On An Island - Erule & Pallas Records


Rap Pages - December 1994 - LA Underground cover photo left to right:
Ganjah K, Medusa, Ras Kass, Erule, Koko, AceyAlone

As a music industry outsider, trying to determine why certain records do well and others flop has always intrigued me. Especially during a time like the 90's when seemingly everyone and their mother had a major label record contract. As much as we like to remember this period as the "Golden Era" there was just as much shitty music getting released on majors then as there is now. Blood of Abraham, Tweety Bird Loc, Dog M.C., these guys:



(Label Guy: "Whats the album called? Nutt'in All Over Your Face? Sounds great! We'll sell a million!)

Browse through any rap magazine in the 90's and you will find a litany of terrible rap acts getting pushed by big labels. Again, this is my outsider impression, but it seemed that most of these major labels had no idea who or what they were getting into, and some of the quality of the artists that were signed during that time period is indicative of that relative inexperience.

Enter Erule and enter Pallas records.


Rap Pages - August 1994 - Back Inside Cover

Pallas records was distributed by Universal, which is to say that they were under the umbrella of the biggest record label in the world. At the time, hiphop icon Fab 5 Freddy was employed as their CEO, but in hindsight it would appear that Fab 5's talents lay in areas other than label and artist management. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Erule's 12" single "Listen Up" with the b-side "Synopsis" was released in the summer of 1994 and was a semi-substantial hit. At this juncture let me provide a bit of a disclaimer. The truth is that I am hardly a disinterested party in this analysis, in that Erule's "Listen Up / Synopsis" single is probably my favorite rap single - ever. Ever ever. If I was stuck on an island with only three songs to listen to for the rest of my days, it would easily by my number one draft pick. You want evidence of my allegiances? I'll call this Exhibit A:


And if they had put it out on 8-track I would have copped that too

My rabid fandom aside, let's move onto the music:


Erule - Listen Up - Official Video


Erule - Synopsis

I don't even want to go on about how magical these records are because if you've got two ears, and they're properly functioning, that quality should be readily apparent. I will say that I believe there are definite parallels between Erule's "Listen Up" record and Dr. Dre and Snoop's classic "Nuthin' But A "G" Thang" in that their ultimate worth is all in their execution. Dre's sample of Leon Haywood's previously semi-obscure sex-funk classic "I Want To Do Something Freaky To You" was hardly groundbreaking. It's pretty much just a straight flip, and in the same way that "Listen Up" flips the Roy Ayers's comparatively more well known classic "Everybody Loves The Sunshine" as it's musical backbone. That being said, any asshole can loop the drums from Billy Squier's "Big Beat" over a break from one of the Conmen mixtapes, but a classic record this does not make.

In both G Thang and Listen Up there is a degree of sublime perfection in their execution that is rarely found. This is not the boisterous noise of any one of a million nondescript shitty pop rap hits, this is the combination of an MC and a producer blending their respective elements into something that becomes More Than. The end result is Special with a capital fucking S.

To that end, "Listen Up" was a success in 1994 terms. Rotation on Yo! MTV Raps, Rap City (shout out to Joe Clair for getting that commercial work), placement in every DJ chart list - the one missing ingredient being retail sales. No worries, the full length is going to come out eventually...right?

All this hype can't be for nothing right?


Rap Pages - August 1994 - Summer Sounds - Page 2

Wrong. If Nas's buildup from Live at the Barbeque to Halftime to Back to The Grill Again to Ain't Hard to Tell and then the Illmatic album was as an example of perfection in promoting an artist, this was the opposite. At the time of Rap Pages December 1994 profile piece on the LA Underground, the entirety of which I'll attach at the end, the album was still in the works. And that is as far as it got.

Fast forward 7 years later to 2001 and Erule releases an album of all new material entitled "Cold Currentz" on what I believe was his and his producer King Born Allah's own label, Flatland Region. I would say it was a generally uneven effort, but not without it's highlights:


Erule - One Rule - Believe it or not this was a Ja-Rule diss.


Erule - Nik Luv R.I.P.


