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Niggy Tardust


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for anyone interested on where the songs came from:

Black History Month

This song started out as a collaboration between me and Thavius. When we got home from our first tour with Trent, we recorded 8 or 9 songs in about a week. Thave programmed a series of beats that I hand picked and then would take home and write to each night. Two songs from what Thave and I did together, I later introduced to Trent for him to help make sense of. The other is DNA. This song, like most on the album was written in my bedroom. That red faced man in the album art is the painting over my bed. Interestingly, Angelbert (the painter behind all the album art) transported a bunch of paintings to my house in a big cardboard box and instructed me to rip the box apart and use it to group the paintings in batches of 13. When I openned the box I found that man painted on the inside. I can't believe he was gonna have me rip that up. Anyway, back to the song. The openning line "Can u feel it? Nothing can save u?" is a quote from a classic hip hop song by Biz Markee. Any hip hop head would know that instantly. In hip hop culture its a sign of respect to quote or reference another artist or song. That third section/breakdown came about when Trent asked me to add some noises over the beat for some variation. I had been listening to a lot of Parliament/Funkadelic and Talking Heads and felt pretty "experimental" that day as I began layering the beat with slurred words...

Convict Colony

This was the first collaborative effort between Trent and I. He sent a cd of 14 tracks to my hotel in Sydney as I was there doing 5 nights of poetry at the Opera House as part of the Sydney Arts Festival. When I first listened to the tracks I didn't like any of them (Trent doesn't know this. Hi Trent. I didn't dislike them, but nothing hit me over the head. I felt like I could tell if there was something he wrote with me in mind or something that was left over from his previous work. I thought all of the tracks needed some serious "pimp my ride" sort of hacking in order for them to appeal to my musical sensibility. The people at echoingthesound.com will probably burn me for this, but I remember listening to that cd for the first time and thinking "oh, how cute". Obviously the tracks grew on me, and in me, in major ways, but it did take a minute. I had a lot of openning up to do. And that's what I was looking forward to doing in this collaboration.... The beat that I jacked for Convict came from about the 10th track. I wasn't traveling with my equipment and my idea for the track was to confusing to explain to CX so I kept my musical idea in my head and started writing the lyrics. Obviously, Australia is a Convict Colony. In my estimation so is the US and few other "allies". I was mad at the lack of Aboriginal people I was seeing out and about Sydney. The projects in RedFern looked exactly like the projects I grew up around, with people getting high or drunk on the stairwells, hanging clothes to dry out the window etc. I even had a bunch Aboriginal kids walk up to me and tell me excitedly that they were Niggers too. I wanted to write something they could scream at the top of their lungs. The synth line I did myself at home which Trent later retouched before we started replacing sounds with Cazoos. Drumwise, there wasn't as much movement or complexity in my original demo. Trent and Atticus taught me and CX some secrets. It was cool how they would show us how we could finesse it, then sit back and let us do it. Very ninja-ish.


This is the last song I wrote before going into the studio to mix the album. Welcome to the Terrordome is easily my fave PE track. The line that I sampled actually comes before my favorite part of the song, the little break with the high pitched James Brown guitar riff. When I made that loop it scared the shit out of me. I danced to it for hours, too excited to even write to it. When I did, the lyrics and chorus came immediately. The 2nd verse has my favorite line of the album, "would Jesus Christ come back American? What if he's Iraqi and here again?". Then came the break, which I immediately attributed to the fact that I had been working with Trent for a year and he had made me a better song writer. I remember being very scared of the power of this song. I knew how it made me feel as a black man. I tried to pay special attention to how I crafted it musically and lyrically so that it would invoke dancing rather than violence. But seriously, to me, this song is hard as hell. I cry everytime I get to that breakdown. And then I bounce back and feel like I can fly.

Sunday Bloody Sunday.

I was an exchange student to Brazil when I was 16. Up until that point in my life the ONLY music I listened to was Hip Hop. That year away was pivotal, not only because I was at the heights of puberty in Brazil....but also because it exposed me to more music than I ever cared to listen to: along with all the Brazillian music which I still treasure: Sinead O'Conner. Morrisey. New Order. Depeche Mode. And definitely U2. The first time I heard Sunday Bloody Sunday, I was in a club in Manaus which is a city in the middle of the Amazon. When I heard those drums come through the speakers I was hooked. I think they had played Blue Monday right before it. The kids were going wild. I remember watching this dude dance, wishing I was as cool as him. That song stuck with me. I suggested it to Trent as a possible cover thinking he would hate it as an obvious choice. He loved the idea and started working on the music immediately. The only music I added to his composition ( aside from my O O O O Ode to Beyonce.....just kidding) was the 808s. What's the use of a hip hop head covering a famous rock song without using 808s?


