By Kelly Dearmore
By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
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Their hustle and SXSW performance led to TV spots in Austin and fantastic audience response. Riding that high, they entered and won the TexasGigs.com Mavericks theme song contest.
Enter Idol Records. Owner Erv Karwelis had been talking to Tahiti by phone and e-mail for a couple of years. Though Karwelis didn't see any financial incentive to distribute Tahiti's EP, he kept up with Tahiti and kept track of PPT as the buzz grew. He liked the idea of releasing a CD/DVD package and was impressed by the professional quality of the videos. The impressive video effects, slick editing and genuinely funny comedy bits on the videos and DVD features belie the guys' ability to do it on a shoestring budget. It was a no-brainer decision to sign the group.
"I don't know too many rock bands that could shoot their own video, let alone do nine for an album--and they do in-house production," he enthuses.
Karwelis and the guys agreed to let the album gain momentum locally and regionally, then release it on a national level early next year.
Pikahsso wants Tres Monos in Love to be the shot heard around the world in the battle for men's liberation. This isn't a liberation comparable to women's lib, that outdated term for feminism. God knows men have more than enough freedom compared to women in hip-hop. Rather, it's about emotional liberation on the individual level.
"People are going to listen to this album and say 'Man, I been through that,'" Pikahsso says. "I don't like to be in denial. A lot of people walk around the earth with a lot of emotional dishonesty. They have learned behaviors they've accumulated from birth. You can ruin relationships, you can ruin friendships, you can ruin family relationships if you don't have self-awareness, if you don't have knowledge of self."
Pikahsso wants men to listen to Tres Monos and realize they need to express themselves more: "Get FREE! Get that pain off your chest!" he shouts.
And once that's taken care of, you're gonna need love.
"A woman can complete you, if you got the right woman," he says. "That's what the whole album's about."
But Tres Monos isn't just for men. Women have a lot to learn from it too, he says.
"A lot of women think it's cool to be cold to their men," he says. "They've been misguided and raised the wrong way."
As candid as he is on Tres Monos, Pikahsso opens up even more in his solo material. He still plans to finish Blew Period, the persistently delayed follow-up to 2003's The Best of Clayface Jones. Just as the paintings of his namesake artist Pablo Picasso document the depression he suffered during his Blue Period, the songs from Pikahsso's similarly named album depict his moments of self-doubt and let him get a lot of shit off his chest. He also hopes it helps him cope with childhood issues he still deals with years after he and his mother suffered at the hands of an abusive man, as well as confess and move past his own failures as a father to his daughter, Danae.
Picnic and Tahiti agree that writing songs from such an emotionally honest perspective is refreshing. All three members of PPT use the word "therapeutic" to describe the process.
"When you're a guy, you've gotta be tough," Tahiti says. "Especially if you're a black male. You've got to be super cool, a macho dude. So it's kind of cool to be in a group where you can express things...When I hear guys rapping about how many women they can get, or what kind of cars they got and I know it's not real, it's kind of corny to me."
Tahiti has no problem getting real. He refers to his 2000 divorce and custody split as well as other relationships. "The signs were there, shoulda seen my fate/Seems like every night you're working late/Too much on your plate, you gotta clean your slate/Now you took my only son and moved out of state...You broke my heart without even trying/Now I'm walking in the rain so you can't see me crying," he raps in "Dumps."
Tahiti says he and Pikahsso joke about being the Samuel L. Jacksons of rap, getting a stardom break later in life. And like any break, it will be a combination of chance and hard work. With the recording industry in such a slump, the keys to future success for hip-hop are centered around the nexus of digital distribution, promotion and a reputation for great live shows. This crew works its ass off to cover those three bases--especially with their celebratory, fun-filled live performances. Who knows? They could put DFW hip-hop on the map just through sheer determination and hard work.
Or maybe they'll just get lucky.