Today we’re going to briefly talk about Non Phixion’s compilation tape The Past, The Present, And The Future Is Now.
The tape came out in January of 2000 on Matador, just a few months before their iconic “Black Helicopters” single, which we’ll get to tomorrow. The tape was a sort of greatest hits collection to promote the group. It was only available on cassette and never made it to CD. Unfortunately, the vast majority of songs on it were released previously on singles, so we’ve already discussed them, however I’ll put up a few of the tracks we never got to. The song “2004” features the Montreal group Obscure Disorder, whose membership included rapper Troy Dunnit. Troy would later work with Bill on the song “Let’s Go” which was released as a single as well as on Bill’s mixtape Ill Bill Is The Future. Troy also hopped on a very cool beat by Necro in 2003 with impressive results.
So here’s the tracks from the cassette I picked:
Non Phixion – End of the World
Non Phixion – This is Not an Exercise
Non Phixion feat. Obscure Disorder – 2004
Ill Bill – Gangsta Rap (this is a Bill solo song that they put on the tape. The real version has a long intro clip of Robert Deniro in A Bronx Tale, but for whatever reason the dude who uploaded this wasn’t feelin it… oh well)
Stop back tomorrow, we’ll have the Black Helicopters stuff up and hopefully I’ll be finished with my article/interview with Mr. Lopez by the weekend. Don’t touch that dial.
One of my all-time favorite Non Phixion songs is “14 Years of Rap” with The Arsonists, produced by 10K. This song came out on May 10th, 1999 on a single called Plan A by the short-lived Skeme Team collaborative (even though they’re not on the song), which would later become Brooklyn Academy.
For those of you who haven’t heard of The Arsonists, they were another rap group from Brooklyn around the same time who frequently did shows with Non Phixion. I’ll touch on them this summer in a feature I’m calling “As The Week Burns” to commemorate the release of their first album, so stay tuned.
The song premiered with a video as well. It was the first music video appearance of NP. The video is an outright tribute to a show called “Graffiti Rock” from 1984 that only lasted one episode. While it was canceled quickly, it gained a huge cult following due to its inclusion of hip hop celebrities like Kool Moe Dee and Run DMC. It also includes actress and then-B girl Debi Mazar before she was famous. Here’s the full episode:
They did an excellent job on the video, I must say. They recreated the set almost perfectly and the tag logo looks exactly the same. The video features a lot of people to look out for: DJ Eclipse of Non Phixion is the DJ, Sabac is seen dancing in a red leather jacket, Necro’s wearing his logo on a hoodie, and legendary DJ/WKCR radio personality Bobbito Garcia is the host. There’s probably a lot more people in it I don’t recognize, so if you know any, email me. Another interesting fact about this video is that the symbol (which is actually a Masonic lodge emblem, not a star of David) in Bill’s eye wasn’t digitally added like some people have suggested, it was actually a custom contact lense Bill had made for the video, but due to it being made wrong, you can only see half of the design.
Anyway, here’s the video:
And the actual single version:
Alright, till next time, Physicists, break up the séance.
If there was a single song that almost everyone would think of when you said “Non Phixion” it would either be “Black Helicopters” or 1998’s “I Shot Reagan.”
This Necro produced gem was the first song that gained the group wide-spread attention and it was also the first release by the group after they had a falling out with MC Serch and his label Serchlite over monetary issues. It’s controversial lyrics deal with Republican party politics and the type of conspiracy theories that would come to define much of the group’s later subject matter. The song was released as a single with two B-sides: “Refuse to Lose” and “This Is Not An Exercise.” The sides on the single are named after two specific parts of Brookyln: Canarsie and Glenwood Projects. Canarsie is a neighborhood in Brooklyn where most of the group is from and Glenwood Projects was the tenement home of several of its members. The single was released on the newly formed Uncle Howie Records and it’s impressive independent sales allowed the group a chance to sign with Matador Records, an established label that had previously produced successful indie artists such as Yo La Tengo and Liz Phair. “I Shot Regan” debuted to critical acclaim; Vibe Magazine called it “an anarchist’s dream” and cited it’s creators as one reason fans should pay attention to hip hop in Brooklyn.
The creepy-sounding classic makes heavy use of flutes and surrealistic lyrics dealing with contemporary political conspiracies. References include israeli prime minister and terrorist Menechem Begin, Reaganomics, Area 51, the Elohim, reptilians, and the film The Deer Hunter to name a few.
The song’s title is most-likely a reference to the opening lines of the Suicidal Tendencies song “I Shot the Devil.” Bill’s lyrics in the song “Skum” make reference to the band as well.
There were two versions of the song released: the single version 1998 and one on the 2000 tape The Past, The Present, and The Future is Now. The latter makes use of two audio clips dealing with Ronald Reagan. The intro is from Joan Baez’s performance at Woodstock with the leader of the Vietnam Draft Resistance, Jeffrey Shurtleff. The song samples a part of Shurtleff’s monologue in which he refers to Ronald Reagan (at that time the governor of California) as “Ronald Ray Guns.” The second sample comes from a comedic mashup from the late 80’s which cut and pasted together vocal clips of President Reagan and his wife Nancy into this fake PSA that championed drug use.
