In the mid '90's Raw Produce helped to re-establish the artistic merits of independent hip-hop. At a time when major labels dominated the landscape, Pitch (Damian Roskill) and Cadence (Seth Boyd) independently released three classic singles featuring sophisticated production, strong lyrical content and a sense of humor and intelligence lacking in much of the music of the day. They were poised to build on the momentum of their initial success when the death of Cadence's mother and subsequent death of Pitch's father drew them away from the studio. Not content to end their story there, Raw Produce has worked through many obstacles to complete their debut album "The Feeling of Now".
In 1990, Pitch had recently graduated from the University of Massachusetts and was recording music with Mike Ladd (then an aspiring rapper). Pitch and Ladd were focused on creating intelligent hip-hop with musically complex production. Drawing heavily on unusual sources. Their distinctive sound blended traditional hip-hop with such diverse musical forms as jazz, Gregorian chant and Indian film music.
Cadence was a classmate of Ladd's at nearby Hampshire College. In addition to DJing at local events, his "Hip-Hop Soul" show, broadcast on Amherst College's WAMH radio, was bringing hip-hop to western Massachusetts. Hip-hop was already beginning to move past its political awakening of the late 80's, and as the influence of major record labels and the business of sample clearance began to grow, Cadence tried to give exposure to the decreasing number of artists producing creative, thought-provoking music. An avid record collector, Cadence was looking for an outlet for his production ideas. Despite limited access to production and recording equipment, he began work on a project with Latino rapper CIA (Chicano in Action), a mutual acquaintance of his and Ladd's.
In January of 1991, Ladd invited Cadence to DJ for he and Pitch at their debut performance, a house party in Northampton, MA. Billed as "The Brothers Felonious" the group performed several of Pitch and Ladd's songs with Pitch at the sampler, Cadence on turntables and Ladd providing vocals. CIA joined the performance with several verses from the songs he had been working on with Cadence.
Though Pitch and Cadence had only met at the previous day's rehearsal session they had already discovered common ground in their musical tastes and had begun to discuss ideas that would lead them into the studio to produce tracks for the group, which proceeded as "The Coalition," a multi-ethnic group which grew to include a number of local MCs.
The basement tapes .
The Coalition enjoyed success locally, opening for such acts as De La Soul, Boogie Down Productions, and Black Sheep, but the group's identity was shifting. The group grew to 5 MCs (including an MC/DJ then known as The Devil's Advocate, now known as DJ Revolution of "Wake Up Show" fame), with each MC writing and recording independently over tracks produced by Pitch and Cadence. Borrowing a page from Public Enemy's "Bomb Squad," Pitch and Cadence adopted the name "Raw Produce" to distinguish themselves as a production team.
With CIA releasing a single on a local label and Ladd and DJ Revolution shopping demo tapes produced by the pair, Raw Produce was happy to remain behind the control panel. However, after several rappers missed recording sessions the group recorded the Cadence penned "Sad State of Affairs" with Cadence and Pitch sharing the vocals. Encouraged by the response to the song, Cadence and Pitch began to write and record their own material.
In 1993 they moved to the Boston area. It was a return home for Cadence, who grew up in Cambridge, Mass., and Pitch, who grew up in Brooklyn, but had lived in Cambridge as well. Focused on finding a record deal with a major label, the group completed a four-song demo tape. They also shopped themselves to major labels as producers/remixers.
Raw Produce generated some interest, producing a few singles for artists on Tommy Boy records, and nearly landing a deal for the group with a subsidiary of RCA/BMG, but they soon grew disillusioned with the music industry and set their sights on the independent market, launching their own label, Insomnia Records, and releasing their debut single "Cycles" b/w "Make a Mark" in 1995. The single, one of only a handful of independent hip-hop releases available at the time, also included a remix of "Make a Mark" by the Vinyl ReAnimators.
Having pressed 1,000 copies of the single, with no distribution deal in place, the group faced a challenge in spreading the word about their music. With the help of friends, the growing Internet community, and radio support from stations across the country, the group began to receive praise from a number of hip-hop publications. Finally, repeated spins from hip-hop radio legends Bobbito and Stretch Armstrong helped the group land a distribution deal and take their single to a wider audience.
Their next single, "Weight of the World" b/w "Step Inside the Lab" and "Foundation," further established the groups sound: eclectic production with strong lyrical content. The single generated interest across the country and over seas, helping them secure distribution for "Refrigerator Poetry" a six-song EP released in Japan.
In 1998 they returned with "Mister Dope America" b/w "Up All Night." The record was well received, but the deteriorating health of Cadence's mother began to demand his full attention and the group's musical output slowed considerably.
After a year long absence the group re-surfaced on 7L & Esoteric's "State of the Art," a blazing posse cut which featured Cadence, Esoteric, Akrobatik and CheckMark of The Skitzofreniks, all heavyweights in Boston's respected hip-hop scene. Originally released on DJ Revolution's "R2K" the song's credits were omitted from the albums cover art, leaving many unaware that Raw Produce was responsible for producing the song. This problem was remedied with the release of 7L & Esoteric's debut album "The Soul Purpose."
Unfortunately, family responsibilities would again take precedence over music with the illness of Pitch's Father. Though they were determined to finish their album, they would have to wait.
Now, with their recently completed album 'The Feeling of Now" Raw Produce is set to begin the next chapter in their story.
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