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“When I’m offstage, I’m a Bob Marley nigga,” King Gordy yells though a thick cloud of “good East Side shit” that is rolled up in a blunt as thick as a roll of quarters. “I smoke blunts all day and eat and talk shit and crack jokes with my family, the Fat Killahz.”
That’s a perfect synopsis of what’s happening in the plush recording studio, where he takes time out from tracking his solo debut, The Entity, to do an interview. King Gordy (aka Berry Gordy, aka Tha Woovie, aka Pig-O-Man), the self-dubbed “King of the East Side,” is dressed all in red like a nightmarish doppelgänger of the Fruit of the Loom apple. Between puffs and cracking on some of the most threatening-looking characters in the local hip-hop underground, he eats food from a grease-stained brown bag.
“I started writin’ in the crack house. It’s the truth. Selling crack,” Gordy yells. “I lived in vacants and two-family flats, niggaz were selling crack about that bitch. I was 16 and drop out of the school when I was in the ninth grade to sell crack and did it until I was 21. That’s all I done. It wasn’t about no shoot and kill niggaz, I was a drug dealer. I would just sit in crack houses. There is never a way to get away from that. Van Dyke and Harper is not something you get away from.”
It might read like the paint-by-numbers inner-city stereotype, but the realities of Van Dyke and Harper are far more tangible coming from Tha Woovie’s mouth. An obsession with the common cruelties represented by that intersection permeates every line of Gordy’s music and basically defines him.
“When people bad Van Dyke and Harper, they bad me,” Gordy says. “Van Dyke and Harper is not a friendly place. Niggaz are cold as fuck over there. They’re cold as fuck in August. But not to each other. Only thing that’s good about it is that people are unified. I identify with that place. Even though now I’m probably going live in a million-dollar home up in Bloomfield Hills.”
The tone of his voice and reaction of the guys in the room (his manager, Hex Murda, Cobb from Tyze Entertainment and Marvwon from Gordy’s group, the Fat Killahz) suggest he is joking. But the state-of-the-art studio control room makes the talk of mansions seem fairly realistic. It’s the kind of thing you expect to hear here.
Eminem and his football team of security are in the next room, and the studio just outside Detroit’s city limits has played a major part in the making of Em’s last two records. Tomorrow Snoop and Dre are due to arrive via private jet with their 17 body guards. (“Suge Knight’s out of jail,” someone explains.) Getting past the Em’s blockhead bodyguards at the door to meet King Gordy is evidence enough that we’re in the company of people who actually live in million-dollar houses a half-hour north of Eight Mile.
It would be easy for Gordy to drop names and ride coattails in such an environment, but nothing could be further from his mind.
“It’s like this: I’m not going to sell Van Dyke and Harper to people. I’m sellin’ me,” Gordy says. “Every MC talks about the same things, and the trick is putting it in your own terms and painting your own picture. You have to do that for your own self — no one can do that for you or give that to you. You have to earn that by the way you live your life. That is why I rhyme about the things I do, because being hungry and living in a two-family flat with no heat are real parts of my life. I don’t ever try to paint a picture of a role model. I’m an entertainer. I’m James Brown of this shit.”
No one else in Detroit’s hip-hop underground can entertain like Gordy. His live show is a manic presentation of horrifying rhymes and dark hooks, all screamed and bellowed through the mic with a truly disarming (and often disturbing) charisma. The pictures he paints are every bit as bleak and frightening as the neighborhoods they are written about. There couldn’t be a better candidate for king of the East Side.
“There is the underground in Detroit and then there is the other shit,” Gordy says. “There are the pretend drug dealers that rhyme and don’t really live it and then there are the people who are broke, who really live it trying to get on with it ’cause they are trying to feed people. Other motherfuckers want to rap because they see it on the videos. If people catch that and think they understand Detroit, it will be meaningless. If they catch us first, they will see the real Detroit, the grime and the underground shit. They’ll see that all these people should be stars.”
King Gordy will perform at 11 p.m. Thursday at Motor, and will also appear with the Fat Killahz on Saturday at 12:45 a.m. at Tight Fittin' Jeans. Check out the entire Blowout schedule at http://blowout.metrotimes.com.
Check out the rest of our features on this year's talented Blowout artists:
• Go back to the future with The Bloody Holly’s
• The eclectic Brothers Groove are driven by white-hot funk
• Clone Defects front man Tim Vulgar lives the punk life
• esQuire’s frenetic but fabulous rise to fame
• Robert Jones is Detroit's quintessential bluesman
• The Kielbasa Kings' tale of accordions, beer and never-fail pickup lines
• Inside King Gordy's heart of darkness
• Miz Korona shines through the hype and distractions
• Stowing away on Sista Otis' path to enlightenment
• The Von Bondies are on the edge … but of what?
Nate Cavalieri is Metro Times’ listings editor. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.