The Good Life to Project Blowed to the 28th Anniversary
My Fan Experience
I write this article as a fan of Hip Hop first. I also write as a fan of LA underground indie artists. My name is R. Ray Robinson. I am a filmmaker, videographer, photographer, editor, content creator and Founder of arrriseandgrindproductions. I am also a hip hop critic, enthusiast, and sometimes productions assistant to rapper Abstract Rude. At first, I originally was not a fan of hip hop. Heck, I didn’t really know a whole lot about it. The only forms of hip hop or rap music I would hear would be coming from either movies, TV shows, Anime or video games. Video games such as, Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike (1999), Jet Grind Radio (2000), Tony Hawk Pro Skater 1-4 (1999-2002), and especially Tony Hawk Underground (2003), were my favorites. Movies and TV shows like Digimon: The Movie (2000), Korean Hip Hop group Seo Taiji and Boys song “Nan Arayo” from 3ninjas Kick Back (1994), Moesha (1996-1999), You Got Served (2004), and The Longest Yard (2005) were a few great classics I enjoyed as well. But as I slowly became a fan of hip hop (specifically mainstream hip hop), I really got into the music genre around 2008 to 2010 due to playing the video games Grand Theft Auto 3 (2001), GTA Vice City (2002), and especially, GTA San Andreas (2004).
I started listening to the in-game radio station called Radio Los Santos and that’s when my musical interests changed for life. I listened to rappers like: Tupac, NWA, Ice Cube, Too Short, among other rappers featured on the station and other stations in the game. I soon began to watch the music videos of rappers and watch documentaries on rap and hip hop. Documentaries such as: Tupac: Thug Angel (2002), Tupac Resurrection (2003), Beef 1-3 (2003-2005), Welcome To Death Row (2001), Scratch (2001), NWA: The World’s Most Dangerous Group (2008), and later on Something from Nothing: The Art of Rap (2012). I even began to listen to artists from Atlanta, Midwest and around the nation and the world. I watched artists either featured in movies or listen to the soundtracks of rappers’ songs in films. I did listen to a few other artists like Immortal Technique, Company Flow, Brother Ali and Gabriel Teodros.
As my research of hip hop grew, I would soon surf the internet and watch rap battles from Eminem. I would later begin to discover other rap battles such as Grind Time Battle Rap. This is where I became aware of Dumbfoundead vs Tantrum’s battle on Grind Time in 2008. I didn’t know much about the two artists but once I saw how dope and funny the battle was, especially Dumbfoundead, I began watching more of Dumbfoundead’s work. I listened to Dumbfoundead and his dope song “Bullet of Truth” back in 2009, and paying attention to Thirsty Fish, and his Swim Team crew back in the day. At first, I didn’t know anything about Project Blowed. I thought Dumbfoundead’s crew was Project Blowed and Swim Team and that he was the head of it all. I was dead wrong. I also thought that I had a pretty good understanding of hip hop and a great mental library of it all to claim that I was a true hardcore fan. However, that was until I met my friend Paul Y.
Paul Y. and I met during my community college years back in 2011 and we both boasted about knowing a lot about true hip hop. Paul was Korean American and a few years older than me. I thought that showing him a freestyle with Big Pun, DMX, Mos Def, and a few other rappers first would blow his mind. It did. But once he showed me artists from the LA underground, he also blew mine. He told me all about The Good Life Cafe and Project Blowed and I was blown away. He started off with how much he appreciated the artists and their music from the collective respectfully. He stated that not only hip hop was a powerful African American music genre, but all the artists were geniuses and have greatly contributed to it through their music. This blew my mind away even more as an African American myself to know that a Korean American was calling African American performers, our culture, and our music, specifically rappers, “geniuses.” It really warmed my heart. I had never heard that before coming from an Asian American which was dope as hell. I guess first time for everything. Anyhow, It also blew me away for him to tell me that many of the artists would perform in Leimert Park. This blew me away and intrigued me more because before I got into hip hop, my family and I would always drive down to Crenshaw Christian Center (CCC) on Vermont for Church since I was born. The church wasn’t too far away from Crenshaw Square, nor was it too far away from Leimert Park and in my head I had been passing that area for years without knowing about The Hip Hop collective of The Good Life and Project Blowed.
