Reminisce 1: Blac Monks

Growing up in a household devoid of traditions and with two working parents of different religions always arguing which one to raise me under, I had little cultural direction, aside from going to museums and the zoo every now and then.  Further I was living in Houston, Texas a city known for its lack of edification. So I embraced the only culture I saw, the only culture Houston had, its rap culture.

As a youngster I constantly listened to 97.9 the Box, glorified gangs, memorized rap songs, wrote rap songs, with my head phones on I sang rap songs really loud to scare old white people I walked past, sported Dickies, swagged out my BMX by rolling the handle bars down all the way, chilled at public parks, and literally almost exploded out of joy whenever I saw a low rider (bike or car) pass by me. (I still do all these things).

In 1998, when I was in 4th grade, the Los Magnificos Car Show came to Houston, Texas. I begged my mom to take me. Snoop Dogg was the headliner. He had just signed to No Limit Records in an effort to escape all the drama out West. I guess he came down south because the only color we trip over is green.

I saw Snoop, a bunch of low rider cars, bikes, model cars and low rider models. It was great. The best part about it was the free stuff– I received a bag with a whole bunch of it.  Tela stickers, Big L stickers, Getto Boys posters, Eight ball and MJG posters, Big Tymers posters, and all kinds of cassettes—mostly Rap-A-Lot tapes.  For as much shit as Rap-A-Lot gets for poorly promoting their artists, this bag was like a holiday present for me. So thanks Rap-A-Lot. Anyways one cassette that caught my attention was the Blac Monks No Mercy Promo tape. I looked at the cover and said “that ain’t gangsta!” The cover of the cassette had a huge black guy with a bull ring, sitting in a jungle under a full moon. The cassette had three songs, IntroNatural Herbs and Spices, and Jungle Funk.

When I first heard Jungle Funk, I turned up the speakers and blasted it. Unlike many songs that require a few listens, this was a banger from the second the cassette tape began rolling. Although a series of beats and vocals are not tangible, I felt that this was something I could hold onto. The sounds were thick and voices deep.  This viscous southern sound filled the bare household I called home. On the surface nothing was wrong in my life; I was sitting on a freshly vacuumed carpet and had food in my stomach. But jamming Jungle Funk made this latch key kid feel whole.

While it is virtually impossible to rule the world, creating and ruling one’s own world is definitely achievable.  The Blac Monks, a Houston, Texas based southern rap group consisting of Mr. 3-2, Da, Awol, Raheem and Quiet Storm were not trying to run the rap game. The Blac Monks were not evening trying to run Houston rap scene. They created their own niche to thrive in: the jungle.  The Blac Monks’ songs have a bit of an ancestral feel in a metaphysical sense.  Many of their songs take an unexamined stab at creating an indigenous vibe—Caged in Gorillas, Enemy Within, Monk Mentality, Jungle Funk, Natural Herbs and Spices, and God Complex.[1] Although, they stopped a little short of completing their tribal metaphor, they left us with a great album, sanctified with existentialism. For example, please listen to track 4, Paper Chase, where Awol quotes Edie Brickell and New Bohemians’ What I Am. One last thing: the songs on No Mercy make me want to turn on a black light. –Droopy

Download Blac Monks 1998 Release No Mercy

[1] Their first album was even called Secrets of the Hidden Temple

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