As was reported here at HipHopDX last week, comedy legend and former sitcom star Bill Cosby has financed the recording of a profanity-free positive Hip Hop album [click here to read].
HipHopDX recently caught up with Ced Gee, one of the musical maestros commissioned to provide production for the project, to get the lowdown on just what the Hip Hop community should expect to hear from a rap album overseen by the 70-year-old former Pudding Pop-peddling television dad.
While Cos may make an unlikely musical partner for Ced, the man who provided the sonic foundation for his legendary group Ultramagnetic MC’s [click to read], and the oversexed stylings of lead emcee Kool Keith, and who also helmed the majority of the archetypal east coast gangsta rap album, Boogie Down Productions’ 1987 debut, Criminal Minded, insists the purveyor of wholesome family values actually enjoys the sound of the now generation. He simply wants it presented in a less offensive way.
“[Bill Cosby’s] opinion was he always liked Hip Hop, [but] he didn’t like the direction that it turned to because it was all about destroying your community, destroying your people,” said Ced to DX. “It [became] glorifying poverty. So he said, ‘It’s time to [do something].’ And you gotta give him credit, people just criticize [Hip Hop] but won’t do nothing about it. He’s actually saying, ‘Okay, I’m gonna try to show them [the music] can be done another way.’”
Ced came to find himself working on a Cosby-sponsored rap album thanks to Bill “Spaceman” Patterson, the composer/musician who in addition to his work crafting music for all of Cosby’s television projects, played on many Hip Hop artists releases, including several Ultramagnetic songs, “from ‘Pluckin Cards’ to [a bunch] of [our] records,” noted Ced.
Longtime friends, Spaceman brought in Ced to bring Cosby’s vision for a less vulgar rap release to fruition. And according to Ced, that task required the talents of more than just your average trackmaster.
“[Cosby] just didn’t need cats who know how to do beats, he needed people who know how to work with people,” Ced explained. “Because he had a vision [for the project] and would sit us all down – musicians, artists – and he would say, ‘This is what I want.’ He would just describe like the mood he would want the song to catch. Like, he would say, ‘I want the beat to be like this.’ Not the pattern, but he would say the way he want it to hit people. Then he would say, ‘I want the lyrics to be about this kid who’s selling drugs and he don’t know no other way.’”
Two former gang members, Jace The Great from Newark and Brother Hahz from Brooklyn, who befriended Cosby at a town hall meeting in Newark, were charged with the task of providing those street stories sans the typical crude presentation.
“But it’s real,” Ced assured of their clean raps. “Somehow the game went into you had to curse on every record. If you go back and you listen to the Rakim’s, the Kane’s, Ultra, there was very little cursing, but it was [still] hard. The newer cats mainly just didn’t really…could be either, don’t know how to express themselves or just [can’t be] as clever putting words together [without cursing]. They have a limited range of words.”
Ced also assured that in addition to the album’s subject matter remaining real, so too did its backdrops. Having a hand in the production of just about every track, Ced ensured that Cosby’s lifelong affinity for Jazz music didn’t prevent the album from retaining a rawer contemporary Hip Hop sound.
“It’s a little of everything,” said Ced of the CD’s sounds. “It has some of the old elements, but its progressive. It’s totally Hip Hop. I mean, there’s 808’s coming at you [in some of the songs]. [Cosby] loves the music, and he says the music is so real, so powerful. I was surprised when he was telling me he liked them dirty south boomin’ 808’s.”
While the Cos seems to have warmed up to the sound of today’s Hip Hop, Ced’s appreciation for the direction the music has taken has cooled off. And although he is already in the process of returning to a less family-friendly vibe to that of the Cosby album, organizing the next Ultramagnetic MC’s project, he insists his musical intentions are not parallel to those of his ’08 rap peers.
“The thing with Ultra was we always just did what we wanted,” Ced explained. “There wasn’t no one direction. We would do a ‘Message From The Boss’ and then we’d do a ‘Porno Star.’ [But] like [Cosby] said, it’s gotten to the point where something has to be done. And as you can tell, with the trend the music is in now, that other phase is dying down now. The well is drying up on the shiny bling, money, money, I’m shooting everybody [rhymes]. That window is closing.”
And with that window closing, Cosby’s attempt at opening up a new way in which we look out at the Hip Hop landscape might just let some much needed fresh air into the game, as Ced keenly observed, “I don’t know what it is [Hip Hop needs], but it’s time for something else. And this might be it.”
Cosby Narratives Vol. 1: State of Emergency is due for release next month.