Erule - The Real Me / Here It Is

One of the most interesting things about the "Cold Currentz" album was the interior of the CD insert, which was an exhaustive list of people, companies and organizations that from the view of Erule's camp conspired to prevent the release of his first album on Pallas Records. I'll include a small sample of it below - in all caps the way that it is written on the CD, because well, it's funnier that way:

"KING ISLAM WOULD LIKE TO SEND A VERY, VERY SPECIAL LOVE TO BILAL POLSON (JACOB/YACUBI) AT RAXOR SHARP RECORDS FOR SHOWING ME THAT EVEN YOUR OWN BROTHER CAN TURN YOU OVER TO THE F.B.I. AND SELL ERULE AS A SLAVE TO THE SLAVE MASTER PIMPS AT PALLAS RECORDS FOR HIS OWN MONEY, POSITION, AND POWER. TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR YOUR OWN WAYS AND ACTIONS AND STOP CAUSING TROUBLE AMONGST THE RIGHTEOUS. THANK YOU

TO JEROME (1ST ROUND CEO) FROM EAST WEST RECORDS WHO STARTED PALLAS RECORDS WITH MATSUO'S MONEY AND HIS OWN BLOOD, SWEAT, TEARS, LIES AND BROKEN DREAMS. THANK YOU FOR TEACHING BILAL HOT TO DECEIVE HIS THREE BROTHERS TO SIGN WITH PALLAS RECORDS. WE APPRECIATE YOU TEACHING HIM HOW TO SNAKE US AND SHOWING HIM HOW TO BE A BETTER SNAKE OIL SALESMAN. WE KNOW IT WASN'T PERSONAL BUT ONLY BUSINESS

TO FAB FIVE FREDDY (2ND ROUND C.E.O.) I WOULD LIKE TO PERSONALLY SAY THANK YOU FOR ALL THE HELP YOU DID NOT GIVE US. THAT INCLUDES ALL THE FAKE ASS BUDGET REPORTS, WASTED DINNERS, LIES, WEAK ASS BEDTIME STORIES AND PHONY TOURS. THANK YOU FOR NOT PUTTING OUT THE PROJECT. YOU SAVED OUR LIVES.

...PALLAS RECORDS AS A WHOLE, FLATLAND REGION HAS ONE THING TO SAY, FUCK ALL YA AND THANK YOU FOR TEACHING US HOW TO BECOME AN INDEPENDENT LABEL AND TAKE OUR OWN MONEY IN THIS GAME. YOU FOOLS MADE US RICH, THANK YOU! PUNKS"

I'm not including the other stuff where they bag on the lawyer that apparently represented them on their contract who was also working for Pallas Records, the Japanese "Hood Rat" Keiko, or a certain Travon Johonson who is referred to as a "HOMOSEXUAL SLAVE TRADER". Suffice it to say, these are not guys that had what could be called a positive experience with the record industry.

Amusingly, around the same time that the "Cold Currentz" album was released Pallas actually pressed new copies of the "Listen Up / Synopsis" 12" which I can assume was a less than subtle fuck you toward Erule's new venture - or less sinister just an attempt to make more money on an artist that was at one point under contract with their label.

To this day, I don't know that there have been clear answers gleamed about the situation with Pallas. Erule and his camp certainly made their position known, and other than a website that only exists in the cache on Archive.org Pallas Records seems to be entirely dead, so I doubt that any counterpoint from their side is even possible. I'm not sure that there would be any value to continuing that exchange either way. The Pallas record never came out, and all bluster aside, I highly doubt that the "Cold Currentz" album made anyone rich.

So here we are, approaching 16 years since the summer when the "Listen Up" single debuted, and we're no closer to hearing what was recorded during those Pallas years. Erule has made infrequent guest spots on other rappers's songs both before and after the release of the "Cold Currentz" album. His one solo effort being the painfully titled 2008 single "Please Listen To My Demo"



Here we go again. Fantastic song - but you can't buy it! As far as I can tell, there was no conventional release of this song, no 12", no promo cd's, nothing. Just the above video.

Considering Erule's career and inability to find any significant traction in the record industry, there is a certain amount of powerlessness that I'm left with feeling as a fan. The way that it's supposed to work is that I use my wallet to support artists that I appreciate. In Erule's case however, it's been nearly 10 years since he's released anything, so how do I support his career? What can I do?

It seems clear to me that this is a man who is supposed to be MC'ing - the guy was born to do it. And be clear - there is a vast difference between the craft that exists in the composition of one single verse of any Erule song and what passes for "rapping" nowadays as it continues to be abused in pop music. This is an art form. That is a mockery.

But what do you do when major label record company politics prevent your album from being released? What happens when it seems as though the window for "making it" in the music business seems to be closing? Do you continue pushing towards a goal that seems entirely unobtainable? How much do you sacrifice in the name of art? How long do you put the rest of your life on hold to chase your dreams? How do you prevent the bitterness of failure from impacting the art you love?

