Published in The Pulse of The Twin Cities
by Kandis Knight
Minneapolis Hip-Hop producer extraordinaire Cheap Cologne’s roots are deep. At 32, he’s watched Hip-Hop evolve from its very beginnings, soaking in Chaka Khan and Grandmaster Flash when they first hit the scene. These days he appreciates all the different styles of modern Hip-Hop, from the underground (Pigeon John) to the mainstream (Missy “Misdemeanor” Elliott) his diverse tastes are abundantly evident in his production. Cheap Cologne surveys the scene.
Cheap Cologne (aka John K. in the work-a-day-world), a former break-dancer and DJ, is now comfortably situated on the music production side of Hip-Hop, attending classes at the Institute of Production and Recording in Minneapolis to continue polishing up his skills. All his hard work is paying off—Cheap Cologne recently inked a recording deal with San Francisco based Bomb Hip-Hop.
I recently sat down with Minneapolis native Cheap Cologne (http://www.broke-ass.com/) to get the scoop on his new recording deal and album, Just A Little Sample (released this week). “I’m happy that the label took it upon themselves to put [the record] out,” said Cheap Cologne.When talking about his aspirations for Just A Little Sample, Cheap Cologne remains humble.
“If 2,000 of them are created and 500 of them are given away for promos and the other 1,500 of them go into the 99-cent bin, people are still going to have the music—I’m not too concerned about the money,” said Cheap Cologne. Toph One, a writer for XLR8R Magazine (http://www.xlr8r.com/) called Cheap Cologne’s music “part indie rock/hip-hop with turntablism and jazz licks and MCs.”
The description is fitting yet doesn’t quite properly convey the unique aesthetic value of the album. Minneapolis musicians have always broken new ground, especially when it comes to fusing diverse genres of music, and Just A Little Sample is no exception. Just A Little Sample is a groundbreaking collage of vocal social commentary over an expert jumble of up-tempo Hip-Hop beats with snappy high hats, kicks and poppy snares.
Kind of jazzy and a bit movie soundtrack-ish at points, Just A Little Sample’s blend of ambient styles has something for everyone. “Girls and boys, this is listening time” says the ’60s-style schoolteacher on “Operation,” the opening cut of Cologne’s 16-track album. The introductory song does a great job of preparing the listener for the sonically adventurous ride ahead (which features cameos by popular underground Hip-Hop artists including, Pigeon John, Paul Z, Slug, Circus and Awol One). “Believe Me” is a sinister track featuring the vocal clips of Charles Manson complaining about his treatment behind bars and letting listeners into a few of his diabolical thoughts. Just when the gloom and doom of “Believe Me” is about to become overwhelming for listeners, the hopeful and upbeat “Seventy One” comes to the rescue, with a helping of Bob Marley style happiness.
An instrumental track, “Seventy One” could very well be a song about the highs and lows of life or love. “Floating Away,” featuring Elias, has a hook that is reminiscent of a jovial seventies television show theme song coupled with matter-of-fact inspirational lyrics (“I’m floating away, up on a cloud one shiny day.”) “Faustus’ Diary” featuring Gentle Jones is a downer, providing another jarring dose of sad reality a la “Believe Me.”
The song sets forth a grim tale (Dr. John Faustas mutiliates a prostitute and then ends his own life) guaranteed to make the listener reflect on the darker side of life. Just when the exploration of the insane psyche is beginning to become wearing, you’re brought back to reality, well “Dreality” (with special guest DJ T-Rock)—a title derived from the words “dream” and “reality.” The suitably surreal music captures that Saturday morning hangover feeling exceptionally well.
“City vs. Soil” featuring Gentle Jones and Unsung is a hodgepodge of environmentally conscious punch lines and phrases certain to raise the anxiety levels of anyone concerned with the earth’s well being. Or at the very least inspire Jane and John Doe to start thinking about the issue. Set to a near trance-like musical accompaniment “City vs. Soil” requires close following in order to fully comprehend the gurgle of different sounds and thoughts that make up the track.President Bush (senior) also makes a cameo describing the Gulf war in “Sound Familiar?”
The similarities between the sampled speech and his son’s recent speeches surrounding the Iraqi war are downright eerie, oozing with all of the same egotism and political venom. Paired with a haunted, sci-fi beat, the track expertly captures the feel of the escalation of warfare and probably should have been titled “De Ja Vu’.”All of the tracks on this diversely styled album are vivid constructions, fitting of the colorful cover design provided for them by graffiti artist Charlie Kraft. Cheap Cologne isn’t afraid to venture into challenging territory (musically, politically or psychologically) and seems intent on daring his listeners to follow him throughout the winding trip that is Just A Little Sample.
