Journeymen – When Hiphop Choke’s without a Mask

Posted on June 5, 2013

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Boombap Fiends Choke without Strapping their Masks

It remains undeniable that the rather uncanny gas mask carries with it an even more uncanny genesis. It is such that the breathing apparatus itself does carry roots dating as far back as thousands of years. Despite such givens, it’s popularization was the result of more frequent usage of chemical weapons that were used at an alarming volume in which thousands and even millions could be asphyxiated at the very same time. In essence, such an unfortunate predicament was in large part due to the nefarious advent of World War I where the breathing device was to become nothing more than a nightmare fodder for millions of soldiers on the front lines. As a high school teacher, year after year, Mickey Boston was to share the Wilfred Owen poem, “Dulce Decorum Est”, that highlighted the horrid face of death by gas and the scene of a face choking to death in front of an emotionless gas mask.

Truth be told, the gas mask will always be associated with the grim realities of pain and suffering even if it is a device made to “protect” the wearer from having his/her lungs and internal organs from bursting and/or mutilating. Indeed, government agencies use it, manufacture it, distribute it and sell it to other like-minded police-states. Moreover, the mask is also used by the civilian populace which also includes graffiti writers as well as those working within the dark mines of the abyss.

Journeymen’s debut EP, Pledge of the Respirator, is focused on the mask right from it’s cover art designed by producer john wholetrain to it’s lyrical references with the course of the tracks themselves. Indeed, there are always boombap purists who will always want to bring hiphop back to its essence, the essence being the era of Illmatic and the classic Golden Age. Some assert that Journeymen are the brand of hiphop that does that however, truth is, the conglomerate is more focused on providing a contemporary sound in all aspects, from concepts to cover art to lyrical delivery to content. Undeniably, Journeymen take their influences strongly from DJ Premier and that classic East New York sound however, they are poised on providing their listeners with that heavy artillery that is not just reminiscent of the Golden Era but as well of the future.

Released March 26th 2013, Journeymen's "Pledge of the Respirator" EP provides hiphop fiends an original boombap survey that was delivered by the consistent narratives of Mickey Boston Kovaks, John Wholetrain and Melo Malo Paulino.

Released March 26th 2013, Journeymen’s “Pledge of the Respirator” EP provides hiphop fiends an original boombap survey that was delivered by the consistent narratives of Mickey Boston Kovaks, John Wholetrain and Melo Malo Paulino.

While the new sounds of Action Bronson, Tyler the Creator, Chance the Rapper and even French Montana arise over the mainstream radio waves, one cannot deny that hiphop is now in its “psychedelic” phase. Journeymen are in their psychedelic phase of their own and it can be heard with the delivery, cadence and flow of the lyricism of each track. Indeed, all tracks hit hard and heavy however, they have a certain contemporary edge to them yet still reminiscent to that 90s sound. Mickey Boston is focused on the trenches; more specifically the people in those very trenches breathing the contaminated air whilst crawling on their knees trying to survive. The gas masks of WWI were mass produced due to demand and the demand for human survival and hiphop itself is now in “survival” mode within its “psychedelic” phase.

Hot 97 was not Hot since 1997. If Stretch and Bobbito were still doing their show, there is no doubt that Journeymen’s debut EP would have likely been on both a dubbed cassette and burned cd and very probably been played on air. Thankfully, there is Bodega Cold Kutz radio. Hiphop is suffocating in a certain way and the lungs are somewhat punctured when one sees that hot 97 no longer wants to have Das EFX on air because they are not “hot” anymore. Who makes these standards and who decides what is “hot” by today’s standards and if it is “legit” enough to go on air? Truth is, Hot 97 made its name thanks to the presence of emcees and producers that Stretch and Bobbito were playing in Morningside Heights in Columbia University’s airwaves.

