Tapping All Levels by OC Weekly
Veteran hip-hopper V.I.T.A.L. Emcee steps out on his own
By REX REASON
A veteran of OC hip-hop groups 2 Drunk’n Poets and Seekret Socyetee, V.I.T.A.L. Emcee—alias of Noel Vinson—is stepping out on his own. Last month saw the release of the conscious rapper’s debut The Secret of the Invisible Man.
OC Weekly: Does V.I.T.A.L. stand for something specific?
V.I.T.A.L. Emcee: There are three of them, but the main one is Visionary Intuition Tapping All Levels.
What are the other two?
Other people have made these up. They are Victorious in the After Life and Virtually Impossible to Annihilate Lyrically. I prefer the one that I chose.
So what’s your story?
In grade school, I would rap. It was just something that’s always attracted me. But I grew up with metal. My stepdad listened to metal. He was a born-again Christian at the time, so it was a lot of Christian metal, but he also listened to Judas Priest. I know their whole catalog. People would probably want to kill me for this, but once I heard DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince’s “Parents Just Don’t Understand,” it was strictly hip-hop. But I’m a person who likes everything. And I believe that hip-hop embraces everything.
I have to ask every rapper this. Do people dismiss you because you’re from Orange County and you create hip-hop music?
There are definitely people like that, but I want to embrace everything that has made me as a person and an artist. You are a product of your environment, and I grew up in Orange County. As far as people naysaying—I dare them to listen. Your location doesn’t define who you are. I want to transcend barriers. I have no problem with saying that’s where I’m from, but it’s also not something that’s going to limit or hinder what I’m trying to do.
Who are your favorite local bands and musicians?
The RX Bandits, they’re one of the most talented bands I’ve heard. There’s this group called Sinizen. They’ve got that reggae/punk/ska thing going on. After Miles. Hip-hop-wise there’s a group called the Messengers, and also Technicali, Last Writes, May Lay, the Optimist.
What’s your day job?
I work at Guitar Center.
As a rapper, do you get treated differently at a place that’s so rock-oriented?
It’s funny. I’m the only rapper there. But I got a guy in a Metallica cover band saying he digs my album.
Do you see a difference between mainstream hip-hop and underground hip-hop?
The mainstream stuff doesn’t really do much for me. I have a little bone in my body for that stuff, but it doesn’t really inspire me. I want to hear something that makes the wheels of my mind turn. There is a lot of hip-hop that does that, but it’s mainly “underground.” I like the vibe and the energy that the mainstream might have, but the message and the content don’t stimulate me. I’m trying to bridge the distances between the mainstream and the underground, meaning you can still bob your head to it and have a good time to it, but if you actually listen to things I’m saying, there’s more going on than just, “shake your ass,” or “I’ve got these cars and look at all these bitches I have.” That’s just not my nature.
The term “conscious hip-hop” is thrown around a lot describing rappers like you.
I think “conscious hip-hop” is a good term. I don’t like to label anything because once you place a label on something, you kind of limit it. As far as “conscious,” it’s being conscious of who you are. This is who I am, I’m not a character, and I’m going to tell you my trials and my tribulations. It’s therapeutic and it’s cathartic.
Movin' On Up by OC Weekly
…Yet the funk, when it finally arrived, came in the disguise of a bespectacled computer repairman; or maybe a navy blue Dickies-wearing postman; an off-duty Best Buy manager in a gray fuzzy Nautica pullover, perhaps. Whatever his day job, Cry Freedome’s—Groove Ensemble’s rapping collaborators—leadman, V.I.T.A.L. Emcee, shocked and awed with his smooth rhymes and Autobahn-paced delivery…
The Rapper With Something to Say by The Hornet
V.I.T.A.L. Emcee is a man who prides himself on the quality of his content. While many rappers may make the same claims, the huge difference between him and others who share this pride in ownership is that he actually has the beats, the lyrics, and the presence to back it up.
V.I.T.A.L., an acronym for “visionary intuition tapping all levels,” has been rapping for as long as he can remember. Remembering growing up, he recalls, “The only thing I ever knew how to do was rap. I grew up as an only child; didn’t do much but go to school, go home, sit there and listen to music.”
Like many of the world’s phenomenal artists of all trades, he has experienced his share of tribulations. Also like these artists, he has used these tougher moments to fuel his own creativity.
With the release of his first solo album entitled “The Secret of the Invisible Man,” V.I.T.A.L. hopes to generate even more positive word of mouth. While it is not yet released in stores, select retailers will be offering it in June.
“This CD is a representation of all my confidences, insecurities, and being my own therapist; to break down self in order to rebuild stronger. A lot of people, especially in the mainstream, are all about glorifying themselves instead of working on the man in the mirror. There are still comments on society as a whole, dealing with the insecurities and paranoias,” he explained.
