Hand’Solo Records – Bassments of Badmen (1996)

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RR: Were you there for any of the live recordings that are on the record? Tachichi’s freestyle, Searchin’ For the Funk live recording, etc?

Thomas Quinlan: I was not there for any of the live recordings. In fact, I hadn’t even been to Halifax by that point. For me, these were just dope songs I got from Jorun. He sent me a whole bunch of live and studio recordings from which I was able to make my requests for the compilation. I think a bunch of the live songs were supposed to be for an instalment of his Haltown Meltdown series, Haltown Live.

RR: Were you aware of the beef that was happening between Hip Club Groove, Buck 65, and Jorun at the time of making this? Without context; tracks like Sucker Salad, you wouldn’t exactly know it was directed towards Jorun. Did you?

Thomas Quinlan: As an outsider to the scene, I was completely naive and unaware of the history of the scene or the situation as it stood at the time. I just knew there a bunch of dope rap was coming from there, and the interviews I did combined with the few releases I could get my hands on made it seem like it was a close scene of collaborators. Little did I know that the scene was divided between Jorun and his crew on one side and Buck 65 and his crew on the other. I just happened to reach out to both camps because they’re all I knew at the time.

And yes, there are a few disses to Jorun on this compilation. They’re also fairly subtle. I can’t say for sure if I knew about all of the disses ahead of time, but chances are likely that I did know to some degree. I probably just saw it as a temporary quarrel. Everyone seemed so close to my outsider eyes. And as a young rap fan just out of university, nothing is as good as a dope diss record.

RR: There’s a few artists on Bassments of Badmen that made no noise after, or really even before this release. Can you describe who artists such as Skillz, Fiz, The Nexxxt Stage and Karen Corbin are?

Thomas Quinlan: This is definitely a question best answered by Jorun. Skillz and Fiz were two rappers who were working with Jorun at the time. I don’t know very much about Skillz. There was a famous battle between him and Cheklove of Hip Club Groove that was the result of this divide in the scene. Fiz I know a little more about. He was partners with Witchdoc Jorun in Universal Soul. They had some releases, and I think they were making some noise. I’m not sure what happened to them.

As for The Nexxxt Stage and Karen Corbin, I can’t tell you much. Jorun put me onto The Nexxxt Stage and I figured they were bringing a different sound to the table so I invited them to submit something. Karen Corbin was their contact. I’m not sure what happened to them either. I wonder if they ever released anything else?

RR: Why not re-release this as the years have went on? Being that it’s such an important release, and such a rare gem to track down, I feel as though there would be a demand for a reissue like there was with Cock Dynamiks.

Thomas Quinlan: Oh yes, there is big demand for this. I’m sure people would eat it up now. I’d especially love to do a vinyl release for it. But it’s never going to happen. It would involve a lot of expensive licensing of songs, especially those from Buck 65 and Jorun. Tracking down some people for this would be a nightmare. And I think some people would be happy to just let these old songs rest. I’m just glad I received the OK from enough of the significant people on the release that they’d be open to a free download for the release so people are still able to get the music even if they can’t own a physical copy.

RR: Do you have any stories regarding the making of this project?

Thomas Quinlan: I don’t really have any stories about the recording of the tracks, which is probably the most exciting part of the process for stories. All of that was done in Halifax, while I was sitting at home in Toronto awaiting the submissions. I had reached out to the four people I knew in the Halifax hip hop scene, all having been interviewed for my ‘zine: Derek MacKenzie, Sixtoo, Buck 65 and Jorun. They did all the heavy lifting. I just picked the songs I liked the most and sequenced them. But it was also the first release for Hand’Solo Records, so everything was new territory for me. One of the things that was needed was a logo for the label, which was designed by Kharlo Tawatao, a friend of my then-girlfriend. It was a cool design, but as is still continually pointed out to me, it could read as Hand Job. In some ways, not so different from the actual name. That’s kind of funny, I guess. Still, it was replaced by the DJ logo on all subsequent Hand’Solo releases.

A big help on the success of this compilation is due to Marc Costanzo of Len. He helped get it distribution through his own distributor, Outside Music, and brought out Nathan the Alien, The Sebutones and Hip Club Groove to play a release party for the CD here in Toronto. Seeing Sixtoo and Buck 65 perform their second show ever as The Sebutones, this one in yellow hazard suits and slight face make up, as well as my one and only time seeing Nathan the Alien, were great moments I didn’t expect to come from my desire to create this compilation.

