Note: This post originally was written for and appeared on: uncommonnasa.com
In this post, Short Fuze takes over with a song by song breakdown for the 10th Anniversary of an album I produced for him on Uncommon Records in 2010, Lobotomy Music. Before handing it over to Short Fuze, I wanted to add a few words about the importance of this album to myself and the label, both personally and professionally. When you listen to Lobotomy Music today, it's indicative of the kind of music I produce, write and release on Uncommon Records. But I would be remiss to miss the point that in that style and approach for us, this was the first. Lobotomy Music has pointed the way for the following 10 years and beyond that follows it.
The ironic part about that statement is like many of my productions at the time, I had no idea what we truly had until everything was recorded and I began the second wave of production and mixing on it. Little did I know that I was now a part of what I deem a pioneering album, not just for us as artists, but for hip-hop in general. Uncommon Records had already been around for 6 years in 2010, but I think this is the first album where some our now long time fans really took us seriously as a label that wasn’t going anywhere. That laid a foundation that would expand a few years later when I reached a point of critical acceptance for my solo work by the mid-2010’s. When Lobotomy Music was released, both myself and Short Fuze were still emerging from the shadows of the indie scene we were raised in from the late 1990’s and early 2000’s. With that foundation in mind in both of our approaches, I think we fully “got” what we were doing and that was for me to create a complex and heavy landscape and for Short Fuze to tell humanistic, spiritual and relatable stories over such cacophony. It’s a formula that is semi-common place in today’s indie landscape, but in 2010 was truly uncommon. - Uncommon Nasa
Poison Makes Me Pretty
The beat for this song was the first beat on the first beat CD Nasa sent me. I knew instantly that this beat would be the first song on the album. I originally just wanted a scratch chorus on this song, but Nasa felt it needed a hook, so he laid it down because I had no idea what to do. Back then, once I felt a song was finished, it was hard for me to go back to it. The title was inspired by things I had experienced at that point, bad relationships, strain in my old group at the time and just a lack of confidence in that moment because I had no idea if I could pull off an album by myself at this point in my career.
God’s Waiting Room
This song would become the signature of my style going forward, dense lyrics mixed with life experience. Shortrock laid my favorite scratch chorus on the album here. I remember choosing different parts for him to scratch for chorus, but Nasa and Shortrock insisted that we use the GZA line on this song. I thought it was too obvious, so I didn’t want to use it at first. Then I heard it and was sold. I didn’t know what to call this song for the longest time. Nasa named this song this after hearing a line from Tracy Jones. That’s why the line is at the end of the song, to pay homage.This song was also the first time my daughter saw me record, so it was a special experience for me because she was only 7 or 8 years old at the time.
Break Down The Walls
This was the first time Nasa and I realized the chemistry we could have together on the rap side of things. My verse was an open letter to my mother. She was never supportive of my rap career. She generalized all rap music as something negative. She was one of the reasons I rarely cursed in my songs, hoping to get her to listen to my music. It didn’t work. As far as I know, she’s never listened to anything I’ve done. The drum pattern on this beat is also the same on a song I previously did with my old group W.A.S.T.E.L.A.N.D.S. The song was called, Headtrip from our 2005 album, Rise Of Empire.
Back when I traveled frequently, did more shows and toured, I’d always run into someone I knew in obscure places or I’d come across someone who I’d just met and, they would tell me their life story. I was in Louisville, KY and after a show, we stop to eat and get gas. There is a guy sitting on the curb and he says to me, “You look like a rapper. Are you a rapper?” I said, “Yeah, how do you know?” He said, “You don’t look like you’re from here and you have a different energy. I only see that in rappers that come here.” He asks if I have any CD’s for sale and he starts talking to me about how his girlfriend left him and he needs to find a new place to live. After talking for awhile, I just tried to give him a CD. He refused and said, “Music is art, art is valuable and I always pay for art.” We leave and head back home. I immediately started to write when I got home. This song is about me telling a stranger my life story up to that point. This was the last song to be recorded for the album, the first song I recorded at Nasa Labs and the hardest one to put down because it was an emotional song for me at the time.
Turn Off The Lights
I originally wanted Rob Sonic on this song along with The Presence. I was a big fan of the song they did together called, Pink Noise. Unfortunately, the talks with Rob fell through. Small tidbit about myself, I hate writing choruses. I always write good ones when I do, but for some reason, I don’t think my voice sounds good for them, so I defer that part as much as I can. The chorus on this particular song is my favorite I’ve written. The song is inspired by the movie, Children Of Men. My verse tackles spiritual struggles, Nasa tackles social and political struggle and Cirrus handles economic struggles. So, they nailed the concept perfectly here. This is one of my favorite songs on the album. Nasa told me he had originally made this beat for The Presence, but they didn’t do anything with it. So it was cool for me to pick up that mantle and make something happen, because I was huge fan of them. The cuts on this song is a homage to them and one of my favorite songs they did called, Woke.
