Author, hip-hop expert, and journalist extraordinaire Brian Coleman’s new book Check the Technique 2: More Liner Notes for Hip-Hop Junkies has been on store shelves for a little over a month now — at least in the few remaining places where it hasn’t completely sold out yet. Containing the track-by-track stories of 25 certified classic rap albums as told by the artists who made them, Check the Technique 2 has instantly become essential reading for anyone with even a passing interest in the genre.
Coleman says the response has been great from both readers as well as the artists featured in the book. “The funniest thus far has been Kool Keith tweeting out that ‘This book should be in every library and brothel’ — I consider that to be high praise coming from Keith.”
With the premise and drive behind the Check the Technique series being how so many important rap records came without liner notes or any documentation regarding their creation, Coleman’s been able to allow their creators to have a platform to touch on all that went into their definitive works. “That’s something they don’t always get to do, to look back and be like, ‘Wow, that was kind of a cool album.’ So to me that’s the ultimate thing that could happen, to have them appreciate and look at their own album in something of an objective way, because time has elapsed between who they were when they made it and today.”
Coleman’s even heard from the book’s artists about their love for other artists’ chapters. “?uestlove, I remember last time I spoke to him, said, ‘I’m deep into this Ice Cube chapter and it’s great!’ And Prince Paul said to me, ‘I learned a lot.’ That’s the thing I’ve talked about, the one thing I believe that fans forget and need to be reminded about, is that artists are the ultimate fans. You can be a fan, but to be a fan to the point where you want to create on your own and extend the art form past what you already like and what you’ve been exposed to, and create a new branch onto that tree, is the ultimate act of being a fan. Artists love reading about other artists, whether it’s their peers or artists who influenced them. They’re as much a fan of this music as you are, and probably more.”
Even as a devoted fan, Coleman found some surprises in terms of all that went into certain songs. “The one song I think is pretty interesting is in the Company Flow chapter, the song ‘Last Good Sleep,’ which is a super-personal song. I was surprised as to how much El-P was willing to talk about that. Sometimes people will write a rhyme or a song and it will kind of be based on personal experience and they’ll embellish things or blur the line in general. But ‘Last Good Sleep’ is a very real, very raw song about El-P’s onetime stepfather and domestic abuse that went on in his family. That was a deep song I thought was really deep, but you never know with artistic license. That was a real raw, emotional song. That song was incredibly cathartic for him, and to hear him and the other guys talk about how that song was created pleasantly surprised me with how they, starting with El-P, opened up and discussed it.”
Here’s an excerpt from the Company Flow chapter of Check the Technique 2:
COMPANY FLOW Funcrusher Plus (1997)
Last Good Sleep
EL-P: That was the first record where I had done any kind of autobiographical shit. It was the first time I had opened up about anything really personal, and the first time I had attempted to really tell a story. It was difficult because, to some degree, I had been trying to write that song for years, and tried and stopped many times. Me and Jus said, “Let’s each do a song that is about our lives.” He did “Lune TNS” and I did “Last Good Sleep.” The scary thing wasn’t making it, the scary thing was playing it for people, putting it out into the world. I didn’t have any real experience being that exposed. I played it for Len, and he played it for his girl and his family and he said they cried listening to it, because they had had a similar experience [with domestic violence]. So I said, “I guess I gotta put this on the record.” Over the years a lot of people have told me what that song meant to them. It’s a very human song and the process of writing it changed the way I wrote music afterwards. Like, “Oh, I can say something that means something to me?” I had previously figured it was self-indulgent or that no one would want to hear it. Writing it had a profound effect on me.
For additional information on Check the Technique 2 head to Wax Facts Press.