By Team Backbeat
By Amber Taufen
By Jon Solomon
By Tom Murphy
By Jesse Livingston
By Alejandra Loera
By Stephanie March
By Tom Murphy
British author Jeff Noon would probably take a shine to Denver rapper Mike V. Noon's novel, Vurt, takes place in a future world populated by all kinds of variations on the human species: human/dog combos, folks whose physiology involves copious amounts of gas and vapors, robotmen and people who live in small enclaves powered by garbage and broken glass.
Mike V. is not from the future. As best we can tell, he is a fully human, non-droid organism. And though the old adage dictates that you shouldn't judge a book by its cover, it seems that the former Chaos Theory frontman -- who's releasing his solo debut record, Gameface Vision, on Saturday, July 29, at the Ogden, with Rocket Ajax -- is gearing up for the day when Noon's futurevisions come to fruition. At 29 years old, Mike V.'s tattoo-to-pristine-skin ratio falls at about 1:1; after spending nearly 500 hours at the tattoo parlor, he's got the dern things on his head (a lovely pastel tableau involving waves and thought bubbles), his eyebrows (more bold in alternating orange and green) and his Adam's apple (a drawing of two demon-looking figures locked in a defiant staring contest). He's fond of contact lenses that create the appearance of pupil-free eyes, and he sports those pseudo-tribalist donut-hole earrings that stretch the lobe to a circumference suitable for hauling around a couple of Whoppers.
Each of these physical attributes is not, in and of itself, all that radical. Apparently, kids today like to get tattoos and pierce themselves in weird ways. But there's something about the way the elements combine on Mike V. that suggests a certain dedication to the art of body artistry. Colorful, intricate, bold, frightening and intense, his physicality is an overt manifestation of his creative self that's impossible to ignore and dares you to -- go ahead -- take a good, long look.
"I don't think I was done as a naked skin person," V. says. "I don't even really follow the tattoo world. This is just kind of me. I think of it like this: I kind of wear my feelings on the outside."
Thirteen tracks long and meticulously produced, Gameface Vision finds V. voicing his feelings on everything from religion to sex to social disorder to alien life. (The bonus track, "Alienhated," is a humorous discourse between a smooth-talkin' pimp-daddy type and a squeaking, bleeping E.T.) Though Chaos Theory (which disbanded in 1998 even though it had amassed a sizable local following and won the Metal/Hard Rock/Industrial Category in the 1995 and 1996 Westword Music Awards) preferred the kind of rap/metal fusion that's currently inciting bralessness and selling out stadiums across the world, Gameface Vision finds Mike V. opting for a straightforward hip-hop style that's more concerned with samples and studio tricks than sonic blasts.
"I really have a true love for hip-hop," V. says. "I had to go deep into hip-hop because I was always rapping with these metal guys, and I had to see if I could do it. I got tired of yelling and screaming over loud guitars and asking someone to turn down. Plus, it's kind of hard to get these instrumentalists to play hip-hop, especially if you're playing with thrashers, because it's very simple musically, not really complicated."
The bulk of material on the album was penned and produced by Count D -- former bassist of the much beloved local crew Lord of Word and the Disciples of Bass -- with V. co-producing and arranging the album. Peppered by playful samples and synthesizers, the effort never rises to the hardcore level of Suicidal Tendencies, the Kottonmouth Kings, Raekwon of the Wu Tang Clan or other artists with whom V. identifies and has shared stages, but there's a precise frankness to V.'s delivery that renders him a sharp and insightful MC. Freddy [Durst], get ready.
Prior to the release of Gameface Vision, V. formed his own label, Red Tape, and he hopes that the push he's receiving from local PR company Indiego Promotions will bolster him outside his Denver base. That effort should be helped considerably by the interplanetary presence of George Clinton and Belita Woods of Parliament Funkadelic, who make cameos on the appropriately titled opening track, "Alien Pimpin' Pt. 1." According to V., the pair was hanging around Alley Studios with Count D when he asked them to contribute to the cut, and they obliged. Clinton and Woods add a certain mothership moxie to the album, which never strays too far from a funky, instrumental foundation.
Mike V. plans to utilize a live band as well as six dancers in Saturday's show, an indication that his days of mating rock and rap aren't over. For the time being, his solo debut is a solid showing from a longtime Denver luminary, proof that there is intelligent life in the galaxy of crossover hip-hop. An alien concept, indeed.
Mike V.'s show is one indication that Denver's hip-hop profile might finally be rising (for another, see James Mayo's feature on local MC Don Blas, page 84). On Friday night, Latino MC HydroBass will release Cock Diesel, his solo debut on T.H.E. Records, in a special performance at the Regency Hotel (1-25 and 38th Avenue). Cock Diesel features performances from some notable Hispanic hip-hop heads, including Frost, N2Deep and Lighter Shade of Brown, as well as Colorado heavyweights Kingdom, Apostle and Bumpy Chill. Friday's show -- which will showcase HydroBass and his Cali friends MC EIHT, Rappin' 4Tay and Bad Azz -- should be a bumpin' good time.
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