The Lordz Of Brooklyn With Graffiti Rock
Posted on June 19, 2005 by Jamie Slaughter
At the foot of the Verrazano Bridge lies Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, home to the Lordz of Brooklyn and a world of co-existing extremes: wealth, poverty, love, hate, delight, doom, suburbia, city, diversity, sameness. Growing up in the 70s and 80s, Lordz founder Mike "Mr. Kaves" McLeer discovered his turf wasn?t always easy to navigate. But he understood his neighborhood and its contrasts, and he used that insight to help the Lordz find success.
Acknowledging their roots, the Lordz took their name from the classic Henry Winkler/ Sly Stallone 70s coming-of-age flick, The Lords of Flatbush. Interestingly enough, that very movie was inspired by the Flatbush-area gang that Kaves? father used to run with.
The blue-collared boulevards of 1980s Bay Ridge had no Boy Scout or Cub Scout Corps. To compensate for the lack of after-school activities, some snot-nosed kids began using the train yards as their playgrounds, spraying subway cars with their self-styled art. Parents and police expressed their disapproval, but illegal or not, Kaves had found his outlet.
"For kids like us, graffiti wasn?t vandalism, it was a strong shot of glory and a positive expression of our creativity," he says. "I learned the art of competition and worked hard to be innovative with my lettering styles. So while other kids were out playing baseball, I was out creating masterpieces."
Now exposed to that underground world, Kaves and his crew (which included his brother Adam "ADM" McLeer) were exposed to one of early hip-hop?s other innovations ? breakdancing. "We were the first kids in our neighborhood to start breakdancing," Kaves remembers. "And it was the last thing people expected or wanted to see ? you know, a bunch of white kids spinning on their heads. But the same adrenaline rush we felt while doing graffiti also came when we were breakdancing." Crowds would often form to watch the boys dance. The positive reaction kept them going, and they soon discovered rap.
Kaves and ADM were already well versed in rock and R&B, having grown up listening to early doo-wop, KISS, the Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, Cream, the Stylistics, Donna Summer and the Jackson Five. Rap, however, was new, exciting, different. Acts such as Run DMC, LL Cool J, Public Enemy, the Beastie Boys and Big Daddy Kane were just starting to break into the mainstream and they were hooked on the new sound.
"I got arrested in the mid-80s for writing graffiti," he admits, "so I started to get more and more involved in making music. Around the same time, Adam began to dj and the two of us started throwing parties." By organizing these local social events, Kaves and ADM became the neighborhood?s one-stop-shop for anything rap or hip hop-related, a status that soon paid off.
"I promoted a Public Enemy concert at this place Ernie Barry?s," Kaves explained. "At the time, Public Enemy didn?t even know they had a white audience. But to me, meeting Chuck D was like meeting Gene Simmons or Michael Jackson. I was on Cloud 9." The two became friends, and Chuck D eventually asked Kaves if knew how to rap. A demo tape exchanged hands and "from that day on, I knew I had an outlet to tell my stories," said Kaves.
"We started out as the Verrazano Boys, which was just me and Adam, who was the DJ," Kaves explained. "We would rhyme anywhere and everywhere. We used to rhyme in local clubs for fun, but nine times out of ten, bloody brawls would break out, with 50 kids in the middle of the street beating the shit out of each other. ?Drink, Fuck, Fight? became the anthem." The reckless impulses of youth soon took a backseat to the Lordz?s beat-cutting seriousness and opportunities were soon theirs for the taking.
"When I was shopping our demo to labels, I met Danny Boy (House of Pain). He asked me to kick it with the House of Pain on their European tour," explained Kaves, "and three tours later I was doing backup vocals for them." It was an incredible experience for a Brooklyn kid who rarely traveled beyond Manhattan?s colossal skyline. All the while, ADM was at home making beats. Soon enough, the Lordz of Brooklyn were signed to American Recordings, and in 1995 they released their debut LP, All in the Family.
The Lordz?s first single, "Saturday Night Fever" was a homage to the Bay Ridge-set John Travolta film that made their neighborhood famous. Incorporating samples from Schooly D?s "It?s Saturday Night" and the Guess Who?s "American Woman," "Saturday Night Fever" was later featured in both an episode of Beavis and Butthead and in the 1997 independent film, Gravesend. With the album and single?s release, Kaves hit the road again ? this time with his own crew. "Touring was rough," he remembers. "Having us all in one van was a real machismo-fest. But wherever we went, the crowds were always revved up and receptive.
