A couple months ago on the radio edition of Cultural Manifesto I previewed a few tracks off Indianapolis MC Comdot's The Grey Maxell LP. Comdot's soulful hard-hitting sound left a big impression on me. Tracks like "Aqua" and "Peace" certainly rank amongst the best hip-hop music recorded in the Hoosier state lately, so I wanted to share some of our conversation with NUVO readers on the occasion of the album's release.
Comdot will host an album release party for The Grey Maxell LP at The Hi-Fi in Fountain Square on Wednesday, December 16. An all-star cast of locals including J. Moore, Ace One, Pope Adrian Bless, Rehema McNeil and Januarie York will join Comdot for the performance.
NUVO: You've been living in Indianapolis for awhile, but I understand you primarily grew up in Charlotte?
Comdot: I was born into a military family. My father was a drill sergeant for the first seven years of my life. I was born in South Bend and I have a lot of roots there. But I remember Germany or Kansas as much as I remember my early years. I moved around a lot, but Charlotte was the place we stayed the longest. That's the place I got a chance to find out who I really was.
NUVO: You mentioned that your dad was a drill sergeant. As an MC you have a strong and commanding voice. I'm curious what role your dad's line of work may have had in influencing your style?
Comdot: You know, the crazy thing is my style is my father. I'm the spitting image of my father. I sound like my father. I walk like him. This hat I'm wearing right now is his hat. Big voices run in my family.
It's funny that you don't know certain things about your parents until later in life. I didn't know how much of my style I owed to my father until one night he came to visit me from Baltimore. We were just chilling, having some drinks and vibing to some music. Then this record comes on and I noticed his left leg started bouncing. People who know me and come to my shows know that my right leg bounces. When I really get into the zone that's what I do. To find out I got it from this guy? I had no idea.
The grey Maxell tape, that comes from my father. That was my foundation. He used to come home with the grey Maxell and TDK tapes. He was making mixtapes in the '80s. He still makes CDs and tapes to this day. I used to try to steal tapes from him and record my jams off the radio. I owe everything to my pops.
NUVO: You said big voices run in your family. When did you realize you had this big voice and that you could use it to your advantage as an MC?
Comdot: I had a problem with expression when I was younger. I don't know if it was because of all the traumatic things we were growing up around, but I had a problem with expression and I wouldn't speak a whole lot. What motivated me to find my voice was Biggie's second album. Life After Death taught me a lot about how to do what I do with what I was born with.
NUVO: The first song you've released off your Grey Maxell project is the track "Aqua," produced by Scott Matellic. It's a hard-hitting track musically and lyrically. Tell us about "Aqua."
Comdot: "Aqua" is one of them classic raw hip-hop joints you used to see on Rap City back in the day when you got home from school. It wasn't a radio reach or nothing. It was like, "This is what I do." No nonsense, it's just the raw rap we grew up on. You can't lose sight of that. You've got to keep your sword sharp in that arena because cats will come for you if they think you don' have no bars on deck.
NUVO: You're releasing The Grey Maxell LP on December 16 at The Hi-Fi. Tell us about the concept behind the album.
Comdot: The grey Maxell tape is just as important to hip-hop as the DJ is. When you talk about cassette tapes you're talking about an entire culture. We can't just pick up pieces of the culture that fit with us. We have to respect the entire culture. The tape deck was monumental in our lives because there was no other way to get that joint. You had to record it off the radio, or dub it off your man who had it. There was no internet or downloads. You have guys to this day who have stuff that the whole world doesn't have because it was only on that tape. I wanted people to remember that era and time and introduce it to cats who didn't know that era and time. We can't forget the stuff that made this culture great and The Grey Maxell LP is paying homage to that.
NUVO: I grew up in that cassette culture. I didn't have the grey Maxell tapes, I think I was using the generic K Mart brand. But what I remember is that I'd hit record when the songs I loved the most came on the radio. Is that part of your concept with the LP, that it's filled with classic material?
Comdot: Yes, and there's 19 songs. There was more pressure on the artist to be great during the era of tape. Who wants to fast forward an entire album you just paid money for? The whole tape had to be excellent.
I wanted to recreate the whole atmosphere of the tape. Sometime you never knew what was on the tape or you forgot. You may have halfway dubbed over your mom or dad's tape. He doesn't know that the smooth jazz programming on his tape is about to be interrupted by the Beastie Boys. That tape was an experience.