Today we have another installment in the ongoing exclusive Amoeblog series Hip-Hop Behind Bars: A First Person Account by X-Raided, in which long-incarcerated Sacramento rap artist and label owner Anerae "X-Raided" Brown writes from behind the bars of Pleasant Valley State Prison in Coalinga, CA where he is serving a 31 year to life sentence. In this edition, he writes about his two most recent releases, the two volumes in the Unforgiven series, which are available at Amoeba Music.
As outlined in his last Amoeblog entry, X-Raided, who somehow manages to run a record label and release albums from behind prison bars (he's released a dozen projects since his incarceration back in the early nineties), has released three albums just this year, all with Unforgiven in the title. One is entitled Eternally Unforgiven, recorded, he said, "to get my voice back out there" after a gap in releases. Meantime, The Unforgiven 1: In the Beginning is an updated version of the album he released ten years ago via Sacramento's Black Market Records. The new 2009 version, released on the artist's recently formed Bloc Star Entertainment label, features completely different sequencing, added tracks, and remixes. The goal of this release was to bring new fans up to speed and to prepare them for The Unforgiven 2: Assisted Suicide, which, according to X- Raided, "is here to let y'all know I'm back and I'm serious. Anybody think we ain't on fire, listen to the "Mortal Combat" remix and tell me we ain't the best. I put the rhymes on Unforgiven 2 against anything out there." What follows is X-Raided's track by track breakdown of each of these Unforgiven volumes.
The Unforgiven V.1: In the Beginning Track by Track by Anerae "X-Raided" Brown
I wanted to begin the album differently from the original so I started with this remix. I like that the rhyme begins with who I am, when I was born. The whole song is an introduction to my life in a way. We went with the birth at the beginning to kick it off, and we remixed the beat to give it a connection to the sound we're establishing over here at Bloc Star. Filthy Rich did the remixes and remastering on this project and of course he's my main producer. This song serves both purposes. Kicks off the album with an introduction to my life, and it gives everyone a preview of our new sound.
-"Mama's Pride & Joy (RMX)"
-"Mama's Pride & Joy (RMX)"
This song is about being a young G comin' up in the streets and what we go through in terms of law enforcement tryina take us down, and difficulties we face in terms of being minorities. This expresses a hopelessness as far as opportunities to advance legally and pretty much is saying fuck it, I'm gonna do what I have to do to survive, fuck everybody. Misanthropy is the hatred of mankind as a whole, so it's like saying fuck the world. I came across the word in a Sidney Sheldon book, Master of the Game, or one of the Midnite books, I can't remember. I looked it up and ended up writing the song.
This is self-explanatory. I'm pretty much saying that I'm unforgiven in Sac-Town for the things I've done in the streets. This one's more blatantly hood, more of a fuck you to my enemies.
-"Who Is Y'all"
I was listening to those old school AWOL compilations and those Who Put Sac on the Map compilations, and I just wondered like, Who is y'all niggas? When we first started, it was just me, Lynch, Sicx and C-Bo. Then we brought out other people, like Lunasicc, my dude Luni Coleone. Mr. Doc before he testified against Big Zoo. Other than that, there was Marva. I felt like, who the fuck are these new niggas that wasn't paying homage and was rappin half ass disrespectfully, so I dug up in 'em with this one.
This right here is just me actin' a fool. I went the fuck off. My whole point on this was, when it comes to flow nobody can see me. The beat is perfect for the rhyme. There's crazy energy in this track. I love it. I remember when the album came out, I called Brotha Lynch Hung and he had this playing on his voicemail and I could hear him in the background like "Yeah!" That's when I knew it was heated.
I wrote this song just fuckin' around, clownin' in battles on the yard in the pen. When there's war or a fight, they say, such and such "took flight" on such and such. It means to bomb on someone. So we're sayin' when it comes to rhymes, we take flight on niggas. I wrote the whole song and Dott learned it because he always spit my rhymes with me when I'd battle niggas, just like we would do at a show. He knew which words to say, so I just let him get two whole verses and I wrote another for myself.
-"Kick it 2-Nite"
I wrote this song for the females. Just a little something to move to. The first time I heard this song, I was in the dayroom, in the pen, with my headphones on, listening to the radio. I was about to get on the phone and it came on. I was like, WTF is this? I thought it was some new Pac until I heard the first two bars. It tripped me out. They did a good job on this. I was boppin' it out off this one.
-"Whatever It Took"
I wanted to kill it again, how I did on Spittin' Venom, so I came with this. This is pretty much a battle rap disguised as some gangster shit. On the West Coast, we ain't tryina listen to no extreme lyrical rhyme, but that's a necessity for someone who wants to be the best emcee, which is my desire. So I try to find ways to compromise. This song sounds like I'm on some shoot 'em up bang bang but it's actually about killin' rappers off lyrically. "I'm constrictin' on you rats like a python/ Ready to spit some venom, turn this mic on." This is elite rhyme writing.
