By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
Fort Worth's Erotic D swims with some of the biggest fish in rap. A veteran of controversial industry figure Suge Knight's Death Row Records, Erotic has worked with Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg, rapped with the group Life After Death, and gone on to a successful career producing other acts like D.O.C. (his 1994 album Helter Skelter) and MC Breed. A big name locally, constantly working with area acts at his studio Da Blackhole, Erotic took a tip from old boss Knight--whom no one has ever accused of slacking off the business end of his music--and formed his own record company. He's also working on a solo album.
Although far from done--release isn't planned until after summer--a listen to the rough mixes of Beyond 2000 reveal Erotic to have pulled off a neat feat: He's revitalized the rock/hip-hop genre, adding new layers of both sound and meaning, while keeping his street cred. As a result, Beyond 2000 won't alienate hardcore rap fans who might accuse other boundary stretchers like the Fugees of diluting the music--it has the bounce and the edge to pull buyers into the stores, but is deep enough to reward repeated listens. The album has a cinematic feel, with a sense of stories and scenes--street-corner vignettes, riots, philosophical snippets--passing by with the music, and there's a thematic link to the impending millennium and the need for action that runs underneath everything.
"That comes from my craziness," Erotic says. "Especially about movies. I've always been fascinated with sound and how it fits with the story of a movie, with its subject matter. I think an album should make people see what they're hearing, so I put those little scenes in between tracks--people talking or whatever--for the visual effect. It gives me a release for my crazy mind, and it lets movie people know that I can score soundtracks on my own."
The millennium theme predicts great change, confusion, and conflict; throughout, warnings are issued against joining "the new world order" as the sounds of upheaval--sirens, gunshots, screams--rage in the background. "I don't go to church a lot," Erotic says when asked about the origins of these ideas. "But I read a lot about it, all those books that tell you about the prophecies, the Illuminati, Armageddon, the Masons and all that. In fact, that's about all I read."
As a result, Beyond 2000 is gritty, but more than just gat-waving, stiff-dick boasting and generic ho songs, a change that Erotic feels the entire industry will have to make sooner or later. "I'm trying to put rap onto a new way," he says. "That gangsta stuff is over with; it's been said and done. If you were real, would you be telling motherfuckers that you shot somebody? No. Not if you really did. Besides, even if you are a gangsta, you still have got to show some skill [on the music]."
Erotic believes that the mainstream of rap is hidebound by ignorance. "A lot of people don't know how to get out of all that [cliche]," he says. "What these new rappers don't know is that with an act like that, everybody is going to try and beat your ass. Then they go to a new town and start doing that gangsta shit. They try you at home; you know they're going to try you out of state."
Erotic chafed under the notoriously self-interested Knight. "Suge was always talking about me doing stuff, but it was always when they wanted me to," he says. "I got tired of waiting on 'em." As a result, he's formed E-World Entertainment, a company with six other artists (Lotsa Lotsa, Mz. Allen, 6-2, Trauma Black, Spandoo, and Sophronia James) on the roster in addition to Erotic. E-World's first release will probably be a compilation album featuring the whole stable, followed by Beyond 2000, but Erotic has other irons in the fire, including a reunion with DJ Snake (Nemesis) to work on the follow-up to Poets and Gangsters. "We're still ironing out the partnership," Erotic explains.
In the meantime, he has a new TV show, called The Erotic Hour, which airs twice weekly from the B side of your cable box. "We're going to play videos, but there's a lot more to it than that," he says. "We're going to do sitcom-type stuff, interviews, everything like regular TV, but with the 'hood in there, straight ahead and uncensored. We're about to put things in the proper light and perspective in the rap game."
The Erotic Hour airs on channel 25B Tuesdays at 7 p.m. and Thursdays at 7:30 p.m.
Johnny Hicks, 1919-1997
Johnny Hicks, the man who guided and came up with the name for the influential music program Big D Jamboree that dominated--for a time--entertainment life in Dallas, died at the age of 78 in Carmel, California, on April 9. Hicks returned to Dallas and radio station KRLD after World War II as right-hand man to Pappy Hal Horton, a popular and important radio personality and programmer. After Horton died, Hicks became responsible for all of KRLD's "hillbilly" (as country and western was called then) programming and had his own show, the make-or-break Hillbilly Hit Parade. The Jamboree had started around 1946 at Ed McLemore's Sportatorium as the Texas State Barn Dance; when, in 1948, KRLD began to broadcast the Sportatorium show, Hicks--by then one of the show's producers--came up with the new name. "It was kind of euphonious, and it stuck," Hicks would later say.