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Track By Track: BK-One & Benzilla – Rádio Do Canibal

Track By Track: BK-One & Benzilla – Rádio Do Canibal

bk-one radio do canibal album coverBK-One has been, and always will be, one superb DJ.  Since the days I used to watch him across the mixing board at Radio K when I was just being trained in on The Beat Box, he has always been this way.  Me and him were lip-syncing “Oh No” by Mos Def, Pharoahe Monch and Nate Dogg when he played the 12″ one time.  Now, along with up-and-coming beatsmith Benzilla, they have put out Rádio Do Canibal, a project to show the worldwide influences of music when the funk, jazz and samba rhythms and tones of Brazil match up with Hip-Hop across different areas of the United States.  I was able to get BK-One to do a track-by-track of Canibal, so without further delay, HERE WE GO!

Ivan Tiririca (intro)
Produced by Benzilla & BK-One

All of the music on this album is inspired by the records I collected while travelling through Brazil.  The artists on those records borrowed heavily from other cultures…drawing in elements of British rock, jazz, reggae, Portugeuse fado, rhythm & blues, funk, and rhythmic ideas from Africa.  They took their favorite parts of each of these forms and synthesized them with Brazilian sounds like samba, bossa nova and folk music from the north.  The result was something greater than the sum of its parts.  The Tropicalia movement called this “cultural cannibalism” (which is where the title of this album comes from).

My job as a DJ is real similar to this.  I take many different kinds of music, and find creative ways to combine them…creating something uniqe in the process.  On this intro to the album, you hear Ivan Tiririca (an incredible Brazilian drummer) talking about the role that DJ’s played in introducing funk music to Brazil.  It seemed like a fitting way to get this started.

Gittit (w/ Slug and Brother Ali)
Produced by Benzilla & BK-One

Ali and Slug going back and forth 4 bars at a time.  Ali focuses on wordplay and creative shit-talking, Slug mainly focuses on being gross!

Most of the music on this album is produced by Benzilla and me.  Ben is an up-and-coming producer from Minneapolis that’s done great work with Toki Wright and I Self Devine.  He handled the programming, I handled the arrangement and sequencing.

Mega (w/ Aceyalone, Myka 9, and Abstract Rude)
Produced by Brother Ali & BK-One

An early version of this album was going to be a collaboration between just me and Ali.  We were going to make all the music together, and he was going to write and record all the vocals.  This beat is a leftover from that idea.

I was Abstract Rude’s DJ on the Truth Is Here tour.  We vibed real well and knew that we wanted to work together in the future.  In middle school and high school, I was such a big fan of the cats from Project Blowed, so it was a tremendous honor to work with these guys.  Acey was the first to record on this.  I put the beat on repeat and let it ride for about 45 minutes while he laid on the couch with his eyes closed.  He didn’t move a muscle or make a sound the whole time.  Then he jumped up, hit the booth, and knocked his verse out in 2 or 3 takes.

Caetano Veloso (interlude)
Produced by BK-One

Caetano Veloso was one of the leading figures in the Tropicalia movement.  Just like any group of artists trying to push boundaries and show people something different, the Tropicalists caught a lot of shit from people.  Hearing him talk about that struggle here reminds me of hip hop, the blues, jazz, rock and roll…pretty much any music genre in its young, creative days.

The True & Living (w/ Raekwon and I Self Devine)
Produced by Benzilla & BK-One

Most of the guests on this album are either friends of mine or friends of friends.  Raekwon was the only person that I straight up cold called.  His verse was originally going to be by Pharoahe Monch.  Pharoahe loved the beat and started recording to it, but got stuck and pulled out at the last minute.  I had two days to find a replacement (this was one of the last songs recorded for the album), and just started hitting up anyone dope I could think of.  He got back to me right away, was interested in the concept of the album, and turned in his verse the next day.

One of my favorite things about this album is hearing my friends shine next to my heroes.  I Self Devine is an amazing MC who has never gotten the proper level of respect and recognition that he deserves.  There isn’t a Wu-Tang fan alive that has any excuse not to love I Self’s music, so to put him on a track with Rae felt long-overdue.  He’s also a well-respected record collector, so he was one of the first people I told about this project.