Obviously, all these questions are rhetorical, and it isn't for me to provide the answers. I would like to think that in 2010, someone of Erule's pedigree could use the various social networking tools to get their name out pretty easily and build some buzz. Sadat X from legendary East Coast group Brand Nubian advertises on Twitter his reasonable rates for feature appearances, which to me is absolutely genius. If I was an up and coming rapper, given the opportunity why wouldn't I want someone of that stature on my record? And for Sadat, he's able to find a way to stay working some 20 plus years into a career in an industry that quite literally chews people up.

This morning I sat my 3 year old daughter on my lap and we watched the Listen Up video that I've linked above. Someday I'll tell her the story of when I first bought the "Listen Up" promo tape at a long since out of business record store for the tidy sum of 99 cents. Whether Erule's Pallas record ever gets released or not, the "Listen Up / Synopsis" single remains a record that will always be important to me, and who's value exists above all the record industry bullshit that accompanied it's release. Going forward, whether Erule wants to release any new music or not, I'm still going to be here, and I'm still going to be Listening.

Postscript - below are scans of the entire LA Underground article.













20 comments:

Iain said...

First comment!!! What!!!

Ike Diamonds said...

1) His all CAPS manifesto was AWESOME. I'd love to see the whole thing sometime.

2) Erule not having a record deal while Lil Wayne is selling millions of records just makes me hate everyone else in the world.

Deven Morgan said...

Shit - forgot to include this in the original post. Here is something from the February 1995 issue of industry magazine CMJ New Music Monthly, which references a "late January" release date. Now, I'm assuming that this February magazine probably went to press sometime in December, which makes the possibility of a "late January" release date make more sense - and also defines it as an even 15 years since that date passed.

http://books.google.com/books?id=IS0EAAAAMBAJ&lpg=PA25&ots=kOJWYx2Un7&dq=%22pallas%20records%22%20erule&pg=PA25#v=onepage&q=%22pallas%20records%22%20erule&f=false

Also hyped in that issue of CMJ: Portishead, Danzig, Veruca Salt, Black Sheep, Townes Van Zandt and something called the "Ringo Music Notification Service" (catchy right?!) which essentially was the 1995 equivalent of Last.fm / Pandora, but only functioned over email.

THE SIX2SIX SHIFT said...

Man , a day late and a dollar short .. I remember buying that issue of Rap Pages and was thinking that the west coast rap scene was really on some as we used to say NEXT Sh*t !! Word, i feel you on this . I was hoping Fab did'nt do that ??... I would love to put out any unreleased material by ERULE on Vinyl and re-establish his name correctly (collectors would love that) .. Cold Currentz did have a few bright spots though .. Good read and Thanks

THE SIX2SIX SHIFT said...

Hey Deven , just thinking out loud. That album Pallas slept on needs to be heard.Who owns that company?? Really looking at Fab in a different light .. DAMN!!!

Deven Morgan said...

I did some more digging, and the "Matsuo" that is mentioned in the infamous Cold Currentz liner notes is actually a reference to both a company called Matsuo Inc and likely a guy named Hiroshi Matsuo who I'm assuming is the label owner. He was listed as a Co-Exec Producer on the Bushwackass album, which seems like the type of thing that someone who owned the label would do.

http://www.trademarkia.com/pallas-records-74484717.html

It looks like Pallas as a record label was dissolved as of Jul 28, 2010 due to inactivity:

http://appext9.dos.state.ny.us/corp_public/CORPSEARCH.ENTITY_INFORMATION?p_nameid=2187225&p_corpid=2137908&p_entity_name=pallas&p_name_type=%25&p_search_type=BEGINS&p_srch_results_page=0

Amusingly, if you look at the previous corporate registration for Pallas Records, Inc., you'll see the contact person's name as:

http://appext9.dos.state.ny.us/corp_public/CORPSEARCH.ENTITY_INFORMATION?p_nameid=1766784&p_corpid=1696437&p_entity_name=pallas&p_name_type=%25&p_search_type=BEGINS&p_srch_results_page=0

...Keiko Ohashi! Who I can only assume is the "Japanese Hood Rat" also mentioned in the Cold Currentz liner notes!

Unfortunately, I'm not sure that any of that info brings me any closer to figuring out who actually owns whatever was recorded through the label back in the day.

