Picture, if you will, a much-needed new horizon in hip hop. One chocked full of a home-spun flavor that neither lays a claim to the laid back grooves of the west coast nor the frenetic pace of the east. Ready to drop the bomb from the mid-west is a new crew which delivers unique skillz through Wildstyle (20), Kilo (23), Coldhard (20), and Never (17) -- the members of CRUCIAL CONFLICT.
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Born and raised on the west side of Chicago, the current members of Crucial Conflict are given props as some of the best rappers in their region, yet they actually only formed the present-day group just about 2 years ago in early 1994. In fact the, the initial members, Wildstyle and Kilo, hooked up with two other rappers through local events called KTM parties (for K-Town; a nickname for a westside hood so named for the numerous streets beginning with "K") where the best headz got tog ether to freestyle. A mutual friend when suggested the name Crucial Conflict to reflect the turbulent situations of survival in their area. Once titled, Crucial Conflict went on to win a series of local talent contests hands down. Yet because of the young ages of two of the original members, Kilo and Wildstyle decided to look for other "cold" (Chicago-speak for "dope") rappers. And they found them in Never (an acronym for Never Ending Violent Emotional Rage) and Coldhard (which stands for Courageous One Lord Delivering Hard Ass Rhymes Destructively) whose rap basically preceded them. With that, the current group was born, and they began to develop their skills under their guru Terell Harris (aka Shorty Capone) and his production company, Raw Dope Productions.
"But we knew we needed something that was gonna be different," says Kilo (which, by the way, stands for 1000 grams of mack). "We just didn't know what it was 'till one day we were all on a road trip from Chicago to Los Angeles. We were some west side brothers headin' west" he explains. "And on the way we saw all these mountains, like Death Valley. That was the spiritual part of the trip. We just pictured all this western stuff and Indians. It was tripped out. Then everything (our image) just fell into place." Indeed, then and there, Crucial Conflict captured an old west vibe but updated it for the 90's and gave it some urban spice. And in fact, while many artists have tried to shun any references to sounding "country," Crucial Conflict has even embraced such a tag. For they see "country as key to Black music as their home base of Chicago." As a result of the migration of millions of Blacks from the deep south to Chicago over the years, the city has been a hotbed for musical giants from blues legends and jazz greats to soul and R&B. And now to take their place among hip hop's best, Crucial Conflict.
Now to understand Crucial Conflict you have to be familiar with their culture. Let's break it down:
on RODEO… their primary style of music is called RODEO which stands for Rhymes of Dirty English Organization. According to Coldhard, Rodeo can be described as "a wild hop-a-long version of hip hop that is made to motivate and inspire." Its head-noddin' grooves le ad way to the group's lyrical style which is called SNAPPIN' -- a virtual crescendo of rhyming delivery building the listener up like a rocket ready for take-off.
on the GIDDY-UP… the GIDDY-UP will make tired rap stage shows a thing of the past. As Fab 5 Freddy explains, "The giddy-up is like a tribal dance; you see the spirit hit these brothers like it hits a gospel singer struck by the Holy Ghost. Crucial Conflict has tapped in to an energy of Black music that rappers haven't gotten before." Like the physical movements of a brother riding a bucking horse, the Giddy-Up is sure to throw ya into another level.
on the BARN… the Barn functions as Crucial Conflict's "fab" and private social club. A wooden singled store front serves as the perfect corral complete with a few snakes and a pet pitbull named Rawhide.
Truly creative and inventive, Crucial Conflict holds not only such prototypes of the old west as "rodeo" and "barns" as influences, but also the work of rap artists from Rakim to Snoop Doggy Dogg. In between practicing their skills, t he group also listen to "dusties" (old music from the '70's) like Curtis Mayfield and The Isley Brothers as well as some heavy metal and alternative groups. And it is with this background that Wildstyle, also the group's producer, has created a sound unique to Crucial Conflict. "I watch a lot of western movies," he says.
"And I just inverted that farm type old music they use in the movies and went for a more street sound. I use drum loops to make a swing style and bass like some of the underground house we listen to. All that gives it a western type feel." And like the old west, the lyrics of Crucial Conflict's music are reflective of an environment where Chicago's historical gang affiliates stake out territory like a John Wayne flick. "Our music show the moodswings we go through depending on if there is tension between the gangs or not," explains Kilo. "We all grew up with gangs in our neighborhoods, and you can't help but see some of the stuff that goes down between different organizations," says Coldhard, "but we try to unify the guys instead, and we even have friends from all the different organizations. And we try to scare people who listen to our music into not gangbanging by telling just how rough it can be." For example, the cut Desperado explains, "...somebody gotta die/on the frontier/ ...cause the hood be on/shoot em up/everytime I look around."
"But it's like there's also a part of our lifestyle when there's not gangbanging," says Coldhard. "That's when it's time to celebrate with what we call hay." In fact Hay, the first single release from the album, explores the many pleasures the group has had in the "barn" with hay; enjoying the best nature has to offer.
The old west meets Chicago's west side with Crucial Conflict. Pure creativity and innovation. Like Fab says, "These definitely ain't your average niggaz with a beat!" Peep it.
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