Disclaimer: For all hip hop fans, purists and history fact checkers, I could be completely wrong or slightly wrong, but as a fan, this is what I researched The Good Life Cafe as. The Good Life Cafe was once a health food market and café in Los Angeles, California that was known for its open mic nights that helped alternative and underground hip hop flourish in the late 1980s and 90s. It was started by B. Hall and her son R/KainBlaze with his friends The Mighty O-Roc and The Dynamic Flow, KNGR: The Underground Radio. It was established because B. Hall believed, “Young people needed a place to develop their own art.” The Good Life and Project Blowed would have underground rappers, dancers, djs, poets and musicians who were known to have many rap battles, hip hop cyphers, and spoken word in their performances. This would influence the Los Angeles music scene and later greatly influence the world today. The café was open from 1989 to 1999.When the café closed, several notable pioneers from The Good Life established Project Blowed which became its own successful venue. Again, I could be completely wrong so don’t quote me. This is just what I researched.
Disclaimer: For all hip hop fans, purists and history fact checkers, to my understanding, I could be completely wrong or slightly wrong, but as a fan, this is what I researched Project Blowed on and how it was established. Project Blowed was founded in December of 1994 by independent recording legends Aceyalone and Abstract Rude. Although the group was formed in 94’, the Good Life Cafe still was open and continued with Project Blowdians attending the café up until 1999. While it was founded by Aceyalone and Abstract Rude, it was hosted by legendary artist, educator and L.A. rebellion member and filmmaker Ben Caldwell, and legendary artist J-Smoov. Much like The Good Life, Project Blowed focuses on musical and artistic freedom and improvement for many youths. Again, I could be completely wrong so don’t quote me. Again, I write this as a fan first, not as a pioneer or as a rapper.
When I had the pleasure of speaking with Ben Caldwell, he told me that when The Good Life closed, B. Hall personally wanted him to watch over the young artists who would continue to spread their work in LA through Project Blowed. And he did just that as many events happened at his Kaos Network. As years would progress however, other artists would eventually host Project Blowed events. Sometimes other events such as Grind Time Battle Rap would occur at the Kaos Network too. Other events such as the Bananasnetwork or Banana’s—sometimes hosted by legendary rapper Michael Boyer II aka Verbs (sometimes spelled VeRBs), would perform near the Kaos network outside in Leimert Park.
As stated earlier, I thought I had a good amount of knowledge regarding Hip Hop, but I was wrong once I met Paul. At first, I thought Twista and sometimes Eminem were the fastest rappers in the world. That was until Paul introduced me to the music of Ellay Khule aka the Rifleman and Myka 9. On Youtube, Paul showed me, “Cali Classics presents Ellay Khule- Rifleman (remastered) Limited Vinyl.” I was amazed at how fast and furious The Rifleman rapped. In my opinion, it was faster than Eminem and Twista. Paul also showed me Aceyalone’s “Mic Check,” Freestyle Fellowship’s, “Park Bench People,” Aceyalone’s live on the Radio pt. 1, and Freestyle Fellowship vs Wu Tang freestyle battle, which continued to blow my mind. Paul showed me a lot and I thanked him for it. He would go on to show me much more. The amount of knowledge that he had on these great rappers seemed unlimited, but it was limited. While Paul was sharing all this information, I soon began to research on my own.
STUDY AND RESEARCH
After my friend shared with me a lot of the artists from The Good Life Cafe and Project Blowed, I became obsessed. I went back to listening to Tony Hawk Underground’s soundtrack. I listened again to Jurrassic 5’s, “A Day In The Races,” Busdriver’s, “Imaginary Places” and LA SYMPHONY’s “King Kong (Pigeon John was a member coming from the Good Life).” I also listened again to Living Legends “War Games,” Murs’ track, “Transitions az a Ridah,” and Aceyalone’s song, “Rapps on Deck.” I did this because I appreciated the music even more. I also was listening to Aceyalone Feat. Riddlore’s track “Find Out,” on the cult classic 2004 film You Got Served, and Volume 10’s “Raised in the Hood,” on Blade 2’s soundtrack. I look back now and think this is all funny. I think it’s funny because, all these years, I had been listening to The Good Life and Project Blowed emcees this whole time without even knowing it. Now I know.
