|More Hip-Hop/R&B Stories|
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Needle Rap (9/22/2010)
|More from William E. Ketchum III|
Renaissance state (6/30/2010)
Reinventing the wheel, part one (4/7/2010)
Into the light (12/16/2009)
Making an album of music is a process that, of course, takes time. These days, an artist that releases one LP every year or two is considered consistent, even prolific. And some "require" more time to slow-cook their masterpieces. Fans had to wait seven years between Dr. Dre's 1992 solo debut, The Chronic, and his sophomore set, 2001 (which, despite its title, was released in 1999). Meanwhile, his alleged final album, Detox, is urban legend because of its repeated release date changes.
Nevertheless, Detroit emcee Tasherre D'Enajetic made plans last year to record 52 songs — roughly four complete albums in CD terms — in as many weeks, or a year. At press time, he's halfway toward his goal.
"I'll make it very simple," D'Enajetic says when asked why he set such personal and professional parameters. "Two words: World domination. And it has to start somewhere."
Tasherre — full name Tasherre Risay — is already well-respected in D-town, and he's a veteran. His first live performance back in the '90s was at St. Andrew's Hall — the city's most heralded rap venue — and he's rocked shows regionally ever since, earning audiences in such diverse places as Washington, D.C., and Toronto. New project aside, his discography runs five efforts deep, with his two most recent ones, V and Revisions: The Lost Remixes, released in 2007.
But that's not enough. Sometime last year, D'Enajetic was inspired by an article he read online about Jonathan Coulton, a New York-based rock artist who'd released a new song every week for a year. D'Enajetic then Googled Coulton's "Project 52" and found that yet another artist — the U.K.-based Shane Beals — had his own yearlong run of weekly songs.
D'Enajetic e-mailed both Coulton and Beals to receive their blessings for his own effort. Because Beals owned an Internet "Project 52" URL, D'Enajetic titled his "P52: The Enajetic Challenge." The recordings, he determined, would be a test of his own will and a way to help showcase underexposed producers he planned to use on the tracks. The emcee then leaked the project's first song, "Failure," online on June 13.
The first quarter of P52 went without a hitch: D'Enajetic wrote and recorded songs every week after that, posting them as free downloads on his website (tasherredenajetic.com).
But the best-laid plans go awry and the rapper was soon hit with situations that derailed his recording schedule. First, a friend suddenly went missing, so D'Enajetic dedicated his time and energy toward finding him. As soon as friend was found (safe), D'Enajetic began to suffer health issues due to his body's reaction to an observance of Ramadan, a religious holiday in which Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset to help them get "closer to God." Then the shaky economy jeopardized his commission-based sales job at a local Guitar Center and he was barely able to pay his bills and provide for his wife and two sons.
"For a minute, I was just done," D'Enajetic says, explaining, "I couldn't write. I wasn't sleeping properly. It was a bunch of factors."
His phone and his website were soon cut off because he couldn't make the payments. His home's electricity was about to be disconnected. Then D'Enajetic (reluctantly) posted a plea on his Facebook page asking fans to donate money to help him stay afloat. He promised that donations of $20 and above would receive his entire musical catalog via e-mail. Less than an hour after posting, D'Enajetic began receiving donations. He eventually raised a large chunk of the money he needed to get by at the time.
"I got massive love from everybody," he says, "even if they just sent me an e-mail to say, 'Sorry I can't do nothing; I'm screwed at this point. ...' Or 'I've got your back,' or 'I'll keep you in my prayers.' Or even 'If I come across anything, I'll let you know.' That was just very cool. And it really got me on the point where I know that when I'm doing good, I'll have to take care of other people. I've got to put that back into the world because those cats came through for me."
The external problems saw D'Enajetic fall a month behind on P52. But once he was back on his feet he felt rejuvenated and immediately recorded a song for each of the four weeks he'd missed, plus the current one. Barack Obama was then elected, which D'Enajetic honored with a song called "Miracle (Obama's Song)."
"A lot of people are still clowning me because I dropped six songs in one week, basically," D'Enajetic marvels.
Though support from fans, friends and family helped Tasherre through a rough stretch, he claims his music was also there for him, that writing and recording certain songs was therapeutic.
"The track 'Over For You' is [about] what was happening to me when I was going through that whole month off, and even before then, when I had doubts and was thinking about quitting," he says. "In that song, I use another voice so that it's like my brain talking to me. Ultimately, it's about people holding themselves back from achieving their dreams. Right behind that was a joint called 'Sanity.' That track was saying that with all the crap I'm dealing with right now, it's amazing that I haven't gone freakin' crazy.
"My music has always been [therapeutic]," he continues. "I've always been able to say what's going on in my life. I call it my verbal blog."
Since he's now back on track, Tasherre can maximize the potential of P52. To commemorate week 26, he'll revamp his website and offer new merchandise. He'll also be releasing Histore: The First Chapter, a nonstop mix of previous cameos and unreleased material. He's also planning a major sale of his released songs to generate more interest. He'll also be going on tour soon to perform the new songs live.
It may sound like there's a ton of stuff on one man's plate, particularly while he's busy recording his weekly songs. But D'Enajetic's convinced he can make it all happen.
"By continuing and actually finishing [the project], I hope to be upheld in the same way as some of the artists I uphold," D'Enajetic says. "I've gained a deeper appreciation for discipline. Without it, nothing gets accomplished."
William E. Ketchum III is a music critic for Metro Times. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.