Issue 52 (2003)
Think about it, you’re chillin in class one day and the teacher asks you to write down five words to describe yourself. No big deal. You follow the instructions and scribble a few words on the paper, realistic, ambitious, serious, cautious, organized, all the things that you feel are your best qualities. Once you finish you take a look at what you wrote and it finally hits you like the third verse on They Reminisce. Take the first letters out of each word in the joint and flip it on some hiphop shit and the name R.A.S.C.O comes clear.
“The way I wrote it out was just how it came about,” remembers the Fresno State grad known in hiphop circles as the Solefather Rasco (aka Kieda Brewer). “I was like this is what I want to do to represent me. These adjectives are just something that describe [me] as a person. I feel by having that name Rasco all it does it represent Kieda.”
In the early 90’s Rasco teamed with Friz B. and Eb F. to form the bay area crew, Various Blends. Instead of ripping mics, he filled out the trio serving as the group’s backup dancer and hype man. Though he had the makings of a good emcee, the voice, fresh name, and a strong stage presence, Rasco was reluctant to take a chance at emceeing choosing instead to remain in the background until his partners’ constant encouragement to give rhyming a chance paid off.
“They were like why don’t you write a song?” Rasco recalls. “They were like you’re always saying our stuff and helping us remember our stuff, so why don’t you hop on something. So I started doing it and enjoyed it. The whole process of trying to find that next word or next phrase and [figuring out] how to flip things was cool to me. I was loving to do it.”
Various Blends released their first single, “The Dopess b/w Chill as I Flex,” independently in 1997. After gauging his potential on wax Rasco decided to leave the group to pursue his solo career. That same year saw the solefather explode onto the scene with two singles off of Stones Throw Records, “The Unassisted” and “Run the Line.” The tracks took the underground by storm, receiving heavy rotation on college radio mixes all over the country. The buzz carried over to his debut album, “Time Waits For No Man,” whichreceived nominations from both The Source and Pulse magazines in ‘98 for best independent album of the year helping put Stones Throw on the map. Rasco’s experience with Peanut Butter Wolf (Stones Throw CEO) did more than just gain him a few accolades, it sparked the whole notion that he could be successful running his own company.
“Wolf left the whole project up to me,” explains Rasco. “It was kind of like [he said] I’m going to let you do this and run with the artwork, pick what songs you want, use what producers you want, what emcees you want or whatever it is you want to do. I pretty much did the whole thing, so I [began thinking] that I should start my own thing. It kind of struck me at that moment that this is what I should look into doing [considering that] I went to school for business management. I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but I knew I wanted to run my own business and [I thought] what better thing to do than run my own label.”
Rasco made it clear that his experience with Stones Throw was the best situation he’s ever been in thus far with an indie. PBW wasn’t just his business partner, he was his friend, roommate and mentor. Once he moved from under Wolf’s wing he started to realize that the indie game wasn’t so sweet. While slowly laying the foundation for what would become his Pockets Linted imprint, Rasco pursued several independent licensing and distribution deals working with ill fated labels like Nu Gruv Alliance and Copasetik Records.
“When I started dealing with Nu Gruv and Copasetik it just started to be situations where people who were in charge of the label didn’t know what the hell they were doing,” Rasco begins. “You had Nu Gruv who would put out Cali Agents, Zion I, and Aceyalone in the same month competing against themselves. Why are you doing that? To me, besides the people they had working there for them, they were the stupidest people I ever dealt with in my life period. The dude from Copasetik was just shady. He would approach you one way and be like I’m behind you, but on the same token he would try to hold you into certain things and certain contracts.”
By taking what he’s learned from his seemingly ominous dealings and applying it to his own label, Rasco makes it clear that he refuses to fall prey to poor judgment and the bad business practices that have plagued his last few endeavors. He chooses to follow several guidelines to ensure his success.
A) Single Deals Only. “Whatever we’re doing I’m only going to do that one thing,” explains Rasco. “I’m not going to try and hold you down and say ok we’re gonna do four albums on Pockets Linted. I’m not going to do that [because] I want you to feel comfortable with what I bring to you and I want to feel comfortable with what you’re able to bring to me. In my whole experience I just try to have it where my label is one off. Like we’re going to do this single, if you liked what I did for you then let’s do another single and if you like what I did for you on those two singles then let’s do an EP or an album.”
B) Maintain a Focus. “I try not to take on too much at one time as a label. Instead I focus on this one artist or focus on doing this one thing at a time instead of three or four things at a time when in my opinion your focus is off,” Rasco remarks. “I try to keep my time in slots where everything is manageable, but sometimes it gets to be a bit much. When I was working on my album I had to put the business side as far as other artists were concerned on hold for a couple of months. I’ll tell [the artist] we’ll get everything ready, I’m working on my album [and] once I get that done we can go to the next stage of your record which is getting the artwork done, getting it mastered, and things like that. I try to schedule it out.”