My research went further into LA underground music through other forms. I bought and read The Hip Hop Generation (2003) by Bakari Kitwana. I bought and read The Black Los Angeles (2010). I read the book chapter: Blowin’ Up: Rap Dreams in South Central by author & professor of sociology Dr. Jooyoung Lee (I had the honor to chat with him for a bit; he’s a great guy). Paul introduced me to the music and spoken words of legendary rapper Propaganda (Humble Beast & Tunnel Rats member). Paul let me listen to “Precious Puritans,” and the song that really “baked my noodle” known as “Don’t Listen to Me.” The second song, “Don’t Listen to Me” spoke to me so much and made me laugh so hard because I heavily related to what he was saying. Propaganda’s song/spoken word spoke about how he was a son of a black panther, grew up with white friends and had a Mexican wife not of his black ethnic origin. He also spoke on how he was a writer, and he does not know that much. He is also Christian. I myself am Christian, grew up around a diverse group of kids (many of them being white friends), love to write and may not know everything, but I’m learning. I also do not have a wife, nor am I a son of a Black Panther from the Black Panther Party. However, in high school, I did present to my history class a PowerPoint on the Black Panther Party and many of my classmates were Mexican American. In addition to learning about Propaganda, I researched The Tunnel Rats and Humble Beast and saw many of their music videos along with some of their songs on YouTube. I saw the video where rappers Propaganda and Blu battled one another as well.
I was watching a lot of content of legendary rappers Dumbfoundead and All City Jimmy (formerly known as Nocando) too. I was watching more of Dumbfoundead’s Swim Team and “Dumb’s” music videos and such. Two of my favorite songs and music videos from him are “Genghis Khan,” and “Pink Bleu Dawn.” I would also go onto watch his documentary called, Bad Rap (2016) directed by Salima Koroma. I also saw, The Swim Team Cypher (2013) directed by: Andrew Kurchinski. I watched 2007’s scribble rap competition of All City Jimmy battling and beating battle-rapper Franco for the championship. I listened to Jimmy The Lock and bought his 2014 cd Jimmy The Burnout right off of him at a Project Blowed anniversary. I also was watching his performances on the Teambackpack cypher on YouTube and eventual future live performances at Project Blowed anniversaries. I watched All City Jimmy’s music video “Lucid Dream,” and I loved it. I even was paying attention to two of his groups known as Customer Service and HellFyre Club (Anderson Paak was a former member of the HellFyre Club). I also saw the battle between All City Jimmy (Nocando) vs battle rapper Dizaster on Grind Time on Youtube too in 2010. I also bought a cd from Open Mike Eagle once. All artists listed have either been apart of Project Blowed, have had some connection to it or have been influenced by The Good Life and Project Blowed in some way shape and form.
Me grasping my knowledge from the past through videos on YouTube didn’t just stop there as I remembered watching TV shows and documentaries as a kid with some of these artists too. As a former kid of the 90s, I remembered how some rappers made guest appearances on Moesha. Years later, I’d watch reruns of the family sitcom and see Busdriver. I’d also see Medusa Play Lady Lunatic on the show. It blew my mind that these two legends were from the Good Life collective as I caught wind of it, years on. There may have been other artists from either Project Blowed or The Good Life on the show but those were the two I remember the most. I also remember researching that there was a show back in the day called South Central (1994) that also had Good Life emcees who made guest appearances. Not just that but, I remember noticing that Skee-lo, a legendary American rapper who performed at the Good Life, had made song appearances on Schoolhouse Rock. He also did a live performance on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon with British pop star Cher Lloyd.
There was also a story that could be fact, fake or myth. My friend Paul once told me that pioneer South Korean Rapper Seo Jung-kwon aka Tiger JK (sometimes known as Drunken Tiger JK) had either gone to or had been a part of the Good Life Cafe. It is true that Tiger JK spent time in LA in his teens, seeing the LA Riots in 1992 and the relations with African Americans and Korean Americans, and eventually attending UCLA. That is true, However, I don’t know if it is true that he had once gone to or was a part of the Good Life Cafe. That I don’t know. Again, I’m just a fan. Don’t quote me or my friend. Whether it is or isn’t, there have been many stories of well-known people who may have or have attended The Good Life Cafe.
Known celebrities or soon to be celebrities who have been to the Good Life Café were Snoop Dogg (Snoop Doggy Dogg back in the 90s), Lenny Kravitz, Xzibit, Macy Gray, Fat Joe, Kurupt, Ahmad and some actors from Beverly Hills 90210.
Known celebrities (that I personally know) who’ve visit a Project Blowed Anniversary were Grammy award winning rapper Kendrick Lamar, and rapper and poet Saul Williams (I personally saw Saul Williams in the crowd of people and spoke to him at one of the anniversaries).
