New Project: I am going to be interviewing 5 different rappers. This week, it's Ordeal.
Burnem: When did you make the decision to start making music, and what drove you to rap in particular?
Ordeal: I got into music very young. luckily i had relatively youthful parents who came up in the 70s so they were there when punk dropped, when hip hop dropped, new wave, etc. Plus they did lots of drugs so all sorts of sounds found their way to my young ears. I remember, distinctly, thumbing thru my dads cd collection when i was like 7 and pulling out Fresh Prince, Richie Valens, Marvin Gaye and the like.
Around the same time, and later in my preteens, my dad and I used to fill out every Columbia House insert we could find with fake names until we were receiving 12-15 cassettes a week, free! Led Zeppelin, REM, Aerosmith, Ice Cube, Ed OG, Ice T, Dr Dre, Public Enemy, Sinead O' Connor, i always had varied taste in music. Then i discovered punk rock and grunge around age 11 and it was pretty much all done.
"I could see the seamless transition from punk to hip hop and the anti authoritarian bastard in me was ready to pounce for sure"
I had begun writing poetry around age 8 and as my love of music developed, rhymes came into the fold. it was the early 90s and i was having a field day fighting racism and the government from my bedroom. My first emcee name was Front Page and the Associated Press. What can I say, I was the only kid in my elementary school watching the news and reading the paper. it also implied that i had a crew, which was an outright lie.
I got heavy into rock orientated music in jr. high and was in a hardcore band called 508 where i spit rhymes, but I could tell my buddies wanted to get their metal on so I bounced and went back to rapping. It was the ease of expression. You need no band to write songs or practice. Being an emcee was instant gratification. Attitude was a draw as well. I could see the seamless transition from punk to hip hop and the anti authoritarian bastard in me was ready to pounce for sure.
Burnem: We were talking earlier about diplomacy, and how important it is, and I know you had some experiences with that from both sides, could you share a few that stand out in your memory?
Ordeal: I learned lot on tour. in 2011 I was lucky enough to be a part of the Never Ending Gun show Tour with Kristoff Krane, Sadistik & Bodi (MC Nobody Cares was on the east coast leg) and it was there I learned a lot about the music community I was fighting to be on the fringes of, and how to exist and thrive within it. Being my first tour, it goes without saying I was a babe in the woods, I noticed that I had a quick tongue and the tendency to vocalize my opinions of people based on their music and how i perceived them from rumor and times I'd caught a fleeting glimpse of artists at gigs.
"...the more I spoke out about people I didnt care for, the more I saw how juvenile it looked and sounded."
Now I was with a group of guys that were part of the community I had been trying to be a part of, and they knew all the people I had a distaste for, but they held all those types of thoughts to themselves and the more I spoke out about people I didnt care for, the more i saw how juvenile it looked and sounded.
One night we were playing in Indiana, and we were loading into the venue and milling around during soundcheck. I went outside to have a cigarette and the kids outside were talking about a certain big time indie artist/ label owner who was well known that I have never been into. I kind of let fly my opinions on his music and other attributes, and not only did it turn these fans off, it caused one of my tour mates to pull me aside and explain to me the importance of diplomacy. It wasnt a hard lesson to learn, I mean in this community we are all only seperated by a few degrees from each other and if you are serious and talented, you will eventually find yourself around the same people you slandered or hated on.
I'm a peaceful, drama free kinda guy and i wouldnt want there to be assumptions made about me for no reason or have cats i dont even know disrespecting me to my fans. I also learned that intelligent artists think alike, and our opinions are usually on the same wavelength, so you dont even have to talk shit or say negative things, the truth will come out in time.
Lastly, I'd like to add that you never know what youll need from who. whether it be a show, a tour, help making a contact or getting beats. It helps to remain civil and honest with most people in society if you want to get somewhere and leave a lasting impression.
Burnem: When you started getting into the underground music community, what were your visions of how it would go down, how were they different from how it actually happened?
Ordeal: It's kind of weird because I was in a band and saw the rock side of scenes, so I kind of knew what to expect. Even though ive been performing for 13 yrs and recording just as long I didnt start rocking shows consistently until 2008. Once I got a computer in 2007 and a myspace account I was off and running.
"...I began throwing shows to avoid the typical shit you have to deal with when rocking big clubs or going thru promoters."
