In this life there are two things that just about anyone can do: you can either talk about it or be about it. It really is that simple. Yeah, it sounds as trite and cliched as a Nike add or a Bush Administration campaign slogan, but seldom seen are those quiet individuals who move through life fully realizing the actions of their intent. Think of anyone you know; pick any one of your friends at random and broadly generalize them into either one of these categories. If you can be brutally honest in your assessment of the people you know then you should have no problem differentiating between the two. The world is thoroughly overpopulated (your humble narrator included) with the first bunch; those that have the luxury and the time to pontificate magniloquently about all the great things they plan to do while never really seeming to accomplish much of anything. The second group, those that do, are far more rare. For those that do, for those that live their lives in their own, indelible ways, the highest kind of praise is reserved: Respect. In the real world it seems that the true struggle is how to get through this life without being completely full of shit. It ain’t easy. Few have learned the secret, and the result is a culture filled with vapid, pointless existences that do very little to contribute to the life that is going on around them.
There is an American generation that is just coming into its own these days; a generation of poets and prophets who have been lied to throughout most of their lives. Lies from on high handed down in outrageous, gorging fashion. In the 60′s and 70′s it was Viet Nam and a host of Civil Rights issues. In the 80′s there was the threat of utter nuclear annihilation while plagues of crack and AIDS burst out of their incubators to ravage the country. The 90′s… well, we all kind of chilled while Slick Willy caught some neck on the sly, but by the time Bush’s Reign of Terror came along and stole the election that awarded him the base of his tyranny, we pretty much knew we were fucked. There is a segment of this current generation of supposedly “directionless” human beings that were birthed on the lies of Richard Nixon, learned duplicitous-ness and the hierarchy of the Republican way from Reagan, and were forcibly indoctrinated into George Bush’s New World Order. There are those who have witnessed the atrocities perpetrated by the United States government and refuse to be a part of it anymore. They take up arms in metaphorical ways: through activism, through political mobilization; through literature, art and music. Theirs is an intelligence campaign being fought in the minds and the passions of the youth. One of the leading warriors in this struggle has gone straight to the streets with his messages of hope, opportunity and change.
Sabac (an acronym from his early graf days; it means Smoke A Blunt And Chill) came up as a typical Brooklyn kid in the 80′s. He found Hip-Hop early; “I started around 12, 13 years old in my neighborhood, listening to Rap. I used to B-Boy; I used to write graffiti (I was horrible, I sucked at it). At some point I remember listening to “Sucker MC’s” and I remember listening to it and knowing the lyrics and I went to the bathroom, I don’t remember if I was taking a shit or a shower, but whatever. I started reciting the lyrics and I forgot them. Then I started making up my own lyrics and they rhymed and I was like “Oh shit.” I ran out the bathroom, sat down and wrote out like three verses within the hour. It was the first time I thought that I could actually do this.” That was his first epiphany, but the turning point for his lyrical creativity came upon the entry of an essay contest. “My first rhymes were all party rhymes, rhymes about girls, all kinds of misogynist shit. One of the key points was back when Yusef Hawkins was murdered in Bensonhurst. I was in school when that happened, and my teacher told us there was going to be an essay contest and we had to write an essay on how we felt about racism. I asked if it was OK if I wrote a rap. I wrote a rap about how racism affects us all. It ended up winning first prize in New York City. That was a turning point in my life, where I first realized that I could write raps that are positive. My influences at the time were KRS and Lakim Shabazz, stuff like that.”
Sabac continued in this vein, coupling the rugged aspects of a Brooklyn street-life with this newly awakened consciousness. In the early 90′s, while trying to get his career going he had an opportunity to open for a Hip-Hop legend: MC Serch. Serch (who was working on O.C.’s album) invited Sabac to come to the studio and the two began recording Sabac’s first demos. It was while working under Serch at the Wild Pitch label that Sabac met up with DJ Eclipse. Through working various street promotions, Sabac eventually ran into Ill Bill who, at the time, was working in a record store and trying to get his own Hip-Hop career on point. All four were talking about putting a group together and from there the first seeds of Non Phixion were planted.
Non Phixion dropped their classic debut; The Future is Now after several failed deals delayed the album’s release, and it established them as an underground force. With production credits boasting the likes of Primo, Pete Rock, and Large Professor, as well as a healthy dose of some serious Necro heaters, it wasn’t long before the underground was feeling what Non Phixion was pumping. Bac’s politically charged rhymes fell right alongside partners’ Ill Bill and Goretex’s rugged, futuristic gangsta-ism, creating a powerhouse trio who brought it, lyrically, from all angles. Inside the dynamic of a group setting Sabac added another dimension to Non Phixion’s already multifaceted mayhem. Bac made his name as the more political third of NP, the positive voice of revolution whose violence was the productive kind, used to induce change. It is a voice that coexists easily alongside Ill Bill’s paranoid nihilism and Gore’s vicious narratives, and together the three demonstrate a continuous lyrical line of cause and effect.
Outside of his lyrics Sabac maintains a day-to-day life trying to back up his words with action. When you meet him he is just as fired up as he sounds on wax. His commitment is evident every time he speaks, whether it’s about his music, politics, or the weather, the kid’s sincerity comes shining through. As rugged as his music is, his persona is that of an eternal optimist; one who hopes (and secretly knows) that there is something better out there. The positivity that radiates from him is contagious; one conversation and you’ll find yourself convinced that you, too, can change the world. He spends his time outside of music working with teenagers within the New York City public school system, using his experiences to guide and to relate to young kids. The program is called The City Kids Foundation. It is a kind of mentoring program in which Sabac and others speak and instruct on topics like violence, abuse, self-esteem and public speaking. They use creative means to encourage the kids, instructing them to write or to act out their emotions and problems. It is a program that Sabac has been involved with for a number of years. “When I was younger I got into some dirt and I had to go do some community service at the City Kids Foundation and doing that has since made me realize that I can combine music and activism and social work and all that kind of stuff that I do anyway.”