Aside from touring in the U.S. and overseas, the Lordz have kept busy by putting out an array of new tracks. The Gravesend soundtrack featured three other Lordz tracks, including the single "Lake of Fire," featuring Everlast. They also collaborated with respected underground rap artist Freddy Foxxx on "Lordz of Brooklyn Meets Bumpy Knuckles," a Landspeed Distribution release that sold over 10,000 copies. Another high-profile collaboration was the ADM-produced remix of the Busta Rhymes/ Ozzy Osbourne single "Iron Man," off of Busta?s 1999 double platinum CD, E.LEE.
"In recent years, our sound has become a lot more mature. Instead of bragging about our backgrounds, we?ve begun to explore the tragedies and triumphs of our lives," Kaves explained. "The music is now better composed, fuller sounding, moodier. We?ve incorporated moogs, wah wah pedals, violins, tambourines and pots and pans into the mix, giving an ambient touch to the hardcore hip hop."
With the Lordz?s musical and creative growth, the addition of a live band became crucial to capturing their dynamic new sound. "As kids, we were awestruck by how big and entertaining KISS concerts were," Kaves explained. "We realized that the one thing missing from our shows was those huge, blistering Marshall amps. So we hooked up with a three-piece band and a DJ, and incorporated them into our sound."
The Lordz of Brooklyn are moving forward, creating sonic new plans for the future. The band?s latest release, Graffiti Roc (Tunnel Vizion Records - July 2003), just recently ranked #13 on the FMQB?s Alternative Specialty Radio Top 25 Best Albums Chart. The album, which is full of stories inspired by life in their blue-collar neighborhood and the hope of better days to come, features appearances by Everlast, Busta Rhymes, Freddie Foxxx, Rampage, Lord Finesse, OC and a Korn remix. Also included, is a cover of Run DMC?s "Sucker MC?s," a collaboration with Everlast produced by ADM. (The song was originally released on Republic/Universal?s compilation, Take a Bite Outta Rhyme ? a Rock Tribute to Rap. In November 2000, the song was the #2-ranked addition to The Album Network?s 116-station alternative radio listings.) The Lordz?s version of "Sucker MC?s" is so good that Run himself said it was one of the best remixes he?s ever heard of his songs. Also, the song 'Lake of Fire' is currently featured in the new Take Two Interactive video game titled 'Mafia.'
From bay ridge, brooklyn, emerges the lordz of brooklyn. Founder, mike "mr kaves" mcleer, from personal experience, uses his vast knowledge of his own neighbourhood and its contrasts, in an attempt to elevate the lordz of brooklyn to success through producing music which is related to their own environments and experiences. This insight contributes greatly to the highly anticipated second album "graffiti rock", which includes a strong, evident vibe of hope for a better and less trouble renowned future. With an array of popular guest appearances and experienced artists including everlast, busta rhymes, freddie foxxx, rampage, lord finese, oc and a bonus korn remix of "white trash", this album holds a strong status which illustrates the respect that these artists have for the lordz of brooklyn.
The album is a blend of easy listening rock, through to more aggressive rock, with a dominance of Hip Hop spread throughout the album's entirety. "Graffiti Rock" opens up with "Hey DJ", which combines each and every style, to signify to the listener of the albums whole feel and direction. With a Run DMC cover version (which Run appreciates and looks on as one of the best remixes he has heard of any of his songs), of Sucker MC, featuring Everlast, this shows the quality of production and skill required to pull of such a high performance re-work from one of the most well known tracks from an established group such as Run DMC. "Wild For Da Nite" displays the more aggressive rock style, including a loud and energetic hook, with yet another features guest appearance, this time from Rampage. The stand out track from the album, in my view, is "White Trash". This track demonstrates all of Lordz' styles and influences and brings together the correct blend of Hip Hop and rock, for all music genres to admire. Busta Rhymes collaborates on "Forget Bout It, Bout It" and this contribution alone boosts and injects Bustas usual energy mixed with Lordz inspiration.
Overall Graffiti Rock is an impressive and energy packed second album, which shows the correct blend of styles to produce a highly acclaimed release. Lordz Of Brooklyn remain dedicated to their music and creating music which relates strongly to their roots is one of their main areas of focus and expertise. This album is not my usual taste of music, but having listened to it, I can appreciate and recommend it highly, and now regard it as an inspiring and enjoyable CD.
To learn more about this group and for more information visit:
Lordz Of Brooklyn Official Site
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