“There’s a big difference between my books and [VH1's] Behind the Music,” explains author and longtime music critic Brian Coleman.
“The denouement of Behind the Music is how you got over your drug use, or maybe you die. It's never celebrating how great those groups are; it’s what they did to destroy themselves. My books are the opposite. I focus on the beauty of when and how they [and the albums] came together.”
Coleman recently published Check the Technique, Vol. 2 on his own Wax Facts Press. His third book, and sequel to 2007's Check the Technique, interviews the artists, producers and behind-the-scenes conduits of two dozen classic hip-hop albums from the '80s and '90s. From Ice Cube to Company Flow, Mos Def to Mantronix, every song is contextualized for the super-fan.
Technique 2 is built around the answers to probing research, with rare photos and scanned artifacts included. Artists open up with lucidity and trust to describe moments in time that changed our musical libraries.
“Being out there in California got me more open-minded, musically. It wasn’t challenging for me in New York anymore. I was on Sunset Boulevard and it was wild: the girls, the pimps, the people, the sun, palm trees, going to clubs. It was all so spontaneous, it wasn’t like New York. Los Angeles was free-wheeling. Every night seemed like Saturday night. And I also started listening to a wider range of music.
A lot of people probably thought I was smoking PCP and was on drugs [when they heard Dr. Octagonecologyst]. Other groups might have needed to be on drugs to attempt a record like that. But I was eating potato chips when we made it. Yoo-Hoos and donuts. It was one big spaceship and everyone was riding. Me and [Dan the] Automator were Mr. Spock and Captain Kirk.” – Kool Keith on relocating to L.A. and creating his Dr. Octagon alter ego.
“[The lyrics] originally supposed to be for N.W.A. I felt like mainstream America hated us, like they thought we was the worst thing to come out to America since… [Christopher] Columbus! [Laughs] And that fired us up, because it meant that we was being heard. That was the most important thing. I mean, rap is the blues, especially gangsta rap, because you’re hearing our pain, whether you agree with it or like it or not. You’re hearing what we’ve got to say. If not, then you’re voiceless, you’re not even a number to a lot of these… people in high places.” – Ice Cube on the lyrics to “The Nigga Ya Love to Hate.” (The complete AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted chapter is published at Medium.)
“On that one I was talkin' about this chick from Brooklyn named Bonita. It's really about her. And it was partially about a girl I knew about named Lisa. We knew each other through mutual friends. They were both runnin' around on the streets, actin' crazy.” – Diamond D on the inspiration behind his 1992 hit “Sally Got A One Track Mind.”
On November 11, Coleman will be part of a panel discussion at USC (free and open to the public). On November 12, he will be signing books at Artform Studios in the downtown L.A. Arts District, joined by A Tribe Called Quest/NPR's Ali Shaheed Muhammad and hip-hop/soul composer Adrian Younge
Check the Technique Vol. 2 is available direct from the author and via select retail partners. More info here.