Posted by Billyjam, December 2, 2008 11:40am | Post a Comment

fiendReading 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 people's houses," he told me, citing as among his early the best of fiend mr whomp whompinfluences: 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.

"That totally changed my life from then on. It really influenced my music: every word and every lyric...and it taught me that life can be taken away in a blink of an eye. Appreciate your family," he solemnly said of his brother's murder. Fiend's heart-wrenchingly moving song "Take My Pain" about his sibling perfectly expresses these feelings.  And fittingly the song features Master P, who coincidentally also lost his younger brother (eerily also named Kevin) to the street. 

Fiend first met Master P one day in the studio when he was recording along with KLC for a Mia X No Limit track. KLC strongly advised Master P to i won't be denied by fiendsign Fiend to "the Tank" (No Limit's logo), insisting that his raw sound was what was missing from No Limit's roster at the time. Bear in mind that by this stage Fiend had already cemented his rep, especially with his Big Boy Records single, the Dirty South hardcore classic "I'm The Baddest Muthafucka Alive" from his 1995 debut album I Won't Be Denied.

Like many artists who were signed to No Limit, Fiend has mixed feelings on the experience but tends to focus on the positive: "It made me a better artist and expanded my fan base," he said of his time with Master P's label. He notes that, as a result of the affiliation, he got to collaborate with a great many artists not just from the Dirty South but beyond too, artists like Snoop with whom he recorded (surprise) the weed themed track "fiend, there's one in every familyWho Got The Fire." In addition, he not only contributed to the No Limit movie soundtracks for both I'm Bout It and I Got The Hook Up but he also had an acting role (he played the character Rosco) in the 1998 comedy I Got The Hook Up which starred Master P and AJ Johnson.

But Fiend, who these days is kept busy either making his own music or producing and ghost-writing for others, is in his finest form whenever he is talking about or making music about his city of New Orleans, as in songs like his classic "For the N.O.," which he described as, "a song that gives props to where I am from." As far as the devastating effects of Hurricane Katrina (still very much felt to this day) on his city, Fiend said that it was "a life changing experience for everyone here...but you fall down and you heal, even if it is a slow healing."

Relevant Tags

Rakim (14), New Orleans (56), Big Boy (1), No Limit (4), Hip-hop (217), Fiend (1), Rap (134), Mia X (2), Black History Month (134)