Tuesday, September 18, 2007

As Bitter As We Wanna Be

This is sort of an unofficial biography of Oddjobs/Kill the Vultures that I was attempting to write from an outside perspective (in the third person, I believe). I wrote most of this in one sitting over a year ago and never finished it. Maybe posting this will inspire me to do so.

As Bitter As We Wanna Be
by Alexei Moon Casselle

Some time around the end of 2004 and the beginning of aught-five, saw the official change of name, location and roster of Twin Cities bastard-child hip-hop group “Oddjobs,” to the new and roughly refined “Kill the Vultures”. Names and cities, however, were the least important or interesting aspect of the changes. The sounds created from Kill the Vultures (Oddjobs minus one DJ) self titled debut in 2005 was anything but linear or predictable, yet somehow completely natural.
Oddjobs, a five-piece identity crisis with an emphasis on eclectic, jazzy, colorful beats by two-man production team DJ’s Deetalx and Anatomy featuring MC’s Advizer, Nomi and Crescent Moon, brought early comparisons to Beastie Boys mixed with De La Soul mixed with Minneapolis; certainly successful by local standards, but always in the “not quite Atmosphere” corner of the scene.
Born in Twin Cities’ high school talent shows, coffee house open-mics, and unadulterated house parties, the five hip-hop hopefuls were united as members of a larger twenty-odd person hip-hop crew CMI (Cases of Mistaken Identity), which released the cassette tape “Case Studies” in 1998. CMI capsized and split in several directions shortly after when too many passengers got on board, mostly just to party, but not before hustling 200 tapes out of backpacks, on street corners, hip-hop shows and graduation open-houses.
The Minnesotan underdogs regrouped and began building a small local following with a string of steadily improving live shows, and releasing completely self-sufficient albums with tip money, borrowing of parent’s cars and a network of friends with a variety of hook ups, skills and trades.
Oddjobs first CD, “Conflict and Compromise,” was a frenzy of mostly one-take longwinded teen-angsty lyrics about not trying to be teen angsty, and a slew of unintentionally funny, misplaced vocal samples over a free-for-all production orgy. The spoken word intro along with numerous six-minute songs dedicated to trash- talking, semi-clever wordplay and pretty much anything that sort of rhymed, was a hint that the group didn’t have much direction or discipline, but plenty of charisma, drive and creativity.
With a tireless do-it-yourself work ethic, and an undeniable effort to self-improve brought about several honorable mentions in local papers as well as steady support from independent radio station DJ’s.
Oddjobs, Heiruspecs, Unknown Prophets and Kanser (the latter of which were already South Minneapolis street legends and the first to record and produce an Oddjobs track) were among the most successful local non-Rhymesayers hip-hop bands in the Twin Cities.
Rhymesayers Entertainment, was the record label and crew by which local underground hip hop was measured, also formed from a larger collective called "Headshots," which boasted an all-star cast including but not limited to Beyond (Musab), Phull Surkle, Atmosphere, the Micranots, Native Ones, and the Abstract Pack. These were artists so wildly talented and diverse that they couldn't help but lay the foundation for up and coming MC's, DJ's and producers. Of course the graffitti and b-boy communities were cutting edge and ground-breaking in their own rights and completely interwoven into the same community, keeping true to the origin of hip hop culture. The soon-to-be Oddjobs members were just faces in the crowd of awed high-school students staying out late on school nights, crammed into coffee houses and makeshift venues, only to have their lives forever changed and their fates determined.

In 2000, DJ Deetalx (Devon Callahan) and Advizer (Adam Waytz) moved to New York City for scholarly conquest, and performed a few times in the Big Apple under the Oddjobs moniker, leaving the other three ‘Jobs to perform without their counterparts in Minneapolis, also as Oddjobs.
The second Oddjobs release entitled “Absorbing Playtime EP” was crafted via telephone, email and school break visits, one thousand miles apart. The tracks produced by Anatomy (Stephen Lewis) were formulated in a U of M dorm room he occupied with roommate Crescent Moon (Alexei Casselle), written mostly between classes and late night drug induced sessions.

Absorbing Playtime, self-released in 2000, received unanimous “rough around the edges but promising” -type praise and strengthened their position as a group to watch for. Nomi and Naimles MC of CMI’s Oddjobs’ counterpart WordSpeak made their debut on the disc’s last track “Fun.”
After moving from Minneapolis/St. Paul to Brooklyn, New York, the twenty-one year-old dreamers found themselves on independent rap label, “Third Earth,” with national distribution and on a roster along side underground heavyweights Jean Grae, Sub Conscious and the Juggaknots. Kimani Rogers, Third Earth co-founder and Master Minds MC met Adam Waytz through Stretch Armstrong & Bobbito’s radio show, of which Adam was an intern.
Their Third Earth debut, “Drums,” failed to sell as many units as they had aimed for, however, two singles from the LP landed on the CMJ (College Music Journal) top 20 chart (Blue Collar Holler #6, Dry Bones #7). The over-produced, over-cooked, and unfocused recordings came out swinging, but yielded mixed reviews and an obvious sense of disappointment among the group.
“Drums,” the ten thousand dollar, yearlong investment, was taught a valuable lesson by an album they would release several months later entitled “Funboy,” which didn’t take itself quite so seriously, and revealed the personalities and spontaneity of the quintet. Outselling Drums, Funboy, easily one of Oddjobs best records, cost a fraction of Drums to make and was written and recorded in about four days in their home studio.


“The Shopkeeper’s Wife EP,” promoted as the “moody” follow up to Drums, signaled a sober and angrier morning after to Drums’ party-all-night vibe. Released in 2002 after Drums and before Funboy, SKW sounded like a direct rebuttle to Drums, even including a rerecorded title track found on the previous album.
“I’m hypnotized, y’all keep switchin’ sides; twistin’ lies up/ you’re mystified; bet you’ve never seen your reflection in your victim’s eyes” certainly spoke a harsher truth then previous Oddjobs lyrics. “Tricked” is a comicly dark reinterpretation of Ghetto Boys’ “My Mind’s Playin’ Tricks On Me;” a refreshingly un-over conceptualized track dedicated to nothing more than nasty lyrics over an even nastier beat. The closing track “Transparent,” is Crescent Moon’s “fuck-off to dead-beat dads” anthem filled with personal heartaches but delivered with a crowdrocking, uplifting quality over a beat as simple, honest and raw as the song's message. With tracks nodding towards their Minnesotan roots, tasteful humor and passionate testaments, the critically acclaimed EP was the final release on Third Earth before the label went belly-up in 2004.

The group toured constantly between 2002 and '04, with the help of booking agent Mike Mori of the Agency Group (who liked the group’s work ethic as much as their sound), landing them gigs alongside hip-hop heroes Lyrics Born, DJ Shadow, Hieroglyphics, Snoop Dogg, Atmosphere and De La Soul. The quintet gained respect as hard-working underdogs from their peers and elders alike, and could often be seen at shows with the sharpie-scribbled sign: “Oddjobs needs a place to sleep tonight,” next to their t-shirts and CD’s, perfectly willing to crash on floors, couches and in their tour van like any seasoned indie rock group.
The band would soon embark on the three month tour opening in support of Atmosphere's "Seven's Travels" album, and it would be this experience that changed the musical direction of the five members that had been as close as brothers since highschool, and would eventually lead to the self-destruciton of Oddjobs in a cozy house in Berkeley, California.

To Be Continued...

42 comments:

Andy said...

When does part 2 get released?

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