Blak Forest - You Are Now Entering The... (20th Anniversary Edition)

Lurking in the shadows of the bright lights, glitz and glamour of Hollywood is an organically grown crew of authentic artists that counter the hyper sensationalist portrayal of the people in our beloved City of Angels: welcome to the Blak Forest.

Through the early ‘90s, major label representation of hip-hop from Los Angeles was predominantly “gangsta rap,” and understandably so; the impact of N.W.A.’s “Straight Outta Compton” had record companies in a gold rush type frenzy; and while the industry and media were focusing on one vertical of L.A. rappers, a movement of talented artists born and raised on hip-hop as b-boys from the early ‘80s, honed their writing and performing skills through to the early ‘90s, were beginning to create and release some of the most vibrant, unadulterated hip-hop music by the mid 1990s. An entire movement had begun, and as independently produced vinyl records started circulating through mix shows, mixtapes, and grungy clubs in cities throughout the globe, the golden era of Los Angeles underground hip-hop was gaining worldwide recognition. While the many of the groups to emerge from the L.A. underground have become highly recognizable names in music, the 1997 Blak Forest album “You Are Now Entering” captures the true essence of hungry, talented artists, that present an honest streetwise sensibility, battle rap ferocity, interlaced with consciousness and intellectualism, over masterful production that sound like instant classics on the first needle drop, making this record, “the album that every true hip-hop head needs to discover.”

The Blak Forest resides within the streets of Los Angeles County, but the actual home of the Blak Forest was the Treehouse, located somewhere around where the 710 freeway ends in East LA. As you entered the old cable company property converted into a studio, the aromas of burning chronic blunts permeated the air, and tiny billows of smoke seemingly puffed out of the eggshell studio soundboards to the rhythm of the hard-hitting drums knocking out of the studio speakers.
Behind the board is the ultra calm, glassy-eyed Wiz1, one of the gifted producers of the Blak Forest, who earned the name Wiz while working at an Atlanta studio as a teenage prodigy that introduced techniques to producers such as Organized Noize (Outkast). In the room, and scattered throughout, are various members of the Blak Forest having loud, animated conversations, laughing and talking shit, thoroughly enjoying a drink and a smoke while hanging with friends and making music. From thick, vibey, jazz-laden tracks; hard-hitting, rhyme inducing beats; to shiny, soulful, ear-pleasing production; the soundtrack that Circle of Power (Mone, Wiz1,and Jess Luv), and DJ ICD (Urbanites) provide for their crew captures a feel-good affinity for music approach that exemplifies the honest passion of the B.F. lyricists throughout the record; a genuine quality that is a rarity amongst the plethora of music that simply sounds manufactured.

The Blak Forest is real, and real deep. With five groups within the crew, and four solo MCs, the Blak Forest have no shortage of talent, presence, or bravado. The Blak Forest is:

Circle of Power
Members: Mone, Wiz1, Jess Luv
Releasing an album in 1993, Circle of Power set it off for the Blak Forest, and hold down the crew with contributions on both the boards and the mic. As MC’s, Wiz 1 gets into the pocket and Mone floats effortlessly over the tracks, fusing vocals and music with deliveries as only the best Producer/MCs could. “Get the Paper” illustrates both facets of C.O.P.’s talents with lyrics and flow that perfectly accentuate the infectious head-nodding production that would make the Native Tongue family proud.

Members: Shaydie 3rd Degree, Kaboom, DJ ICD
A prolific writer and street soliloquist with a golden voice, the unofficial captain of the B.F. crew is the MC’s MC known as Shaydie 3rd Degree. If Shaydie’s delivery was Michael Jordan in a dunk contest, then Kaboom hammers it home with the power of Dominique Wilkins. DJ ICD holds down the turntables as well as serving up gritty, asphalt smacking drum machine beats as a producer for the B.F. crew. Shaydie and Kaboom vocally standout on soulful blow-up tracks like “Mental Status,” or straight out murder the rhythm as heard on “4est Green” and “Game of Def.”

