At a time when emcees have found themselves driven by material motivations, it can be hard to find creativity amongst the masses of rappers aspiring to prominence. The latest emcee to emerge from the Bay Area, prince ALI, is an exception to this rule. On his debut album, Curb Side Service (Hiero Imperium), Ali's inspirational lyrics are complemented by equally rousing, head-nodding beats. Featuring guests such as Keith Murray, Pep-Love, Planet Asia, Tajai and A-Plus of Souls of Mischief, Rakkaa of Dilated Peoples, among others, Curb Side Service is one of the most impressive albums to come from the Bay in years. Just take Ali's personal favorite, "The Majors" featuring Casual, Planet Asia, and Keith Murray. "Building with some of my favorite emcees was truly a humbling experience," admits Ali who still remembers the excitement he felt when he heard Keith's classic joint, "The Most Beautifullest Thing in the World," on the radio in 1996. And for those sleeping on the west coast, just check "California Cliff Notes" featuring Pep Love and Ali, trading verses over a classic Cali soulful riff. But Ali tackles assorted topics on his debut album. On "Way of the Warrior," Ali illuminates a situation where he was exposed to the shady side of the bizness. "One the greatest things about making music is that you can use it as a vehicle to express emotions," Ali explains about the inspiration for the track. "But like all mistakes, it was a valuable lesson," he adds. "Some people immerse themselves in music when they make a record," notes Ali, "but I virtually stopped listening to it. It was in that solitude that I was able to focus inward, and the album came to light. And to be working with Hiero is a sign that things have come full circle for me. The love for the art form existed before Hieroglyphics, but it became a realistic pursuit after they emerged," he adds, "I remember growing up in the Bay, wanting to be 5th member of Souls of Mischief." "Hiero has always been about putting out quality music," notes Tajai CEO of the Bay Area based label, Hiero Imperium, and now we're at a point where we can focus on the new, up and coming talent. Ali is an artist who embodies Hiero's vision and we're excited about supporting him." Born in Oakland and raised in Hayward, California, Ali started writing at the age of nine, and hoped to hoped to one day make records of his own. "It was all over for me after seeing RUN D.M.C with Dominique DePrima on the television show 'Home Turf' in 1984," says Ali, who received his MFA at NYU's Tisch School of the Arts. "It just sparked something inside me and I knew I wanted to be an emcee." Undoubtedly, Ali's spiritual life has also profoundly influenced his music. "Sound affects your mental state. It can leave lasting impressions on a persons being. Music is a weapon, a tool, and at its best a vessel for change." Production on Curb Side Service is shared by Destruments, along with CHIII, Skavenger, and the Roy Butterfields Project.
Good hip-hop is more than just dope music. It also delivers messages that resonate with its listeners. Much like the socially conscious enery of Public Enemy, Poor Righteous Teachers and the X-Clan, the Chosen Few are scholars through hip-hop, spreading their infectious tunes laden with throught-provoking messages. The Chosen Few knew the implications involved when choosing such a bold statement as their moniker. However, it perfectly embodies the trio’s sentiments and overall mission of artistic and social freedom. The group comprised of Cold Showda, Charles “Chop” Cooper and Unjust have traveled long and far, both physcially and figuratively, to release their long-awaited debut album, New World Symphony, slated for release January 9, 2010 on Hiero Imperium Records. Originally from Ohio, home to legendary funk artists like Bootsy Collins, The Ohio Players and Lakeside, the three independently migrated to the progressive Bay Area in the early 2000’s after recognizing the limitations of their small market, in search of musical and personal diversity. Chop and Cold Showda immediately felt right at home and started performing together as the Greans, sharing the stage with such acts as Mos Def, Common, The Alkaholiks, Slum Village, and Bootcamp Click while Unjust shaped the visual presence of famed indie label ABB Records and a bevy of artists including Little Brother, Hi-Tek, Strong Arm Steady, Planet Asia, Tek9, J. Dilla, A.G., O.C., Nappy Roots and Dizzee Rascal. Drawing from personal experiences, the Chosen Few have witnessed their fair share of injustices and tragedies that would make most people run for the hills. All three continuously give back to their community when not on the road. Unjust works with at-risk-youth, Cold Showda as a mental health counselor, and Charles Cooper as a coach and teacher. \"Being that we all are involved in education and pro-social work we value certain ideals\", says Charles “Chop” Cooper. \"Integrity, unity, good work ethic, being genuine and innovative, and valuing the importance of personal relationships, these are the values that we want to shine through on this album, for the listener to enjoy.\" It took a few years and several solo ventures, not to mention a host personal trials and tribulations, before the three came together in 2008 to record New World Symphony, an album they hope fans will not only appreciate, but identify with. New World Symphony features Unjust\'s soul and pychadelic rock laden beats, Cold Showda\'s relentlessly agressive lyrics, and Charles \"Chop\" Cooper\'s masterful saxaphone playing and lyricism. The 19-song album is full of powerful messages - from the urgent, call-to-action title cut, “New World Symphony” to “Believers,” an autobiographical account of their childhood home and the devastating impact the recent economic climate has had on Ohio. Making guest appearances on the album are Del the Funky Homosapien (“King Kong”), Pep Love and Rakaa Iriscience (“It’s Good), Tajai (“Belly of the Beast”), Opio (“Elevation”), Piakahn (“Ride”) and more. With the release of New World Symphony, the Chosen Few are kick starting their mission “We want to encourage listeners to empower themselves by realizing that they have the influence to not just choose what music they want to listen to but the power to carve their own paths and seperate themselves from the flock,” says Unjust. “The power of choice lies in all of us.”
