2015年7月1日 星期三

[歌手介紹] Arabian Prince (N.W.A)

Mike Lezan,綽號Arabian Prince (或是Professor X),1965年六月17號出生於康普頓、成長於Inglewood,除了是一位製作人、DJ、以及饒舌歌手,最著名的事蹟就是他曾是N.W.A的創始成員之一。
N.W.A原始成員(逆時針方向): Ice Cube, Arabian Prince, Yella, MC Ren, Dr.Dre, Eazy-E


Arabian Prince的父親在當地的Funk電台KACE工作,在耳濡目染之下,Arabian也開始對音樂產生了濃厚興趣,並且在高中的時候嘗試錄製mixtape在街坊販售,也在Gardena一帶擔任DJ到處放歌。某一次在一間洛杉磯的夜店中,Arabian與Uncle Jamms Army (UJA)一夥人相談甚歡,並且隨後加入了他們的行列,在1980年初,UJA可是南加州最紅的電子嘻哈樂團,透過這個機緣,Arabian認識了團體中的許多西岸嘻哈先鋒,像是Ice-T、Egyptian Lover、The Taylor Brothers、DJ Pooh、DJ Slip等等。在這段期間,Arabian隨著UJA以流動(mobile)DJ的形式造訪大大小小的場合放歌。

到了1983年左右,Arabian Prince被 RapSur Records 簽下,這是由Russ Parr (綽號Bobby Jimmy,他後來成為了聞名全美的知名主持人) 所創辦的獨立音樂廠牌。不同於UJA放歌的時期,在RapSur Records裡Arabian Prince實際參與了音樂的製作,80年代早期與Bobby Jimmy & the Critters一同發行許多電子舞曲,像是1984年的"Strange Life" (這是Arabian Prince初試啼聲之作,當時他才19歲)。與Bobby Jimmy & The Critters合作的日子裡,他們最成功的作品包含"We Like Ugly women"以及"Roaches",在1980年代紅極一時。


Bobby Jimmy & the Critters - Roaches (1986)


不久之後,Arabian Prince因緣際會之下結識了Dr.Dre 以及當時Dre所屬的樂團 World Class Wreckin' Cru。在這個時間點,正好是Bobby Jimmy & The Critters聲勢逐漸沒落,年輕的Dr.Dre與Eazy-E野心勃勃的想要組成一個嘻哈團體、準備從Compton闖出一片天。

1986年左右,在Dre等人的遊說之下,Arabian Prince正式加入N.W.A成為創始元老之一。其實最早N.W.A是個非常龐大的組織,Dre用他個人的人脈聚集了各路高手,像是DJ Yella、Ice Cube、The Fila Fresh Crew (其中一位成員就是D.O.C.) 、Candyman (不過他最後沒機會參與錄製任何N.W.A的作品) 以及其他許多人,至於Eazy-E則是欽點了MC Ren、DJ Speed等人。

1987年,N.W.A透過Macola Records發行第一張正式錄製的單曲"Panic Zone",唱片中還收錄了"8-Ball"以及"Dopeman",這些作品隨後被Macola Records以N.W.A And The Posse的名義發行成專輯。

有趣的是,在封面上以及專輯中的許多人在當時儘管幫助草創初期的N.W.A一臂之力,卻再也沒有任何機會參與未來的作品了。在封面上出現的人,有許多甚至根本不是歌手、而只是隨機找來拍照片的路人而已,Arabian在某次訪談也提及這段趣事:

"A lot of them, they were just homies from the neighborhood and we were like, 'Hey, we taking a photo. Y'all wanna go?' And they were like, 'Yeah, yeah, yeah,'" he says. "It was just a random photo. None of the cats, at that time, were doing anything. And any of those guys who moved on to do music after that . . . It was probably a direct thing from being on that album cover." In fact, these dudes were put together so randomly that Arabian can't even identify the guy standing on his right. "The guy next to me, I don't even know."

Arabian Prince是第二排右邊第二位(雙手抱胸者)

不過從專輯的封面其實也能看得出來,Arabian Prince的穿著並不是所謂的幫派風格,事實上他也一直都不是gangsta,製作的音樂都是以party為取向,"N.W.A And The Posse"專輯當中絕大部分的作品也都是派對音樂。在某次訪談中,Arabian回憶道:"I've always been a club cat, I want to make people hype, I want to make people party. And when we did the N.W.A thing, I was cool with it because I grew up in the hood as well, but I've never been gangsta. My uncles was gangsta, my cousins was gangsta, and I'm like, 'I'm not really gangsta.'"

事實上,"派對"的取向也是N.W.A刻意操弄的策略手法,Arabian Prince與Dr.Dre在80年代都是以製作電子派對舞曲起家,他們深知消費者的喜好、也知道電台喜愛播放這類型的音樂,在草創初期、仍舊沒沒無聞的N.W.A假如堅持主打硬蕊幫派風格的作品,一定沒辦法登上大雅之堂。在這樣的情境之下,他們創作出了"Panic Zone",並且如願在KDAY (AM 1580) 電台上播放、成功讓N.W.A的名聲打響出去。之後在1988年,Dr.Dre與Arabian Prince、DJ Yella聯手幫女子饒舌團體JJ Fad打造出的專輯"Supersonic",其派對曲風也是大獲成功,讓JJ Fad成為歷史上第一個被葛萊美獎提名的女子饒舌團體。

N.W.A - Panic Zone (1987)

JJ Fad - Supersonic (1987)


如果真的要深入探討,其實N.W.A的背景沒有那麼具有street credtis,除了Eazy-E是真正的毒梟、MC Ren是他的左右手之外,其他人的背景相較之下正常許多(大多都是DJ或是製作人的角色),而Ice Cube在那段期間還在鳳凰城的Phoenix Institute of Technology唸書。針對N.W.A裡不同角色的定位,Arabian Prince給出了一段很有趣的評論:

