KMD (Kause Much Damage) was a heavily political 90’s hip-hop group made up of 3 African American men.
Zev Love X
Onyx, The Birthstone Kid
And DJ Subroc.
The names don’t seem very familiar, in fact at first glance they may seem like just a few New York kids looking to make it big in the cut throat 90’s rap scene, but it wasn’t until DJ Subroc’s untimely death (he was hit by a car on a Long Island highway) that the most people began to feel the throaty, deep rhymes of the group’s most gifted wordsmith.
Zev Love X was devastated by the loss of DJ Subroc, the London born Long Islander’s talented younger brother. So much so that after the DJ’s tragic death Zev dropped out from the Hip-Hop scene, living, in his own words “damn near homeless” for almost 3 years. While this was happening the newly released Bl_ck B_st_rds, KMD’s sophomore release was gaining a following in the dark NYC underground and, though B_st_rds was the album that got KMD dropped from Elektra records, its release on Sub Verse records sold numerous copies around the Atlantic coast.
But bad things have a way of turning around and Zev found his way back into the rap scene with the help of a Marvel comic book and metal face.
Bl_ck B_st_rds features some of the most controversial album art the “conscious hip-hop” scene ever released. The art depicts a Negro cartoon character being hanged from the gallows, like in a game of hangman, beneath him are the words Black Bastards (missing the A’s). The cartoon was the fuel that forced Elektra to drop the group from its roster, despite whatever talent the actual record displayed. And the talent was certainly there. Subroc’s beats foreshadow the smooth, dark funk tracks his brother became known for with his first release (Operation Doomsday), but with a distinguished party edge. It’s obvious that indie rap god Madlib took a huge influence from Subroc’s fascination with vintage, heavily distributed samples. Songs often begin and end with the sounds and feels of the New York 1940’s and 1950’s. On Plumskinz, Zev begins, with smooth verses riding along on a bassy rhythm straight out of the 20’s swing scene. Though his voice is much higher than it is from under the mask, Love has rhymes that almost scream “I’m MF DOOM”.
Originally Posted by Zev on Skinz
Beware the grocer when ya crush em with your thumbs though (oh")
See no grocer wants bruised plums yo (so")
Once bruised one time, 'tis forgotten
And once the plums is rotten, the skinzz'll cut your gums
At the corner store a sign reads, "For Sale: Plumskinzz Fruit Cocktail"
Only ones runnin to the corner is pale males
Open all night, the corner plumskinzz is stale
Zev’s vocals now and then are like the difference between Subroc’s production and his own. On one hand we have a slightly naïve Party-influenced side of music, while on the other we have a deep, dark, refined voice. Its obvious Zev took huge influence from NWA’s Easy E, as well as A Tribe Called Quest’s Q-Tip, while DOOM has a much more original and influential delivery.
Onyx has a very similar voice to MF, or at least at this stage. The birthstone kid’s tone is another mixture of ATCQ and NWA, but with more of Easy’s squeal and less of Tip’s deep flow. Onyx, on his own, backed by a jazzy beat like on Plumskinz II sounds almost feminine, another thing he shares with E (when he isn’t Straight Outta Compton). He has an extremely extensive vocabulary, but that takes the back seat to his sexed up drawl on many an occasion. But it’s when Onyx and Love have their oft hilarious trade-offs that we really see the extensive talent hidden underneath each weave of samples, bass and drums. *** With Your Head features some of the groups most electrifying rhymes and group work ever. Even Subroc gets in a verse to the end of the song, with some extremely choice word play proving the DJ has just as much skills as either of his band mates.
Originally Posted by DJ Subroc
Mr. Roc the cock blocker, bullet blocker
With the tears I give ya fears I'm the eardrum knocka
Villain, I knocked 'em out to the head
I used the 'chete so he didn't pull the bullet instead
Overall the record is a sometimes tasteful, sometimes filthy east coast explosion. The style has influenced more underground rappers today than almost any one else. Each member brings a new flavor into the collective, be it Onyx’s rhymes, Zev’s flow or Subroc’s extensive collection of samples and rhythms. Bl_ck B_st_rds is as much a fitting end to one life as it is the beginning of another. If Operation Doomsday is the Fellowship of the Rings, then Bastards is undoubtedly hip hop’s Hobbit.