Each of the 21 cryptic tracks that make up this CD are unique in their own way, but together tell a story if you can train your ears to keep up with his tongue. And if you can’t, the lyrics are printed inside the album, intertwined with magnetic artwork.
Of course, some of V.I.T.A.L.’s songs can be heard on his MySpace. My favorite songs from the album, however, cannot.
The samples on the website do not even begin to scratch the surface of this album.
From “audible nightmares” to tracks packed with powerful poetic statements, everyone is bound to find something to enjoy on this record.
V.I.T.A.L. has performed songs from his album from everywhere to the Key Club in Los Angeles to the Gas Lamp in Long Beach.
At each of his performances, V.I.T.A.L. has acquired more and more of a fan base that has made his CD release a hit before it has even reached stores.
If you crave profound creativity interweaved with captivating beats, V.I.T.A.L. Emcee’s “The Secret of the Invisible Man” is mandatory to check out.
by WYDUblog.comI know cats like to categorize hip hop, it's the new thing. Hell, I'm guilty of doing it myself at times. You got crunk, gangsta rap, hipster, underground, nerdcore, and probably another ten to fifteen others you can name. But sometimes an artist comes along with music and/or an album that you just can't apply a label to. That can be good and bad sometimes. People, I think by nature, want to be able to label things, to be able to put them in a box. If they can't, they are not sure what to do with it and sometimes they just avoid it. Others embrace it and run with it, that's what I'm hoping happens with this week's second Artist Spotlight artist, V.I.T.A.L. Emcee. Stationed in sunny Southern California, Vital comes with some intense music. You can tell the dude puts his heart and soul into the music on his latest album, Versus/Verses. It's not something you can sit down and easily digest, trust me, it didn't work for me the first time through. But the more you play it, even if it isn't your thing, you have to see the the passion and soul that the music contains. He has straight up hip hop, social commentary, dark shit, light shit, it's all here. The cats that are more open minded to music in general will be more likely to accept this one.
Just from judging the music, I knew it was going to be more than interesting to sit down with Vital and talk with him. He drops the knowledge and explains where he is comign from.....
V.I.T.A.L. Emcee - Whiplash
Here more of V.I.T.A.L. Emcee here.
WYDU: What's good my man, how about quick introduction of who you and what you do?
V.I.T.A.L. Emcee: I'm V.I.T.A.L. Emcee and I am here to bring Hip-Hop back to it's organic state with refresher courses in b-boyism, early to mid-90s gangsta flows before they became played out (though I'm no gangster), consciousness, and socio-economic issues--all with an undercurrent of positivity and relatability. At the risk of sounding pretentious, I'm the Christ figure who is willing to be a martyr for his cause.
W: Let's get a little background on you and some of your history. Why hip hop? What made you want to be an MC and try to make it in this messed up music industry?
V: Since I was a kid I always had an elaborate fetish for music period! I wanted records and tapes instead of GI Joes. I didn't discover Hip-Hop until I was about 7 years old and I discovered DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince with "Parents Just Don't Understand." Being 7 years old, those were the truest words I had ever heard and I was attracted to the cadence and the rhythm of the words on top of the production. From that point, Hip-Hop definitely demanded my attention and I started learning the songs that appealed to me. 20 years later here I am in the beautiful state of DIY and with the advent of the internet it makes things a lot more obtainable than searching for the elusive record deal that usually fucks new artists in the end anyway.
W: I found it interesting when I read your bio that you mention; "....(my) prime objective of bridging the distances between the underground and mainstream as well as the positive and negative aspects of human nature." First off, why is important to you to bridge the underground and mainstream hip hop genres, is that something even possible?
V: When Chris Rock discussed politics he said that one can't be either 100 percent conservative nor 100 percent liberal. I feel that explains my outlook on the two scenes respectively. Coming full circle musically in my own life, I think it's the younger cats who want to keep something a certain way and stamp a label on it, and somehow that makes it their own. I've been there, but now I accept things I didn't accept then. I like a lot of the joints that the underground scene produces, but I also have that bone in my body which can get into certain mainstream tracks before they become saturated on the radio. In my own journey, I want people to bounce. I want them to bob there head to the track. I wanna see people hit their switched with my shit in the deck...and I think that my music has the flavor to pull it off.
That being said, I'm not the "shake your ass bitch, make my cash stick" cat. I do me and that is more universally related to who we are and who we want to become as opposed to what we see and what we want to portray. I think it's a fine line which I walk rather well.
W: Just by listening to your music, you definitely get the dark feeling to some of your songs such as "Boomerang" or "Put Down The Gun", on your latest CD and you most definitely divulge into the psyche of the human nature. Why is that something that is important to you? Do you think the human race is generally good with some bad seeds, or are we all f'd up?
