On 11/11/2016 I released an album titled Building Bridges under my imprint Bucktown USA with the help of my partner Cynical Smith and Vermont native Robert Ronci aka Es-K, which is short for Essential Knowledge. I also implored the creative assistance of newcomer VVS Verbal, who is a veteran in his own right.
After tireless persistence and dedication Es-K made the connection. He would send beat after beat and I would load them into my macbook where myself and many times Verbal would get to vibe with the tracks. Verbal took a liking to the tracks and even recorded to a few them. I personally never got a chance to record to anything.
One day, Es-K reached out to me and said he was working on a project called Serenity and asked if I would do the title song with AG of D.I.T.C. He said we were two of his favorite artist not to mention I happen to be cool with AG. What appealed to me more was the concept of the song. This was a dedication to a good friend Es-K had loss. This coupled with his honesty and persistence is what led me to make my final decision to do the song. The beat was smooth so it accommodated the concept perfect. A very heartfelt and intimate track that allowed the story teller to be clear and comprehensive. I enjoyed making this song as it was a very dear topic to me as well. It reminds me of the people close to me whom I had loss and miss so dearly.
This was to be Es-k’s first album with vocals on every song, prior to this, it was primarily instrumental projects. He went on to release cds, vinyl and cassette tapes with Cold Busted Records.. I thought this was special because not many people go through the expense of creating vinyl let alone cassette tapes which are believed to be obsolete.
Es-K sold every piece of vinyl each cd and every cassette, save the promo pieces. I was proud of him and inspired by his genuine excitement and work ethic. This began our conversation about doing more work together.
Es-K emailed me several beats to listen to. They were all interesting compositions, similar to the Serenity song and other stuff he did on thatproject. I had never did a full project over this jazzy style of production and I thought it would be cool to give it a try.
I figured this would be a good time to test VVS Verbal’s creative skills. I honestly didn’t want to sit there and listen all of them beats alone, besides I have a different way I like to vibe to music. I don’t really like the conventional method of playing beats in the studio, it can become tiring and misleading. Some artist like to do it that way, whereas I like to listen to music while I am doing regular day to day chores and running around.
I emailed all the beats to Verbal to listen to on his own time. We pretty much were on the same page because he picked most of the beats I was gravitating to as well. Our chemistry was perfectly in sync. Once we had selected the tracks we were gonna use, we begin to vibe to it as if it were a finished project. We discussed who we would like to go on which beat and things of that nature, so we already had an idea of who would sound good on what track. Some were more obvious than others so it all fell into place.
Verbal kicked it off. I was in one room doing interviews while he was in the other vibing and writing to the tracks. By the time I was done, he had already written a verse to at least one of the beats and I was like’ “ahhh sh*t, thats what Im talking about, getting right to the work”. All I had to do was follow the tone of the song which Verbal had set.
As I was writing my verse to the first track, Verbal had already moved on to the next track. Once again setting the pace and tone of the song. Verbal is an extremely talented writer with an impeccable work ethic and he’s familiar with this style of beats so I had no problem following his lead.
When we awoke the following day, we decided to dedicate that entire day to writing to all the beats we had selected, sort of like a marathon. We weren’t trying to force it but I was curiousto see how far we could push it.
I was impressed at how fast we were writing. Normally it’s difficult to write back to back without sounding monotonous or just plain boring. The melodious tracks were a change of pace, refreshing and interesting, they almost told a story before having vocals on them.
We chose 14 beats in total and breezed through the writing process like olympic swimmers going for the gold. We completed the entire process in less than 48 hours and were thoroughly satisfied. The following day we started the recording process in The Trenches. The first day we recorded 6 songs and the rest where completed within the week.
I wanted Es-K to digest the music slowly so I emailed only a few songs at a time. He was excited with the first batch because he didn’t think we were going to record to anything that fast and we also had chose one of his favorite beats. Little did he know we pretty much had the outline of the entire project done.