Don’t Feed The Machine
This song is one of my favorites I’ve done. It’s very personal to me. I touch on a lot of things here in regards to my grandmother, who even though she hated rap music, supported me because she knew I was passionate about it and it could keep me on a good path instead of being out in the streets. I also touch on my view of my father on this song, who I’ve always had a strained relationship with. I wrote the chorus for this, but I hated how I kicked the end of it, so I asked Taiyamo Denku to jump on it with me to give it a different feel. Nasa and Shortrock didn’t think the Johnny Cash cuts would work, I told them it would and to trust my idea. This was my first official single. It gave me a bit of buzz and made it on a couple mixtapes. People love the Johnny Cash cuts because it’s something different. I’m glad Nasa and Shortrock made it work because the cuts make the song. (Editor’s Note: I can remember me and Shortrock sitting in Nasa Labs trying to pitch down Johnny on the turntable to fit this aggressive hip-hop track and thinking “no way this is going to work”. Then in a moment, it clicked in instantly once we got the right pitch, after that it practically played itself from Shortrock’s hand to the track. This was an important moment for my work with Short Fuze, this was the moment I learned to trust his musical instincts. The cut on this song is undeniable. - Uncommon Nasa)
Growing up and listening to rap music, one of my favorite things on good albums was a great posse cut. I wanted to do something like that for my album. Karniege and Eleven were label mates at the time and I was huge fans of them as well, so it was cool to get them on a track. Passive 65ive was someone I knew from the early days Twitter. One day, he emails me and tells me he likes my style and wants to work. I told him definitely. A few months later, he got wind of me working on a solo album and he emails me again and straight up asks if he could drop a verse. I thought it was so ballsy at the time to just go for it, that I was like, I have no choice but to honor his request. So, that’s how he ended up being on the song and being my first UK collab. To this day, him and I are still cool. The last line of my verse references me penning the verse on the back of tax form. That’s true. It was the only piece of paper I could find, so I said fuck it.
I originally was supposed to have Hangar 18 on this song. It went as far as me meeting them when they came to Chicago on El-P’s, I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead tour in 2007 and giving them the beat. Unfortunately, me putting the album together was a slow process. So, by the time I was ready to finish the song, Def Jux was on the verge of closing it’s doors and Hangar 18 went on a hiatus. I wound up replacing them with my crew, W.A.S.T.E.L.A.N.D.S. The song turned out dope, but that’s why my verse sounds the way it did, to match Hangar 18’s style.
This song was important to me as far as addressing stereotypes about religion and Muslim people. I converted to Islam when I was 17, but I never was super religious. Islam did help me find stability and accountability in my personal life. I felt the need to address the stereotypes projected on to me by people, especially after 9/11. Nasa did a great job addressing his own experiences with religion as well. One of my favorite songs on the record. In one of reviews for Lobotomy Music, the reviewer said he was amazed that we even rapped over this beat. That still makes me laugh.
I wrote this in 2004 for my original solo album that I was planning to do when I was with my original crew. I even recorded a rough version of the song, but never released it. I felt it was still important to my story and spiritual journey at this point, so I re-recorded it for this album. Nasa lost the initial re-recorded version and I had to scramble to redo it again so it could make the record. I still give him shit about to this day. (Editor’s Note: I don’t remember this happening, but it sounds like something I would do. - Uncommon Nasa)
This is another song that was planned for my original solo album. A previous version does exist that I produced for my old group’s album in 2005. We chose not to call it a remix because Nasa gave the song such a different vibe, that it became its own song. A lot of people love this song. I really did write this on my 24th birthday. It addresses my battles with depression, the birth of a close friends first daughter, the birth of my own daughter and growing apart with people that you’re close to because life takes you in different directions.
It’s amazing to me this album is 10 years old already. I’m proud that people still mention it to this day. Lobotomy Music was the culmination of my career and life at that point. It perfectly encapsulates my 20’s growing into a 30 year old man. It’s a love letter to everyone and everything that was inspiring me at that time, the indie era that came before me, my life, my family and friends, peers and collaborators, being part of a label that cared and believed in what I was doing. Most of all, it’s a homage to the music I loved that inspired me to do something with my talent. Thank you to everyone involved, Uncommon Nasa for allowing me to be myself and, everyone who has and still fucks with this record.