Anticon - Biography

Anticon is a San Francisco Bay Area-based hip-hop collective that doubles as an independent record label for its artists as solo entities, for smaller collaborative clusters between members, and for collaborations with outside affiliates as well. Founded in 1997, the Anticon Collective is comprised of core members Alias (Brendan Whitney), Doseone (Adam Drucker), Jel (Jeff Logan), Odd Nosdam (David Madson), Pedestrian (James Brandon Best), Sole (Tim Holland), Why? (Yoni Wolf) and manager Baillie Parker. As an eight-man subset, Anticon has released one full-length album, 1999’s Music For the Advancement of Hip-Hop (Anticon), which was ever bit as declaratory as the title suggested.


Using what Tortoise’s John Herndon referred to as “the hip-hop equivalent of post-rock,” the progressive, alternative hip-hop sound of most the emcees was split between indie rock, electronica, beat poetry, spoken word and folk elements, framed in the hip-hop idiom. The style was also referred to as avanthop, and over the years some of the artists have moved further afield from designation—such as Why?—and into more specific indie rock and electronica territories.  Even as the styles evolved, Anticon as a philosophical label did too, releasing exploratory albums in genres outside of hip-hop.


The group was begun by Sole, who led a off-beat troupe in the Northeastern United States called The Live Poets, which self-released its own records in the early 1990s. Seeking rejuvenation, he and fellow Love Poet alum Alias moved to the more progressive San Francisco in the mid-1990s, where other like-minded artists were already informally working together. They met Midwestern transplant Slug, and California-based MC Doseone, and the four of them—calling themselves Deep Puddle Dynamics—formed the genesis of the Anticon Collective.


By 1997, the core group of eight members—with Jel and Baillie Parker joining, along with Why? and Odd Nosdam—and the Anticon Collective became a team. Under the label, each artist could put out as much music as they wanted, with Anticon or outside labels, but they would receive 50-percent of the profits of anything on Anticon. The unsaid pledge was to push the hip-hop envelope further than it has been previously pushed, and broaden its dynamics. With Sole working out a deal with Caroline for distribution, and the championing efforts of John Herndon, the collective began receiving attention in the late-1990s, doing a weekly live showcase of its roster in San Francisco and developing a website that fans from everywhere could download songs from. By 2000, acid jazz label Mush took over distribution for the avanthop label, thus perpetuating Anticon as pioneers in the realm of underground hip-hop.


The 1999 release of Music For the Advancement of Hip-Hop was 18 tracks of creative and very distinctive styles that had little to do with hip-hop expectations. It was 18 varying abstractions that helped to serve the collective’s mission statement of broadening the aesthetic. Songs like Slug’s “Nothing By Sunshine” with its piano beat stood out on the play list. The record was a showcase of the manifold talents among the members.


Since that time, the collective has released multiple albums by solo artists and factions, with various outside artists collaborating as well. Artists such as Sage Francis, Sixtoo, Mr. Dibbs and Tarsier have recorded on the label, which other projects between core Anticon members have released material on other labels—such as Clouddead (featuring Why?, Doseone and Odd Nosdam) and 13 & God (featuring Doseone, Jel and The Notwists).


As of February, 2010, founding member Tim Holland—better known as the rapper, Sole—left the Anticon Collective on good terms, in search of new challenges.


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