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  • Writer's pictureChris Siders

The Genesis, illmatic. ShadowsOfSociety. Part 1

“I asked God, if he could change his mind.”

2006. The Becoming, The Minstrel Show.

Mathematics summer camp at View Park Middle School I met a lifelong brother of mine, Ivan Anderson, also known now as WI$E. In all honestly, I hate math. I was only there because they literally paid students to take the classes. So best believe when the program was over I annoyed my instructors for that money so I buy the latest video games at the time.

Every free-time without fail I played “Lord Give Me A Sign” by DMX. Blasting loud. Music video on full screen. He told me yo “I’ma rapper too.” He pulled out a notebook with loose leaf paper and started rhyming. It was dope. At the time he went by Nonsense as his stage name.

I wasn’t thinking about rap/hiphop, poetry at all at the time. I wanted to be a scientist. My entire life up until 2006. Science was my thing. Fascinated with robots. Chemicals. How organs work. Unfortunately, my instructor at the time killed that dream with the way she spoke to me and lack of assistance and support. I felt like I couldn’t do it. So I entered high school with no idea what I wanted to do in life. No aspirations. My brother at the time, was in the street gang-banging. Being nosy in his business, I saw some messages on the computer he was using asking someone for a gun and how he didn’t feel protected. He was 13 years old at the time.

2007. Put You On Game, Lupe Fiasco’s The Cool.

Me and Wise didn’t talk about music or create music. My freshman year of high school, Nonsense’s last year of middle school. How our school was structured, one side of campus was the middle school and the other half was high school side. Both sides combined carried a total of 300 students. Each graduating class of 55-60 students traditionally.

I was further introduced into the realities I have to be aware of as black man. Street smarts. What colors to wear. What these different hand signs mean. What it means and feels like to be called a nigga by your own kind in comparison to the-rest of the world.

My near high school expulsion came about, due to a fellow classmate in my academic literature course repeatedly calling me a nigga and nigger. I only went to all black schools or schools where the black population is majority except second grade in elementary school. My dad told me never let anyone even if they’re black call you a nigga. Surprisingly growing up, Dad rarely used the word. Regarding the student that kept calling me out my name I got up knocked him out of his chair and choked him out of a fit of rage. I was bigger than him and if no one got me off of him it could’ve been a dire or fatal situation. Prior to that since 2005 in the 7th grade, I already built up a reputation as the angry student that fought constantly.

When View Park gave me a threat of expulsion, seeing my parents in tears witness me going down the wrong path I switched my behavior. It wasn’t overnight. I still had problems and beef with classmates and resisting the urge react. I was 13 years old at the time.

That year I also experienced the beauties of infatuation. Love. Feelings. Caught on a weird line fearing emotions, but wanting to share. Thats when my mentor, Mike The Poet came into the picture. LA Historian and legend. The brown paper bag of underground CDs that I still have containing Atmosphere, 2Mex, MURS and more jump started an idea I can express myself. I actually written my first poem utilizing the structure to a MURS song called “The Rain” off his first album with 9th Wonder, “MURS 3:16. The 9th Edition.” I read that poem during Mike’s presentation to my class. He believed in me and that’s all I needed.

Taking note of the world that surrounds me, misogyny running rampant, the bank down the street from the school getting robbed often, dead bodies showing in random cars right outside the campus gates I was digging for the positive. Just 1 out of 300 students on campus, we was all searching for something positive in our lives. At the time it was poetry for me. Writing. Listening to my favorite artists like Lupe Fiasco at the time. Analyzing lyrics.

I was so astounded at the time I bought multiple copies of Lupe Fiasco’s second album The Cool. Gave them to my classmates. Even the classmates I didn’t get along with. Lupe, a nerd, whom grown up a in a dangerous environment expressing himself unapologetically.

This is why I credit Mike The Poet Sonsken for saving my life. If I never met him I would be dead or in prison without a doubt.

I was part of a very small percentage of students on campus that had two parents in the household. As a man now, I understand so much that’s a privilege.

