EMC: The Show Must Go On

posted March 21, 2008 12:00:00 AM CDT | 12 comments

The underdog has always existed. In Hip Hop, we have seen underdogs go through unfair pitfalls and spats with labels and seen some of them suffer from undeserved anonymity. Although crate diggers know who these basement legends are, the mainstream world may never learn. Still, sometimes light shines through the basement and the unfair is made fair by allowing balance to prevail. Even though great acts never receive the shine they deserve, some manage to grab hold of the spotlight to truly put on a show.

The Show, a new album from a new group, The EMC, is a highly anticipated LP created by some of the industrys most heavily touted emcees. So, this new group is anything but new. Actually, the industrys been buzzing about this for quite some time. This is, in large part, due to the success of each group member as a solo act. The cast for the show has already been making history.

Wordsworth has been a critically acclaimed emcee from the jump. A college graduate, talented writer, sketch comedy actor (MTVs Lyricist Lounge), solo rapper (Mirror Music) and longtime favorite in the battle circuit, Words has been receiving accolades for years and has used this to help others excel as well.

Words brought the work ethic to the table. When he wasn't [in the booth,] he was calling producers up to send us beats and staying on top of things, notes Punch.

Punchline, who has also been doing his thing, is a member of the group as well. As Punch N Words, this duo was formidable, creating a frenzy with The Lyricist Lounge, performing and rhyming alongside Mos Def, Talib Kweli and A Tribe Called Quest. Now, as members of a larger crew, The EMC, they continue to provide the chemistry that made their duo popular, while also bringing something unique to the table.

Punch says things that shock you and [hes] uncut and direct, Words says, describing Punchs abilities.

Punch N Words added Stricklin to the cast. Strick, who hit the mixtape circuit with a fury after a brief stint with Tommy Boy Records, earned respect through the usual grind. After various tracks and verses, he landed a spot on Masta Aces last two solo albums. This garnered attention from Punch N Words who toured with Ace.

After that verse he did on Aces album Disposable Arts, thats when I knew he was nice. Wasn't till we went on the road that I got to see how good he was, says Punch about what struck him most regarding Strick.

Wordsworth, Punchline and Stricklin. The three members carry weight. Alone, the trio could potentially release an underground album that would surely be applauded. All three carry critical praise as is, and having a crew like that would be an independent rap fans dream. But, many still felt there was a piece missing; an important piece that would change the entire group by adding much needed experience and guidance.

That important piece to the puzzle came in the form of Masta Ace.

[Ace] wanted to play label head and oversee the projects vision and sound, Punch says before adding that Ace simply couldnt resist. You can't be an emcee and be around music and expect not to want to spit a few verses on something.

Ace, the leader of The EMC, has been in the game for decades and has seen 20 years of the industrys history first hand. After witnessing legendary ups and natural downs, solo records, historic cuts, group projects, classic or near classic albums and his fair share of battles, he was time tested and ready to lead.

Ace has the leadership qualities because he has more experience. So, we let him hone this project because he knew which direction we should go in. He made sure he made the right decisions for us, but he also heard us out before making the decision, Words notes, which is something Punch echoes. Ace brought the concept and guidance to the project. Being [that] he's the one that made more albums than us, he took the lead in this situation. So, a majority of the concepts and beat picking was Ace, Punch explains as Strick adds his piece. We all in the same car together. We all going to the same place. But, Ace is driving.

With Ace behind the wheel, the crew was finalized. As the super group term was shot out to describe them, it seemed natural for these four emcees to unite.

I think it made sense. First of all, theres camaraderie we have. We went on tour initially in 2001, without it being a group. We were all together and it was just a natural thing to do. We had already been on the road together and we were all on Aces album. So, when Ace had shows, wed get together and interact. Plus, its a great launching pad for everybody else, being that Ace is going more towards the back to oversee everybodys projects, says Words regarding to the origin of the crew.

While camaraderie played a role in bringing the emcees together, a bigger force acted as a catalyst.

