Taste Emcees: “In it for the Art”

For real! Say the words Hip Hop and most of us are struck with negative images. Guns and thugs…gyrating, half-naked females…forty ouncers and drugs…black youth acting the fool in the streets. Our media is saturated with and perpetuates these images. How could we think any other way? Meet, Trav O, Mr. G. Murray, and King Shenzi Rek, Taste Emcees and independent creators of Kings Paradice Inc. According to King Shenzi Rek, “We own ourselves.” The crew writes, produces, mixes, markets, promotes, and distributes its own work. They are street teachers, pushing knowledge with thought-provoking lyrics and body-moving beats. Listening to the Taste is an intellectual engagement of the mind, body and soul. I hung out with the emcees at Onopa Brewing Co. after listening to “Taste Travels” four times. I fell out of love with Hip Hop some years ago. I was disenchanted with the offerings on commercial radio and cable TV that glorified irresponsible sex, violence, and consumerism. I’ve always loved the beats but the messages were disturbing. Thing is, I just didn’t know where to look. Trav O gave me some background on how “corporate manipulation” controls the music industry. “When Public Enemy came out, they were the hottest thing on the street and had major control over young people,” he says. “Their message was positive, black, and uplifting, but they were not soft about it. They were the first to come out on stage with guns,” he explained. What followed? Groups like N.W.A. and “gangsta rap.” All of a sudden, groups with messages of unity and empowerment, like Poor Righteous Teacher and Boogie Down Productions, no longer received the sizable budgets as the ‘pushed to popularity’ gangsta rappers. When asked of their influences, Mr. G. Murray tells me, “We’re 70’s babies.” They came up listening to the pioneers of their art. “We got into ourselves in the late eighties and early nineties.” Everything is an influence. The crew’s style, as Mr. G. Murray puts it, is “old school.” Articulating the need to “speak truth and make change,” Trav O spoke of artists and the media needing to be more responsible for images they disseminate. While adults are free to chose what they see or hear, they need to be responsible for what their children are exposed to. King Shenzi Rek: “Hip Hop is the voice of the youth. It has the ears of all the nations. Kids everywhere either want to do it, emulate it…idolize the artists. The current state of Hip Hop is a reflection of American culture. Hip Hop didn’t start it (violence, drugs, etc); it ain’t nothing new.” The Taste Emcees are artists, activists, and advocates. All are non-felons and registered voters. Mr. G. Murray and Trav O are both fathers, fully involved in the lives of their children. All are proud educators: Mr. G. Murray for MPS, Trav O for Choice, and King Shenzi Rek a teacher and most importantly, a student of the streets. If the Midwest is the next spot to blow up on the Hip Hop scene, Taste Emcees are sure to be the ones to ignite and maintain the fire. No doubt, the best way for those of us who are misinformed and “miseducated” about this art to overcome our ignorance is to pick up “Taste Travels” and prepare to be enlightened. The CD is available at Disc Man. For more information on The Taste Emcees (and to listen to their music) go to www.tasteemcees.com. They can be contacted at Gorilla Promotions, 264-7857. If you have or know of a local music group that you would like to see featured, contact . Riverwest Currents – Volume 1 – Issue 11 – December 2002