Other than Myspace, I don't know how to contact either Erule or King Born Allah:

http://www.myspace.com/erule

http://www.myspace.com/dagodbornallah

If somebody did an actual release of what was recorded during those Pallas years I've got to think you'd sell every copy you pressed. Shit, I'd buy 3 of them myself.

THE SIX2SIX SHIFT said...

Thought i check back ... thanks for the info Deven . I did indeed find his myspace page and sent him a message. Just wishful thinking , I think most artist from this era find that vinyl is not the way to re-enter or re-establish .I'll will keep on it now that you provided me with Borns myspace address.I try all avenues except going to Pallas . Stay tuned Thanks again Deven

THE SIX2SIX SHIFT said...

Must be getting memory lost in my old age .. i remember in my record store days that Bushwackas came through on a promo visit .They had the weak ass advanced copy of the LP with them.All i kept asking them was about Erule.They almost got the sh@t beat out of them later that evening when they appeared at a local college radio station.Dudes seen me and acted like they knew me LOL Lucky for them i knew the other dudes .. But seriously, i think with Bushwackas living in Brooklyn they could get in the labels ear and show up at the offices. Might of been a little different had Erule been living out East .. who knows? Got to make this happen Thanks

Anonymous said...

i heard listen up few years ago and been wondering when the hell listen to my demo came out good to know it was recent and he still doing stuff. e rule definitely has to be the best rapper nobodies ever heard. every now and then i check back on him. im waiting for you e rule.

Deven Morgan said...

@SIX2SIX SHIFT - That's a hilarious story about the Bushwackas. That "Caught Up In The Game" was kind of dope - Buckwild killed it with the sleigh bells.

I really think that Erule's story is one of the greatest failures of the 90's hip-hop industry, considering how that single was everywhere, but got a commercial release that was so meager as to hardly existed. Just a complete failure of the system. You'd think that even in their own interest, before it was dissolved someone at Pallas would have released the music that was recorded at that time.

I can only hope that means that King Born and or Erule have their own masters, and were able to jack them from Pallas. In that case, I really hope that they respond to your contact.

shawty bogus said...

awwwwwwwwwww, you don't like SNOP, ah well. music is subjective and different strokes for different folks. pallas seemed to have screwed everyone over, look at crucial conflict. they didn't promote jack shit of the second album.

shawty bogus said...

i wanna add one more thing, several years ago pallas was hyping up some compilation they were going to put out of unreleased stuff, i can't remember if there was erule stuff on it or not though cause it was probably 6 years ago and i only was checking for crucial conflict cause thats the music i'm into.

Myron Macklin said...

Great write up. I still have my original Listen Up/Synopsis Cassette. Got Cold Currents as well. I would love it if Erule could take his unreleased joints and put on Bandcamp or something.

Anonymous said...

I used to own Rootz Records in Middletown NY, and I spoke to King Born frequently.(in 2000-2001)I used to buy product from him directly & was trying to orchestrate an instore appearance from Erule. I can vividly remember the conversations I had with King during that time, even spoke to Erule briefly once. They were willing to do the appearance but I was a small business owner that couldn't afford their accomodations. So we continued to speak for a few months and eventually organized a radio interview on Rhythm & Soul Radio in Harlem (City College).King flew into town & they interviewed Erule via phone.Unfortunately, I had to dj an emcee battle in the store that evening & wasn't able to attend the radio show. I never even got to listen to it because the scumbag dj never copied it for me. Apparently, King spoke on Erules interaction with Jarule & described how they had beef.
My last contact with Erule was sometime around January of 2008. We were corresponding through email with regard to him making an appearance on my Cd "Audible Extazee". Erule never responded so I finished the poject without him, sadly enough. I haven't heard from him since, I wish he'd resurface.

Dj Misseda Flow

done said...

this is really great man, i plan readin the rest tommorow, theres so much

Shaun D. aka Wicked said...

This is great, thanks! And I always wondered what the fuck happened to the album?!! I, just like everyone else, loved the single when it dropped in '94. So any updates with all of this???

Anonymous said...

Stopped reading after you called Blood Of Abraham "shitty music". go fuck yourself.

Deven Morgan said...

Dear Anonymous - See, this is what music in 2011 is missing - dedicated fans. Kudos to you sir for riding for a largely forgotten and mostly ignored strange little footnote in the white rapper encyclopedia.

Ike Diamonds said...

I suspect anonymous stopped reading after he dropped out in fourth grade

Anonymous said...

ignored strange little foot note? that's great. i like your writing Devon it's proper - the Bushwackas sleigh bells cut is so fat, what a dope loop too!

peace, A

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