MC 900 Ft Jesus with DJ Zero – “Hell With the Lid Off” (1990)

I’ve had subscriptions to Rolling Stone a few times in my life, though admittedly it’s been quite some time since I had the mag delivered to my door.  However, with all the work travel I did last year I picked it up at the airport pretty regularly, as it usually helped me kill an hour of so of the seemingly unending parade of flights I took from Seattle to Burbank and back.

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The reason I mention this is because I think the first album I ever bought solely based on a written review appeared in the October 18, 1990 issue of Rolling Stone.  Now I’d certainly read reviews and then gone out and bought albums, but prior to October 1990 these were albums I was probably pre-disposed to buy anyway simply based on genre.  But not this one, which might qualify as my first foray into industrial.  I don’t remember what it was about the review spoke to me, but it was clear that I immediately needed to hear this thing.  I speak of course of the massively underrated and almost unknown Hell With the Lid Off by MC 900 Ft Jesus with DJ Zero.  I’ve been looking for a vinyl copy for a few years now despite the fact that I have the CD, and I finally find one last weekend at, of all places, my local joint Vortex.  Vortex has tons of rock and pop and jazz, but generally is a bit light on the electronic and industrial.  But a couple of months back they bought a DJ collection, from which I got some great original Throbbing Gristle pressings, and this time I struck gold with some 80s and 90s techno and industrial.  A lot of them, including Hell With the Lid Off, were in rough shape, but for three bucks had to have it.

And I’m glad I did, because it’s sublime.

Opening with the old timey intro to “A Greater God” and the full blown scratch attack of “Real Black Angel” it’s about 40% hip hop, 40% industrial, and 30% sleazy funk.  I wasn’t a math major, but that means that MC 900 Ft Jesus is giving us his full 110%.  “Truth Is Out of Style”?  Are you kidding me?  Some aliens abducted me and took me on a trip… It’s absurd and ridiculous and thumping and name-drops both Shirley MacLaine and bigfoot.  And honestly I think how beat up this copy is, with all the Rice Krispies snappin’ and cracklin’ and poppin’ actually adds a bit to the metallic edge the whole thing has.

Side B opens with “I’m Going Straight to Heaven,” and man I’m falling in love with this record all over again.  I’m at a loss to give you a lot of insight into the “why,” and it may simply be a sense of nostalgia, but I think there’s something more than that.  I mean, just listen to the free jazz jam that follows, “Spacejam,” a funkadelic quasi-spoken word piece that is both groovy and ridiculous at the same time, riffing as it does about collecting aluminum cans to be turned in at a secret government location (…known only to me…) to convert them to cash.  Because why not.

After a multi-decade hiatus it looks like Mark Griffin, aka MC 900 Ft Jesus, is performing again under his old monicker, which is exciting as hell and makes me wish I was in the Dallas area right now.  Looks like he’s got some downloads of live performances from the 1990s on his Facebook page, and I promise you I WILL be checking those out.  I’ll be keeping my eyes open for a cleaner version of the vinyl as well, which will probably take me another four years of looking to track down.  But that’s OK… this well-used copy will carry me through.

MC 900 ft Jesus with DJ Zero – “Too Bad” EP (1988)

mc900ftjesuswithdjzeroI got turned on to MC 900 ft Jesus back in 1989 thanks to a Rolling Stone review of his debut LP Hell with the Lid Off.  It sounded too compelling to pass up so I went right out and bought a copy of the CD.  I have no idea what eventually happened to it, but I did give it quite a few plays for a couple of years, my first foray into the less standard forms of hip hop and some peeking around the corner at industrial.  It would be a while until I more fully embraced the latter (and by “a while” I mean about 25 years), but MC 900 ft Jesus opened my ears and mind up to different ways of doing music.

I’ve been looking for a vinyl copy of Hell with the Lid Off without much success, but the other day I did come across MC 900 ft Jesus’ first release, 1988s four-song self-titled EP with DJ Zero.  Three of the four songs made it onto the LP (the lone exception being “Do I Have Any Witness”), though I suspect the versions are different as they show with differing run times on Discogs.  Eventually I’ll get my hands on Hell with the Lid Off and can see (listen) for myself.

“Born with Monkey Asses” is by far the weirdest thing on Too Bad, a song that draws all of its vocal elements from a very pissed off, potty-mouthed lady who is going off at some kind of meeting and talking all kinds of crap.  It’s truly bizarre the way MC 900 takes this woman’s rant and puts it to music.  And I mean bizarre in a good way.  “Shut Up” is probably the most classically hip hop song on Too Bad, with some recognizable samples and a healthy dose of scratching.

I could listen to Too Bad over and over again.  I need to make a more concerted effort to look for MC 900 records and singles when I’m out and about, because his stuff still sounds fresh today.