The night before Halloween, commonly referred to as Devil’s Night, is known as an evening of mischief and tricks. But it was no trick at Best Buy Theater when a wholly unsuspecting New York hip-hop audience, there to see Cypress Hill, caught the most unlikely reunion in rap history.
It’s official. Non-Phixion have reunited.
While there have been the heavily publicized recent reunions of Pete Rock & CL Smooth and Tame One and El Da Sensei of the Artifacts, both of which groups have just as much beef and tension between the parties involved, those were ticket-selling special events. Non-Phixion’s reunion was something nobody outside the group knew about, effectively as surprising as a surprise could be.
While they may not be a household name, Non-Phixion were integral to the timeline of underground hip-hop. Originally assembled in part by MC Serch, the crew consisting of Ill Bill, Sabac Red, Goretex (now Gore Elohim), and DJ Eclipse found their biggest success as a quartet with envelope-pushing, sonically challenging singles like “I Shot Reagan” and “5 Boros.” Eventually, the four signed to Matador, but eventually released their debut The Future Is Now independently in 2002. Along the way, their mix of traditional boom-bap foundations with counterculture subject matter and three very distinct MC styles saw them (along with the Juggaknots, Company Flow, and the Arsonists) help lay the foundation for what became the New York indie rap scene.
After putting out a mixtape/DVD in 2004, the group went on the Warped Tour, which is when the first rumors of trouble started, as Gore notably wasn’t seen on several dates. Given that these were the only shows Gore had ever missed in his career, fans initially didn’t think much of it. By that fall they were all accounted for and performing — until the sudden announcement of their breakup, at the peak of their popularity in the summer of 2006.
“Non-Phixion I look at like four wheels on a car,” Ill Bill tells us of the breakup, “and we were missing a couple tires most of the time. We weren’t clicking. At the time, [Bill’s side project] La Coka Nostra was just starting and I was having so much fun with La Coka, it was even more obvious I wasn’t into it.” The decision hit Bill exceptionally hard, being as he and Gore had been friends since 1986. “For me, it definitely sucked. It was probably more serious for me than for Eclipse or Sabac because me and Gore met those guys a few years later; before rap, we were homies.”
Fans found out through a MySpace bulletin, with the outline being clear that Non-Phixion was disbanding. The members themselves vaguely alluded to not wanting to continue the group as an altered version, but shortly after, rumors began to surface on rap message boards that Gore’s alleged non-dependability led to the group’s dissolution. The allegations, ranging from laziness to drug use, soon took on a life of their own, haunting the MC for years — and costing him a record deal with DJ Muggs and an Australian tour. “I had a promoter in 2007 put together an Australian tour,” Gore tells us. “Everything was great, then I got an email from his boss saying he wasn’t going to book the show because I was a ‘terrible, terrible alcoholic and couldn’t stand up to perform.’ Anybody who knows me knows I don’t even drink alcohol.” The decade brought more bad news for him: Clothing company Gore-Tex sued him over his name, forcing the change to Gore Elohim.
Perhaps most shocking is how Gore found out about the group’s end through someone else reading it online after he’d traveled to visit them cross-country. “A friend in Washington broke the news to me. I was shocked.” Soon Gore’s past with the group came under scrutiny from fans, including the Warped Tour shows, which Gore actually missed due to an emergency return to his Brooklyn home after his apartment was to be evicted because of his not receiving unpaid royalties from someone outside the group. With his Non-Phixion bandmates remaining mum on the issue after the breakup, fans were left to fill in the blanks with the rumors, causing Gore himself to feel, in his words, “a severe betrayal from the fans.”
For years, Gore had no contact with anyone from the group, save a few chance phone calls with Sabac. “I had heard from him periodically around 2008,” Sabac tells us. “Conversations were relatively short and the same. ‘Go do an album, make some music.’ ” After that, once The Future Is Now was re-released on iTunes, DJ Eclipse began calling Gore once a month to make sure he was receiving his proper royalties.
The thought of a reunion hadn’t been mentioned until Eclipse’s chance conversation with Bill entertained the idea to coincide with the group’s 20th reunion. “It started as something thrown into the air, and we revisited it a few months later, like, ‘Can we actually do that?’ ” Eclipse also took into consideration where Gore was creatively. “We had seen him put out the solo album, but we thought it was good, and that helped us knowing he was able to do something on his own.” The group also realized, with Get On Down putting together 80-page hardcover liner notes for the album’s re-release, it would be worth a shot to try to first talk to Gore, as he was going to be involved in the project.
What began with a conversational conference call last year between the four of them eventually blossomed into a rekindled brotherhood. After a year of getting back on the same page, Non-Phixion scheduled their first rehearsal in nine years. Eclipse recalls: “We had a week of rehearsals making sure everyone was tight, and the rehearsals picked up where we left off at.”
Once the decision was made between the four of them, the plan was set to be a surprise at Cypress Hill’s annual Halloween show. Of course, given the surprise-spoiling speed of social media, the timing of the Halloween event allowed the group to sneak Gore into the venue in a mask. The big reveal became one of the city’s biggest hip-hop moments of the year. Gore recalls of being reunited onstage, “It was like a friend you haven’t spent time with in years, and when you’re doing what you should have been doing, it transcends to different emotional planes.”
While all four members told us that they’re open to recording new music, the group’s taking its time and focusing on Non-Phixion’s future live shows first. With next year being the group’s 20th anniversary, a reassembled Non-Phixion assures that the future is now…again.