Members: Flamn & Chief
With Flamn’s unique voice and catchy cadences next to by Chief’s natural and fluid deliveries, paired with a memorable melody and chorus, Kamikaze delivers the indelible and sonically pleasing “Just Wanna Be A Star.” Their versatility is shown on “Game of Def,” as Kamikaze team up with the Urbanites for a destroy the competition, ready for battle song.

Members: Self Educated & Fraze
The Landmines possess a poised fierceness. Self Educated is an accurate name for the poet that delivers edgy street rhymes spiked with astute vernacular. Fraze brings instinctive inflection and swagger to his vocals, projecting a confidence without a false display of grandiosity. Landmines demonstrate their rhyme prowess tattooing tracks with fluidity on the hard-hitting “Approach with Discretion,“ (remixed for this 20th anniversary release by DJ Rhettmatic), and the buttery collaboration with Circle of Power titled, “Fourth Quarter.”

Foot Soljaaz
Members: Zig E.S.P. & Otherwize
The latest additions to the crew, Zig E.S.P. and Otherwise aggressively maneuvered through the battle circuit gaining much recognition. When people ask who took 1st in the 1997 Rap Olympics when Eminem placed 2nd, Otherwize from the Blak Forest is the correct answer. The Foot Soljaaz rhyme with an “everything to gain and nothing to lose” intensity, and their tenacity on the mic is evidenced on the lively “Hoes to Doe.”

Hakim tha Wize exudes authenticity as a tried and true b-boy rocking the mic with no false pretense. In the egotistical masquerade of the rap world, Hakim the Wise cuts through with a refreshing substantiality on each bar he touches. On “Don’t Drink the Water,” Hakim calls out all fraudulent individuals, warning all to stop drinking from the menagerie of falsehood.

Helrazor demonstrates a powerful physical and verbal presence as he stomps through his solo song “Fly Lines.” Coming from the land of actors and imposters, Helrazor comes to crush any person posturing with deception, and not many would dare to stand in Helrazor’s way in the mic booth, on stage, or on the street.

Sleeze 1 shows depth and contemplation as he pontificates self-growth and the challenges of life as a “young black male” on the anthemic “Dedicated MC’s.” Sleeze’s smart-alecky flair is flexed as he playfully clowns MC’s over the shimmery “Throw ‘em in the Sun.”

LMNO is the bi-partisan Blak Forest/Visionaries member that dubbed the unofficial alliance of L.A. crews as “the Associates,” (Blak Forest, Dilated Peoples, Jurassic 5, Visionaries, Beat Junkies). His witty, unorthodox verse construction and unique delivery is illustrated on the cut “Neva Before.” A dynamic chemistry is shown with Shaydie 3rd Degree as the bonafide studio fiends pair up on “Predictable Contradictions.”

The original release of “You Are Now Entering” was on L.A. hip-hop pioneer Steve Yano’s Skanless Records, (Rest in Power). Over a decade before, Steve owned a record store at the Roadium Swap Meet in Torrance, CA. He was “the man” that DJ’s from all over Southern California would call to get the newest hip hop releases, and was instrumental in “breaking records” on the West Coast. Yano sold the famous Dr. Dre Roadium mixtapes, and subsequently ended up introducing Dre to Eazy E, which resulted in the forming of N.W.A. The group’s independent releases turned into platinum success, dramatically influencing the course of commercial rap. The Blak Forest was one of the few groups that Steve signed to his own independent label. Steve always knew a good record right when he heard it, and he knew that the Blak Forest was something special.

Steve Yano, N.W.A., and the L.A. underground, were driven by passion and the need to express, and are connected as contributors to the same movement: Los Angeles Hip-Hop. Twenty years ago, the Blak Forest planted their seed in the movement, and for those who did not know, “You Are Now Entering…”

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