could leave. Cro-Mags had broken up. Bad Brains weren’t really doing anything at the time. So I needed to go somewhere where there was a community. Now don’t get me wrong, there was obviously still a hardcore community, but my immediate community and direct influences were broken up or in limbo. And then my own band broke up, so I didn’t want to be out there in limbo. I didn’t want to do another band. So I needed to find that sense of community, where things were happening. And I’m very thankful and fortunate for that.

Gavin was the architect in Absolution. Alan and Greg’s contributions can’t be dismissed because they were like the glue and nails that made it all fit. I was just trying to put a nice picture on these buildings. I guess kinda like graf pieces. And I loved all of the songs. Because to me, in those songs, I heard and I hear family making the sounds, people that hung with each other, went through shit with each other, and made music to get down with each other. Because it was family. Gavin, you know, I took him up to the Bronx. I took all my people up to the Bronx, my punks, anyone I could, but with him it was funny…this big blonde haired boy, you know? But I took my blonde girls up there, my asian girlfriends up there. I told you, no black girls were fuckin’ with me and to be quite honest I wasn’t really looking at them in that way either, not at that time. So, I was gonna get my groove on with the girls who didn’t think I was crazy or acting “white.” Those girls up in the Bronx were like, “you are nasty!” They still thought I was cute, they just didn’t understand why I was doing what I was doing. I did a lot of fun things inside and outside of my element.

Those first Absolution shows, I remember the first couple times I had to pace myself, it was tough. But hardcore let me know how strong I really was. I was always teased for being skinny with no muscles, and underweight, having a baby face, and not being a thug. But getting up on stage or on the dance floor, it let me know I was strong and it let me show it. I could get up there and let it all hang out. The energy was crazy, Gavin and I were balls of fire, as were a lot of bands. You couldn’t step on stage if you didn’t have a couple firecrackers in your band. Some of the last shows, with Sergio in the band, were just great. Having him there for a few shows, he was just my brother. With him and Gavin, I felt like it was just two brothers I could just be wild with and wild the fuck out. No disrespect to Alan at all, I mean Alan was great, but with Sergio there was such a long time connection. With Sergio, there were vibes too, so I could really rock out. It was friends, family, community.

Those last three shows were off the fuckin’ hook. The Anthrax, Rock Against Racism, and the Rap Arts Center. That Rap Arts gig, I felt like I was almost there…like, “man, that is how John must feel, that is how HR must feel.” I felt like I was in control of my delivery. My vocals held up, my energy was sustained, I didn’t let the band get away from me. It was like I was really driving the car and hitting all the curves at the perfect time, the car wasn’t driving me. I remember Jerry Williams being there and mixing the show, and he was like a proud father for all of us. And that was the last fucking gig we did. That was the heartbreak I’ve been talking about. I have really blocked that out, I haven’t opened up about that. What happened… I don’t know, it doesn’t matter. But it would be one thing if the band was going downhill and we broke up. But we were getting better. So for it to end there, that was heartbreaking.

But we did leave on a high note I guess. Still, that makes it tougher to leave and harder to remember because of the nostalgia. It’s easy to leave a relationship when things aren’t good with your girl and you aren’t having fun and you aren’t feeling her or vice versa. But who wants to leave on a high note when the sex is still good and you are having a lot of fun? You leave with all these good memories, and only a few bad ones that don’t outweigh the good ones. With Absolution, there aren’t many bad memories at all, and they are so miniscule. So it is tough. And at that last show, we played last. And it was late. A lot of bands played, Nausea and some other punk bands. But people stuck around to see Absolution, they wanted to see us rock, the buzz was out. And man, I don’t even know what to say. That energy was real.

I don’t really walk around with those vibes anymore. I’ve mellowed. So to come back to it, it’s gonna be like going back and doing my warrior dance. An Indian war dance with my brothers. It won’t be a sit-in with me giving flowers to people. I’m 38, so age shouldn’t slow you down, I want to show that. So I will let it all hang out. Hopefully I don’t give myself a goddamn heart attack!

Details for playing New York…Gavin, Sergio, and I want to do it. But it’s not bittersweet that it can’t be at CB’s or Lismar or The Pyramid. Because that was then, and this is now. I’m really dealing with the power of the “is.” The “is” lives in the present. What “is” to be done. And those places aren’t there anymore, those places are “was.” New York, on some real shit, everybody knows it’s not the city it was creatively. It is a shell of a place that reminds us of what it used to be. There isn’t any real shit there, nothing juicy or eye popping or earth shattering coming out of there now. Everybody knows that. Let’s just remember what it was and be happy we even had that influence in the first place. We don’t have to be the culture mongers of the world, it’s not just about New York. So no, I’m not bittersweet. To perform at Churchill’s in Miami, it’s a little club, it’s in the hood, it’s a cliché…you can get your ass robbed they way you used to at CB’s back in the day, not like today. The Lower East Side today is a nice little playground. Those dangers don’t exist there anymore, and those dangers spawned a lot of creativity. But that shit ain’t there anymore. I love New York, but I don’t love what it has become. It was so colorful.

I want to pay homage to the songs we wrote, Gavin wrote. I don’t need to change them. Maybe minus a few syllables, but I don’t need to re-work them. As an MC in a rap context, I’ve been able to say a lot in one line or two lines, that’s the idea, have one line give a plethora of emotions and images. So if I wrote a new song today I might use that approach more, and I didn’t use it in the old songs then. But I wouldn’t change them, they are what they are. And in the Absolution songs, the lyrical delivery is more like an uzi than a revolver. I mean, when I’m spitting, I’m spitting. The delivery is not efficient at all, I was just trying to get it all out. There are a couple spots for me to catch my own breath in the bridges and breaks, but it is fast. So far, I haven’t tried the physical exercise of delivering those songs again.

The physical demands of any musical performance, and especially this type of hardcore performance is no fuckin’ joke. In rap, you can be a skinny rapper from the 90s, and still do it today and be fat and be a multimillionaire, and that’s cool. That’s a sign of success, and it is cool, to be fat. But not in rock music. Mick Jagger and Steven Tyler, countless others, just look at them. There is a physical demand that is just rock music! In this context especially hardcore. You can’t take that shit lightly. You have to sync musicality with physical ability and if you got heart, sincere “emotional content” to quote Bruce Lee. That’s why so many musicians nowadays seem whack. Because they are just doing it, they are just doing shit, not understanding anything under the action. With us, in hardcore and hip-hop, that’s why we felt like we were doing something special, because we were all aiming for the heart. The other ones? Who knows.

1 comment:

apad 2 said...

Surely, the dude is absolutely fair.