I then begin to send the other songs and told Es-K who we were considering for features. Of course my BootCamp Clik was on top of the list. I got my blood cousins Supreme The Eloheem and (Young) Coke on a song together. I also reached out to Smoothe The Hustler thinking he was perfect for the Empire State track. Rockness was a little tough because he mostly rhymes to Monsta beats and these were clearly of a different, more laid back design. I was happy we were able to find the perfect track for him in the last batch Es-K sent. That track was selected by Verbal, also featured Ruste Juxx and was produced by Central Parks.
We got features from Shabaam Sahdeeq, Napolean Da Legend and Shadow The Great of Loaf Muzik. Soulful singers, Stage One and Mar’rz Atomz make appearances but my personal favorites are “Just Live” featuring Buckshot and “Unforgettable” featuring Sean Price.
I always try to get Bootcamp members on any project I am working on. Sean was special because we recorded this song only a few weeks before he passed. Of course is was a striking blow to us all. I’m honored to have recorded this song with Sean for various reasons but most of all it speaks as a testament to our friendship, the contributions he made to Hip Hop as well as all the people he touched. Sean Price is truly Unforgettable.
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Unforgettable - General Steele, VVS Verbal, Sean Price
Once all the songs were recorded, we came up with a list of titles and settled on one, BUILDING BRIDGES. We all eventually agreed this was a perfect fit and it began to grow on each of us the more we listened to the songs. Each song was crafted to perfection as all the pieces began to fall in place. We were all excited but Es-K even more so as he was impressed at how fast we were able to pull this off. He was surprised at the features and he is responsible for Shadow The Greats guest appearance.
I checked out some of Shadow’s work with his crew Loaf Muzik on Youtube and they were pretty dope. I also had the pleasure of catching them perform live, twice and was thoroughly impressed. Shadow was a great fit because he represents the passing of the torch from generation to generation to expand the life of the culture. This is why we build bridges to form a union between two bodies of land to grow and expand.
Es-K got DMC Champion DJ Grazzhoppa to do scratches on a track, as well as cuts by DJ Hashfinger and DJ Hellfire. He also arranged production by Hellfire and Central Parks to help make the album complete. We immediately began the mixing and mastering process. Initially we planned to go the same distribution route Es-K went on his last release but eventually decided on releasing it ourselves under the Bucktown USA imprint.
Cynical, Es-K and myself began to discuss all the possibilities. We went to work on creating the best scenario to make this project work. Es-K had quite a few really good contacts so we opted to combine our resources which proved to be favorable.
We released Building Bridges on 11/11/16, Veterans Day which is the same day ATCQ released their album, after 18 years, not to mention the passing of group member Phife Dawg. It is also the birthdate of my firstborn son, Genesis.
Building Bridges was fun to create for me because I didn’t have any restrictions nor were there any expectations to match or better any previous works, mine or otherwise. I was just able to create freely and follow the direction of the symphonic notes composed by the conductor. It was a breathe of fresh air for me. I have been planning my retirement for sometime now, contemplating what would be my next undertakings, I still have a few things I would like to accomplish before I move on from rapping. That is for another time.
As for now the theme is Building Bridges. What does Building Bridges mean to me? Its the start of new beginnings, its about moving on thru life, reaching for and getting to the other side, the continuation, making the connection, bridging the gap, building new relationships and mending others, it is the basic work of all of us as a community and as a people. We live everyday to find a way to make tomorrow better if not for ourselves for those whom we love.
Some may not get to see that bridge completed but their name will be honored and adored for lifetimes to come and hopefully this project will inspire you see the potential within yourself and others to create something great.
Do Remember, Just Live because the Saga Continues Err’Day in the Empire State so move with Persistence for whats Essential, No Turning Back when you at that Redlight, Kill Everything, Good Music is Unforgettable.
BUILDING BRIDGES 11/11