Here I Am (w/ Phonte, Brother Ali, and The Grouch)
Produced by Benzilla & BK-One

The song that inspired this track is what gave me the initial idea to make “Rádio Do Canibal”.  I remember sitting in a flea market in Rio with my portable turntable, listening through records.  The moment that song came on, I knew that if it had been by an artist from the U.S., it would have been a crate classic…sampled years ago by Pete Rock or Dr. Dre.  That’s when I knew I had to do something with all this great music I was finding.

Tema do Canibal (w/ The Hypnotic Brass Ensemble)
Produced by BK-One

Just like the Brazilian records that inspired this album, it was important to me that the music here transcend any one genre or sound.  The Hypnotic Brass Ensemble is a 9-piece brass band from Chicago.  Most of the members are brothers–sons of Phil Ranelin (a respected horn player who spent time in Sun Ra’s Arkestra and played with the Artistic Ensemble of Chicago).

I approached this song with a technique that I’ve used a lot on my mix CD’s.  I took 17 different drum and percussion loops, beatmatched them all, then constructed a sound collage by layering them up in different combinations.  I added vocal and melodic elements, figured out the chord changes, and sent it all to Hypnotic Brass.  They wrote and recorded it over a weekend while I was in Alaska with Ali.  We figured out the arrangement over the phone at like 4 in the morning after a show.  This is possibly my favorite song on the album.  I’d like to see DJ’s start playing this at b-boy jams.

Ivan Tiririca (interlude)
Produced by Benzilla & BK-One

Another interlude with Ivan.  I love the way he talks, and hearing him explain the impact that James Brown had on black Brazilians is just another way of trying to show the connections and similarities between our cultures.

Philly Boy (w/ Black Thought)
Produced by Benzilla & BK-One

This was a challenging song to work on.  When Ben showed me his initial work on this beat, I knew I wanted to do something with it, but it didn’t have a traditional song structure.  It was a 17-bar progression with no obvious place for a chorus.  I decided to leave it like that and use the unusual format to our advantage.  I asked Black Thought to write a 2 verse song with no chorus, and to plan on taking a 1-bar break between the verses.  Then I told Ben to come up with as many other ways to flip the beat as possible.  He came back with the organ intro and 4 or 5 other loops.  I put together my 2 favorite loops as a breakdown and outro, then added a guitar player, and the song was complete.  Another one of my favorites!

Blood Drive (w/ Slug)
Produced by Benzilla & BK-One

This song was originally supposed to be a collaboration with MF Doom and Slug.  The album had an incredibly short deadline to meet (we finished it in less than 4 months), so the Doom part didn’t work out.  I planned on scrapping the song, but Slug liked his rapping on here and insisted that I keep it.

A Day’s Work (w/ P.O.S.)
Produced by Benzilla & BK-One

To me, this is the sleeper cut of the album.  When I first found out about P.O.S., I wasn’t quite sure what to make of him.  But after watching him win over hostile crowds, seeing how hard he works, and checking out that incredible Pearl Jam cover he did for MTV, I grew to really like and respect what he was doing.  I gave him two beats to choose from: one was a real traditional uptempo banger and the other one was a slow and strange beat with no real song structure.  I secretly hoped that he would pick the slow one, and was excited when he did. He recorded his vocals on a bus while he was on the Warped Tour.  Almost everyone at Rhymesayers agrees that this is the best rapping he’s ever done.

Face It (w/ Toki Wright)
Produced by Benzilla & BK-One

One of the big challenges of making an album full of collaborations is getting artists to hear beats the same way that you do.  You pick out a track and you know your guest is gonna come in and smash it…then they hit you back and aren’t feeling it.  I moved a few things around to accommodate artists, and convinced a few others that the beat I gave them was the right choice, but Toki WAS NOT feeling this one and there was no time to do something different.  This was the last song we recorded, the album was due the next day, and I basically had to ask Toki to take one for the team.  He was a champ about it, came in and gave it his all, and he made a great song just as I expected him to.  For the record though…Toki still doesn’t feel that beat!

Love Like That (w/ Aby Wolf)
Produced by Benzilla & BK-One

Aby is a really talented singer from Minneapolis.  She mainly does singer-songwriter stuff, but this track takes her in a different direction.  I wanted to have a song with singing on it, but it was important to avoid the cliches of doing something like Portishead or something that sounds too much like modern r&b.  Ben deserves a lot of credit for making a beat that matched my vision perfectly.  It’s real minimal and low-fi.  Aby came in and recorded 8 layers of vocals…each of them in one take.  She’s absolutely incredible.