Lastly, my friend Paul told me that he had a copy of a documentary that told the story of The Good Life Cafe and the artists who were present. He told me he’d show me it, but it never happened. However, I bought a copy at the store called Amoeba Music in Hollywood. That Documentary was known as, This is The Life: How The West Was Once One (2008). It was directed by one of my directing heroes known as Ava Duvernay.
Meeting Ava Duvernay
Meeting Ava Duvernay was an honor. But before she was one of the greatest filmmakers of all time (in my opinion), she was known as Eve from the hip hop duo Figures of Speech. According to Ellay Khule The Rifleman, he gave her the name Eve. She and Jyant formed the group at the Good Life Cafe.
I met Ava Duvernay at Arclight Cinemas in Hollywood in 2016 at a film screening (the theater closed in 2020 due to Covid). Ava has been one of my biggest inspirations in film directing and cinema. After she interviewed Laura Poitras, the director of Risk (2016), I had the pleasure of meeting her. I told her how big of a fan I was of hers. I also enjoyed watching her movie’s Middle of Nowhere (2012), Selma (2014), and of course her documentary film, This Is the Life. I told her how much I enjoyed her movies and documentary, and she thanked me. It was great seeing the stories of Skee-lo, Chillin Villian Empire (C.V.E.), Freestyle Fellowship, Abstract Rude, Jurrassic 5, Ellay Khule aka The Rifleman, Hip Hop Klan, and of course Figures of Speech among other rappers. I also told Ava that I had the pleasure of meeting Abstract Rude, and she smiled.
My Relationship with Abstract Rude and Being His Assistant
Originally, I met pioneer and legendary Good Life and Project Blowed rapper Aaron Pointer aka Abstract Rude at Low End Theory. Low End Theory was a weekly experimental hip hop and electric music club night in Lincoln Heights, Los Angeles founded by Daddy Kev (The final show ended on August 8th, 2018). Artists who have attended were: Odd Future, The Internet, Abstract Rude, Daedalus, Kamasi Washington, Anderson Paak (formerly known as Breezy Lovejoy), and Ras G (RIP) to name a few were in attendance. Although I met Abstract Rude there, I only was able to shake his hand as he walked off stage. We got better acquainted at the 22nd Project Blowed Anniversary. And that’s where more brighter things began to change for me. While arriving super early, I noticed that he was setting up for the event. I asked if he needed assistance, and at first, he said no. I saw him walking over to his car and trying to get equipment out of it. Out of nowhere, he waved his hand over to come help, like a proud parent waving his child over for an important assignment. Although him and I are not related, I was proud to have assisted him. I’ve listened to his songs for quite some time. Two of my favorite songs from him are “Yesterday and Today,” and “Show Em A Better Way,” a song he did with his group A-TEAM (Abstract Rude and Aceyalone). I’ve seen the documentary by now. For me, it was a no brainer to want to assist. Since I was very aware of The Good Life and Project Blowed at this point, I truly looked up to Abstract Rude and still do, to this day. Because of this, I was happy to assist him for the event. I was not only assisting, but I was also helping him by checking people in, taking photos of the artists, manning the door hanging up flyers among completing other tasks. I was doing so much to the point where Abstract Rude had me coming to more events such as Mood Pieces and future anniversaries. I went to so many events that it led me to the 28th Anniversary.
The 28th Anniversary
The 28th Project Blowed Anniversary concert held at Los Globos was unforgettable and lit on Dec 28th, 2022. It was hosted by: Propaganda, Shames Worthy, L. Scatter, Ashley Dominique, Destruct, and Poetic S. This concert was not for the faint of heart, as it left many blown away with its captivating performances.
The event had a sixteen-bar competition known as The Project Blowed Sixteen Bar Rap competition at the anniversary. It was won by Inland Empire rapper Tanjint Wiggy aka Tanjint Wiggy aka Tanjint Wiggy Woo (@tanjintwiggy). Tanjint also won the Money Belt in March 2022 in Pamona, CA.
With each rapper possessing a unique style, the concert was a harmonious blend of deep voices, smooth vibes, technical rapping, dope djing, and even a touch of some R&B. The poetic flow of each rapper’s verse is a testament to their lyrical mastery, while the beats provided by the DJs only add to the energy of the event. Some rappers even delivered with their specialty of fast double-timing flow.
What truly sets this concert apart is the passionate and unapologetic delivery of each rapper. Their performance is a testament to their unwavering commitment to hip-hop, and it shows in every bar they rap.