If I remember correctly, Trent wrote this track while reading my book, The Dead Emcee Scrolls. The chorus is him reading parts of the poem NGH WHT over the beat. I had told him I wanted to record a hip hop song with an unconventional time signature. When he handed me this track I was in shock. First because I didn't expect him to read my poetry and then because he said he recorded the chorus (as u hear it) with the intention of me replacing it with my own voice. I was quickly, like, "Dude, we gotta keep ur voice on the track". I heard Trent playing a twangy guitar riff that I really liked when we were mixing (I think he was in the next room testing a new pedal or sumthin and I asked him to play that same riff at the end of the song. It worked. Then he asked me to do the vocal riffs which also worked.


We wrote this on the road. There were two sections of two different songs from the 14 track cd that I thought would work well together. First I asked CX to cut and paste them, then I had him program a beat under a section. When we played it for Trent I only had the first verse written which he really enjoyed. I tried the chorus out on CX and he naturally said "nothing" which I responded with a very Prince-like "shutup". We kept it, as it was funny as fuck. It was Trents idea to add the vocoder which has definitely grown on me. Weirdly enough, this is my sons favorite song.


Aint nuthin really harder than this. Musically, the idea came from a song Thavius played me from what I believe was his Lab Waste album, a collaboration with him and LA rapper, Subtitle. We were looking for something to use on stage to update my song "Our Father" from Amethyst Rock Star. I had grown tired of the original music, but wanted to perform it. Once we brought it onstage I found myslef freestyling to it everynight until one night I read chap.9-12 of the Scrolls over the beat and it worked magically. I was listening to a lot of Screw music at the time, especially the chopped and screwed version of TI's album with Motivation and ASAP on it. We recorded the lyrics and then I asked Thave if he knew how to screw my voice which he did on some nerd program Later, Ikey from the Mars Volta came over my house and I askled him to play over the track, which is what u hear in the choruses. I remember being skeptical about playing this one for Trent because I thought it might be too ghetto for him. Wasn't sure if he'd understand it. He loved it and came up with some great ideas so that it didn't sound so stagnant. Its actually the biggest collaborative effort on the album. Thavius, Ikey, CX, Atticus, Trent, and me all ended up bringing this song to life. I've jokingly referred to it as my street credibility track. Although I think everyone or many can appreciate it, I think this song resonates from a very particular experience that cannot be found by watching repeat episodes of Good Times. If ur a white dude and u wanna impress a black girl, try this or Scared Money in ur car when u pick her up and she might make u the exception to her rule..... what y'all aint into interracial dating? This is hybrid music. Make babies. End race.


This was the last song written for the album. The intro, Trents singing, came from the original version which was called War at Once. That song came about while we were on the road. One morning I texted Trent some lyrics which were

I'm fighting

every war

at once

and I'm winning.

You can't

think of me

like u did

in the beginning.

That afternoon he comes to me with a track he made that day with him singing my words as the chorus. I was very impressed. That night, instead of watching NIN perform after my set, which I usually did, I wrote and recorded a poem over the track. It was pretty cool and lasted as a demo up until the point of mixing the album. When we pulled it up to mix, Trent was trying to find a nice way to say, "this shit is too poemy" just as I was thinking the same thing. I instantly started singing song lyrics that I actually wrote for Amethyst Rock Star over the track and it worked perfectly. I asked Alan to mute the old vocals and set up a mic. It took a second to come up with the chorus. I took a cue from my daughter who always likes to write songs with three snare hits (like in Surrender on the self titled) and put WTF where the hits would go. I felt like the chorus was the most poppy thing I'd ever written (Niggy Pop?) and so thought "what the fuck" was the perfect way to add some edge back to the song. The second half of the track came about from the beat CX programmed for Black Stacey for our live shows. He heard the orginal track, War at Once, and instantly suggested incorporating those drums. They fit beautifully. That day in the studio I asked Trent to let the beat ride and tried a few things over it. I had been listening to a lot of the Joshua Tree album, especially With or Without You, and was really feeling a need and desire to just belt out some chants. I saw Trent get excited which is usually followed by him softly implying that I should leave the room so he could start playing with my vocals. Fine with me. When I came back I added the harmonies and we all cheered. It was our first day of mixing and we had completly transformed a song we felt ok about into something we really loved.

Scared Money

This is the first song I recorded after releasing my self-titled album, thus the true first song of NiggyTardust. It also the first song I played for Trent when he asked what direction my new music was heading and suggested us collaborating. I remember it got stuck in his head, which is a good sign and also him telling me that he thought it sounded confident. He replayed a lot of stuff and added some very soulful organ. My son loves this song because its his musical debut. He's in the background saying "I am the king" in Lee Scratch Perry fashion. The cutest part is when he says "I am the Kinggy", which we both laugh about. Kinggy is Niggy's nickname... or what white people should call him if they'd rather not call him Curtis.


I remember I made this beat on a friday night in my bedroom. I recorded the vocals at home too. I couldn't wait for my girlfriend to come over so I could play it for her....

Trent loved this song from the jump, which kinda surprised me. I've never really felt comfortable singing and am still surprised when people likey. He added the wind.

