Like most addictions, the seeds of his were sown during the period in which he was most impressionable. As most of Hip Hop’s greats, his heart was captured as a child. His step-brother introduced him to RUN DMC, The Rappin’ Duke (lol), The Fat Boys and whatever other tidbits of Hip Hop he came across in a town where the music was scarce. Born and raised, until the age of 13 in Colorado Springs, CO, no one would have ever imagined he would grow to become a such an avid Hip Hop addict. This man has gone from working in kitchens, maintaining tennis courts to managing photocopy centers; from computer technical support to network administration. No matter what he’s done to support himself, there’s always been a burning desire to contribute more than spare time to honing his skills & contributing to Hip Hop’s legacy. Forsaking the first academic scholarship awarded to a member of his family. He dropped out of Hampton University much to his loved ones’ dismay in 1993.
He recalls the first time he ever produced a track. “My first beat was made with an old hand-me-down Panasonic turntable and a pair of tape decks. I was making pause loop tapes before I knew what they were. The first “beat” was a piano loop from a Bobbi Humphrey slab sprinkled with James Brown and Aretha Franklin chops. I’m not normally one to brag but the beat was nasty for a first considering the tools I had at my disposal at the time.” His official journey into the world of production began during his last semester at Hampton University when he was introduced to a four track computer program, on what he believes was an Amiga computer. One of his suite mates and first musical mentor, Rashid Mayes (aka Dark Matter), became his first regular working partner in rhyme. With Rashid he met and worked with a number of artists from all over the US who lived in Hampton at the time along with Rashid’s team from his home, Columbia, Maryland. It was at this time, after staying in Hampton a year after dropping out, he dabbled with what he calls ‘freestyling at its worst’ alongside production he began to see Hip Hop as a potential way to survive while doing what he loved most. Although he was a writer and rhymed a little in high school, he never had the nerve to show his skills or consider music as an option for his livelihood. At the end of his stay in Hampton he received what he considered his call to return to the DC Metro area.
On a visit home to Maryland, he caught up with those he considers family and picked up copies of the songs that would alter his life. Tarkwan (Long Axe) & True Understanding (Jim Kelly), then known as “Subject Matter” had recorded their most professional sounding package. Along with their package was the seminal vinyl release “Super Brothers” from a DC based group by the name of Actual Facts, of which his next most influential musical mentor, Father Lord, was a member. “The four songs from the “Super Brothers” single are still an inspiration to this day”, he admits. “That record put the nail in the coffin”. His addiction was incurable at this point.
He moved back home to his mother’s basement and began making trips to Lord’s house, known as “The Temple”, which would become the birthplace and home of “Tha Beggas”. He credits Long Axe for opening the door for him to secure his position as a Begga. It was in the alley behind The Temple that he spit his first rhyme for the other members and officially earned his spot. From that point on he focused primarily on rhyming although his passion was production. “There was just one ASR in the crew and Father Lord & Bolo had the most experience so the crew needed them to put in more time than me, so my production contributions were limited. I did a beat for a song featuring Lord called “Zen Master” and one for Actual Facts “Wen Tzu” and that was about it. But I was constantly watching and picking up production tips from Lord & Bolo.” Lord returned to the essence in the midst of Tha Beggas preparing for the release of their first single “Super Natural”, which Yukon Black, then known as Short Axe was featured on.
In 1997, after the single was released Tha Beggas continued to work but Yukon Black (Short Axe) eventually pulled a disappearing act to, unbeknownst to him at the time, grow as an individual and musical force. In his absence, Tha Beggas went on to contribute the phenomenal “On The Strength” to Wu Tang’s gold selling “The Swarm Vol. 1.” Shortly after the albums release, many of the remaining members of the group dispersed to follow different paths. Since the time of his disappearance, he spent countless hours in his mother’s basement bolstering his proficiency with the ASR-10 and laying a new foundation for his production. He began to work with Ooh Aah again and years later rejoined forces with Black Lotus. The team worked together to build what he says is “what we need to move forward and finish what we started; to have our page written in the official history of Hip Hop and honor the legacy of those who aren’t physically with us today.”
Yukon Blacks’ peculiar, off and on reclusive nature often conflicts with his desire to rhyme. “I don’t like crowds, or too much direct attention but I love to write and lay ‘em down from time to time”, he reveals. “Especially, since I’ve learned to creatively discuss situations in my life. In the past just about every rhyme was written in attack mode.” His constant evolution as a person, MC and producer, “or multi personality disorder”, he jokes, explains his ever-growing list of aliases. “To name a few, I’ve got ‘Short Axe’ for a quick short-bursted one liner rhyme style, ‘Overdose’ addresses my addiction to music, ‘Shadow King’ deals with my affinity for anonymity, ‘Blackie Chan’ (since 98 – before “White Chicks” was even a script, I bet…lol) is comedic, ‘Yukon Black’ is kinda funny, it was inspired by hearing old drinking stories from my uncles that sometimes included the liqueur Yukon Jack. It’s a sick tribute my family and also my way of recognizing and calling out my distant nature as a person and artist.”
He cites DJ Premier, Marly Marl, Diamond, Large Professor, Timbaland & Dr. Dre as just a few of his ongoing list of production influences, outside of past & present collaborators. He credits artists such as RUN DMC, Rakim, Public Enemy, The Native Tongues, The Juice Crew, Jay-Z, and GZA for his rhyming inspiration. His aspirations for future collaborations include M.O.P., Busta Rhymes, Nas, Jay-Z, Mos Def and a million others. He sees this as his time to finally complete his musical goals. Yukon Black leaves with this final quote “I already missed my chance to make an impression alongside Father Lord and ODB. I feel I’m still only working with less than 10% of my potential…I gotta see what’s gonna come out when I hit overdrive. I also need to show my son that your destiny is determined by your actions and your dreams are achievable through planning and execution.”