Historically, Rap crews generally tend to develop locally, but groups of like-minded artists coming together through the internet has been in practice for well over a decade now, as archaic forms of internet communication like AOL chatrooms and hip hop message boards gave emcees and producers a way to collaborate at a distance and form new duos, groups, and crews, sometimes without having ever met one another. The dawn of Myspace only made this type of remote collaboration easier and more common, and developments like facebook, youtube, twitter, dropbox, tumblr, and soundcloud have made it commonplace. Still, it is unusual to find a crew as large as SpaceGhostPurrp’s Raider Klan, with so much interconnection in their music, and so many remote outposts and crew members so dedicated to a similar purpose. Furthermore the Raider Klan like one of their early influences NWA has shown an early ability to influence the development of similarly themed rap crews all over the map.
The Raider Klan’s inter-regional membership accentuates their most interesting sonic characteristics – their post-regional surrealist nostalgic phonk, made up of a concoction of mid-90′s Memphis underground, early 90′s diasporic G-funk, RZA’s early 90′s layering of film sound effects (in this case often video game samples from Mortal Kombat or the moans of female porn stars), and occasional hints of Miami Bass. Listening to Raider Klan is like listening to rap in a bizarro alternate dimension where the dominant influences on the commercial rap scene were Screw tapes, Memphis underground tapes from artists like Three 6 Mafia, Frayser Click, Kingpin Skinny Pimp, double time midwest artists like Bone Thugs-N-Harmony and Crucial Conflict, early nineties West Coast NWA, D.O.C., Eazy-E, Dr. Dre, and Texas hardcore rap, hints of early 90′s 5%er influenced Afrocentricity, Mortal Kombat arcade games, codeine, and robitussin and they all arrived hermetically sealed in a time capsule in the basement of each member along with a bag of OG Kush and a SpaceGhostPurrp decoder ring. While chronologically many of those things occured during roughly the same time period, Raider Klan is made up predominantly of 90′s babies, who either absorbed much of this era through the passion of their parents and older family members, or through thorough research of youtube archivists who have made so many things from the early and mid-nineties readily available for nostalgic 30/40 somethings, or intrigued youth.
Those who would miss the point, by noting anachronisms within this poly-regional aesthetic, its important to recall that rap in the early and mid nineties didn’t always develop in a linear fashion. There were rappers from Atlanta who rapped like they were from New Jersey, the Los Angeles “West Coast” rap scene was heavily influenced by the writing and delivery of a certain rapper Dr. Dre transplanted from Dallas, Texas, while G-Funk transported quickly back to Houston, Miami Bass permeated everything that wasn’t biting NYC, and some artists had the ability to incorporate sonic backdrops from other regions and create something new that would then be translated into other regions - or perhaps it was the other way around.
While it is slightly unusual for artists to create nostalgic music based around an era they’re too young to actively reminisce over, it’s not entirely unique (there were a host of young artists who tried to rehash early 90′s and late 80′s NY). What is unique, is that the Raider Klan rarely focuses on “golden era” techniques in their re-imagining of bygone musical periods. Sure much of their music is referential to the period between 1990 and 1997, often characterized as the “golden era” of rap, but that period is rarely considered the golden era of southern rap, which as a genre (or sub-genre) was still in its developing infancy during the early nineties. The rawness, the excitement, the lo-fi qualities, the overall basement demo tape vibe of Raider Klan music effectively captures the vibe of the Memphis rap scene in its infancy, but it also captures the vibe of other developing regions. Texas in the early nineties wasn’t sure if it wanted to be a G-Funk town, a Miami Bass town, or a New York hip hop town. Atlanta and Memphis faced the same issues in its infancy. If one needs proof this phenomenon go listen to early albums from MC Shy-D, Geto Boys, Gangsta Pat, Parental Advisory and dozens of other artists from hip hop’s popular regional outposts prior to the release of their seminal region defining classics. All of this work is important to hip hop history and helped those regions move towards developing their own regional soundscapes, but the work that Raider Klan is rehashing here brings light to an era in rap that is often glossed over, despite it’s gems, because it was still so exploratory.
As much as Raider Klan’s aesthetic is dripped in southern methodologies there are undeniably more direct New York influences than most modern rap music from the south – which was also often the case during the developmental stages of the regions during the time period of reference. Occasionally the beats have a jazz vibe, and the heavily layered sample usage while it has some roots in Memphis, also takes on many aspects of what the RZA and his disciples became famous for doing behind the board. The assumption of a modified 5%er methodology (Gods and Goddesses, the holiness of self, and a quest for knowledge and power) and the red black and green imagery also recall both the Wu and Native Tongues, as well as the likes of KRS and Rakim. The influence of this ideology again was something that filtered into other regional rap scenes from New York, much the way the West Coast sound and Miami Bass filtered to these remote outposts.