Ryan Montgomery, born and raised on the West Side of Detroit, Michigan in the W. McNichols & Wyoming Ave. area, moved to Oak Park, Michigan when he was 10 years old, later acquiring the nickname "Royce" during highschool after wearing a Turkish link chain with an R pendant resembling the Rolls Royce symbol. He began rapping at 18, influenced mainly by Ras Kass and Redman. He signed his first deal in 1998 with Tommy Boy Records, after Tommy Boy Records shut down, he signed a deal with Columbia Records where he started recording an album called Rock City, referring to Detroit's former status as home to Motown Records. When the project was heavily bootlegged, Royce left the label for Koch Records to re-record some of the album, eventually releasing it in 2002 as Rock City (Version 2.0). While the album did not sell very well, the DJ Premier-produced single "Boom" gained 5'9" some underground recognition and eventually resulted in the two working together more closely.
Through his manager, Royce was introduced to Eminem at a show in 1997, and the two formed a working relationship; they formed up as a duo, Bad Meets Evil, and released several tracks together. Royce appeared on Eminem's debut studio album The Slim Shady LP, in which he was featured on a song called "Bad Meets Evil". Royce and Eminem also released a track called "Renegades", from which Royce's vocals would later be replaced with Jay-Z's on the latter's The Blueprint. Through Eminem, Royce would also be introduced to both Dr. Dre and execs at Game Recordings. After his manager revealed that Royce was involved in writing the tracks "The Message" and an original version of "Xxplosive" for Dre's 2001 (entitled "Way I Be Pimping"), Dre requested that Royce cut ties with his manager. Royce refused to fire his manager and his relationship with Dre ended.
After his release in 2007, Royce went on to link up heavily with DJ Premier and Statik Selektah, putting out the mixtape The Bar Exam, an internet release which was critically acclaimed. He also announced an album with Premier; in an interview with Elemental Magazine, Royce stated that, contrary to rumors, Premier would not be producing the entirety of his upcoming album, but will be overseeing the project as executive producer, handpicking all of the beats. Following The Bar Exam, Royce wrote the single for Diddy's album Press Play, "Tell Me". Following this, the producer expressed interest in signing the lyricist to Bad Boy Entertainment; Nas has also stated that he would like to sign Royce to his Def Jam imprint, The Jones Experience. Neither of these deals, however, materialized.
In early 2008 Royce confirmed that he has officially resolved misunderstandings between himself and Eminem. Eminem told Royce that he has "some of the best shit recorded right now that he's ever done in his life." He explained that a recording session between the two has yet to take place, despite rumors about a reunion track produced by DJ Premier. 5'9" digitally released The Bar Exam 2 with DJ Green Lantern later in the year, as well as a retail version of the mixtape, called The Album; the projects featured production from Green Lantern, 9th Wonder, Premier and 6 July, among others. Later worked on his Premier-assisted retail release, Street Hop, the lead single of which was "Shake This", also produced by DJ Premier. The video to the song circulated the internet, and the project was released 20 October 2009. The album was well received by critics.
Joe Budden reached out to Crooked I, Royce da 5'9", Joell Ortiz, and Nino Bless for a track titled "Slaughterhouse" on his digital release, Halfway House. Based on the reception of the track, they decided to form a super-group, minus Nino Bless, and named it after the first song they made together. They released numerous songs throughout early 2009, building a buzz for their self-titled album, which was released through E1 on August 11, 2009. The album features production from The Alchemist, DJ Khalil, Mr. Porter, Streetrunner, plus guest appearances from Pharoahe Monch, K. Young, and The New Royales. Royce is currently in talks to sign with Shady Records, as are the other members of Slaughterhouse; recently he has stated several times that the deal will be wrapping up within the next few weeks. The members of Slaughterhouse were seen in the music video for the song "Forever". In addition, he, Eminem and Shady/Aftermath producer Mr. Porter made an appearance on radio host Tim Westwood's show for a freestyle session. The group have now signed a deal with Shady Records.