I had a few favorite moments from the anniversary. One of the moments from the anniversary was finally seeing a few of the Tunnel Rats perform together and separately. I got to finally see Zane One perform on her own. I went up to her and recited one of her lines from a previous Tunnel Rats song. I met up with All City Jimmy and recited one of his verses from his scribble rap championship against Franco. I saw Sach, Abstract Rude, Myka 9, Aceyalone, and Medusa all perform upstairs which was awesome. Seeing the 16-bar challenge was dope too because I got to see Tanjit, and rapper 4expandthemind among other emcees spit their bars which was so cool. It was also great seeing Mister CR and Mamastrosity again. I also got to see Ellay Khule rock the mic. I met some artists from the cypher effect such as Vel Nine, GermFree and Bleezie (or Fuego). I also had the wonderful honor of meeting rappers Almighty Suspect and Lush (Former host of Grind Time Battle Rap as Lush One). They not only represent Project Blowed but were featured on the podcast known as NoJumper (if I’m not mistaken). The event was totally awesome. I was able to see and do other things, but these were some moments that I enjoyed the most.
The anniversary was captured by many photographers, videographers, and fans. I was one of them that captured the event and made a video on it. It can be viewed on arrriseandgrindproductions YouTube page.
Disclaimer: Please don’t quote me or hate me if I butcher your name (I’m just a fan) but many other members who either attended, performed, or who were supposed to attend were:
ABSTRACT RUDE, ACEYALONE, A-TEAM, MYKA-9, HAIKU D’ETAT, BLU & EXILE, VARIETOPIA, BAND W/FF, JSUMBI, SACH, PIGEON JOHN, MEDUSA, 2MEX, RIFLEMAN, OPEN MIKE EAGLE, SAHTYRE, SCARUB, ACID REIGN, DJ ETHOS, DJ KIILU, DJ MARK LUV, GERMFREE, LUSH, DJ DAY, LYRAFLIP, ALL CITY JIMMY, DUMBFOUNDEAD, DJ LALA, DJ SOUL, LIFE, DJ ZOLE, DJ HAVIK DJ JAH, BLUEZ, 2000CROWS, TRENSETA, MONSTROE, & MISTER CR, JIZZM HD, THE COAKS, LONGEVETY, QUASAR, KENNY SEGAL, GOD, AREEF, BRUXAS BREW, VISION, MYK, MANSUN, DEF-I, MAMASTROSITY, SERC, FEWROCKS, PANDA, KEYPS, DJ RAWZ, IR (RIP DUCER), KAHIL (RAS G TRIB) THE HOMEGIRL MONIE, NAMEK, CESEE, GBB, BRITT J, SINDERRELLA, BLAK KING, BEAT BATTERY, ENKONE, SMART, ARYSE, CJ PARRA, ZULU BUTTERFLY, JAH ORAH, FUEGO, FRESH F3C/FBC, PROPAGANDA, SHAMES WORTHY, L.SCATTER, ASHLEY DOMINIQUE, DESTRUCT, AND POETIC S.
From The Good Life to Project Blowed, to even notable related events such as the Bananasnetwork (or Banana’s) and Mood Pieces, these artists have impacted many around Los Angeles and the world. They continue to do so to this very day. Project Blowed is still active and here to stay. The anniversaries are present each year and still inspire new artists all the time. I’m not here to talk about who’s wack! I’m not here to talk about who got booed off the stage with a “please pass the mic” chant.
I write this as a fan first. I write this article to say that the Good Life has withstood the testament of time through Project Blowed as there are still anniversaries among the hip hop collective. What I am here to do is also talk about my experience with being a part of Project Blowed and how it has influenced so many including myself. The collective has influenced so many people around the world. It has influenced Ava Duvernay as a filmmaker to remember her roots and create a documentary about LA Hip Hop. She has her own anniversaries as well as to get the documentary featured on Netflix. It has influenced new and current rappers. It has influenced rappers to be featured on video games, movies, talk shows, podcasts and at the 65th Annual Grammy Awards as Freestyle Fellowship was nominated for Best Historic Album (along with Daddy Kev). It has even made me write about my own experiences as a fan influenced greatly from it all. Much like what All City Jimmy once said at the 22nd Project Blowed anniversary after his performance, “We are Hip Hop! You can’t take us out of the history books!” I agree. We Are the LA Underground. We are Hip Hop. We are Project Blowed and we shall continue to Blow up for many more years to come.
Follow the artists follow their pages and links:
@projectblowedmcs @projectblowedla @arrriseandgrindproductions.com @arrriseandgrindprod1, linktr.ee/arrrise1, Linktr.ee/keepthefeel