I spent time searching out like minded people and music I dug and just tried to reach out to them. Its different now. everything is done on a computer. you can make plans and deals with ppl in a chat box. Definitely not like it was before the internet. We have it easy now. I was lucky to find people like Eyenine and MC Nobody Cares, cats who were willing to bring me into their scene and put me on shows. Over time I began throwing shows to avoid the typical shit you have to deal with when rocking big clubs or going thru promoters. I hate the idea of pay to play. It ruined the Boston scene, closed clubs and broke up dope groups or caused 'em to move away. I can say I did and do not like the prevalence of that in the scene, and I've never patronized the idea. I do not fault those who do it feeling its their only outlet and way to get on a gig, I would just advise against it. It makes you look like an amateur and makes you seem insignificant to the people putting the shows on before you even spit a bar.
I cant say anything was unexpected about how i envisioned being in a community or scene. I think I got lucky hooking up with the people I did so I got to miss a lot of the bullshit artists experience. Early on, I did not appreciate the reaction I got from the few rappers and collectives in my city, New Bedford. For the most part, everyone hates on each other out of ignorance and no one wants to work with each other or bring anyone on for fear of being outshined.
Burnem: I'd like to talk a little about your experience with addictions, and I'd like to know if you feel making music, as an outlet, and as a lifestyle, has had any effect on that part of your life?
Ordeal: Drugs were always there. My parents came up in the culture, and it's hereditary. In the area I live in we lose lots of people to overdoses and drug related deaths. Its hard to get away from. New Bedford hasnt had anything to offer anyone's well being and prosperity since you could legally slaughter whales. We have more addicts per capita and a heroin purity rate higher than NYC!
Unlike most people, drugs never served the purpose of inspiration for me. They stunt my process and lifestyle. Addiction is an evil that embeds itself into your DNA and latches onto every signal transmission distributed in the body.
"We must be able to experience life at our own discretion."
All I can say is to be successful, you must exorcise those demons because they will never fail to reassert their power and bring you down. Make no mistake I'm a staunch advocate for the legalization of all drugs because to live in a society that is truly free, and one that praises the individual over the herd, we must be able to experience life at our own discretion. With that comes the absolute responsibility to know when to quit. If people arent smart enough to see theyre getting too deep, its their own fault and the pieces fall where they may.
For me music and performing is my therapy. I sweat everything out. I dance and scream, joke, hug people, kiss people. its pure catharsis. Besides my wife and the few friends and family I hold dear, expression is all I have, and within that is the connection made to others who get it. Bringing that feeling to life to feed others with is what I thrive on. I strive for The Group Mind.
There was a time where I used substances to fuel my performance or get me up for a gig, and thats when I realized it was a problem and I was on the verge of destroying the thing I held most dear to my creative heart. I still smoke pot and eat mushrooms occasionally, but as far as hard drugs, it's just an unnecessary part of the lifestyle I cant have, not if I want to exist comfortably in music.
Burnem: Personally, I feel like being an underground artist, you come in contact with people on the edge of society, both good and bad. Any unique experiences of this sort, unique individuals you've encountered?
Ordeal: On the Gunshow tour we met a homeless guy who tried to give us an email address and told us he was stationed in Korea during the Vietnam War. He had these huge rifle bullets lodged under his skin and you could tell he had his stomach blown out before. We gave him like $20.
Kristoff Krane and Sadistik having a religious discussion with two old Christian ladies by the tour van as we were trying to depart philly.
The creepy hippie dude who tried to sell me 'organic MDMA' in Portland.
Buying Ambien off of an obese army vet ouside a bar in MO and trying to smoke his airtight pin sized joint while he babbled about being TechNi9e's homey.
The man at a gas station in the midwest who saw my Red Sox hat and claimed to be a wrestling champ from Fall River, MA who then proceeded to do handstands until he could do one and walk on his hands.
My dads friend who had us over for dinner on tour who served us salad that was all lettuce knuckles as an appetizer with no dressing because they were all bad. He couldnt figure out how to hit the chillum pipe, and threw meat on the grill to cook only to realize 30 mins later there was no propane. He had a distaste for the govt but no real arguments against anything in particular. He spoke of friends he had that were roadies and guitarists for bands like Molly Hatchet and Kansas. He also insisted upon asking us repeatedly how many people we had on the tour and how many vehicles we had for our light techs and roadies. I love the road.
Check out Ordeal's song "Vision Tunnel" remixed by Christopher Allen Smith: