Amoeblog


Brian Coleman's Bay Area Book Tour In Support of "Check The Technique Volume 2"

Posted by Billyjam, November 13, 2014 01:22pm | Post a Comment
Respected longtime music journalist/hip-hop fanatic Brian Coleman will be in the Bay Area this week to promote his brand new book Check the Technique Volume 2 (Wax Facts) that picks up where the 2007 published first volume and its 2005 predecessor left off with "more liner notes for hip-hop junkies" as the engaging, information packed 526 page new book accurately promises on its cover.

Spanning 25 chapters with over 80 interviews and tons of accompanying images Coleman has meticulously presented the back story of 25 albums and 325 hip-hop songs (some eighties but mostly nineties) with the artists, producers, plus some label execs associated with them weighing in on these recordings. The end result is a page turner packed with  insights and answers to questions you might have had, or had not thought you wondered about until reading this enlightening book.

The chapters include The Coup Steal This Album, Diamond and the Psychotic Neurotics Stunts, Blunts & Hip Hop, Dr. Octagon Dr. Octagonecologyst, Ice Cube AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted & Kill At Will, Masta Ace Incorporated SlaughtaHouse, Kool G Rap & DJ Polo Wanted: Dead Or Alive, ED O.G & Da Bulldogs Life Of A Kid In The Ghetto, Jeru The Damaja The Sun Rises In The East, Mos Def & Talib Kweli Are Black Star, and KMD Black Bastards. Meanwhile the accompanying artist interviews include ones with such hip-hop acts as DJ Jazzy Jeff, Ice Cube, Mos Def & Talib Kweli, Mantronix, MF Doom, and Company Flow.

The Boston MA based author's book has several Bay Area connections. In addition to covering in its sprawling chapters such Bay Area artists as Boots Riley and Pam The Funkstress and The Coup, and DJ Qbert, Kutmasta Kurt, DJ Shadow, and Dan The Automator (as part of Dr Octagon project) the book's foreword is written  by Berkeley author Adam Mansbach, while its cover artwork by is by San Francisco based DJ/producer/artst Romanowski. Hence it is only fitting that Coleman should travel to the Bay Area this week to begin the promotion of his new book.

Today, Thursday November 13th, at 730pm he will be at Hip-Hop Chess Federation in Fremont (see flyer right for details); tomorrow Friday (Nov 14th) at Groove Merchant Records on Haight in San Francisco; and Saturday afternoon (Nov 15th) at The Legionnaire Saloon in Oakland (see flyer below for details). Click here for full CA dates info. Earlier today I caught up with the East Coast author to ask him about what to expect from his trip to the  Bay Area and about his latest publication.


Amoeblog:  Is it fair to call this book a direct continuation of your last one and is that how it came about - as in an ongoing series of in-depth liner notes of classic hip-hop LPs?

Brian Coleman: Indeed, this is the next volume in the series I started in 2005 with Rakim Told Me. I have been ridiculously fortunate to be able to talk to so many legends over the years. I just counted the tally up the other day – 66 albums covered up until now! I’m pinching myself just thinking back on all of those great conversations with so many legends. I call the process “Invisible Liner Notes” - retroactively giving liner notes to classic hip-hop albums that should have had them in the first place.


Amoeblog:   When picking the subject matter for this book how did you narrow it down to the 25 chapters/albums you ended up focusing on - was it based on personal preference or who was available for interview or other?

Brian Coleman:  Whenever I start one of these crazy books (the last two have been more than 500 pages each), I have a big list of albums I want to cover. Then I start whittling that list down, and certain ones fall off just because the artists are too difficult for me to get in touch with. But overall I don’t worry about the ones I don’t get, because I have been very fortunate to talk to so many legends over the years. Overall, though, these are all albums that I love on a personal level, so that is indeed where it all begins.


Amoeblog:  Many, not all, of the albums covered in your book are debut albums. Do you subscribe to the common belief that generally most artist's first album is their best work?

Brian Coleman: I actually do believe that, for the most part. But at the same time, I generally tend to cover the earliest work of any given artist because these books are also about each artist’s back-story and early history. If I do someone’s fifth album then I would have to skim over their first four albums to get to the “featured” one and – as people who have read my previous books will attest – I don’t like skimming over details!!!

There are rare instances where I might like an artist’s third or fourth album more than their first one or two, but those are few and far-between. I love De La Soul's "Stakes Is High," for instance, but not more than 3 Feet High and Rising. It can happen that an artist can still crush it after a decade or two in the game, but it’s hard. Many times group dynamics and – hisssssss – the industry gets in the way. Which is why groups like Public Enemy, De La Soul, The Roots, and The Coup deserve extra props, for staying together for so long. It’s not easy. In fact, it’s almost impossible.


Amoeblog: You did an awful lot of interviewing for this book - hence it likely took on unperceived path for you as author. If so what were some of the more surprising revelations uncovered in your interviewing process of the dozens of artists you talked with for this book?

Brian Coleman: 
That’s a tough one to answer because there are multiple revelations in each chapter. Some of them are minor, some are major. One thing that came out in the Kool G Rap chapter was a medical situation that very nearly killed G Rap right before he recorded Wanted: Dead or Alive. I had never heard that story before, and it was pretty insane. He basically went right from his hospital bed and into the recording studio, after a couple weeks of recovery, and produced a truly mind-bending lyrical record. He joked that his crew asked him if they had implanted some kind of microchip in his brain at the hospital. But at the time it wasn’t funny at all.


Amoeblog:  As you interviewed the artists on these bygone era albums - many two plus decades ago - did you encounter scenarios where the artists simply forgot about the recording/writing process that went into the albums?

Brian Coleman: I think that does happen from time to time, but generally people are pretty good about their recollections. Better than I would be if you asked me what I was doing 20 years ago!!! One good thing is that an artist knows where to find me, so they can always hit me back in a couple days or a week and say “Actually, I just went and looked in my old notes and we did that track at so-and-so studio, not the one I told you.” Generally, though, people remember the big stuff because it was important to their lives and careers, and the bigger facts are what are more important to me. Timelines, collaborators, behind-the-scenes people.


Amoeblog:  What are one or two of your favorite interviews conducted for this book and why?

Brian Coleman:  I’m not saying this just because I’m talking to the legendary Billy Jam for the legendary Amoeba Music, but I loved talking to the Bay’s Boots Riley and Pam The Funkstress about their journey with their early career (separately and together) that culminated in Steal This Album. I have always been a huge fan of The Coup, and to hear about all the struggles that Boots went through to first of all make The Coup a reality and to keep the group’s mission and journey going, was a true testament to the will of someone who creates. Who has something to say and is just itching to share it with the world. They hit so many roadblocks, and it’s amazing to see how Boots and Pam and the crew have managed to hurdle them all and are now doing better than ever.


Amoeblog:  I loved all the back stories of stuff I knew nothing about like Black Sheep recording at a studio in the Chelsea Hotel and how those songs never saw the light of day. As you did the interviews with these artists did you ever get to hear some of these demos, outtakes, or bonus unreleased tracks?

Brian Coleman: Sometimes I do hear them, either from the artists themselves or through research I do. But now that you mention it, a lot of times I don’t. When I’m in the zone of making a book I have so many interviews to research, transcribe and write up that listening to music (even music that directly relates to my chapters) is on the back burner. I don’t really review the music in each chapter, I am more of a tour guide with these books than someone who analyzes everything and gives my opinion. My opinions do come through but that’s not my intention. So I guess I figure that regarding the beyond-the-album audio and video items, that part will be done by my readers once the book is done.


Amoeblog:  Is there or will there be a corresponding mix tape for this book?

Brian Coleman: Indeed! My friends The Rub (DJ Eleven and DJ Ayres) in Brooklyn rocked an amazing mix that people can check out right here. I was very honored they did it, it’s a perfect companion to the book:


Amoeblog:  Noticeably absent are any female hip-hop artist albums - contributing artist DJ Pam the Funkstress from the Coup being an exception  - care to comment?

Brian Coleman:  All I can say is that I agree, it’s a glaring issue with my books. That being said, I have tried! Queen Latifah, Yo-Yo, Salt-N-Pepa, even Ladybug from Digable Planets (I covered Reachin’ in my last book, but her manager wouldn’t connect me with her). It’s something that bothers me and that I have made a conscious effort to fix in the past. So I agree, it sucks. It’s not that I am trying to only show the male viewpoint. Ann Carli (Jive Records) and Monica Lynch (Tommy Boy) are also interviewed in this new volume, and they were both pioneering female hip-hop executives, so their voices were important for me to have in there.


Amoeblog: This is your third book in the series. Will there be more and if so how many and what musical territory will they cover?

 Brian Coleman: I hope there will be more books on my resume at some point, but not in this series. I have loved doing all of these chapters and albums, but I need to rock a different format. Hopefully an “as told to” type of bio with one artist, to really dive super-deep and have full cooperation. As to who that will, be… I’m not sure yet but I have some ideas. Stay tuned!


Amoeblog:  What can folks expect at each of your three scheduled Bay Area dates this week?

Brian Coleman: With all of the book events I do, my ultimate thing is having conversations with people (fellow panelists, where applicable, and attendees) – about these artists, about the hip-hop music that we all love so much. I don’t believe in lecturing people from a podium, I don’t do “readings,” because my books are about the artists, not about me.

So I think I have set up all three events with some amazing Bay Area friends (Adisa Banjoko, Eric Arnold, Cool Chris at Groove Merchant, Romanowski and DJ Platurn, among others) to give people different locations and settings to come and say hello and talk about hip-hop. And if they want to buy a book, then that’s great, I won’t say no!

Relevant Tags

Check The Technique Volume 2 (1), De La Soul (25), The Coup (26), Brian Coleman (6), Kool G Rap (5)