If the Rev. Al Sharpton's promised crackdown on racially charged rap music expands beyond one perfunctory march in a parade, he'll probably go after juggalos for being white. At any rate, he'd have a hard time trying to pin anything off-color on Intrinzik (aka Will Glass), a Phoenix rapper who from his earliest album steered clear of hip-hop clichés like bragging about rims and calling women hoes. His new single, the ironically titled "Dead or Alive," features Proof's last recorded performance.
Coming in through the rap-rock backdoor, Intrinzik's spits have always been a tad confessional. He fesses up to everything from once being "a mullet-headed Jew with braces, zits and a fat man's tits" to not quite reaching platinum-selling status. On "My Favorite Song" (off My Favorite Album, Intrinzik's recently released five-year retrospective), he raps, "This song is number zero, I'm way off the charts," knowing that underground-indie rap fans have his back. In contrast, if a mainstream rapper were to divulge such, he/she might as well apply for the night manager job at Wendy's.
"I like sticking to my lyrics," Intrinzik says, days before embarking on his first completely DIY tour with Colorado's Axe Murder Boyz (who, you'll note, are no longer on the Motor City's Psychopathic Records).
Intrinzik continues: "Everything I say is true, I say 'I keep it 99 percent accurate' on one of the songs on the album."
Even the mullet and braces bit?
"Yep," he nods. "When I was a kid, I liked the metal thing and the rap thing. I was always wearing Jordan stuff with a Metallica shirt. On one of my songs I say 'platinum plaques on my third release.' If I don't think it's going to go platinum, I'm not gonna do it."
Given his penchant for full disclosure, Intrinzik had no problem early on exposing all the smoke and mirrors involved in maintaining the facade of a player everything from renting bling and babes for videos, to buying rhymes to rapping off cue cards and the ironic "belief" in his own hype. If Donald Trump could've free-styled The Art of the Deal, it wouldn't be altogether different from Intrinzik's second album Tricks of the Trade.
In five short years, Intrinzik learned enough tricks to become a full-on hip-hop mogul too. His INK Records roster includes such like-minded artists as McNastee, Jason Porter and Virus.
Marc Kempf of Long Range which distributes INK Records' nationally, and is located right here in Detroit says Intrinzik is well beyond a "local phenomenon. He has fans in every state. And his fan base keeps growing and reaching back for his older albums. That in itself is a success."
But better still Intrinzik's actually big in Japan. Listen to Tomohiko Sasaki, the kind gentleman who runs a rap-rock label in Tokyo called RB Records.
He explains, with an apology for his broken English, why he signed a Valley of the Sun rapper to a Land of the Rising Sun label: "We had interesting to his crossover minds."
Translation: Rap with distorted guitars equals big crossover sales in Japan.
RB Records imported Intrinzik's earlier records by the rap-rock group he started out with, Fallguy, and sold 3,000 copies just as an import. My Favorite Album marks the first time RB Records will be actually distributing an Intrinzik INK release. To make the album more rap-rock friendly for the Japanese, they asked for more morose cover art and resequenced the album so most of the Fallguy stuff would come first.
"Japan is just catching now on to rap rock so right now all the local bands there I don't want to say they're Limp Bizkit wannabees but they're all in that mode," Intrinzik says. "So it works out great for me. I still have love for what Fallguy was doing and the underground kids in the U.S. still love it."
Intrinzik's next release will be a new Fallguy album in early 2008. As for taking special pains to market a music that is perceived as passé in the States, Intrinzik the label rep is unfazed. "This isn't mainstream music so there's still a big market for rap metal. It's just not on the radio all the time. All the major labels aren't pushing it out. Fallguy and my label has their own core following. So I'm not talking about millions of units I'm talking thousands. It'll be pretty good."
It's no wonder Intrinzik exhibits none of the vainglorious round-the-clock boasting that most rappers cling to like a security blanket. Record stores in Japan have Intrinzik endcaps. People pay for him to produce them or guest on their records, and he has a bankable indie name. But shouldn't it be a little bit daunting coming to Detroit for the first time?
"Obviously, because the whole juggalo thing started in Michigan," Intrinzik says, "but the turn out there should be pretty strong. The promoters have got good local openers, my distributor Long Range is based in Detroit so my stuff's already in a lot of the stores and moving out of there. And 89.3 FM The Zone is playing 'Dead or Alive,' the song with Proof on it." Unless Proof turns out to be as prolific in death as Tupac, the last recording you'll hear of the fallen rapper is this one recorded with Intrinzik in Phoenix two weeks before his violent death.
In running a label, Intrizik has a simple philosophy "At my level, with no radio or MTV just get the music out there, make the cover nice like a major release, make a little noise and make your money back. All these distribution companies want you to put $5,000 or $10,000 in promotion, and by the time you're done with it, you've got to sell 3,000 records to break even. I sell 1,000 records by myself and make $8,000. And for advertising, I don't put anything in marketing. You can pay a magazine $800 for a half-page a and you're not gonna see it. I do everything over the Internet."
Early on, Intrinzik built a loyal fanbase touring with Detroit's Twizted, where he also met Colorado's Axe Murder Boyz, who are now also promoting an anthology of sorts with Cut and Stitched, a compilation of remixes and tracks that didn't make the Psychopathic album.
"We earned the respect and loyalty of those kids," Intrinzik says. "I'm still living off that tour four years ago, still building the fans and keeping it going."
But the game needs considerable stake-raising at all times, particularly in the era of MySpace. Intrinzik agrees.
"This MySpace thing is fucking people's heads," he laughs. "People think, 'I have a song on MySpace, I'm a rapper now.' Back in the old days you couldn't record a song in your bedroom; you had to go to a recording studio and buy those big fat tapes. There was no Internet for distributing music. It's just silly now. For me, this is how I dress. I don't talk like I'm black. But some of these new up and comers, is that who you really are? A pimp? When your mommy's yelling at you, are you like 'Fuck you, bitch' or do you go to your room for five minutes?"
Intrinzik is doing an in-store performance at Flipside Records (41 E. 14 Mile, Clawson; 248-585-4090) on Saturday, May 19, at 3 p.m. He performs Sunday, May 20, at the Hayloft Liquor Stand (140 N. Main, Mount Clemens; 586-468-1010) with AMB (Axe Murder Boyz), Grave Plott and AJAX.
Serene Dominic is a freelance writer. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org