This was originally on my Nefarious album. I put it here as a bonus and because it always belonged on this album. It's about being in administrative segregation in prison on total lockdown and what it's like. This is from my real experience when I was at New Folsom back in 1997. True story.
-"Trial By Fury"
I wrote this about niggas coming to court pointing out the homies. There was a lot of that going on then.
I know a lot of people can relate to this song. This is about being in the hood, looking for opportunities to get money and feeling like your options are limited. It comes down to doing what you gotta do. In this case, it was buying some D and hittin' the trap. The rest is just a fact of reality. It's either death or prison in that lifestyle. Very few success stories.
This is self-explanatory too. I'm just on one about them haters. Hi hayda!
They was sayin', "We don't love them hoes" all the time and talkin' like havin' females ain't the business. Like just fuck and flee, but that ain't how we do it in Northern Cali. We about keepin' females and gettin' tore off. It's all about The Mack up this way. Bitches like to fuck for free and not be able to do shit for a nigga but at least a hoe knows to get her money and who to give it to. So, "I ain't never loved a bitch but I'll admit I've loved a hoe."
-"Cemetery Fulla G's"
I'd been sitting on this idea for a while before I finally got a chance to lay it down. Basically it's a dream that I died, in the first verse, then in the second verse I get shot hanging' out in the hood. Then on the last verse I'm dead, spitting the rhyme from the perspective that I'm gone. We were ahead of the game with this. We screwed the vocals and put that thick 808 under there on the original version. That's what niggas are just now doing, 10 years later. "Cemetery Fulla G's" is updated on this remix album with our new sound, and we didn't screw the vocals. We added 8 more bars to the last verse that no one ever heard.
This one is about tryina maintain a relationship with a broad while you're doing time. A lot of people can relate to this. You go to jail and the next thing you know, if you ain't got the right female, your chick is gettin' it busted open and ain't taking care of your business. Even niggas that went off to fight in the war gettin' dear john letters, comin' home and their girlfriends and wives are pregnant talkin' about they couldn't wait for you. On this "Macaframa" remix we used the old school Too Short "Dope Fiend Beat" to pay homage to the legend. All due respect to Too Short for paving the way for all of us up north.
This was just to show off my ability to freak a different flow. I never really liked the original version of it. I liked the beat and I liked the rhyme, separately, but I didn't think they went together well. Listen to this remix Filthy Rich did to really see the difference. But I respected the song and I respected people's reaction to it. To this day, when people mention The Unforgiven Volume 1 to me, they always say "Macaframa" or "Mortal Combat." My dude RAW did this original beat. It slaps but the vocals don't fit it to me. It's too slow. The "Mortal Combat" (RMX) is just off the hook. I wanted everyone to know what it was always supposed to sound like. It's fire. We added the third verse that was left off last time and we tightened it up.
That's pretty much the whole album. I think it's better than before and definitely extends the legacy of The Unforgiven 1 as a legitimate underground classic. So first in the series there was Unforgiven Volume I, then I did Eternally Unforgiven just to kind of announce my return to the game. I know people were disappointed with the quality of the vocals but the songs definitely connect to the theme I've been developing for this series. Now we have The Unforgiven Volume 2: Assisted Suicide and the vocals are better, the music is better, the art is better.
I had the idea for the artwork for Assisted Suicide for a long time but I couldn't find anyone to bring it to life for me. Then I ran into a guy named Santos who was the best artist I'd ever seen. I told him what I wanted and scribbled it out for him, and he took that and worked a miracle with it. I sat on the actual drawing for nearly a decade. I never felt like anything I was doing was worthy of being The Unforgiven Volume 2. I didn't think Nefarious: Speak of the Devil or Vengeance is Mine were Unforgiven caliber albums as far as songs go. I wanted it to be special when I finally used this art.
Once we finally had the kind of songs I felt I needed, we got at Kenneth of HellRazor graphics to add color to the drawing and give it some warmth. Santos drew it with black ink on white paper in his prison cell. Think about the amount of talent that took. So we added the color to it that you see but we didn't want to go overboard. I thought it looked better with subdued colors, and I was just coming off of the Eternally Unforgiven artwork being too bright and colorful for my tastes. With this one, it turned out very well.
For those who know, my first album cover for Niggas in Blacc was a drawing done by Brotha Lynch Hung, so I'm taking it back to my roots with this one. There are actual pix of me in the insert and there's one on the back, but the drawing makes the statement I wanted to make with this album.