"Eazy was the only one in the hood who was really a real gangsta -- doing the drug thing, doing everything else. All the rest of us were just DJs. We were producers, we had done a lot of records, and that's how the whole thing came together. Cube wasn't actually doing anything. He was in school [in Phoenix] until we brought him back. Ren was just Eazy's boy; he lived down the street from him. And, I mean, Ren wasn't really banging, but he was probably the next closest thing to Eric (Eazy). If you had to go in order it would be Eric, Ren, then probably me and Dre because he grew up in Compton. So did I. It wasn't like we were pushovers, but we weren't no gangstas. Then I would go probably Ice Cube, then Yella. Yella was about as far from gangsta as you could possibly get. He was more close to freakin' Morris Day and the Time."

總而言之,如果說要用"gangsta"的程度來排名的話,將會是:Eazy-E > MC Ren > Arabian Prince & Dre (他們雖然不是混幫派,但都是來自貨真價實的Compton街頭) > Ice Cube > DJ Yella 

1988年,N.W.A團員正式成形,並且錄製了專輯"Straight Outta Compton",與之前的幾隻派對舞曲比起來、風格有了一百八十度的大轉變,走的是純粹的兇狠幫派路線。在專輯發售的前幾個禮拜,Arabian Prince毅然決然離去、尋求單飛發展 (不過Arabian Prince的Something 2 Dance 2" 仍舊有被收錄在專輯當中)。

Arabian Prince離去的原因有很多:1988年,Eazy-E選擇Jerry Jeller作為經紀人來替他們決定未來的發展計畫,但也因為管理上的衝突,讓Arabian Prince心生不滿。在當時,N.W.A的饒舌主要由Eazy-E、MC Ren、Ice Cube負責,Dr.Dre製作,DJ Yella負責放歌 - 相形之下Arabian Prince在團體中的角色與定位的確也略顯尷尬。

 由左至右:Arabian Prince, Jerry Heller, Eazy, Dre, Yella

另外一個離去的因素,則是因為沒拿到應有的報酬:"I'm a businessman first and foremost, and I was a solo artist before, so I knew how much money we were making," he says. "And I'm like, 'Well, we just sold a million records,' I knew we were supposed to get X amount of money we weren't getting. And you know what, we've gotta split the money anyway, and we're still not getting paid what we're supposed to get paid. I'm going to go back and do my own thing, and I'll make more money than all ya'll, myself." 

此外,專輯中名滿天下的"Fuck The Police",讓他們直接與FBI槓上、樹敵無數,同時也讓Arabian Prince厭倦起這樣的生活。"Everywhere we went, we had problems with the police, we had problems with other gang members. And it was like, 'It's cool, I'm cool with it, but let me get paid for it.' If I'm not going to get paid, and I'm out here just for the fame, I ain't with it. I need to get paid."

儘管如此,因為N.W.A敢替hood發聲,他們的音樂迅速的被大眾喜愛、連80年代許多保守的電台也紛紛開始播放這些幫派饒舌 - 剩下的就是你我所熟知的歷史了。


儘管離開了N.W.A,Arabian Prince可沒放棄音樂的道路。1989年,Arabian在Orpheus Records推出個人首張專輯"Brother Arab",走的是他所擅長的風格:electro-rap配上soul/funk samples,專輯主打歌曲"She's Got A Big Posse"雖然激起一陣小小的迴響,但整體來說銷售量依舊淒慘無比,後來的音樂生涯也是逐漸走下坡。

Arabian Prince - She's Got A Big Posse (1988)


除了推出個人作品之外,Arabian持續幫其他歌手操刀,製作過數張專輯,像是J.B.'s Freak City (1989) ; DJ Madame E & The Mistress' Leather & Lace (1989) ; Professor X´s Professor X Saga (1989) , J.J. Fad's Not Just A Fad (1990); Queens of Compton's West Coast Thang (1990); MC Smooth's Smooth & Legit: The Album (1990); Nic'ee Quikk's Nic'ee Trickki (1992); Poetry In Motion's Staying Down In South Central (1993) ... 等專輯。

1992年,Arabian原本預計透過EMI發行專輯"The Underworld",可惜後來胎死腹中。1993年,Arabian Prince推出第三張專輯"Where's My Bytches",在當地透過獨立廠牌小量發行。在這之後,Arabian幫助饒舌歌手LA Nash製作其1995年的首張專輯,也零星的幫電視劇、電影製作配樂 (後來甚至去Fox Interactive擔任遊戲測試員),Arabian Prince在整個90年代中後期就再也沒有推出過個人作品。2007年,Arabian透過歐洲的獨立廠牌Clone Records發行專輯"Professor X"; 2008年,Stones Throw Records推出精選集"Innovative Life: The Anthology, 1984-1989"來紀念這位西岸hip hop的先驅。

一直到現在,Arabian Prince還是時常在洛杉磯一帶放歌,也是Beat Swap Meet的常客,如果有去洛杉磯旅遊的朋友搞不好有機會可以去跟他當面聊聊喔!

<DISCOGRAPHY>
Solo Projects:
1989 - Brother Arab
1990 - Situation Hot
1992 - The Underworld
1993 - Wheres My Bytches
2007 - Professor X
2008 - Innovative Life: The Anthology, 1984-1989

With N.W.A: 
1987 - Panic Zone
1987 - N.W.A And The Posse
1988 - Straight Outta Compton

Arabian Prince近況

其他更多的資料來源,請參考文章"WHAT HAPPENED AFTER N.W.A. AND THE POSSE?"以及West Coast Pioneers網站的介紹。

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