By Bree Davies
By Emerald O'Brien
By Gina Tron
By Jon Solomon
By Drew Ailes
By Courtney Harrell
By Kyra Scrimgeour
On the surface, the hip-hop revolution seems to be making precious little progress along the Denver-Boulder corridor. While national artists pass through on a semi-regular basis (witness the July 21 Smokin' Grooves festival at Red Rocks), the area has not spawned an indigenous rap act that's achieved anything like widespread success since Lord of Word and the Disciples of Bass. But look beyond the region's most prominent live-music venues (rooms that, by and large, continue to maintain a quiet blacklist of hip-hop) and you'll discover a thriving rap underground. Moreover, many of the performers involved in this movement have no interest in crossing over--especially if it means compromising to gain acceptance from you Caucasians out there.
Take for example, L.K.G., one of the men behind 1332 Records Vs. the United States of America, a no-holds-barred compilation of local gangsta acts. "Denver's growing, and there are more and more artists coming here," says L.K.G., 1332's vice-president since its 1994 founding. "And eventually, we're going to put Denver on the map, whether anyone wants us to or not." He adds, "Hip-hop has really been done bad here. Club owners, radio, the promoters, the police, even the government have been doing everything they can to stop it from blowing up, but they can only limit us so much. They think that rap brings violence and all that, but we're just speaking about what's in the streets already. They know what's going on, but they don't want everyone else to know. And they don't like us bringing it to their face, you know? But we're going to keep speaking on it until it gets better."
The bulletins at the hearts of the thirteen tracks on America are as varied as the artists on hand. Dominator--described by L.K.G. as "an ex-gang member who lived that kind of lifestyle; he raps about stuff that he's lived or seen"--checks in with the ultra-hardcore numbers "12 Gauge Maniac" and "Ghost Moves." B. Black, who, along with his production company, Dankside, is responsible for most of the beats on the disc, delivers a somewhat less heavy gangsta turn on "Dumb Nigga." Shawn Head combines reggae and hip-hop on the catchy "Thrill of a Deal," "Walk the Streets" and "Pale." And Dynamight, who recently changed his moniker to Gemini, travels along the border of R&B and hip-hop in "Mr. Dynamight on the Scene." L.K.G. believes that Gemini, who opened up for Montell Jordan during the vocalist's most recent Denver date, is the 1332 signee with the most mainstream potential. "He's more the acceptable type," he notes. "He's got some gangsta stuff, but he's got some mellow stuff, too. He can perform anywhere."
Not so the other act on America, dubbed Fuck Yo Punk Ass. The combo, made up of L.K.G., D-Man and Governor Dog, is as nasty as any rap act ever to come out of Colorado. "Our style is political gangsta music," L.K.G. explains. "We're anti-government, anti-police and anti-white." These themes suggest the more radical factions of the Nation of Islam, but L.K.G. says his act is not affiliated with the sect: "We don't believe in the religious aspect of what they teach, but we believe in some of the messages they bring. We talk a lot about slavery and how we don't want anyone to forget it. We believe that we should have our own land, where we can be separate from everyone else, and that we should have our own businesses so that we can support ourselves. And we believe in their philosophy as far as white people being devils. Because they are."
America's liner is just as uncompromising as this screed: One side sports, among other images, a burning U.S. flag and a klansman on his hands and knees being menaced by a pit bull, while the other reproduces a graphic photo of a lynching. However, the four Fuck Yo Punk Ass cuts on America aren't mere polemics. Rather, the rappers work their ideas into cuts that can easily pass for standard gangsta fare. "All in the Life of a G" mates soulful music with references to "groupie-ass bitchez" and lines like "It's gettin' cold in these Denver streets/I'm gonna kill you before you kill me"; the so-overwrought-it's-goofy "Devil Killas From Hell" is supposedly narrated by the son of Satan, a man so evil that he eventually "smokes" Saint Peter and "jacks his cloud"; the hard-nosed "Famin in the Land" champions drug-dealing as a form of self-reliance; and the extremely funky "I Don't Give a Fuck" kicks off with, of all things, a statement of pride from a wino before evolving into this bit of obvious autobiography: "I started a record company to get off the grind/'Cuz I don't want to be a nigga with nothin' but time/And let me tell you, twistin' chickens ain't no career/And anyone who tells you different's puttin' shit in your ear."
Fuck Yo Punk Ass, which was formed three years ago and has a full-length CD, 1995's DK-ALL-DAY, to its credit, has had precious few chances to deliver such nuggets of wisdom in concert. The act shared a bill with Westside Connection last November and has headlined a few private functions, but as L.K.G. points out, "It's pretty hard to even get a rental facility for hip-hop. The landlords don't want to rent it out to you, and the ones that will charge so much that it wouldn't even be worth it." So L.K.G. has had to find other ways to reach gangsta fans--and he has. Thanks to promotional pushes at events like Denver's Cinco de Mayo celebration and a vigorous word-of-mouth campaign, L.K.G. says that 1332 Records has moved more than 3,000 copies of America in only a few short months of release.