Cheap Cologne V. The FEDS
Cheap Cologne V. The FEDS
Published in The Pulse of The Twin Cities
by Kandis Knight
by Kandis Knight
The last time I hung out with Cheap Cologne I didn't notice all of the tats. Also there appears to be a certain "rock star" quality about him now that I hadn't noticed before. Being in Cheap Cologne’s presence is akin to listening to his music—meaning it’s a laid-back, cool and intellectually elevating way to spend some time. Maybe these changes have something to do with all the shit Cologne’s been through this past year, I think we can all agree that being chased down by the feds is no joke.
Cologne has made it through seemingly unphased, weathering the storm only seems to have made this local Hip-Hop super star's chi stronger. Cheap Cologne mulls over the fed’s next step. I was cruising Dunation when I first caught wind of the “feds vs. cologne” ruckus. The feds were cracking down on people who distribute pirated music from the internet and Cheap Cologne had became one of their targets. “One man versus the federal government—there’s a losing argument,” I thought to myself.
Cheap Cologne had made an album called The Double Black Album in which he put Jay-Z's lyrics to Metallica's music and created a new album. "I bought the Metallica Black Album on vinyl so I could scratch it and add it to part of the project," said Cheap Cologne. "I started with a couple songs using just loops, the Metallica whole parts as loops. Then I decided to break it down even more and sample just the individual kicks and snares from the drum kit and make my own beats behind it and still add their guitar melodies behind it. So every sound on there is from the Metallica record, even the scratches."
Almost immediately after Cologne decided to go public with his creation things began heating up between him and the authorities. "No later than one week after I got the CDs back I received an e-mail from the anti-piracy division at the RIAA threatening me with a $250,000 copyright infringement suit per copyright," said Cologne. "Basically I thought, ‘oh shit the whole project is shut down, at least I got some copies out there so people could listen to it before I got into trouble.’ I took it off my website."
A true musical genius loves to share his discoveries with the world, though. Before long I started seeing Cheap Cologne's name in Rolling Stone, then in Entertainment Weekly. Finally, I thought. A local producer has generated a national stir. I was delighted despite the fact that Entertainment Weekly didn't give Minneapolis any shine!
Nevertheless this is good for the Twin Cities Hip-Hop community. Cheap Cologne is constantly getting better at his craft and expanding his knowledge about the music industry, he is an artist who can make us all proud.
Something else Mr. Cologne is interested in—besides dodging federal prosecutors—is the local Hip-Hop scene. He's worked with all of the best. Anyway, shortly after the publicity surrounding The Double Black Album hit the national press, Mr. Cologne's website began to receive hits. "I had 150 thousand people on http://www.broke-ass.com/ in March,” recalls Cologne.
“My server was calling me saying ‘you're going over your limit this is going to cost you a fortune’. So I had to pay more for my hosting service so I could handle the hits and the transfer rates."
Cologne’s press schedule has been busy (The New York Times were his most recent interviewers before yours truly). It will be interesting to see how Cologne's career goes from here. For now, it looks as though the fear of prosecution has passed. Just recently, Cologne got a phone call from someone at The RIAA saying the warning e-mail they sent out was a mistake.
The feds made a mistake? Cologne explains, the agent said ‘I'm not telling you anything, I’m just letting you know that from our standpoint it was a mistake.’" “I said, ‘Well what does that mean?’ The agent said, ‘Sir I’m just letting you know that it was a mistake.’ After that he wouldn't tell me anything more. And I was like, ‘What are you telling me?’ And he said, ‘Well I’m not your attorney I’m just telling you it was a mistake.’
And I thought ‘Oh well, I'll lay low for a little while,’ but I didn't get any calls or anymore letters for a couple days and then I was like, ‘Screw it—I’m going to get it out there!’”
For more information about Cheap Cologne please visit http://www.broke-ass.com/. To listen to The Double Black Album you can go to http://www.bannedmusic.org/ (who estimated four to five weeks ago that 100-150 thousand people had downloaded The Double Black Album). Cheap Cologne has a new CD out called Sexy Grandma Remixes.
Like the true pioneer he is, he’s got an interesting CD cover (you’ll know what I’m talking about when you see it).Also, Cologne also has an instrumental CD coming out that he says emcees can do whatever they want with. Primarily though, he wants people to realize he makes good music and there’s more to him than the scandal surrounding The Double Black Album. “I want people to recognize me as a producer, not just a guy who did one of those remix albums.”