Skin of a Drum

This track was one of the original 14 and by the time I got home from Australia it had really grown on me. I think its the second song I recorded with Trents music. I didn't realize until later that Trent and Alan both seemed emotionally attached to the music as something they had labored over for a long time and never found a home for. I should have known because the track had a title (march) although it had no lyrics. When I emailed Trent my home recording he quickly responded that he got chills from listening to it. I wrote most of the song sitting on the wooden bench in my kitchen waiting for my girlfriend to call me back (we break up in the next song). What's funny is I had NiggyTardust in mind the whole time even though the song is very personal, like Raw. When we mixed it I invited Persia White (XEO3 and 'Girlfriends') to do a little Cocteau Twinning on the outro. In the chronology of Niggy, this is the point of his story where he realizes that although the world seems to have divided him against himself, he can't lose. Its a triumph even though it's laden with heart break. He realizes that he has been broken to fit.

No One Ever Does

Another one of the original 14. The first thing that I wrote to the music was a poem called Pedagogue of Young Gods which Trent and I recorded one morning in Syracuse. It was a cool recording because we did it in one take at about 10 am and it really worked nicely. Later that day, my girlfriend broke up with me or rather said that she needed space. With the same music in my head I began listening to the piano line and writing very simply on top of it. I remember sitting in the dressing room, trying to hide my tears as I wrote. Honestly, I rape my emotional life for arts sake. I knew that what I was feeling was a bit melodramatic since it was actually a very clean, in fact beautiful, split, but it felt good to let out the emotion constructively. I think I recorded the song straight into my lap top first before sharing it with Trent and Atticus. CX was drinking beer in the background.

Banged and Blown Through

This track was one of the original 14 too. It grew on me pretty fast, although I was hesitant to write to it at first because it reminded me somehow of my song Surrender. One night I had my longtime friend and collaborator Maryam Blackshear over to try some viola over the track. I set a mic up in my bedroom and used my vs1680 to record her from my laundry room. Right as she started recording I tip toed into the room to adjust the mic. Maryam plays with her eyes closed and when she saw me approaching she jumped and banged her bow against the bridge of her instrument. I kept the msitake in the music which is what u hear at the top of the song and used it to inspire the lyrics. I think I sound like Seal too. But I think Seal sounds like Nick Drake. I don't think I sound like Nick Drake. I wish I did though.

Raised to be Lowered

Another one of the original 14 and it reeeeeaaaaalllly grew on me. I'm pretty sure this is another case where I took a part of another track and mixed it into this one (the break after the 2nd chorus). I asked CX to program some southern style drums under this section and then began writing. Lyrically, this may be the most focussed track on the album. Its a series of maxims that kinda make me feel like a motivational speaker. I orginally titled this song "Hallelujah" and imagined Mos Def singing the chorus which at the time was simply "Hallelujah". You can get the gist of my orginal idea in the break. "Blessed be the virgin, especially if she's nice and thick"..... I added the gun claps for the "get got" section. Don't remember how I came up with 'was I raised to be lowered', but I liked it as soon as I did. This and Skin of a Drum may be my two favorite choruses that I've written. This was a monumental track for me and was my favorite for a long time. The outro singing style was Trents idea. One of the few vocal choices that he suggested. I hated it at first but went along 'cause I had a sneaking suspition that it might grow on me. It did.

The Ritual

This song scared me too. Well, not at first. Here's the story. While we were working on the 2nd draft of demos at the Mailbu studio, Trent told me one friday that he might send over a few tracks he'd been working on for me to vibe with over the weekend. Saturday night comes and I get an email from Trent with a yousendit file attached. Already I'm super excited. We'd been working together for some time by now and I was eager to see where his head was musically aside from the tracks we had been working on together. Also, I had developed a habit of writing a song a night which means I was in a zone and my house was charged with creative energy. My friend/roomate Beau seemed to be just as excited about the album as I was. He would come down from his cave and rock out with me as I danced circles in my room. But with this new music from Trent we both knew we were gonna have a fun and LOUD night, so before listening we lit candles and set the stage. A freind even gifted us with some chocolate treats... Nice. When this beat came out of the speakers we fuckin lost it. I think I had it on repeat for like 5 hours straight. I remember thinking, "what kind of African pills has Trent been poppin?!'. Beau, who's a Chinese American poet from Oklahoma, asked the same question, as we practiced traditional African Dance in front of the fireplace. During the course of the evening I recorded the lyrics which are from The Dead Emcee Scrolls and they just fit the track beautifully. Later, in the mixing process the track scared me. Although I knew its connection to the story and the reason for the violent lyrics, I felt like I was conjuring the devil. Then I remembered that there was no devil and kept dancing. Dancing through the mayhem is Niggy's story in a nutshell. I almost opted against putting this song on the album, but, truly, it wouldn't be complete with out it. We mixed it on 7/7/7.

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