C) Follow the Golden Rule. “What I try to do for anybody that’s on my label is try to teach them a little about the game,” explains Rasco. “ When I first have my conversation with them I sit them down and tell them this is how you will be paid and this is how the game works, don’t look for this, this or this. People think because they got a record out three weeks later they’ll have a big fat check and that’s not how it works. I try to explain to them the ins and outs and kind of like the chain of command like when I get my accounting from this cat I’ll get it to you and you look at it. Everything I do on my label is a partnership. I split everything fifty-fifty. I want them to feel comfortable, have some money in their pocket and feel like they earned it or are being compensated for it. So when the record comes out you have someone that’s happy, not someone looking at you [wondering] why you didn’t do this or that. I’m an artist as well, so I know how I like to be treated. I’m on the phone with them all the time, so if something changes or goes wrong I try to alert them to that. I don’t let something go for a month and say we had to do this a month ago. I try to keep them informed and as happy as you possibly can and that’s the god’s honest truth.”
These guidelines seem to be working in Rasco’s favor as Pockets Linted has a slew of releases ready to hit the stores. An Ohio MC named Aarophat just dropped a 12,” Bay Area producer Architect (Encore) is releasing a double LP of instrumentals called “Music to Write to,” Cali Agents guest star Chuck Taylor returns to put out a new single, and to top it off a follow up compilation to the successful “20,000 Leagues Under the Street” is on deck. In addition to the upcoming treats on Pockets Linted, the raspy voiced MC’s own album, “Escape From Alcatraz” is being released in conjunction with Coup D’etat Entertainment. Coup D’etat, which entered into the picture after Nu Gruv folded, provided Rasco with the backing and distribution to release his third full length.
“After I signed with Fat Beats [to distribute all the vinyl on Pockets Linted] Coup D’etat came along. They were [working] with Akrobatik and Fakts One and we all have the same management so they asked what’s Rasco doing. I was working on my album and I let them hear it and then they wanted to do the deal, but they only wanted to do Rasco [not Pockets Linted]. They said you do the album on vinyl and we’ll do the album on CD.”
His new offering, “Escape From Alcatraz” is set to be released this fall and is the first step in a new direction. In the past Rasco admits to letting what he felt the fans wanted dictate the direction he was going. This album breaks that tradition and new ground focusing on matters close to his heart in an effort to create a more personal piece of work. The topics move well beyond battle laced raps, touching on his childhood and the struggles to be a better father to his daughter. Everything isn’t introspective though as the title and overall theme of the album deal with his past label situations. Songs like “Snakes in the Grass,” a scathing track aimed at John Sexton (Copasetik A&R) and “Get Free,” both deal with issues of shady business. This freedom of expression has led Rasco to proclaim Alcatraz his best effort to date. “This album to me is better than any record I’ve done and I’ve never said that,” Rasco assures. “I really feel like this is my best effort and to me it shows. The beats are better, the rhymes are better, the hooks are better, it’s put together better, and I think it was due to me being open to new things and letting myself go.”
Once the new LP hits stores Rasco and his partner in rhyme Planet Asia (who together form the underground duo, Cali Agents) will begin working on the follow up to their highly successful collaboration, “How the West Was Won.” With the bar for success raised Rasco and Asia have already started planning on how they can make the new album bigger, better, and more focused. On West there was no going home to work on your verse, Asia and Rasco would just hit the studio with something to drink and smoke and did the writing and song development on the spot. This time Rasco plans on switching up the method.
“We’re going to sit down and conceptualize the album a little bit more,” assures Cali Agent #1. “[On the first one] we was just wanting to say whatever we wanted to say and it didn’t really follow any lines. On this one we already talked about doing something that people ain’t really expecting from us and with me and him that’s concept stuff. I think this one is going to be more of a challenge to come together on songs about what I want to talk about and that he wants to talk about. Also this time around we’ll probably do lthree tracks with different people and I know for sure we will definitely get bigger name producers and that will make the record different. I already have beats from people I’m saving for Cali Agents and he’s doing the same but as far as writing I want us both to be stable, either me in L.A. or him here so we can put the album together. I’m looking forward to it to see what we come up with.”
Pick up the new album “Escape From Alcatraz” and log onto to Pocketslinted.com for more info on Rasco, upcoming Pockets Linted releases, and his new Grand Imperial clothing line.