Max C caught up with the Rhyme Asylum collective for an extensive chat about their background, influences, EP and their thoughts on the UK scene's current state.
Rhyme Asylum are what happens if you suffocate the Wu-Tang Clan's collective vision with a straight-jacket and carry it kicking and screaming through the circles of Hell.
When members of the collective are not savaging other battle emcees in the Jumpoff.tv Street battles they can be heard on undergound mixtapes and their myspace page destroying beats with their infernal verses. Easily one of the most lyrical and fresh sounds on this increasingly stale 'scene', Rapnews.co.uk attempted to explore the dark minds behind this lethal sanitarium of rappers.
To everyone who has not heard of Rhyme Asylum please introduce yourselves.
Whuttup! Rhyme Asylum is a hip-hop group based in London formed of Possessed, Skirmish, Plazma, Psiklone and Leatherface on the beats.
How did you guys end up forming a crew together?
The crew was formed in 2000 by Possessed and Skirmish in secondary school. Those two have been a part of the crew from day and it initially had a few other people from their school in but was less serious and more just an outlet for their new found hunger to rap. They left school and Possessed and Skirmish continued to hold down the Rhyme Asylum movement on their own. We met Plazma, who was just 14 at the time through friends and began to hit up anywhere with open mics and ciphers to be smashed, primarily Deal Real on Friday nights.
In 2004 we hooked up with Psiklone at Deal Real and put him in the clique. We knew Leatherface for a while and he was on the same kinda vibe so soon after he joined as well and that's Rhyme Asylum. There's been a lot of progression in the crew over the years but we're at our strongest with this roster of artists and have cemented together perfectly so this is how were looking for shit to stay.
Everyone fits cohesively with the RA sound yet brings their own thing to the table. It's important to all of us that everybody is a strong artist in their own respect so we can feed off of each other creatively and also 'cause one thing we don't wanna have in the crew is weak links!
You've been dropping tracks on a couple of mixtapes and some on your Myspace page. What is the plan onwards from this point?
Yea we hit 'Character Assassins' Volumes 1 and 2 and the 'Whatever The Weather' mixtape and these tracks are on our Myspace alongside 'Dawn Of A New Species' which was up on HipHopGame. A lot of people have been asking where they can cop that track and we are about to drop a 12" on Beer and Rap Entertainment with 2 unheard tracks and 'Dawn' as a bonus track on the
flip. We're currently working on our debut EP as well.
With respects to the EP, is the tone of the release going to be solely battle rhymes or are there other concepts lurking about?
We hate being categorised as 'battle rhymers'. First of all people have only heard a handful of things so it's far too early for people to be trying to pigeon hole us. We're just on a raw tip. Labelling us as 'battle rap' allows people to undermine something they're threatened by or don't understand and our lyrics aren't intended for a battle environment at all. The fact we are inspired by other MCs who have been pigeon holed in this category and spit lyrically means people try and define us the same way.
Another thing people tend to mention is that they used to be on the 'battle' or 'cypher' rap tip but are trying to be musical. There is a huge difference between doing something and doing it with the degree of skill we feel we're pushing to, so just because you spat a simile don't mean you can chat shit to us! We're just doing us, and the amount of time we put into our beats and rhymes, it's definitely music. Subject matter doesn't give people a license to be musical by default so if you're not executing your shit properly, that's not an excuse for your wack bars. Go and learn to play the guitar or something!
Anyway, with regards to the EP there will be some different tracks on it and I think a lot of surprises for our fans and for sceptics – but don't expect a story about 'taking my chick to the movie but not having enough cash to afford popcorn' or cheesy club anthems.
Your use of words on all of your tracks has a distinct and frequently epic tone. What is the point of your style of battle rap on track – what effects are you trying to achieve?
Well aside from them not all really being 'battle raps' we just try to take our lyricism to a next level. Each emcee has a different style and focuses on different parts of the art but we ultimately write what we like to hear ourselves – metaphors, punchlines, imagery and references towards shit that we find interesting or fascinating – with as little babble as possible.
In our rap we're not limited by anything, the resulting effect that we want to achieve is reaching a next level. We also don't just say things because they rhyme or for the sake of saying them (allow the silly forced multis). To us, every single line, whether it is a setup or whatever, is an opportunity to say something ill. There is of course a competitive element to hiphop and its like were constantly trying to be not only iller than everyone else but as ill as we can be ourselves.
Where do Rhyme Asylum's influences lie? Are they solely just in rap?
Nah, we take influences from everywhere, from things we experience and learn in life, from films and from books mainly. Hiphop wise, we all like a lot of different shit but find a common ground with rappers like Big Pun, Big L, Canibus, Eminem, Copywrite, Nas, Ill Bill, Diabolic and Vakill to name a few. We influence each other greatly as well.