Hyldon (interlude)
Produced by Benzilla & BK-One

Tim Maia is the pioneer of Brazilian soul music.  Here, his friend Hyldon talks about how he spent time in Harlem and lived the life of a struggling black musician.  It sets up Blueprint’s song perfectly.

Blue Balls (w/ Blueprint)
Produced by Benzilla & BK-One

I met Blueprint and Murs (who’s on the next track) in 2002 on my first tour with Atmosphere.   I consider them both close friends and wouldn’t have considered making this album without them.  Blueprint took this opportunity to vent about what it feels like to be an artist spinning your wheels.

This is one of several songs where I brought in live musicians.  This beat was already nasty, but adding the organ licks to it really put it over the top.  And by sequencing them right I was able to play off Print’s rhyme patterns.

Eighteen to Twenty-One (w/ Murs)
Produced by Benzilla & BK-One

I didn’t tell anyone what to write about or what they could or couldn’t say on this album.  Phonte uses the n-word several times, Raekwon talks about selling cocaine, and Scarface talks about murder…but something tells me that this will be the one that I’ll be catching shit for.  Murs dedicates this song to the pursuit of 18-21 year old girls, and says a few things that are really gonna upset my feminists.  He wouldn’t be Murs if he was afraid to make some folks angry though.

Call to Arms (w/ I Self Devine)
Produced by Benzilla & BK-One

“Sandanistas brandishing heaters.  Poor righteous teachers in fly sneakers and reefers.  Praise Jesus!”  I Self starts off with a distorted mic and a slinky syncopated beat.  He goes through 16 bars of some of the best rapping on this album…then the song starts!  I combined 2 beats that Ben had been working on here, then added bass and keys.  The kick on this song is a 5-foot tall marching band drum that we mic’ed up at the studio. I love all the songs on this album, but this is definitely one of my favorites (partly because I’m so proud of the process that created the song, and partly because I just think it kicks ass!).

American Nightmare (w/ Brother Ali and Scarface)
Produced by Benzilla & BK-One

As we were finishing this album, Ben pointed out to me that my original vision had been pretty artsy and experimental, but that anytime an artist hadn’t worked out for a song, I had replaced them with a gangster.  This song was originally supposed to be Tunde Adebimpe from TV On The Radio with a verse from MF Doom.  When that fell through, it became a track for Scarface!

Over the last 10 years, working with Brother Ali has taught me a lot and given me a chance to meet and work with many of my heroes.  So it was a real pleasure to repay the favor and put him on a track with Face, who is unquestionably one of the 10 greatest rappers of all times.  Ali admitted to me that everytime he hears this song, he says to himself “That’s me mothafucka!!!”

Tom Zé (outro)
Produced by BK-One

“I could have made popular music…but I had taken a different stand, an apocolyptic one, and made something more radical.  I was crazy, but I was right.”

Brazilian music is so incredible to me.  The tropical feel of it, the power that comes from standing up to a dictatorship, the experimentation in mixing styles…it’s all so inspiring to me.  This album attempted to capture that spirit, and I hope it suceeded.

Rádio Do Canibal is in stores October 6th everywhere.  You can also download “Here I Am” featuring Brother Ali, Phonte, and The Grouch from Rhymesayers website.  I’d like to thank BK for two things: for making me appreciate doing radio and DJ’ing, and for being a friend.

6 Comments

  1. Eduardo Brito
    Oct 12, 2009 @ 12:03:12

    Where is the Blue Balls`s sample taken from? O Caminho do Bem (Tim Maia)?

    Amazin album, btw… Great work..

  2. TF
    Oct 04, 2009 @ 16:49:01

    Awesome. Really looking forward to this album, especially the track w/ P.O.S. Rhymesayers do a lot of things right.

    Thanks for bringing us BK’s breakdown.

  3. Justin Boland
    Oct 02, 2009 @ 22:14:58

    The album is awesome and awesomely consistent. They did a REALLY impressive job on every track. It’s an art piece for sure, I hope it gets him some sales in 09.

  4. Whit
    Oct 02, 2009 @ 16:11:35

    Sounds really dope. Look forward to getting my copy in the mail next week.

  5. Kamau
    Oct 02, 2009 @ 14:48:05

    When I first heard “Here I Am” I was really psyched to hear more from this album. But after this reading, being from Brazil, I am more than eager to get those tunes to my ears!!!!
    By the way, when did BK One came to Brazil?

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