SpaceGhostPurrp “Pheel The Phonk (1990)”
Ultimately, SpaceGhostPurrp is the Klan’s tireless phonk definer. SGP has put out more projects than any of the other artists associated with Raider Klan and has brought forth both a dynamic set of lyrical precepts as a rapper and created the loose parameters for the crew’s sonic exploration as a producer. Purrp is also responsible for bringing most of the attention to the crew initially through his collaboration with burgeoning stars like A$ap Rocky, something he seems less and less interested with these days. For those interested in learning more about the Raiders, SGP’s work is the Rosetta Stone for the process and the obvious jumping off point. Though there are a grip of artists to sift through beyond Purrp, it would be a shame if rap fans stopped their exploration with SGP. Ideologically and sonically the crew is not in lock-step, but when the cross-pollination of various regional influences from such an exploratory and creative era is the dominant trope there is an undeniable energy and quality to their music that is consistent throughout. The crew follow SpaceGhostPurrp’s lead on most things as he is definitively the crew’s most talented producer, although there are many talented young producers developing within the Klan, and as an emcee, though not the most technically skilled in the crew, he is the greatest purveyor of a consistent ideology (something covered more extensively here). That said, each member has his or her own innovative take on their re-imagining of sonic influences, and his or her own vocabulary and delivery, making many of the other members projects equally worthy of interest in its own right.
“Strictly 4 My R.V.I.D.X.R.Z.” Denzel Curry (prod. by KLVN DJ Manny Virgo)
SpaceGhostPurrp’s fellow members of the Blackland’s local Florida landscape include talented Klan members like Denzel Curry, who’s Strictly 4 My R.V.I.D.X.R.Z. remains one of the most complete releases the Raiders have put out. There’s also Metro Zu, who despite SpaceGhostPurrp’s recent the banishment of Mike Dece and Ruben Slikk, remain important production collaborators for the Raider Klan. Yung Simmie, who’s XXL Freshman of 1993 “Underground Tape” has one of the most cleverly anachronistic titles of all of the Raider Klan work, and along with the Purple Lady Underground Tape 1993-1995 and G-Funk Resurrection 1993-1995, has some promising material for an artist still not old enough to vote.
“Phonky Shit” Yung Simmie (Produced by Key Nyata)
Houston’s Amber London, one of the few female rappers out today who manages to avoid the classic female rapper pitfalls of either shameless self-sexploitation, or coffee-shopish asexual punchline rapper, by both retaining her own sexuality and managing to ride for her own right along with the boys. Technically, Amber has one of the most well developed flows of the Raiders, and as time passes, if there’s anyone in the Klan who has a solid chance to achieving staying power and larger importance outside of SpaceGhostPurrp, Amber has to be one of the top contenders in the crew. As it stands Amber “OG” London’s 1994 EP is one of the best releases to come out of the Klan to date, and her “Low MF Key” video, which appeared on her EP as well as SpaceGhostPurrp’s God of Black EP Vol. 1 is one of the crews best pieces of re-imagined 90′s nostalgia.
Amber London “Low MF Key” (prod by SpaceGhostPurrp)
There’s the dynamic and constantly evolving Ethelwulf out of Memphis who dropped on of the Klan’s best albums in The Wolf Gangs Rodolphe, a project many feel is an overt nod to Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, without considering whether perhaps it might have some Memphis roots of it’s own. Then there’s Yung Raw, a talented producer who’s beats have been behind several memorable tracks for other members and who’s currently working on the upcoming The Trill OG [edit: now available]. Memphis is also home to Chris Travis, who’s Underground Series ’98 has some of the hardest material the Klan has released to date (eg. “K.O.T.U.” & “What You Rep“).
