When I first moved to Los Angeles in August ’07, I was lucky enough (really fuckin’ lucky) to be brought in by two of the most talented, hilarious, astute bruhs the city had to offer – Alpha MC and VerBS. Outside of lacing the homies with crisp fits from their gig at American Apparel, hosting the westside’s most crackin’ friday night function The Spliff, and all around killing the game of good times, dudes happened to also be proficient members of the hip hop collective Swim Team, a fledgling squadron delivering some of the nicest bars and cadences out of Leimert Park’s open-mic workshop – Project Blowed.
Although James (Nocando) wasn’t in Swim Team, he was prolly the most commended crony the crew conspired with. I had heard praises of “the man who served the world,” winner of 2007 Scribble Jam (freestyle-battle competition), and sagacious rap prodigy Nocando since my arrival, but didn’t actually meet bro until Alph brought me to Leimert (circa ’08) to experience the prowess & sorcery alchemizing in those late Thursday night cyphers.
Since I started collaborating with these legends of Leimert, Nocan has always been mad cool & hospitable. One time I was almost stranded in San Bernardino. My ride ditched me to chase a skeezer he met at Paid Dues, I didn’t even know I was about to get left until James reached out and offered a ride, pretty sure we ate at Denny’s halfway back. From plugging the + 1’s at Low End Theory throughout the years, to providing encouragement at times of difficulty, dude continues to be a bona fide Lawd.
For those unfamiliar with Project Blowed and Kaos Network, do your research and buy This is the Life documentary, debut film of Oscar nominated director Ava DuVernay (13th, Selma, Scandal). To go into detail about its importance chronicling Project Blowed’s predecessor The Good Life Cafe, an early 90’s open-mic that spawned masterminds Freestyle Fellowship, Abstract Rude, Ellay Khule (among many others), as well as drawing household names such as Eminem to Common, would be a dissertation in itself. Please do yourself a favor and educate yourself with the film, it’s hella informative and done really well.
One crucial piece of enlightenment to take from the film is the profound virtuosity and influence Myka 9 (formerly known as Microphone Mike) and his crew Freestyle Fellowship had on the times. Myka is your favorite rapper’s favorite rapper’s favorite rapper. OG definitely communicates on a higher frequency and operates in another dimension. Diving into his brilliance and dexterity would be another disquisition. The closest analogy I can think of is an oracle unicorn illuminating the world with poems and music, simultaneously freestyling and beatboxing as a cloud of DMT dissipates in the air.
Nocando’s Mykraphone Myk pays homage to Myka 9, even borrows a couple bars from Myka’s song Life or Death. I’m honored to contribute and participate in the legacy of these Leimert Park Lords. Shout out to Tamara Wofford for bringing this together. Be sure to cop Nocando’s “Severed” LP on iTunes or Bandcamp, for those on a budget slap it on Soundcloud or Spotify. Peep the video & stills below.
Story & Visuals by Adam Stanzak