2008. Dreamchaser, Murray’s Revenge.

Wise started a duo called iLL Salvation with a classmate of ours, DC. He also showed me “illmatic” by Nas and I was instantly hooked. Everyday Wise would bring his raps to school and I brought i home speakers with bootleg 9th wonder beats and the illmatic beats ripped off YouTube. We was tucked away in a classroom because listening to music was prohibited on school grounds. Let alone that catch us making rap music, we would’ve been some deep shit.

The group slowly started to build. Wise brought Welton aka WP3 in the fold as a singer. At this time, my best friend, Jalen Gray was producing beats. He went to view park middle school and was there in the 9th grade, but during this 10th grade year he went to a different school. Jalen sent beats we would build ideas around it. I kept a red notebook of album, EP ideas. Conceptual meaningful music.

At this time I wasn’t rapping. I wasn’t really writing poetry as well. I got into acting and stand up comedy. My first play, “Copacabana” by Barry Manilow. My First and only standup show at The Hollywood Improv having a whole 15-20 minute set. There’s a DVD somewhere in my house I wouldn’t dare to touch. It’s probably on the internet. I shamed myself for comedy because I made fun of my Dad and made him cry. That wasn’t cool. I don’t like talking about it.

A rapper a lot folks know now as Shofu. I met him as Shofu The Beatdown, we took that same stand up class together. Performed together for a couple years beyond the comedy space and headed into the open mic scene (just a little later on.)

This the year T.I. (The rapper) was on his apology tour, so he came to our school talking to the students during an afternoon assembly. I literally walked right by him in the middle of the hallway and did a double take. Mans is shorter than me so I thought he was a middle schooler wearing a khaki suit and their hat in a weird way.

The kids was trolling him hard. He said “listen man you can be anything you want.” And for some reason I don’t remember exactly why he asked this question he said “whats 1+1?” Someone in the crowd yelled, “fish!” He said “Fish? Man see thats why you need stay in school man.”

There was a rumor that Nipsey Hussle showed up on school grounds one day. Make sense since his sister went to the school and his set is literally in the same neighborhood around the corner. In 2007, I remember her and few other students saying “watch out Nipsey Hussle is going to be next up.” YG & DJ Mustard was doing our school prep rallies. It was odd at the time because it’s like what is a compton blood doing the westside of south central in a notoriously known dangerous Crip neighborhood? The Rollin 60 Crips.

2009. Growing Up, The Preface.

Our movement of creating music inspired our peers to join us. We had rap cyphers in the parking lot. Sometimes we crowd around so no one would see the speakers. A student, Johnnie would beatbox and everyone would just go off of that sometimes.

The music group between Wise, Welton, myself and DC grown bigger. Got my brother Jamal and Jay Stevens in the mix. Jay was rapping already on his own and with another classmate of ours, Chris Landry. So it became a 7-8 man group. My brother Jamal was with our other brothers, Evan and PJ in garage outside our house rapping and free-styling over Eminem, Dr Dre, Necro, Immortal Technique and ill-bill beats.

Mike The Poet got hired the year before and his influence really explode filled everyone with so much love and positivity. He would host a open mic poetry lounge everyday at lunch time. Gave everyone space to express themselves best way they see fit. It didn’t matter if you wasn’t the best at whatever you was doing, as long as you got started. We started a collective of writers called “Writers United.”

It was this year I actually started to take poetry more seriously. I always told people this was the time where I written my first poem called “Amity’s Melody.” And you guessed it. Its about a girl I had feelings for. It was written as a Shakespearean Sonnet. Mike took me and Writers United around the city to perform at venues such as Stella Adler, Venice Mozaic, Beyond Baroque, Eso Won Books, Leimert Park ArtWalk.

I also tried out for HBO's Brave New Voices and didn't get in.

I written a poem called ShadowsOfSociety and that eventually became the name of the music collective. We released a 20 track mixtape. The first song I ever written is on that mixtape. I will definitely not share what it’s called because you can definitely still find it.

A student named Tyler Nunley, was telling me “Hey my brother Chuck has a music group called Honor Flow Productions. I think it would be great for you all to connect.” DJ Chuck The oLd SOuL became my music mentor. Teaching me ins and outs of industry. At this time HFP was a full 12 man band I believe? With a few MCs, live instrumentation and DJs.

