THE BALTIMORE MC WENT TO A TOUGHER SCHOOL THAN TUPAC AND USED TO BREAKDANCE WITH WILL SMITH'S WIFE
Over the past decade-and-a-half, 30-year-old Baltimore MC/producer Labtekwon has seen countless artists come and go, among them DMX, actress Jada Pinkett (who he used to breakdance with in high school) and the late Tupac Shakur, who he says "went to a school in East Baltimore called Dunbar. It was a school for the arts. I went to Douglas, a ghetto, thug school."
It was during those high-school years that Labtekwon, then a recent transplant from Los Angeles, started to develop his skills as a writer and musician. "I was producing house before I was producing hip-hop," he says. "I learned how to play keys, do chord arrangements, compose melodies and make compositions to put over the beats. When I started doing hip-hop, I adjusted and adapted my technique."
In underground circles, he's known for the extensive discography of stark and subtly eccentric tracks he's been building since 1993. While the recent compilation 'Song of the Sovereign' (Mush) captures highlights from albums released through his own Ankh-Ba records, it doesn't include selections from his numerous side projects with local groups. (He collaborates with spoken-word outfit Live From Hell, the International Ambassadors of Funk and Jazz, his own CSD crew and Black Faction, a group of 25 Baltimore MCs.)
"The number-one reason I do it is to express and do the things I want to hear," says Labtekwon, who's working on a new album, 'The Hustler's Guide To The Universe'. For him, that includes incorporating far-reaching musical tastes and knowledge gleaned from his work in African studies at the studies at the University of Maryland into his music. "A lot of people coming up after me, blowing up in Baltimore's hip-hop culture, are confused and frustrated because they want to see something blow up (nationally)," the veteran notes. "I say, you need to make the kind of stuff that you like and then other people that feel the way you do will gravitate towards your music."