Bill grew up in the D.C. area. In '85, he gave up a basketball scholarship to go to school in North Carolina. Punk wasn't an aesthetic yet and many people still thought of Raleigh as a small college town. So it was a perfect place for Bill to bring his D.C. roots. With a heavy Dischord influence, Bill formed Insurgence, a politically charged punk band and eventually opened his own store, Crooked Beat (named after a song by his favorite group, The Clash). Crooked Beat specializes in punk, classic alternative and modern alternative. Bill tried two different spots in Raleigh. But nothing stays the same, and punk was exploited while Raleigh turned into the scary yuppie city it is now, which had Bill singing the only Clash song that Raleigh's population might know: "Should I Stay or Should I Go?" Well, Bill is going back home to D.C., but Crooked Beat is still online at www.crookedbeat.com, where the world has showed him love by keeping his business thriving.
Another hero, multi-instrumentalist Jon Heames, has been a staple in North Carolina bands since '81. Jon grew up in Winston-Salem and had a successful run with his first band, The Vanguard, from '81-'88. He then went to one of North Carolina's most underrated bands, Let's Active. Jon played bass during their last leg and last album, Every Dog Has Its Day. That lasted from '88-'90. Then came Motorola (aka Motocaster), which brought him to Raleigh.
"The thing about the Motorola days," Jon says, "was [it was] a conglomeration of the first wave, which included such firm punk bands as The Cigaretz, The Bad Checks, etc., and the second musical scene, including bands Erectus Monotone, Finger and others. Chapel Hill's bands were more new wave/punk, as Raleigh was more grimy."
Like Bill, Jon has worked in his share of record stores, making him a passionate collector of vinyl. He also has been teaching bass guitar and guitar at Harry's Guitar Shop since 1990. He currently plays bass for The Stream, a pop-rock band with touches of soul and psychedelica, and lead guitar for the Steve Howell Band--a traditional country outfit.
Both heroes have taught me so much about music that I first would like to say thank you, Bill, for the experience at Crooked Beat, and Jon for the unforgettable bass lessons (why did I get that silly Epiphone?). These guys have given themselves selflessly to music, so much that they deserve a medal. Although their opinions on hip hop can be quite humorous, I grabbed some wax and CDs to play for these solid rockers. I knew their opinions would be interesting and Bill would say, "Block rocking beats"(which is the first thing he said). So here it is; no holding back:
DJ Kay Slay featuring 50 Cent: "50 Shot Ya" (Streetsweepers Vol.1, Loud/Columbia). After being shot nine times last year, the instructor of "How to Rob" has made his way off Columbia and onto the righteous path with his new label, Shady/Aftermath. The album features production by Dr. Dre and Eminem, Shamoney XL and Dart La.
Bill: "Sounds Southern ... interesting voice. I like the music. Is this the new 'gangster rap' style? Laid back. He lets his thoughts go. He says whatever. The choice of sampling is much better than I have heard before."
Jon: "Way cool. You never get a musical surprise much in this genre. This song is hypnotic and sensible, rhythmically and harmonically. This guy has got stories to tell and I am not sure if I want to hear them. A pleasing break from the first key to the second."
Twin and Alchemist: "B.I.G. T.W.I.N.Z." (Alchemist Presents the 1st Infantry/ALC Records). Both Crooked Beat shopper Henry Rollins and infamous mob rapper Twin (aka Gambino) have seen the worst, but like Rollins, Gambino has worked out the pain through his music. Gambino's voice, and anthem-making producer Alchemist's bangers, create a unique, head-nodding sound.
Bill: "It's like a Hendrix/Clapton sample almost. I can't believe I don't know where it came from. It's almost like a merge, like a rock approach. Much better than commercial hip hop. A breath of fresh air."
Jon: "This song makes me want to drink a Colt 45. I like the riff, like the groove. I like the vinyl noise. Sounds like they got together with their homies and recorded 10 to 30 seconds of them on instruments to make the loop."
J-Live/DJ Premier: "Braggin' Writes" (from New York Reality Check 101 Mixtape/Payday). "Braggin' Writes" was made in '95 by J-Live, who did the cuts himself. This song was an industry shakedown and has been released a bazillion times, but one time was on hip-hop icon DJ Premier's New York Reality Check 101, which was released in '97.
Bill: "The DJ is more of the focus. I don't know. I quit paying attention to hip hop in 1988. Is he a party MC? All he talks about is that he's better than others. Not exciting."
Jon: "Killer rhyming on the rapping. His voice makes you want to hear every word. Love the mixing--clever and psychedelic. I couldn't dance to it, I would be too busy listening to it. I love the crash symbols."
Nas, produced by Large Professor: "Halftime" (Illmatic/Columbia). "Halftime" was released as a single from the movie Zebrahead in '93, and also is from Nas' debut album, Illmatic, which is a hip-hop classic. The beat was released by Large Professor, another hip-hop icon. Nas' rhymes on Illmatic have become a standard.
Bill: "I like the music a lot. This guy sounds like all the other rappers on the radio. I would rather hear the first guy rap this. I like the bass line a lot. I like the instrumental."
Jon: "The bass line is the highlight. It's the glue for the samples. The samples wouldn't blend without the bass line. This sounds like he has authority and experience."
Blacksheep: "Similak Child" (A Wolf in Sheep's Clothing/Mercury). Dres from Blacksheep is a Sanford native, and the album's a timeless classic that can be listened to over and over again.
Bill: "Sounds late '80s. A lot of dogs barking, I know that. I like the drums. It's a party atmosphere to the lyrics. The samples get better as the song goes on. Is that the Dick Street in Greensboro? There were a lot of punk shows there back in the day."
Jon: [Nodding his head] "Way cool. Happening drum part. I am a fan of the 'stop and start' mixing method. This song is keeping my attention. I like the different sample combinations. I know the first sample."
JustICE, produced by Mantronik: "Put The Record Back On" (Back to The Old School/Fresh). This 1986 JustICE record is a hip-hop standard and is emblematic of its time. JustICE was and is an important pioneer in underground music, along with Mantronik, who produced it.
Bill: [Big smile] "Mid to late '80s production. Electronic drum machines. I like this one. Sounds familiar to Kurtis Blow. Who is it? JustICE, I remember that name."
Jon: "Sounds like the technology of the time. Digital delay, even slap-back echo on the vocals, isn't something you'd hear now. This one rocks harder despite the time. Party lyrics, celebration of life rather than I nearly lost my life."