It was really the fans that put the idea in our heads [to form the group], explains Ace. They were throwing little rumors out in the internet that we were doing an album together. It wasnt even true at the time. But, it was going around.

The group project was essentially a dream come true for many. For fans, all four rappers would be on the same album and inevitably on the same tour. For the group, they were able to record and hit the road with close friends while creating a brand of rap that they enjoyed making. Win-win. But, as times have shown to prove, things are rarely that easy.

The Show
would be delayed. It happens. Youre driving down a beautiful scenic road and without realizing, you land right in a ditch. The scene changes and the script is flipped.

The EMCs ditch came in many ways. The first blockade in their path dealt with industry woes. As with many other acts, they have suffered a huge slice of the label drama pie as solo artists. Now as a group, the industry simply cooked up another one as they faced problems with their first distribution company. Punch remembers this clearly.

The first one was distribution cause the first company we was running with went out of business and then having to find another one

Needless to say, the process wasnt exactly smooth. No real fuss was made, though. After all, they already knew the drill. But, the album had been a longtime coming. With that as a detractor, they were nearly done with the LP when another barricade fell on their road. Strick recalls his frustration with the situation. The worst moment was probably when we found out the hard drive crashed and a lot of joints got lost! Getting that phone call, and all the hard work wed been doing, without doing the mixing yet, we were like Aw, naw! Dudes gotta go record a whole new album. And, I knew the fans been waiting and waiting. Strick adds, I was just frustrated and was like, Damn, another hold up, he continues. We came across a few bumps in the road while making this album and that was one thing that just made it feel like, Is this album supposed to even be happening?

It was pretty bad. My partner and I knew about it, says Ace of the crash. We were kind of trying to keep it from the fellas. We didnt want anybody discouraged. It was already taking awhile to finish the record and this was like, Okay, now this went wrong.

We waited until we were sure that the hard drive was totally useless. But Wordsworth is one of the most positive people. He can be in the face of adversity and somehow or another hell say something positive to make it like Okay, lets brush ourselves off and lets keep going.

As they say, The Show must go on. And it did. They finished the album, wrapped everything up, made a tour plan and were nearly ready for the release. As the message boards and blogs buzzed and as news articles surfaced of a possible release date, something else became an issue.

The seemingly inescapable leak hit. Bootlegs were out. Downloads were aplenty. Another pothole in a road that wasnt paved so nicely to begin with made their road seem more like a steep mountain to climb.

This unfair and inexcusable leak hit the net as just another burden on top of what the crew had already experienced. It was another boulder to pile on the road. But, the response enabled the ordeal to become bittersweet.

Ace was upset a lil something. Strick was bittersweet about it, notes Punch. I felt proud cause it was wanted enough that someone would go out of their way and download my music so early. At the end of the day I'm an artist so I don't look forward to seeing money from the sales, especially in a four-man group.

Nevertheless, the impact on sales was certain.

We knew it would happen but not that fast, adds Words. It may take away on a sales note but on an appreciation of great music, you can't front on it. Everyone was pretty much heated but cool that people liked it so it kinda made things worth it.

As they reach their destination, with a digital release last month and their release this month, the crew is finally seeing a clear path. Strick let us know what hes been waiting for. We just want to put the music out and make sure its good, man. Wordsworth also notes the ability for the groups members to carry on this EMC flag beyond the albums release.

I believe its well rounded, diverse, perfect from all angles, able to tackle any topic. We gonna be around for a minute because we all are together even as one.

As you can see, the end of The Show is far from near.

Together, even with the falls, scrapes and crashes, the crew rolled on with The Show. The underdogs, with odds against them at every turn, managed to create light through the pitch black, obstacle ridden drive. In the end, these four emcees are underdogs no more. With a legendary past, some sure shot joints in the present and motivation for the future of the Ace-led label, there is a lot of hope for whats to come. Its this drive that enables them to persist through the obstacles.

I don't get stressed out that much cause in this business there will always be stress and hurdles, explains Words. We are pretty much built for this.

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