But the thing that sticks out most to me is when I attempted to shop the CD to stores in New York. I was making my first trip to NYC and the CD has just dropped. I figured I’d try to get it in some stores while I was there. Not a single bite. Props to the couple of stores that actually gave the music a try, even after my answer to “Where’s it from?” was “Halifax, Nova Scotia”. One store clerk even asked if they rap about fish and lobsters. So yeah, no bites. Whatever. It was just New York. What do they know about hip hop anyway?

Hand’Solo Records – Cock Dynamiks (1998)

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RR: Buck 65 and Moves come up with the idea for the album’s existence. But where do you come in? Had the project already been completed before you got involved? Or were you orchestrating it similar to how you did Bassments of Badmen?

Thomas Quinlan: I was less involved in compiling the tracks for Cock Dynamiks. As you’ve noted, Buck 65 and Moves were the ones who came up with the idea. I’m not sure how far along the project was, or even if it had started, when I first got involved. And I became involved in the project after hearing about the concept from Moves. I dig sex raps and Halifax raps, so I offered to put it out on Hand’Solo Records and to also bring in contributors from my contacts in Toronto and Vancouver. I might have pulled a few of the tracks from those initial submissions I received, but the rest were sent to be added to those gathered by Buck and Moves. I think all of them were used.

RR: I imagine it would have been challenging at the beginning collecting rappers to commit to the idea. How did you go about doing this? And if you didn’t, do you know any of the struggles that Moves and Buck 65 would have had to overcome?

Thomas Quinlan: To be honest, it wasn’t a challenge at all. I can’t speak for Buck and Moves, but I’m sure their experiences weren’t any different from my own. And probably even easier since they had longer relationships with many of the people they were asking. But Kool Keith had already proved with Sex Styles that an album of underground sex raps could be dope. And I’m sure everyone on Cock Dynamiks was a fan of that album. Plus, pretty much everyone on the album had already released their own sex raps on their own albums, so it wasn’t something odd for them to be doing. Anyway, I just put the word out to those connections I made in Vancouver after releasing the Crystal Senate split-12” with Moka Only (and Sixtoo on the other side) and the connections I was making in Toronto as I became more involved in my own local rap scene. I’m sure a few people didn’t come through with the promised music, but it would have had more to do with lack of time and laziness than any concern about being on an album of sex raps.

RR: Can you breakdown who some of the aliases are for this record? Who is Dr. Tangent, Asscalator, SicSexEd, Ballin’ Peen and Dirty Hanes? (Uncle Climax obviously being Buck 65.)

Thomas Quinlan: Yes, I can definitely break most of that down for you. As you’ve said, Uncle Climax is a known alias of Buck 65, as is Stinkin’ Rich, which I think he may have used in this case since the lyrics for “The Bum Rap” were older raps. Of course, Stinkin’ Rich was he name Buck 65 used for rapping before switching to the name with which we all now know him. SicSexEd, who has one of my favourite songs on the album with “Pulverization”, is Tachichi. Dr. Tangent is Vandal, the Urban Camper from Cryptic Souls Crew, who is back recording music again in the last couple of years. Dirty Hanes is Fritz the Cat, who was a member of Collapsyllables at the time, I believe, but would later join with producer Recordface to form OK Cobra. Asscalator is Kunga219 of Roosevelt Tharpa. As for Ballin’ Peen, I made a promise so I can’t really give up the goods on that one.

RR: Do you have any stories regarding putting together this release? Or the immediate promotional period afterwards?

Thomas Quinlan: I’m not usually involved in the recoding process in these projects, especially with a compilation. Usually I just get a bunch of finished songs to pick through. But in this case I got to be privy to the recording process of one of the songs. I was really pushing to get Fritz the Cat on this thing. I really liked what he was doing at the time, and his freestyle skills were some of the best I’d personally witnessed. But it just wasn’t happening and we were running out of time, so one night hanging at his place he called Moves and left a freestyle verse for Moves on his answering machine, and Moves put a beat under it. It was a wild call to watch, with Derek MacKenzie getting hype in the background and the song ending because the volume of delivery was getting too loud for Fritz’s apartment at that hour. In this case, Fritz really did call it in. And every time I hear that song I remember that night.

On the promotional side of things, Cock Dynamiks received a fair amount of press for something that was pretty much pre-internet. The big ass Vice Magazine article on the compilation and mini-tour was a cool moment. And the tour was great. It was the first tour I organized, with a bunch of assistance from Fritz, and it’s the first and only tour for which I’ve been tour manager. The ride back from Montreal was almost killer. We had a small core of artists on the tour and a mix of additional performers at each location. Having Collapsyllables pay their own way by bus from London to play in Montreal was my first time to see Paul the Apostle (better known as Governor Bolts). Eternia played in both Toronto and London, and it was really nice to have some estrogen in the mix for a few dates.