Mickey Boston and John Wholetrain clad in their gas masks - Photograph Fariduddin Attar Rifai

Mickey Boston and John Wholetrain clad in their gas masks – Photograph Fariduddin Attar Rifai

Hiphop could do without Hot 97, we all know that. When hiphop becomes hazardous to inhale and simply breathe with there is an alternative and Journeymen are intent on being that contemporary alternative amongst so many others in the underground who are attempting to bring that new grimy sound of the street’s narrative to the fore. Undoubtedly, although it was crude, the hypo helmet gas mask was designed for British troops in the trenches so that they could simply live to breath another day. In a considerable respect, the gas mask was inspired by the trenches and the misery that was synonymous with it in like manner that Mic-key Boston is poised on bringing the narrative of the trenches to reality as is mentioned in the Pledge of the Respirator‘s opening track “Chains and Sugar Cane”.

In one regard, hiphop’s development is somewhat like the development of the gas mask itself, only the gas mask got better and more effective while hiphop did not in the mainstream because the people who seem to pull the “straps” on its “design” in the mainstream are poisoning the masses by providing a perversion of what hiphop truly is. The culture itself is mutating and morphing due to the chemicals and pollutants that are shaping its current “evolution” within the mainstream, such is expressed in journeymen’s debut single with El Da Sensei, entitled “New Seed” which will have a very special remix on Journeymen’s debut LP, The Guild.

Cover art for the "New Seed" single featuring El Da Sensei done by John Wholetrain. The track will possibily be revisited for fans however, one will have to stay tuned as Journeymen enjoy providing their fan base with surprises.

Cover art for the “New Seed” single featuring El Da Sensei done by John Wholetrain. The track will possibily be revisited for fans however, one will have to stay tuned as Journeymen enjoy providing their fan base with surprises.

Gas masks development since has mirrored the development of chemical agents in warfare, filling the need to protect against ever more deadly threats, biological weapons, and radioactive dust in the nuclear era. Journeymen themselves are encouraging their fans and listeners to slam their gas masks on in 9 seconds or less as suggested in the fourth track of their EP entitled “The Pledge”. However, where agents that cause harm through contact or penetration of the skin occurs, such as blister agent or nerve agent, a gas mask alone is not sufficient protection, and full protective clothing must be worn in addition, to protect from contact with the atmosphere. As result, Journeymen send out a very specific warning to their fans and followers to stay clear of all hazardous hiphop materials that will corrode the flesh and soul with their mutilating sounds.

Why would Journeymen bother with the gas mask concept despite it’s oft-repeated presence within Hip-Hop?

From its use by Graffiti writers, to cover art by artists such as Psycho-Realm, Pharoahe Monch, and The Left, there is no denying that gas masks are a common sight within the industry. They have always had a limited lifespan when it came to practicality. Unfortunately, Hip-Hop nowadays has become that ephemeral gas mask that is rendered ineffective, lacking poignancy when your life is on the line and the lungs become infected with the noxious melodies reverberated by mainstream/commercial Hip-Hop. Journeymen are that fresh air which is craved by the lungs. Now all you need is proper headphones!

John Wholetrain with the backpacker steez amongst Mickey Boston Kovaks and Ohio producer, Dose Trace.

John Wholetrain with the backpacker steez amongst Mickey Boston Kovaks and Ohio producer, Dose Trace.

Since his early days as a crate digger, John Wholetrain has been known to produce infectious instrumentals. Sniffing classic samples out of second hand stores like a bloodhound, Wholetrain is the architect of the Journeymen venture. His musical contribution is catered to the hardbody and mathematical styles of the Mickey Boston and Melo Malo. He is a musical mind that has developed a distinct production technique and style. He is intent on creating new sounds amidst making use of seminal elements of hiphop, resulting in a cutting edge sound with a classic boombap foundation. His brisk drum loops are inspired by innovative nature to experiment with new sounds.

Gas for Thought

Remember Wilfred Owen...things were real back then, today nobody cares about the war going on outside.

Remember Wilfred Owen…things were real back then, today nobody cares about the war going on outside.

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