Dannu is kind of glad you've never heard of him—he's spent a lot of time trying to keep things that way. It's the rest of the guys in hip-hop crew the Visionaries who get the press, and that leaves Dannu and Lord Zen—both MCs—alone in the dark to work on their own side project, Writer's Block: "We want it low-key," he says. "We are the shadows in the Visionaries, and that's how we want it."
Since 1993, Dannu and Zen have worked on Writer's Block with a stick-to-the-underground mentality. They made their latest release, NextStop(due out on Up Above sometime in May), completely by themselves: "Everything but manufacturing," says Dannu. And it will only be available through selected mom-and-pop stores and websites such as Access, Armory, Stacks, Amoeba, Fat Beats and La2daBay. Sound like the complete opposite of the music business? Dannu doesn't want to dip into hype, he says: "I would rather have someone listen to our music because they like us."
Luckily, that's not hard at all. To compare Writer's Block to classic groups such as KMD (where MF Doom started his career) or the Ultramagnetic MCs (where Kool Keith started his) wouldn't be unheard of—at least if you're a British blogger. ("That's a really great compliment," says Dannu modestly. "If I was going to be compared to someone, I would want it to be Run-DMC, but we aren't at that caliber.") And Visionary Key Kool calls them the West Coast version of OutKast because of their singing style and maybe because their broad-spectrum approach to beatmaking keeps them out of one specific sound or genre.
Their sound is definitely rooted in the West Coast—especially with tracks produced by Key Kool—but if they lived in New York, they would be East Coast all the way. Despite what Dannu thinks, the British blogger was right—they do have an Ultramagnetic MCs vibe to them. Their beats just flow: solid nod-your-head sounds that push you through Lord Zen and Dannu's underground, underneath lyrics similar to Opio's TriangulationStationor Charizma—think "Soon to Be Large" or "Charizma What?"
Through secret methods, Writer's Block is slowly building an underground following among fans who can somehow keep track of the virus-like spawning of side projects that members of the Visionaries produce—like 2Mex's latest alias SonGodSuns, LMNO's solo work, or Key Kool and DJ Rhettmatic's side Kozmonautz. And for now, while Dannu and Lord Zen wait for their album to drop in May, they will continue lurking in the shadows. But remember: Method Man and Ghostface Killah were remarkable MCs apart from Wu-Tang. Says Dannu: "If people like this one, they are going to like us for sure—because it's all us."
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WRITER'S BLOCK WITH ACEYALONE, GALAPAGOS 4, BUSDRIVER, JROZ AND DJ ETHOS, SMASHPOP COLLECTIVE, BIZZART, AND THE CRUX AT THE GLASS HOUSE, 200 W. SECOND ST., POMONA; WWW.THEGLASSHOUSE.US. SAT., 8 P.M. $15-$20. ALL AGES.