The guy on the lethal injection table represents the hood. The rag he's wearing is half blue and half red because he represents all of us, Crip, Blood, North and South. He represents all of our sets, everybody's hood.
We have Uncle Sam with Jack Kevorkian's face, giving a dose of "drugs" to the hood. You can see the judge in the back preparing two more needles of "alcohol" and "guns." You see the judge's shadow shows his evil intentions. The statement is that the government are the ones injecting dope, guns and other negative influences into the hood. We don't fly coke and heroin into the hood, it comes from somewhere else. It comes from them.
Once upon a time, they regularly just killed niggas. But that ain't really something they can do anymore, so now that they cant blatantly kill us off themselves, they just give us everything we need in order to kill ourselves. Guns, drugs and alcohol. How many people do you know who ended up dead or in prison over some combination of the three?
Due to them injecting all of that in the hood, you can see around the border of the art how it impacts the community. People getting shot, a dude shooting dope, a guy killin' himself. And while all that is happening, the people who are supposed to be watching aren't paying attention. Look at the viewing area. They're all just standing there. They aren't doing anything about it. They have their arms folded.
That's where we're coming from with this. Instead of killing us off, they give us what we need to do it ourselves, and we do it. Assisted suicide, feel me?
The Unforgiven V.2: Assisted Suicide Overview + track by track by Anerae "X-Raided" Brown
I’m very proud of this album. We know the vocals needed to be cleaner but we did the best we could, spent thousands of dollars and this is as good as we could get it. But that goes into it. This album is, from cover to final song, about succumbing to the violence in the streets and gang life, going to prison, becoming aware of the politics involved in it all, and yet overcoming all of that to still have a voice, still be conscious. So the artwork, the quality of the vocals, the subject matter of the songs, this is all about surviving what was a difficult life and making the best of it. No one should have ever been able to have made The Unforgiven Volume 2: Assisted Suicide, nevertheless a Volume 1 or an Eternally Unforgiven. These albums are miracles. Some see the pen as being similar to the grave, being buried alive, and this is like a hand coming up through the dirt and handing you a CD that speaks honestly of their experience.
This is authentic shit you got here. I’m not going to stay this heavy on the next album, and the vocals going forward are all the caliber of The Unforgiven Volume 1 in terms of quality. I’m going to have more fun with it and get back to basic beats and rhymes for a while. Bloc Bizniz is coming after this and it will be more fun, but this is an album I’ve always wanted to make and I’m proud to have gotten it done, with my own producer and composer, my own graphic designer, my own label and my own distribution. When you get the CD, take a look of that pic on the back, where I’m wearing the jacket with my back to the camera. That’s really me, and that statement is really real. CDC PRISONER. The fact that you can even listen to my music at all is miraculous, so, “Whether you love me or hate me, you must respect me.”
-"Intro: Heaven or Hell"
I got this off of Nightmare on Elm Street when the little girls were singing, "1, 2, Freddy's coming for you…" I thought of the feel for it and explained it to our music writer. He wrote it out and Rich played it. We have serious musicians on the team at Bloc Star. They can write, read and play the music. With this, I just wanted to establish that this is going to be something hardcore. As soon as it comes on, you can feel it. It's about to get gangster.
-"Eternally Unforgiven 2"
This is where the album really begins. We had the intro, explained the concept over a tight track, now it's all business. I wanted to do another autobiographical song that ran from start to finish non-stop, to establish the point of the album and explain my experience to everyone.
-"Burn Wit' Raided"
I wrote this for all of my dudes in prison who have been abandoned by their folks and just feel like there's nothing to be positive for, nothing to live for. I'm saying that no matter how hard we strive, there's no acknowledgment, so fuck it. If hell is hot, fuck it, let it burn.
I wrote this song from the perspective of the Grim Reaper, but I don't openly say that until the third verse. It kind of just sounds like I'm stalking these people to kill them at first, but I'm actually coming to take their souls away. This is one of those songs that, if I was home and could do the video and rock performances, I'd get a Grammy and best video awards. Very few emcees are painting these kind of pictures. Only a couple even could do it. I came up with the idea for the beat and my guy wrote it out. Rich played it.
This is part two to "Cemetery Fulla G's." I used part of the chorus from there. This is a dope song. On "Cemetery Fulla G's," you remember I was killed in the second verse, and then rhymed from the perspective of being dead on verse three. So on this song, I'm asking if I'm going to heaven or hell. We're at my funeral in the first verse and as I describe myself laying in the casket, I start rapping the song from the perspective of the last observer. So this person is leaning over my casket talking to my dead body and I'm rhyming what they're saying to me. I don't think anyone has ever written anything like that before, and at this point in hip hop with everyone and their mama rappin', it's major to be able to say no one has done it before. Filthy Rich brought this one to life and it's knockin'.