I’ve uploaded the version from the cassette so you can hear it:
Interestingly enough, in the chorus of the song, Ill Bill takes a shot at famous astronomer and fellow-Brooklyn native Carl Sagan, probably because of his cynically dismissive comments on the theoretical possibility of UFO’s. Also of note is the fact that the song features Necro on the second verse.
Here’s the original version:
Till next time, physicists, try not to run up on any politicians
While Legacy and No Tomorrow were Non Phixion’s first official releases, they did make several rare songs that seem to have been recorded in 1995. They also did some radio promos around the same time. So here’s my two favorite early NP demo tracks and two parts of a 89.9 radio session from the 95-96 era often called the “Illuminati Freestyle”
First, 1995’s Necro produced demo “Revolutionize”
And another track from 1995, also produced by Necro entitled “War is Everywhere”
While the full version isn’t on the internet, here’s two pieces of what was a 13 minute session (I believe the video may be mislabeled, other sources place this in 96):
A lot of people ask me about hip hop and more often than that, they ask me for a single song that could define it in its purest form – I always tell them to look up Legacy by Non Phixion.
Maybe it’s just me, but this is one of the grittiest sounding tracks ever. This song sent chills down my spine the first time I heard it. The instrumental (produced by CeStyle) is in my top 20 beats of all time easily. The song was not only produced by CeStyle, it also features him. He does the amazing opening verse which sets the pace for the rest of the song.
This song is important not only because it’s great, but also because it’s Non Phixion’s first release. The single dropped in 1996 with the Necro-produced “No Tomorrow” as it’s B-side.
It’s also noteworthy that Serch appears on this song and it’s engineer was yet another Grammy award-winning mixer named John Wydrycs who worked with ODB, The Ramones, Biggie, Method Man, Outkast, and most famously with Lauryn Hill on The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill.
People have been asking me what the quote in my banner at the top of the page is from. The answer is the song you’re about to hear. In 1996 Non Phixion said “For all eternity, there’ll be no one like me”. I don’t think they realized at the time how prophetic that statement was.
Non Phixion – Legacy
Now the eerie organ-heavy B-side: No Tomorrow
Sorry, ran outta time yesterday to update this, so I’m gonna do 3 songs today for Nuclear March.
First off, let’s pick up where we left off. The 5 Boros/Four W’s single. The B-side, Four W’s was not produced by Necro like some people think (even though it sounds like something he would do) it was produced by 10K who would later produce a few classic tracks for the group including “We All Bleed” and “Food” as well as the ultra-ominous piano-driven 89.9 Promo (check tomorrow)
It’s also interesting to note that this single was mixed by an engineer/producer by the name of Anton Pukshansky. We’ll assume the working relationship was brokered through MC Serch, who was still in Non Phixion at this time and had worked with Pukshansky prior to this release. Aside from Serch and Non Phixion, Pukshansky’s client list has included Rolling Stones legend Mick Jagger, Eric B and Rakim, Kool G Rap, Apathy, Evidence, Nas, Organized Confusion, and Carlos Santana (he was on the Grammy winning production team behind 1999’s Supernatural). Pukshansky was also the engineer on The CIA is Still Trying to Kill Me off of The Future is Now.
Some people have been confused as to who the second MC is on this, it’s MC Serch of 3rd Bass. As I stated, he was in the group when they first came out, and was also on a few other songs with them.
Now, Four W’s:
Keeping with our month-long celebration of Non Phixion we’ve dubbed “Nuclear March”, here’s 3 versions of one of their earliest singles.
Released initially in 1997, following their 1996 Legacy/No Tomorrow single, the 5 Boros/Four W’s vinyl solidified their cult status on the East Coast.
Most people are familiar with the original version of 5 Boros with Necro on the beat (which samples a song from English composer John Barry’s soundtrack for the film King Rat), however there was also an official remix released in 1998 on Serchlite and again on Uncle Howie in 2004 produced by DR Period. The verses in this version were different from the original.
The original Version:
The official remix:
Then there’s a somewhat anomalous entry – another remix of the song using the Pharcyde “Passing Me By” instrumental, I honestly don’t know if it was even official, but it definitely sounds cool.
The Passing Me By remix:
Whether you’re from the Bronx, Shaolin, Queens, or Brooklyn you should be able to appreciate this joint in all 3 forms.
Interestingly enough this song was recorded in the same era with DV Alias Khrist singing the chorus as well. The chorus is extremely similar to the one on 5 Boros, although I can’t find a date we can safely assume it’s from 96 – 97 due to the inclusion of Serch and the fact that in the album credits it lists the producer as 10K, who worked with the group on several early singles. So here’s the likely predecessor to 5 Boros.