While underground hip-hop fans around the country have spent much of 2015 celebrating the 20th anniversary of innovative indieground rap label Rhymesayers Entertainment, this year marks a few ten year anniversaries as well. This week marks one decade since the release of Boom Bap Project's Reprogram album. Consisting of members Destro, Karim and DJ Scene, Reprogram marked an interesting entry in the label's catalog. Released during Rhymesayers' initial wave of the Northwestern hip-hop additions to the predominantly Minneapolis roster, Boom Bap Project's upholding of traditional hip-hop particulars allow Reprogram to echo both the elements of where RSE and hip-hop was in 2005.
We spoke to Karim about the making of the album, the Seattle-Rhymesayers connection, and how he feels about the project ten years later.
OC Weekly (Chaz Kangas): How did Boom Bap Project first link up with Rhymesayers?
Karim: We had been playing SXSW and touring through Minneapolis. In 2001 we played with Eyedea and Abilities and Slug, and met a few other of the Rhymesayers guys and started a dialogue, keeping in contact with them. I was promoting shows in Seattle as well. We had a lot of people in common we were working with and just kept in touch. When my group started making noise, it was a mutual thing and just happened.
Between your Circumstances Dictate EP in 2001 and Reprogram, you seemed to have a prolific run of mixtapes and went through a label change midway through working on Reprogram.
Yeah, I ran Stuck Under the Needle Records with a couple of my partners in Seattle. The resources weren't there at the time. We thought that the record was going to be big, and didn't have the resources to handle how big we thought it would be. We had been touring and making a lot of noise on the West Coast. When Rhymesayers really wanted to do it, we were so excited about it and I thought it was a great move.
We spent a good three years working on Reprogram and giving it all we could, picking the best beats from an up-and-coming Jake One and Vitamin D and getting our features from people we were really friends with who we'd toured with. Reprogram was the main focus.
What lead to the choice of "Rock the Spot" for the first single and were there ever plans for a video?
We just didn't have the budget at the time to film videos back then. People at the time were doing it, I believe Grayskul did one for "Prom Quiz," but we just didn't have the time or resources. "Rock the Spot" we wanted to get out there and put out a song that was a "club banger" or whatever you wanted to call it. We thought that one had the vibe to help us sell some records when we hit the road. We wanted something that was accessible as our first single.
Following Reprogram's release, you toured heavily throughout the rest of 2005. Did you really get banned from Canada?
Yeah, we had been going to Canada and playing up there since Seattle is near Vancouver. We'd go to Toronto a bunch. Once we started pushing a good amount of merch, they started knowing us and knowing our patterns coming up there. So, right when the album dropped, we wanted to make as much as we could and we were always dealing with promoters who wanted to bring us up there. This one particular time, the promoter didn't get us our work visas or whatever they call them. We tried to hide all our merchandise in our bags. They pull us over at the border, went inside our van, found our merch, confiscated our phones and said a bunch of rude shit to us. "You're taking money out of our pockets! You're hurting Canadian artists!" When all was said and done, we sat there for eight hours and they decided to ban the Boom Bap Project for two years, it might have been longer. They got nothing to do up there, they don't like U.S. artists going up there and not getting paid. Now any time me or anyone tries to get into Canada, you just have to make sure you have everything straight and everything that you need.
How was it touring with the Rhymesayers roster?
It was dope. We went on all kinds of different tours. There were tours with us and Brother Ali where it was more traditional, and then they put us on tour with Hiero and Non-Phixion. The dopest thing was that the Rhymesayers audience is so supportive of anyone who has that Rhymesayers tag, even if it wasn't their cup of tea, they were supportive, they came out, they bought the album because they love the label. They know Rhymesayers only drops dope shit, and that they got the taste. They just do the right thing and promote artists who they believe will hold up the name. Whether it was Psalm One, Slug or Eyedea and Abilities, it was just an honor to do that stuff and open us up to a new audience and give us that opportunity.
Looking back on Reprogram today, how do you feel about it?
Well, if you want to know the truth, I'm very proud of the album because of the work that we put into it. Jake One is one of my best friends. It's an album my group crafted and worked very hard on and it came out dope. I wish we could have done more, we had a second album we were working on. We wanted a little bit more, but I'm glad with where it is. I think as far as hardcore hip-hop, it opened up a lane for Seattle, it opened up a lane for the Northwest and it allowed us to work with Rhymesayers.