Before they were legends
Brought to you by Jack Daniel's
You’ve no doubt heard your folks harp on about how The Doors’ L.A Woman totally changed their lives maaaan – but what about the album you’ll be talking about in decades to come? With the help of Jack Daniel’s, we’re looking into our crystal balls and forecasting a bunch of music moments, sounds, people, places and creative ideas that could become a future legend.
With the possible exception of North West, most people aren’t born legends: even mortals destined for greatness must first discover their craft. Once found, they work at it. They toil away in obscurity, making elementary choices, questionable decisions, and learning valuable lessons about craft and boundaries. They learn from their mistakes. Then, when it’s finally all coming together, they unleash their art to the world and quickly move on to become call centre managers. Others, though, become legends. FL rakes through the technological detritus of the internet to bring you glimpses into a bygone era. An era when musicians we now know on a single name basis were struggling to be recognised. A more genteel time. A naive time. A time… before they were legends.
Would it shock you to know that before Eminem became one of the most controversial and Greatest Rappers Of All Timeâ„¢, he was a little immature? For a time in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, Marshall Mathers (then going by the moniker M&M) was a member of Soul Intent, a Detroit rap crew who self-released close to a dozen tracks over three EPs. While some of those songs have been in circulation for a while, recently a particularly memorable early cut was uncovered by a Reddit user. ‘Pooh Butt Day’ features a sixteen-year-old Eminem rapping alongside collaborator Chaos Kid. Allegedly recorded in 1988, ‘Pooh Butt Day’ has the pair rapping about piss, pubes, and, yes, butts. In case you need reminding, Eminem is the highest selling rapper of all time.
In 1994 Joseph Abajian (DJ Jab) opened the Fat Beats record store on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. With a focus on vinyl and rap, Fat Beats quickly became a New York mecca for all things hip-hop. In 1996 business was doing so well that the shop relocated to a bigger location on 6th Avenue. To celebrate the occasion, Beats hosted a party featuring a bevy of rappers and DJs both known and unknown, including Al Tariq, Black Attack, Xzibit, Shabaam Sahdeeq, Roc Raida, DJ Spinna and many more. Cut to 2014 and ex-Fat Beats manager DJ Eclipse was trawling through the footage from the day intending on converting it from tape to digital. To his surprise, he recognised one of the unknown hustlers on the mic as a then 19-year-old Kanye West. Up from Chicago to try and make a name for himself, a volatile Kanye spits bars in his best canary polo shirt before handing the mic off to Beatnuts member Al Tariq.
West would have to bide his time for the remainder of the ‘90s, putting his own raps aside while producing for others. After some moderate successes, in 2000 he landed gigs producing in-house for the Roc-A-Fella stable, where his big break came working on Jay-Z’s hugely successful The Blueprint LP. It wasn’t until 2004, however, that West was taken seriously as a rapper in his own right, with his highly-acclaimed debut, The College Dropout.
Dave Grohl might have the most formidable resume of anyone in rock. Currently the frontman of Foo Fighters, the (last?) biggest rock band in the world, Grohl first found fame as the drummer for Nirvana, one of the most important and influential rock bands of all time. Grohl’s also played music with Josh Homme in both Queens of the Stone Age and Them Crooked Vultures (alongside John Paul-Jones of Led Zeppelin fame), resurrected Nirvana with Paul McCartney, started making movies (Sound City) and TV shows (Sonic Highways), and is generally the go-to talking head on everything from tangible product to the analogue vs digital debate.
Before all that though, Dave Grohl was an enthusiastic participant of the local punk scene in his hometown of Washington, Virginia. By the time he was 16, Grohl was already a formidable drummer, as evidenced below in clips from his first punk bands Mission Impossible and Dain Bramage. But it wasn’t until he played for the more widely known band Scream, he was noticed by The Melvin’s Buzz Osbourne. And when Osbourne’s friends in Nirvana said they were looking for a new drummer, Osbourne recommended Grohl.
If it seems insane that Yelich-O’Connor was performing so confidently at 12. Consider this: Bjí¶rk released her first solo album when she was 11. Billed under the title of her full name, Bjí¶rk Guí°mundsdí³ttir, upon release in 1977 the record was dismissed as a novelty item. You can hear it here and yes it sounds like a chipmunk singing Eastern-inspired disco. Bjí¶rk first came to record label attention after a recording of her singing Tina Charle’s 1976 hit ‘I Love To Love’ was sent to Iceland’s only national radio station by her music teacher. Meaning this recording is the reason for Bjí¶rk as we know her today:
It’s often thought The Sugarcubes were Bjí¶rk’s first band, but not so. Before that group’s international attention, Guí°mundsdí³ttir was in a variety of bands bouncing around the musically incestuous Icelandic scene, including the wonderfully named Spit and Snot, Kukl, and Cork the Bitch’s Ass. (Yes.) By 1987 The Sugarcubes had formed, their singer Guí°mundsdí³ttir now an industry veteran at the age of 21. With The Sugarcube’s first single ‘Birthday’ receiving worldwide attention, Bjí¶rk was on her way to this.
Considering the immense pressure on musicians to be larger than life, multi-disciplinary entertainers, it makes perfect sense that someone like Twigs would arrive and thrive. Born Tahliah Barnett, Twigs was a professional back-up dancer and dance instructor before she made it in music. Having already appeared in the background of clips for the likes of Jessie J, Ed Sheeran, Kylie Minogue and Taio Cruz, Twigs came to notoriety as a musician after she self-released her music on Bandcamp. Following a clutch of stunning videos to go with, Twigs quickly made a huge impact with her physical live performances, culminating in her US television debut where “she danced with an “air dress. (Her lithe physicality also makes for a unique way to pick up a mic off the floor) Here she is five years ago, at twenty-two, working on dance classes with underprivileged kids in East London.
While it seems insane to be talking about a currently alive 18 year-old as both a legend and in retrospective terms, it’s a good indication of just how fast Lorde’s star has risen. (NB: Lorde was born the same year the above video of Kanye West was filmed.) Even more strangely, Lorde – aka Ella Yelich-O’Connor – can already be considered an industry vet. By the age of 12 Yelich-O’Connor had signed a development deal with Universal and had performed on New Zealand radio with friend Louis McDonald, doing covers of Pixie Lott and Kings of Leon. Yelich-O’Connor was also doing time as a member of high-school band Extreme. In the below video they are at the North Shore Battle of the Bands finals in Auckland, where they came third. (Stick around for the interview with a giddy future-Lorde).
Three years later Lorde would release her debut The Love Club EP, for free, on Soundcloud. Downloaded 60,000 times, Universal quickly decided to release it commercially. In early 2013 the EP landed in the upper reaches of the Australian charts – by mid-year Yelich O’Connor, by then just 17, was No. 1 in the US with ‘Royals’.
Through a series of unique music projects built around real ideas from real talent and real fans, Jack will be providing a platform for people and passion to come together and start shaping and sharing music’s FUTURE LEGENDS. We’d love you to be part of the story, so join us and Explore. More. Music.#jdfuturelegends