Like a voice crying in the wilderness, Joe Con, né Samuel Peyton Hobson, storms straight out of silence with the conviction and mind blowing vision of a man who has been to the mountain and returned, painting vivid landscapes with his poignant poison pen and redefining what it means to be an MC and an artist in 21st century Babylon, a.k.a. America.
Born and raised among the tobacco barns and horse farms of Kentucky, Joe Con immigrated to the Bay Area in 2000 at seventeen and found himself living in the Tenderloin, “where piles of trash contrast the weed smell” and “evil lurks” around every dark corner. It was from this glorious cesspool that Joe Con the doomsday poet and MC sprang up like a lotus out of mud, determined to slip through the cracks of a system he now perceived to be hell bent on subjugating the human spirit and replacing Life itself with man’s polluted image of It. And thank God (in all Her native tongues) he has.
Joe’s debut solo album Awake and Dreaming (Royal Ark Music, spring 2006) is the culmination of years of practicing the craft of leading a writer’s life, it is the full confession of a sinner who would be a saint, it is the first in what we all hope to be a long line of releases from the dopest, rawest realest cat the world has never heard of, and it is quite possibly one of the best hip-hop concept albums ever made. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
With beaucoup appearances throughout the massive two-volume AWAKE Click mix tape set for release this spring/summer, several guest appearances and collaborations yet to be dropped and West/East Coast and European tour dates on the near horizon, 2007 is destined to be the year of the Con.
(PRESS REVIEW) by Lisa Hix for the SF Chronicle, 4/6/06
Joe Con and Awake Clique
This Berkeley rap group calls its music conscientious hip-hop, mixing an anti-war message in songs that strive to enlighten as well as entertain listeners
Thursday, April 6, 2006
MC Joe Conifer -- a.k.a. Joe Con -- is the cockeyed dreamer of Berkeley rap group Awake Clique, speaking in beautiful abstractions. "Awake Clique is about self-annihilation to be reborn in a better way," he says, his blue eyes earnest, a straw hat slightly askew on his head, a harmonica in hand.
Dreadhead producer Dejah Fortune appears to have his feet more solidly on the ground, with a realistic perspective on life in the East Bay.
Young Caveman, a producer who, like Fortune, wears the more standard rap attire -- a black hoodie and beanie -- is quiet and deliberate when he speaks.
This trio makes up the center of Awake Clique, a 10-man music collective. Musically, the group refers to itself as "hard-core conscious hip-hop" because, as Fortune explains it, "Conscious hip-hop has a bad rap as being corny or soft. We want to say we're proud to be knowledgeable and smart without sacrificing our 'masculinity' or whatever you want to call it."
Joe Con, originally from Kentucky, grew up listening to Pink Floyd and Bob Dylan as well as Wu-Tang Clan, Nas and Dr. Dre. He says he's both a born-again Christian and a conscientious objector to the war in Iraq. "We're all about challenging the main perceptions people have about everything," he says. "You have to analyze everything, whether that be the newspaper, what you see on the TV, the words in the holy book."
"Find your own truth," agrees Fortune, who grew up in Oakland listening to Jimi Hendrix and Too Short.
At the Ivy Room, all the members of Awake Clique will perform in various configurations. The collective's first project, Joe Con's "Awake and Dreaming" CD, which recalls the down-tempo grooves of A Tribe Called Quest's "Low End Theory," is due out May 1. Movies, visual arts and perhaps even a clothing line are in the works.
In the Bay Area, the "hyphy" sound is all the rage in hip-hop, which is all about "going dumb" or dancing as though you're out of your mind. "I go smart, that's what I say," explains Fortune, who says he respects where the hyphy movement is coming from.
"We have to expose and enlighten people about bull -- patriotic fervor," pipes up Joe Con. "That's how I get hyphy. They want people to go dumb. But I don't go dumb. I get hyphy and I stay smart. That's why I'm dangerous. That's why Malcolm X was dangerous. That's why Martin L. King was dangerous."
Awake Clique: Ivy Room, 858 San Pablo Ave., Albany. Thu., 10 p.m. Free. 21+. (510) 524-9220. www.ivyroom.com.
Lisa Hix, firstname.lastname@example.org