“Raider Klan” Ethelwulf (prod by Yung Raw)
“Blackland Blackman” Ethelwulf (produced by Yung Raw)
“BLVCK MVGIC” Ethelwulf featuring Yung Raw (prod by Yung Raw)
Seattle’s Key Nyata, for the moment is the most geographically removed member of the Raider Klan, yet he fits neatly within their aesthetic. Key Nyata is one of the kid geniuses of the crew. At only 16 years old, when he makes work referencing the greats from 1994, he’s preceding his own birth by a few years. Remarkably Nyata is one of the Klan’s best producers and more promising rappers as well. And in addition to being a strong asset to the Raider Klan is a part of a modern renaissance of sorts of talented Seattle, Washington artists along with Nacho Picasso, Blue Sky Black Death (with whom he is supposedly working on a project), Raz, (fill in any others). Beyond his value as a rapper in the Klan, he’s also one of their strongest producers, contributing much of his own production as well as making beats for various members of the Raider Klan for their mixtapes and projects. “Get F*cked Up 1994,” one of the Klan’s most viewed videos on youtube, samples mid-nineties Memphis underground classic Gangsta Pat’s “I Wanna Smoke” (from 1995′s Deadly Verses a perfect example of a Memphis artist incorporating a Bone-influenced flow and a g-funk influenced sound in the 90′s). Key Nyata’s Phonkilation compilation, which has become tougher to come across online recently (but can still be found if you seek it out) is one of the very best releases to come out of the Raider Klan.
“Get F*cked Up 1994″ – Key Nyata (- gangsta pat I wanna smoke)
“All Black (Space Whip)” – Key Nyata
Grandmilly is currently the most prominent member of the New York faction of the Raider Klan. NYC and Raider Klan make for an interesting combination, as there are some East Coast influences blended into the typical Blackland sound here. While the A$ap Mob has incorporated some of SpaceGhostPurrp’s methodology into their own work, based on the collaborations SGP and based on their love for chopped and screwed music, purple drink, Eazy-E influenced fashion sense, and propensity for gold fronts, Grandmilly represents a much more electic blend sonically, as classic NYC grimy is layered on top of pitch altered R&B, and a typically Raider gumbo of styles, flows, and varied non-regionally aligned and anachronistic references to things like piff, swishers, Long Island, candy cars, and swag. One of the things that stands out on BVNDVNVS X BLVCK MVGIC is that the production is not only strong, but has more continuity than some of the more disparately assembled mixtapes. Grandmilly produces a majority of the beats on here, with great results, and does have a couple of nice production features from Recycled Sounds and Tenny White.
Grandmilly “BVNDVNVZ X BLVCK MVGIC Commercial”
While they come from diverse surroundings, the Raider Klan shines when multiple members collaborate. “Ridin N Da Back” from Denzel Curry featuring Amber London, and Ethelwulf (prod by SpaceGhostPurrp) being a prime example of a powerful Raider posse cut. These posse cuts create a nice combination of styles not present on solo records, as “Trillnation” with Ethelwulf and Amber London (prod by Konflict OD) is a great combination of styles one never would’ve heard together in the early-to-mid nineties (complete with a laid back g-funk influenced vibe with an appropriate out of context vocal sample). Another great example comes on “S.O.S.” featuring Denzel Curry as well as some of the lesser known Raider Klan members, including Yung Renegade, Harvey G, and Dough Dough.
Whether membership in the Raider Klan will be a transitory experience for many rappers in the crew remains to be seen. While there is certainly ample material to unearth, re-imagine, and evolve from this early 90′s era of regional development it remains to be seen how strictly SpaceGhostPurrp will require members to stick to a prescriptive formula. Thus far, the latitude in artistic license and selection of timeframe and regional influence seems to be relatively diverse, ranging from late 80′s Miami Bass records to mid-nineties G-Funk to Golden era NYC jazz influenced beats to a few sped up vocal sample from the Just Blaze/Kanye/Heatmakerz aesthetic of ’01-’03. That said, some artists are more religious in their quest for the phonk than others, and for some artists membership in Raider Klan did not mark the begining of their exploration in rap and likely won’t mark the end. Still, for now the Raider Klan is creating exciting music and paying homage to an era that is often glossed over in the rap history books and they’re doing rap fans and themselves a favor in the process.
SpaceGhostPurrp God of Black EP Vol. 1
SpaceGhostPurrp Mysterious Phonk
Ethelwulf The Wolf Gangs Rodolphe
Amber London 1994 EP
Denzel Curry Strictly 4 My R.V.I.D.X.R.Z.
Grandmilly BVNDVNVZ & BLVCK MVGIC
Key Nyata Phonkilation
Yung Simmie XXL Freshman of 1993
Chris Travis Underground Series ’98
Yung Raw The Trill OG
Today marks the release of SpaceGhostPurrp’s Mysterious Phonk on 4AD records. You can also find lots of Raider Klan music via SpaceGhostPurrp’s youtube channel as well as the facebook pages for the Raider Klan and SGP.