A Tall Order: Pure Order Sets its Sights High
“Live and direct from the front lines of Cambodia in Delaware Val/in this 1984 type era we must manifest true hip hop and destroy the establishment of commercial rap…”—Obi Wan Kenobi of the Rebel Alliance on “Watch Your Step”, Boot Camp Clik, For the People, 1997.
Other than the perpetuation of crack cocaine, the infiltration of hip hop could very well be the single greatest achievement of the social, economic, and political order of our times. Teacher Wise (Intelligee the Top Celebrity) already told you that it was not a consequence of history that dramatically subverted the most prominent sound recordings of a generation—the so called hip hop generation—from cultural expressions of empowerment in the late 1980s and early 1990s, to the banal, formless, “entertainment” of the day that is as safe as it is meaningless to any who imbibe it.
Nor is it insignificant that, as the musical element of hip hop became bankable, if not the highest selling form of music that overflowed as naturally into other types of music as it did into the marketing endeavors of almost every vertical and product on the planet, its lyricism became stifled from anthems calculated to “Fight The Power”, to those designed to spur consumerization, degradation, and in many cases, antipathy among common members of historic racial and ethnic minority groups.
The battle, it would seem, had been fought, won, and all but forgotten. The media conglomerations, programming directors—the very mainstream dictates of a nation with no other tradition or mores other than those directly tied to spending money—were declared hands down victors.
The minions, the people, those that begat what was once the last counterculture, only to powerlessly watch as it was wrought into mainstream culture, became the unambiguous losers.
This devolution just so happen to be the very reason for the existence of Pure Order, Southern California’s champions of what is rapidly becoming a lost art form.
“Our mission is to purify hip hop and bring it to the fundamental principles as it was when it originated,” intoned Nemesis, the group’s femcee and de facto arranger for its tunes. “Trying to uphold the culture and bring it back to an honorable state.”
“Always upholding the principles of hip hop; you know, love, peace, unity, having fun, all that,” rejoined God’s Gift, the group’s chief strategist and de facto director of its artistic visions.
“Since you’ve accepted this hazardous mission, you and your team will be equipped with special weapons. Unleashing this force will create devastating consequences. The nomenclature of this weapon is pure sonic energy, blasted through the larynx chamber and the palm of your hands…”—Ghetto Reaper, “Elimination Process”, Gravediggaz, The Pick, The Sickle and The Shovel, 1997.
The majority of artists (let alone groups) existent in today’s climate haven’t missions—formal or otherwise. Nor do they embody the very mechanics of hip hop music prior to its infiltration when, for better or worse, it was young, dangerous, and the voice of the streets. Pure Order, however, has been known to freestyle (particularly Nemesis). The pair ascribes a degree of gravity to the writing of rhymes. It’s arduous to hear a cut—let alone a verse—just once and understand all of the double entendres, internal rhyme schemes, or even just the words that come tumbling out over beats that move well beyond this 85 or lower BPM stuff. Lyricism is prized, the medium itself takes on a surfeit of messages and, most important to the achievement of the mission at hand, there’s a cultural consciousness, and sense of responsibility to the listeners.
“We respect [hip hop] because of what it did for our communities of our people, regardless of style,” Nemesis explained. “We can do any style and make it sound West Coast, or Midwest, or East Coast, as long as [there’s] the principle of uplifting what we do on the microphone, instead of degrading. And, keeping it still creative at the same time.”
The camaraderie between Pure Order’s vocalists is as apparent on their recordings as it is in a 30 minute conversation with a scribe. The rappers oftentimes finish each other’s sentences, extol one another’s strengths, and elicit a commonality that seems integral for actually trying to accomplish something with their musical endeavors, other than just “get money”.
“We met over in the IE (Inland Empire) in San Bernardino,” Nemesis recollected. “I was still in [high] school when we met. We had mutual friends, basically, but we didn’t know we were both into poetry and creative writing. So, we were friends for a while. Then, once I found out he rapped, I started sharing mine too, exchanging like that. There was like little ciphers and all that. And it was like ‘whoa’, we clicked. Our values, and what we wanted from hip hop, was right aligned. So it felt like I could really enforce the mission powerfully with this emcee God’s Gift.”
And if ever there was an emcee to seek to achieve this particular mission, who better than the one who devised the name and initially plotted the direction for the group? Moreover, Gift’s knack for hip hopping actually dates back to the mid and late 1980’s, when he was getting down with The Loot Pack, Mad-Lib, and even some of the Beat Junkies during the seminal period of hip hop endemic to Southern California.
“Me and Wild Child from the Loot Pack, we went to school together,” Gift disclosed. “Mad Lib went to another high school. DJ Romes went to a whole ‘nother high school. But we would all come together over at Madlib’s house. His bedroom was the original Crate Digger’s Palace (CDP). That’s where all that came from. We actually have another buddy of ours named KanKick. His garage was the funk farm where we would all go and make music over there, too. Babu from the Beat Junkies, he’s original funk farm. So we were either at KanKick’s house or Madlib’s house, always building, doing songs and stuff.”
In the waning years of the last millennium, Gift was actually offered a solo recording deal from PB Wolf, the same proprietor that signed the Loot Pack to Stone’s Throw Records. Somewhat disenchanted with the direction of the music industry—and that of good ol’ hip hop, too—he declined, and was content to play the part of the spectator…
Until he got with his potna in Pure Order.
“It wasn’t until I met Nemesis, and we started to build and everything, and she actually encouraged me to get back into doing music again,” Gift added. “We were friends already for a minute, and then she was like, ‘you know, you should do an album’. And then I said, ‘you know, I can, but it wouldn’t be nothing in comparison to what we could do together. So if I go back and start doing music again, it’s gotta be Pure Order, you and me, doing this.’”
The group plans on dropping its debut album over the summer, on the heels of its debut EP, The Sword of Elan Vital, whose first single, “Affinity”, touched down in late March.