rammellzee :: elegy for a gothic futurist
Sometimes the album art says it all: some growling homeboy in a Beijing Opera mask, rainbow ski boots, with what appears to be a travel version of Connect Four dangling from his belt and, in the mirror, his opposite reflection. I don't know quite how it's happened, but Bi-Conicals sounds exactly like iconic hip-hopper Rammellzee looks--not quite insane, not quite clown. This album is full of gothic videogame hip-hop tunnel-scavengers that aren't quite demented enough to be truly fun, yet crazy enough as to be totally confusing to listen to.Giovanni Marks sez: The dude was so far ahead of his time, no one even knew what it looked like when we all caught up to it. Will Luckman sez: In a culture born of a desire for fame, RAMM∑LLZ∑∑ put on a mask and forced his way outside—transforming himself into a true god, an unseen force manipulating the world he dominated as he looked down from above, laughing. He was one of those cats who dabbled in lots of media because the artform he specialized in hasn't been invented yet: a combo of graffitti, hip hop, sculpture, costumes, lectures, writing:
Q: Music or art? Which inspires you the most? A: NEITHER ONE. ARCHITECTURE DOES. THE GOTHICS. I WOULD RIDE THE TRAINS TO CLARA BARTON’S IN BROOKLYN NEAR PROSPECT HEIGHTS & BOTANICAL GARDENS ON MY WAY FROM CUTTING SCHOOL, I WOULD CUT-OUT & TAKE D TRAIN & I WOULD HEAR A GUY NAMED DYNAMITE D ON THE MICROPHONE AS A CONDUCTOR OPENING & CLOSING THE DOORS. I DID NOT CALL THAT INSPIRATION BECAUSE I ALREADY KNEW HOW TO RHYME. I WAS JUST STUDYING THE DIFFERENT ROLLING PAGES ON THE TRANSIT SYSTEM. I CALL THEM ROLLING PAGES, THEY CALL THEM SNAKES.A lot of the time rappers who act crazy and talk shit, it's just an act. There's no thinking behind it. This is why I got tired of Kool Keith a few records ago and, like I said earlier, get frustrated with DOOM. Rammellzee thought so much about grafitti and what it could mean, he sounded nuts, but he drops mad science if you listen. He keeps going until ends up at pure mathematics. It's hard to unpack it. The Iconic Treatise is as dense and insane and brilliant as P.K. Dick's Exegesis. The ideas about how language uses us, language's independence and domination, the need to free it from its own boundaries to reach enlightenment...these are all Burroughsian-like concepts in a wild style frame.
Q: You initially made your reputation in graffiti? A: No, I was involved in gothic futurism and gothic text. Graffiti is a word that society placed on people it did not possibly understand. Before we could grow up and make our own determination of what technique or iconic statement we were doing, they decided - instead of saying we were abstract and have a whole society built on non complete information and these guys are about to scare the shit out of us with the biggest culture since futurism 10000 strong - to call us scribble, scrabble artists which is a contradiction right there. They called us something that eventually wiped us out.So how does an all-city bomber end up in a handmade robot soundsystem suit making wildstyle Voltron skateboard sculptures? Graffiti emerged from the dead zone, the war zone of '70s New York. It was the disenfranchised taking back the trains. You take the trains, you take the city. They took the trains with their names, with letters. The alphabet became the weapon. The trains were the tanks. The terminology was already there--bombing, burning. So trains are 'rolling pages'--blank of writing, public transit papyrus.
My inspiration was my curiosity of why people wanted to write on trains, the biggest distribution gallery for any art form known to man...JESTER did what we should call now, the "signoverture." a letter with a harpoon on it. I based most of my style on that. I often wondered why JESTER armored the "letter" with a barbed arrow...
The letter music notes and weather notes that were done down there reached a point where you didn't need to kill a person. The piece itself became a weapon: the letter itself. So fame was the most interesting to take out. How do you know George Washington? You know him through a name. You shoot the letter on the train at the other name and it takes out that name. So therefore homeboy has no identity. Why should I kill him? He'll just be dead anyway because nobody will know who he is. My style did not break away from any traditional art form of the illuminations. I just went further, did what people wouldn't. We all painted three dimensional letters. I just finished mines by building them. Those rolling pages in those wind tunnels showed everyone what to do. Those who chose to complete "that" competition of the five boroughs of New York City, had their reasons to finish or not their studies. Even if their studies were rolling at the speed of 35 miles per hour.Wild style. Three-dimensional letters--illegible unless you're initiated. Coded language. Electricity straight down the third rail. These are also armored letters--protected from interpretation and exploitation. "The letter is armed to stop all the phony formations, lies, and tricknowlegies placed upon its structure..." as Ram put it, "...how a letter aerodynamically changes into a tank."
Rammellzee is a military function formation… I am ramming the knowledge to an elevation and I am understanding the knowledge behind the Zee. Since we are dealing with Roman letters, we have to go back to the day when the Romans were using the ram to break down doors. Our situation today is to break down a door of knowledge hidden behind society. We're going to work our way around it instead of breaking it straight up. Whereas before you'd be trying to break through and you would be on the bottom of the pile. We're talking about where graffiti originated, where hardcore war went down, with markers against markers and letters against letters. You think war is always shooting and beating everybody up, but no, we had the letters fight for us.From there it gets even more obtuse. He started thinking about the connection between graf and illuminated manuscripts (gothic script). And he decided he was continuing the work of medieval monks whose illuminations were banned by the Catholic Church. Then he got into the idea that language is mathematics, and electromagnetic forces, and all this is preventing us from moving out into space...into Burroughs territory but also into Time Cube territory. But there was always a coded Afrofuturist agenda there, his Five Percenter past keeping it relevant. In 2001 R:L:Z said:
We failed what could have been "our" culture. I went to the Puck Building (Guernsey's Auction) in June of the year 2000 and offered my services. Everyone who was anyone in this "subculture" had works for sale. No one sold, except for a few. I felt that the "culture" died right there. There was too much "mannerism" not enough "burner"!!! Our futurism! We should have only stuck to doing the "letter" and joined together to fight the light dwellers. but, we will always be Kings From the Dark Continent. The veins of this Gotham! Remember this the next level, as you said, is the third dimension. I hope.Born in Far Rock, Away. He took the A train. Source Codes:
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