One of me, Wise & Jalen’s favorite rappers, Fashawn just dropped an album called “Boy Meets World” with Exile. Exile produced a classic two years earlier with a rapper named Blu called “Below The Heavens.” We shot a beat Jalen made to Fashawn, and didn’t check the email til months later and missed the opportunity to collaborate with him.

One time Writers United entered a writing competition via NAACP and one of our members, Semaj Earl won second place. We all met the rapper, Common that year. I told him “yo man that 1995 album, Resurrection is my favorite album of yours.” He laughed and said, “man yall still listen to that old shit haha. Thank you.” At the time he was promoting his 2011 album, “The Dreamer, The Believer.”

In the midst of all this positivity, we still had to face certain realities. People getting into drug dealing, attempts of starting a gang set on campus, fights, people getting jumped. House parties getting raided. Students getting arrested. Community members passing away. I was still in the thick of beefs with people and trying not react with my anger.

My older brother PJ got beatdown by the Torrance Police Department. In a separate incident got arrested for drug possession. Evan got deeper into gang banging. Jamal was dealing with depression surrounding family problems. At this time I still didn't have a real interest or confidence to pursue rap. I was still perfectly fine with being behind the scenes putting things together. I took that process very seriously.

2010. The Heart Pt.II, Overly Dedicated.

One day I was scrolling on myspace, and came across a page from a compton rapper changing his name from K.Dot to Kendrick Lamar. The cover of the EP featured a guy writing with a note pad. He didn’t have many followers at all. I think I had more haha. He just dropped the “Kendrick Lamar EP.” I heard and the songs that caught my ear was “Far From Here” feat ScHoolBoy Q, “P&P” feat Ab-Soul, “Let Me Be Me” & “Faith” feat BJ The Chicago Kid.

I hit up Kendrick via myspace. Gave props and asked for an email to send beats. He responded giving me Top Dawg’s email. At the time Jalen made this fire beat with this Smokey Robinson sample. Everyone was like this need to be saved for something special when it was created. We said “fuck it lets send it to Kendrick.” Emailed atop Dawg, and he said sent the music. Shot it to them. We typed this long, cringe worthy email with the beat because we was extremely nervous and they never responded.

During this time, Jay headed to CSU Monterey Bay for college. Chris Landry was still around the area at the time and we was getting close to two other local rappers through Mike The Poet, ForestPunk and LALO.

ShadowsOfSociety sub group, Lyrical Misfits that consists of Jay, Jamal and Jalen as unit dropped an 11 track mixtape that you can still find on the internet as well.

View Park had a random festival I forgot who put it on, but at the time my group was on the bill along with rappers and singers people know now as D Smoke, SiR & Tiffany Gouche’ from Inglewood. At the time they was a short collective called “Woodworks.” Watching D Smoke perform he was unapologetically yelling out his name and letting you know what he represent.

When the academic year started, I was dead-set on becoming a writer. I loved poetry. I love journalism (Mike The Poet got me into hip hop journalism to keep me out of trouble. If I was feeling some kind of way he redirected me to write an album review on an rap album I was listening to at the time.) I write everyday and took every opportunity I got to perform.

My old elementary school principal, Dr Holly, randomly showed up on campus. We spoke and he asked me what I wanted to do with my life being in the 12th grade and college being around the corner. What type of plans I have. An important thing to note, my family does not get along with him. As my education was in the balance in the 5th grade due to a pyramid scheme.

I told Dr Holly I wanted to be a writer and want to go to either Stanford University or CSU Long Beach. He laughed in my face and said “Are you serious? Man you not going to make any money doing that. You should do something else and reconsider. Really think about your future. Take it serious.”

Very disheartening situation as I was building my name around Los Angeles. At the time I just got performing for a huge crowd of two hundred students at Carson High School because Mike got me connected to the Boys & Girls Club of Carson and another rapper who eventually became part of the ShadowsOfSociety collective, Orlando aka Bombastic. Organizers that was directly involved with the school felt I was talented and always brought it so they put me on the bill for this huge event. I was the only kid not from the school performing. Wild.

Also the same year, Jamal and Jay met Ab-Soul after he dropped Longterm 2: Lifestyles Of The Broke and Almost Famous.

By the end of the year, ForestPunk purposed ShadowsOfSociety join forces with him, LALO, his sister and his girlfriend at the time and create a super group,


To Be Continued.

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