The name C.R.A.C. Knuckles sounds like a punishing device; an instrument capable of turning flesh to pudding. Figuratively this could be true, but in literal sense C.R.A.C. Knuckles is the collaboration of two of hip-hop’s most promising minds; Detroit veteran Ta’Raach and Los Angeles native and 2007 Rookie of the Year Blu. With respectively different styles both artists have proven to hold their own individually, but under C.R.A.C. they become a bludgeoning force, musically speaking.
The former label mates used music to meld a friendship, and in a “seven day lockdown” crafted together a bold and radiant debut creatively titled The Piece Talks. Produced entirely by Ta’Raach, who also splits rhyming responsibilities with Blu, The Piece Talks strays from the modern hip-hop mold, utilizing a fresh palette of sounds and concepts. If there is way to be dead serious and serious fun, C.R.A.C. has found the formula, with music that passes along the same energy and amusement to the listener.
It’s a special pairing indeed with a buzz that is increasingly nearing the groups potential. While the masses have to wait until April for The Piece Talks, Sacramento is getting an early taste with their February 16th performance at Silk. More of a party than the typical rap show, C.R.A.C. will undoubtedly prove that the above exclamations were not made in vein and abstractly bring the pain through joy.
For starters can you guys explain what the name C.R.A.C. stands for, and what made the name suitable/relevant to you both?
Blu: C.R.A.C. means Collect.Respect.Anna.Check. The name is more based on the acronym, but the actual word “crass,” which is how the name is pronounced, was how Ta’Raach described our mentality towards the industry at the time. It was like we showed very little respect for the state of hip-hop, and more so towards the “powers that be” in the industry. We took that mentality into the way we approached the album and when we finished it sounded like we were a bunch of assholes”¦I mean, C.R.A.C.holes.
Ta’Raach: We figured out a way of exploiting the reputation and having it make sense. It’s sometimes a needed behavior to be a C.R.A.C.hole. It almost serves as a manager, filtering all the clowns and groupies out of the mix in order to get something accomplished. If people know or believe that you are no-nonsense person, they step correct and with checks. At that time, and even still, I represent that to the fullest. It’s only one aspect of me, but it is unfortunately enforced more than usual due to the lack of professional “artists” and “labels” that beat you in the head with personal perspectives instead of some action and results.
When did the idea to form C.R.A.C. come about?
Blu: C.R.A.C. came about in November of 2005. Ta’Raach and I decided to do a lock-in. Basically, we didn’t leave the apartment for seven days. We set up ProTools and ‘Raach hooked up the MPC and we went for gusto and finished an album in seven days”¦ And we ended the mission with an eviction notice.
Ta’Raach: The lock-in was so that Blu and I could get some work done. We had never really worked together so it was a great opportunity to learn more about each other and catalog it simultaneously. During the lock-in, we created the name C.R.A.C., which was based off of what we wanted to accomplish by working with each other; collect respect anna check…. consistently.
Can you compare C.R.A.C. to other rap duos, or any other groups, and provide examples for the comparison?
Blu: I would say ‘Raach is Andre 3000 to me being Big Boi as far as raps go, and since he produced and rapped on the album, ‘Raach is more the Erick Sermon to me being the Parish Smith”¦even though we traded roles on our cover of their song “You Gots to Chill.”
Ta’Raach: To me we are a mixture of Outkast and The Beatles. The material is energetic and fun loving, but very grounded in personal experience. The reality is “shit is real,” and with that understanding life unfolds into something beautiful. Take that reality add vivid adventure and thought provoking street jargon (Outkast) over some grizzly, live programmed musicianship (The Beatles), and you have lemonade”¦ C.R.A.C. style.
It sounds like you guys are coming with a different sound than what we’ve heard from your solo careers. Was there a vibe or sound you guys were striving to get? And with that, what made you go in that direction?
Ta’Raach: Sonically I wanted to take a Bomb Squad approach to the songs, but once we got into it the songs the ideas just developed themselves. I would just run beats like, “Yeah?! No?!” But I definitely wanted to go dirty since Detroit developed such a reputation for like a neo-soul sound. I wanted a more left sound than that brought to you by J Dilla, so I naturally gravitated to a dirty, cultish rock sound, but rooted it in breaks and programming. We tried to polish it up a little but it is what it is.
What was a typical studio session like during the recording of the album? Any funny stories you can share?
Blu: For me blunts, cloves, E&J chased with Big Fizz Cola, Clock Work Orange or Sun Ra videos playing in the background”¦ Fucked up sleeping schedules, Subway and/or Burger King.
Ta’Raach: Sessions would go as follows: bottles E&J (not fresh in retrospect); Blu and company smoking blunt, after blunt, after another blunt sun up to sun down; writing and recording and producing. No one leaves until it’s produced, written and cut, period. This lasted for seven days. Don’t try this at home. Mr. Big Fizz Cola doesn’t go well with E&J. It’s just asking for trouble.
Detroit and LA seem to mesh well when it comes to music, shown recently by you two. Are there similarities in the cities that would make sense of that, or can you explain why that is?
Ta’Raach: Well, Detroit being in the Midwest, we’re influenced from both sides of the continent. So where we have the heavy bass lines brought to us by West Coast, but we also have the sample programming abilities of the East. Blu and I are middle-of-the-road artists, so it’s like, “Where you wanna go this time?” It’s easy.
Finish the sentence, “I love this rap game because…”
Blu: Rappers used to get all the ladies, and I don’t know why anymore. But now I love it ’cause it makes me feel like I’m 18 all the time, which can be a bad thing, but it’s my definition of the fountain of youth.
Ta’Raach: I don’t love this rap game. I love the game of life. Music helps me put it in perspective to move forward in harmony. Writing and producing is how I create the cycles for a harmonious success. One extreme leads to another, and what goes around comes around right? I love life, not rapping and beats. That’s just a part of it.
And god bless I’m good at it, too.