We like that hard-hitting 'boom bap' style of beats from the classic producers like Premo, Pete Rock, RZA etc but still we try to avoid shit sounding dated. Havoc, Alchemist, Stoupe and Necro are definitely influences towards our sound.
I guess our influences tie in with the whole 'battle rap' thing. At the end of the day the hiphop we feel most is either lyrical rap with witty lines from people like Bis, Big L, Em, or straight up spitting shit from Wu-tang, DITC, Boot Camp Click etc. Back in the day being the dopest and proving your skills as an artist could be more important than trying to deliver a social or political message which seems to be a lot of other peoples motive these days.
That's all good but we're just trying to keep our music sounding raw, straight to the point and consistent and we're not looking to enter into something thinking like we have to have one 'track about a girl', or a 'double time track' or a 'story'. That's not what spitting is about to us 'cause it feels too contrived. Our objective is to be as tight as possible and basically better than everybody else with whatever it is that we do.
Honestly, what are your views on the present UK scene? Do you find it an original and inspiring place to be?
The UK scene is a good place to be as an upcoming act because of opportunities to prove yourself. Like there are bare open mics to reach and usually ciphers popping off after jams which is an invaluable tool to hungry artists coming up in the game and has the organic elements of hiphop that the American scene seems to have lost these days. Places like Speakers Corner in Brixton are dope for this but since the end of Deal Real in-stores shit has started to become stale on that front.
When we first got into this, it was fresh, new and inspiring but as time's gone on and we've improved the scene just seems monotonous and boring these days. There is a lot of stupid 'politics' in the game right now but we're just here to rap and make ill music, trying not to get sucked in by all the bullshit.
This is gonna sound like a cliché but its like the majority of British rap seems to follow the paths of either spaced out babble vibes or straight up road shit and were not really on either of those things. There's a couple people on our kind of shit here but it tends to be American underground rappers who inspire us, as more are on that lyrical tip (although most of them are wack these days as well!)
It's infinitely harder on the wider scale when you're from the UK, but people like Immortal Technique, Non-Phixion and Jedi Mind Tricks prove that you can keep your music raw and credible yet have a huge fanbase on the underground and make it financially profitable.
Do you see yourselves making a significant impact on the UK scene?
Hopefully… We'll have to wait and see! But we're not about to start being on people's dicks just 'cause they got a rep. We have respect for the people that laid the foundations but at the same time we're more interested in skills than how long you've been down for or how many times you've been in your bredrin's magazine.
First and foremost we're just trying to do shit for us, and for those who are interested in hearing what we're coming with and there's definitely more space for that in the scene. We are deadly serious about what we do so I think it is inevitable that we will make an impact on the scene whether people like it or not!
Since Possessed has been garnering a lot of attention recently in the Jump Off '2 On 2 Street Battles' and on his Kiss FM freestyle appearance it made sense to direct some questions his way as well.
You have been recently getting a lot of exposure through the Jumpoff 2 on 2 battles with Reain. How have you been finding the whole thing? Who do you rate amongst the emcees (UK and US)?
Possessed: I entered the Jumpoff shit for exposure and to burn some emcees. I was really feeling the whole street battle vibe and the freestyle element of battling that Jumpoff have progressed to and they have come along way since just doing the arena battles which were dominated by wack emcees and a dumb crowd. I was glad to be part of the 2on2 tournament because it was a challenge. I was impressed by the Freestyle Masons obviously, and also G-Dash and Truth. I the US I was feeling Hesaurus/Illmaculate and Mad Illz/Parable.
You tore up your Kiss FM appearance with some sick freestyles. How was that and do you have any plans to crash the radio station again?
Possessed: Yeah, that was fun and I'm always down for tearing up radio if the opportunity arises.
Tell the people a little bit about the Freestyle Masons. How did you guys come together? Are there going to be any projects coming out of that?
Possessed: I've known Reain since day and have been rapping with him for time. He's on of the original people that's been trying to work on wordplay and shit with me. I met Stig at Kung Fu and Respek Ba after the Spin The Mic battles and as we were all keen freestylers and began to cipher together it was a natural progression into becoming the Freestyle Masons. Hopefully there will be a project soon but at this moment in time I am concentrating on the Rhyme Asylum EP
Any shout outs from Rhyme Asylum?
Aiiiiite…. Safe to Jericho and Rap News for the interview, shouts to OddJob. Freestyle Masons, S.I.N Army, Whatever the Weather, Beer and Rap Entertainment, Speakers Corner, Indrid Kold, Budgie, S-Type, Hot Off Da Block and everyone who supports our shit. We get a lot of good response from heads on our Myspace site and that shits appreciated so hit us up if you feel what were doing!
Also big up all the people that try to hate on us. It's touching that you care so much. Check us at Myspace.com/Rhymeasylum Look out for the 12", EP and plenty more shit to come! Peace out, Rhyme Asylum.