Over the course of its existence, Black Mask has been a full band and had numerous MCs from across the nation pass through its ranks. The prolific hip-hop outfit has played shows on the Warped Tour and put out nearly two dozen releases -- all for free. After seeing many independent artists selling just one or two albums at shows, the members of Black Mask made a conscious decision to make sure everybody who likes the music gets to own it. This includes handing out free hard copies at their shows -- brilliantly displayed in a treasure chest -- in addition to making the entire digital collection available on Bandcamp. "It's strength in numbers," declares Aklock.
Today, Black Mask is now represented by three talented musicians: Maulskull, who started his involvement in hip-hop as a DJ with DMC ambitions, before focusing on making beats and freestyling at house parties. The move hasn't toned down his versatility. Not only is he a well-rounded and engaging MC, but he keeps his hands in everything, from production and singing to managing the booking and even occasionally handling the sound at shows. Maulskull's latest release, Us & Them, kicked off a wave of solo albums from each of the group's members, including fellow rapper Aklock.
A poetic and charismatic MC, Aklock got his start playing bass in a punk band. He found his way to hip-hop by way of the Beat Junkies, Wu Tang and Atmosphere. As an MC, Aklock is articulate on stage as he is off. He has held down Black Mask for many projects, and recently released his first Black Mask solo album, Build Small, which offers a solid and intimate view into his mind. Build Small focuses on the creative process that goes into building an album, rather than only concentrating on the end product.
AG Flux completes the trio. This MC/Producer powerhouse, known until recently as INfluence, just moved to Denver from Minneapolis to go all in with the group. Like Aklock, his musical history is rooted in punk. As a kid, he even disliked hip-hop as a genre. His mind was changed once he was turned on to (and eventually mesmerized by) DJ Premier. AG Flux started out as a DJ, and then decided to concentrate on production and rapping. His album, Scenic Exchange, is slated to drop on 12/12/12, and will essentially close out the three album series. Scenic Exchange describes AG's beautiful, sometimes twisted but ultimately rewarding transition from Minneapolis to Denver.
The connection between the three albums goes beyond the fact that they will all run under the Black Mask umbrella. The eye-grabbing album artwork, all done by John "Dizmal" Warren and exclusive to the group, weaves a similar aesthetic theme throughout, reflective of the group's inherent camaraderie. "We respect each other as artists," Aklock quips, but also "highlight our Individual freedom," Maulskull finishes.
As a collective, Black Mask is doing all the right things to make their mark. They make solid music with a distinctive sound, and they tour to support it, interacting with fans and giving away free music. It's clear the members of Black Mask care a great deal about perfecting their craft and hold each other accountable. They are an embodiment of what can be accomplished with true passion. Together, they're continuing to build a loyal fan base as a direct result of their hard work.
Black Mask, Death By Thr33's release show/El Dia De Los Muertos/HipHopRollCall launch party, with Ft. Sleep (The Chicharrones), Mane Rok & DeeJay Tense, BullheadDed, Milogic, Rhyme Progression & Rolph, Friday, November 2, Funky Buddha, 776 Lincoln, no cover, 303-832-5075.