-"Good Mourning Amerikkka"
I wrote this about what the kids are going through in the hood, in terms of being fatherless or having fucked up parents. I wrote the second verse as if I'm Barack Obama speaking what he really wants to say if he could get away with it. The point though is that the mothers in this country are mourning the loss of their children to wars of all kinds, and also that Amerikkka with the three k's is mourning the death of their perceived white supremacy.
I wanted to do a song that acknowledges all of the grandparents out there who end up raising their grandchildren for one reason or another. I didn't want it to be corny so it's still G, it's just honest, and I think everyone will be able to relate to it. This is a Filthy Rich track too.
-"Kill or Be Killed (The Legend of Lil' Man)"
This is part two to "The Legend of Ice Cold" from Eternally Unforgiven. This time I tell the story from Lil Man's perspective, how he dealt with things after he killed Ice Cold. This is dope. I feel like stories are what's missin' from most West Coast rappers' albums. It used to be our main thing. There are classic West Coast stories from Too Short to Ice Cube, to Dr. Dre and Snoop with Lil' Ghetto Boy and "Murder Was the Case." Pac always told stories. So I stay true to that aspect of West Coast hip hop and tell a solid story here. Filthy Rich did this one. It's one of my favorites.
-"Interlude: My X-Perience"
I flashed out on this one to a Filthy Rich beat. I'm just sayin' that this album is written from my point of view, based on my experiences, and that's why it is the way it is. I had a review in The Source for The Unforgiven Volume 1 when it first came out and they were like all I rapped about was gangs, murder and prison. It was some stupid shit. I felt like, what do they want me to rap about? The club? Bitches? I'm actually in prison for gang related murder. Why would anyone buy or burn or review an X-Raided album and not expect it to be about gangs, murder and prison? That's my real life! So I just got that off my chest cuz it's seriously frustrating.
This is a Filthy Rich track and it slaps. I was thinking about how the hood is like a maze with exits that only lead to bad things. A labyrinth is a maze. You know how the cops can cut off certain streets and there's no way out? They did it during the LA riots. They did it during Katrina. Think about that. They didn't want them niggas crossing that bridge so they cut it off and they literally were trapped, a city that was flooded. So I wrote this song saying the only way out of the maze is to rise above it. Most of the time there's no roof on a maze. Instead of being trapped in the game, just rise above it. To be clear, the maze is the streets. All of us are running around the hood aimlessly while others of our age group are getting educated and rising above the madness. That's what we need to be doing too.
Me and Rich were going for a Meet the Press type of feel, off of the Sunday morning political talk show. The premise is, what if a thug and a square got in an argument about who was The Man. Like, they're debating which one is that nigga. I wrote it in three parts, where I actually play the moderator, then it's the thug's, then the square's perspective. It's dope.
I took this idea to my music writer and let him feel it out, then Rich played it and worked my vocals. It turned out perfectly. This one's hot. In the hood we call busted bitches chicken heads. Them broads who try to pull a ponytail and it just be a little inch of hair stickin' out the rubber band. We call 'em chickens. I'm sayin', if a bitch is absolutely beautiful but she has chicken behavior, she's a super chicken. They got 'em in every hood. You see her and wonder what she even doin' out there -- she's too cute to be on the set. But by 6 months later she done let the whole hood hit it and you say, ok, the bitch ain't no better than the rest of these birds.
This is a Filthy Rich beat. I put wifey on there, B. Parker, to speak for the females after that whole Super Chicken thing. This is more of a sincere song about what it’s really like trying to hold it down with a female. Every G really wants a woman to be ride or die with him, we just don’t believe it’s possible for the most part, and most women don’t believe we mean it when we say that. So this song is to try to speak for men and say that we know what time it is and we all want a thug queen to hold it down for us. I can say this, being in prison, I’ve seen dudes with some serious wives, hardcore riders who ain’t left their side for 20 years on locki, OG niggas with gray hair. I would ask them how they pulled that off, pick their brains, and it all just came down to the fact that they had a thug queen. A woman who was just built to handle it and stands by her dude. Made me believe it was possible. So this is for all of the ladies who hold it down for the G’s.
Amadeus had the idea for this beat off of the energy of the lyrics. He gave that to Rich and he brought it to life. It really works with the rhyme. This song is about the process I experienced having to mature in prison. A lot of us come in here at 18 to 25. Those are technically college years, we should be somewhere learning and growing. Pretty much, prison becomes a learning ground for those who have the slightest redeeming quality about them. The definition of insanity is doing the same things and expecting a different result, so at some point, if you realize that, you have to make changes. This song is about my realization and how I made my changes. It’s heavy.