Indeed, with the release of his debut solo album (released on Necro’s own Psycho+Logical-Records); Sabacolypse: A Change Gon’ Come, Sabac has stepped forward and laid the groundwork for his agenda of change. “It [the new album] is something that I’ve always wanted to create. I use it as kind of a blueprint of my voice and my opinions. I was really limited with the amount of time I had to put it together, so I did what I could with the time I had. I started recording around January 24th and the album was complete, done and mixed by March 6th. I remember recording my last verse for “P.O.W.’s,” it was the last thing I recorded and when I was done I took a huge breath like…WHEW. Wow, I just completed a solo album.”
Sabacolypse is a further expansion of who Sabac is as well as what he stands for, both as a man and as an MC. Its song titles read like a dissident’s manifesto, with each song represented by parenthetical elements like Truth, Militance, Awareness, Vision and Solution. Overall, the album is more of a rallying cry than a sermon. “If you listen to the album there’s a lot of topics which Imma touch further upon within the next Non Phixion album and the next Sabac album. I think this one, particularly if you listen to songs like “Organize,” or “Speak Militant” where they are talking about things like truth, solution, militance, things like that, it’s more dealing with the self. I think a lot of what people are dealing with as a whole in society first has to be dealt with in the upliftment of self, organizing around something. You know, being able to speak your mind, speak your truth. Have a vision, have a clear identity. So when I talk a lot about revolution I’m talking about the internal revolution, which is self, and overcoming a lot of obstacles and the barriers that so often keep people down. I’m really passionate about that; it’s what I am when I walk into a classroom in a New York City public high school with teenagers, it’s what I am in my personal life. I think that you can go globally and you can try to attack different issues and make people aware of things, but people will only be aware if they themselves feel like there’s some stuff that they’re doing in their personal lives where they can identify what their own issue is. Once the individual is OK, once you have the internal revolution and overcome those obstacles, then you can take it communally. Then you can take it globally. So my basis for this particular album was really dealing with self.”
True to his life, Sabac’s album deals with the serious issues that face any urban American existence: police brutality, poverty, racism, individual freedoms and the abuse of an unwitting society at the hands of its leaders. By fully utilizing a coded language of street knowledge he blends his messages with a “by any means necessary” posture, and the result is a heated platter of revolutionary-style bangers. Necro’s production is truly on another level, seamlessly lending itself to Sabac’s delivery and content. Many who are already familiar with Necro’s distinct sound might be surprised to learn that it is Necro himself supplying the cool tones of the Fender electric Jazz bass that lurks underneath the spoken word interludes of the Black Panther Party’s Jamal Joseph. “I’ve known Necro now for over ten years. People know the music he puts out is a lot different than the album that I made. He was totally, 100% supportive of me using my voice and doing what I wanted to do: stuff like bringing people like Jamal Joseph from the Black Panther Party into the studio to come and do spoken word, Necro was open to that and actually even played live instruments on it. Bringing in people like Vinnie Paz and Immortal Technique, you know, cats from outside the immediate circle. It was all love. It felt good because it was my voice; I wrote every single verse, every single hook. I arranged all the choruses, everything.”
The songs on Sabacolypse range from real straightforward, Non Phixion-type heaters (like the face-melting anthem “Urban Guerillas” which features Q-Unique and Jedi Mind Tricks front man Vinnie Paz) to Dead Prez-sounding calls-to-arms (“Gats Up, Guns Up”), to the extremely creative “Bacapella” in which the author writes from the viewpoint of the rapidly dying medium of vinyl. Sabac is as adept as a poet as he is a revolutionary, and there is no denying the energy and anger he can bring to a track.
With Sabac enduring a short tour along side fellow lunatics Jedi Mind Tricks before heading out on the Warped Tour with the rest of the NP crew, Bac’s days are hectic. Not only is he busy promoting his own solo album, he’s also working on the new Non Phixion album and still puts in a lot of his time at the City Kids Foundation. With the current political environment and the global instability that we all witness on a daily basis, there is certainly no shortage of material from which Sabac can draw. “The next album from Non Phixion is going to be called Nuclear Truth and we’re going to be delving into a lot of different issues and subjects that we may not have touched upon on The Future is Now, or Sabacolypse, or What’s Wrong With Bill? or The Art of Dying by Goretex. There’s a lot of Hip-Hop out there that’s pretty much generic and I think that there is a need for people to start to listen to different kinds of music and using music as a tool. There’s artists like Non Phixion, as individuals and as a group, who put it out there. I see a lot of things that are going back three hundred and sixty degrees. In the era of the early 80′s, the Golden Age, you had party music along side politically charged music. You had Public Enemy, at the same time you had Nice -N- Smooth. I think that’s coming back around. If you look at Hip-Hop now, what’s actually selling, I think a lot more independent groups are selling, I think (for the most part) a lot more independent groups seem to be a little bit more aware and aren’t necessarily talking about the materialistic things.”
So think about it the next time you plan to do something, or decide to open up your mouth and complain about “the way things are.” While you’re sleeping, there are still a few lone wolves out there whose motives are pure and whose focus and drive keep them going even when everything seems hopeless. Bottom line: get off your ass and do something.
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