Reading yesterday's great Eric Brighwell Amoeblog about New Orleans rapper Lil Slim reminded me of another great and oft slept-on New Orleans rap artist -- Fiend, whom I first met back in the nineties when he initially hooked up with Master P's No Limit label, and with whom I last talked around this time last year when he released his recommended career retrospective CD on Priority Mr. Whomp Whomp: The Best of Fiend (look for it and other Fiend releases at Amoeba Music).
That best-of collection, which features collaborations from the likes of Master P, MIa X, Snoop Dogg, Mac, and Kane & Abel, ably displays Fiend's trademark gruff, growling, gravelly Nawleans rap drawl and the rapper's edgy lyrical style, coupled with his skill for creating killer hooks (often behind-the-scenes, fueling others' success including Silkk the Shocker, Snoop Dogg, and Master P for whom he heavily contributed to the runaway MTV/crossover hit "Make Em Say Uh").
Fiend initially earned his Rakim inspired name (as in "Microphone Fiend") coming up as a distinctive young hip-hop voice in both New Orleans' 3rd Ward and 17th Ward Districts. Born Richard Jones, he grew up in what is known as the Hollygrove area, where, from his early teens onwards he spent any free time, "Making music whenever and wherever I could. I would record all over...at people's houses," he told me, citing as among his early influences: Rakim, Con Funk Shun, Earth Wind & Fire, Stevie Wonder, Curtis Mayfield, Big Daddy Kane, and Public Enemy. However even more profound an influence on his craft and his life was the sudden death of his younger brother Kevin, who was killed when Fiend was only sixteen years of age.