V: I try to be Shakespearean with my swagger, therefore there is a bit of theatrics in the methods to my madness. I'm not a prophet nor am I a psychologist so I can't be the Carl Jung of Hip-Hop. A lot of what I write is through observation or experience. As humans we all have those fucked up days and I think that everyone can relate to that. When it all boils down, it comes to one person in their room or ride listening to your music. That's my targeted fan base.
I used to be dubbed "dark" because of my first album, but that's just where I was in my own life at that time. It doesn't mean that every consecutive thing I drop is going to be dark. I have to grow and learn from that growth. I think all of us in life have to learn from our experiences instead of being haunted by them. Human nature is definitely fucked up by it's surroundings, but that doesn't mean that we as a people are bad. It comes down to individuality and the equality inherent in it.
W: I can tell you do have a wide range of influences, both musically and lyrically, just by listening to your two releases, "The Secret of the Invisible Man" and "Versus/Verses". What are some of your lyrical and musical influences?
V: Wow. As I touched on earlier, I like a lot of different types of music outside of Hip-Hop. When it comes to Hip-Hop though, I lose my mind at cats like Tech N9ne, Gift of Gab, Chali2na, Aesop Rock, Jay-Z and Nas, etc. I came up with everything from NWA to Too $hort and Bone Thugs. I find my own creativity through the adrenaline they give me just by listening to them. Outside of that, I love things like Pink Floyd, Rob Halford and Judas Priest, Black Sabbath, Alison Krauss and Union Station, Dave Brubeck, Regina Spektor, RX Bandits, Mars Volta, Pantera, Stevie Wonder, MJ, Nina Simone...and the list goes on forever.
W: Why is important for your music to have those influences such as the rock and the such?
V: I think the more stuff that you are open to and even inspired by makes you better at what you do as an artist.
W: Let's talk about your new album, Versus/Verses, what's the significance of the title?
V: Since the Secret of the Invisible Man dropped, I was continually fighting an uphill battle in my personal life just to find the confidence to be me. I went through a lot, moved to New Orleans and subsequently to Oakland, weathered falling in and out of love, financial burdens all the while trying to gain some recognition musically. To sound cliche, where I stand now is in a much healthier place...a triumph against adversity. Therefore the heart and soul of 4 years was implemented in dozens and dozens of tracks and I chose the joints that made up the best representation of who I am now. So in essence the Verses came from fighting back the negative and trying to change for the better (VERSUS VERSES)
W: How would you describe this album for someone who hasn't heard it yet? What kind of things (besides those that we discussed) are you trying to accomplish?
V: First and foremost, I want people to have a good time with it--just ride to it. It's been described to me that if you like 2Pac AND Tool you'd like me. I would just say that if you pop in the disc you'll be one on one with one of the greatest rappers unheard...and there are a lot of us out there.
W: Who are some of the producers and guests on the project?
V: I got to work with people who I thoroughly respect for grinding and putting out the energy to manifest their goals. This round I got joints from the Optimist, who I believe is one of the best producers in the Hip-Hop scene far and wide, as well as cats like LD, who is just mad ridiculous, and the Dysposable Heroes who did a Genius VS. Genius mixtape which is incredible. I also got features from some heads who definitely are going to be heard from more. Cats like Hochii from Technicali, Castor Pollux of Gutter Water, C4mula and Los Vega$ from the Committee Fam, and Ariano who is doing a dope project with his DJ, LD, and Medusa of Project Blowed fame. I also got to work with Matt Embree of the RX Bandits again which is always an honor and Lauren Coleman from the group Peba Luna. All in all, I had a lot of great energy conspire to help me get this album made.
W: The album artwork, inside the CD reminded me of some of those old Tool videos, what kind of mood were you trying to create with the art? How important is that kind of thing these days?
V: I'm a cat who likes the whole package--more than just a download from iTunes. That being said, artwork and presentation is MAD important for me. It tells it's own story and compliments the music in many ways. For "VERSUS" the mood I wanted was a touch of darkness fueling the creative juices, hence the invisible ventriloquist and the dummy who has his heart on his shirt. It's a depiction of how I feel once I get into the zone...I'm the instrument being played to the audience.
W: I know a lot of people say the retail music is in an era of doom and gloom, how do you catch people and get them to buy your CD or download?
V: Promo, promo, and more promo. All do it yourself, therefore I can be a bit better with the hustle, but at the same time, I feel better than I ever have with pushing myself forward. I really believe I can be successful in this medium. I've got nothing but good people around me who inspire me to do what I do. Word of mouth is the best thing an artist can have these days and I am doing everything in my power to generate that buzz.
W: So there is a rumor that you were nominated for a Grammy? What's the dealy with that?
V: I was actually working with a company who really believed in my first album. They were the ones who got me on the ballot. Out of the initial 20,000 somewhat submissions, it was then narrowed down to about 2,000 nominees in 100 plus categories. "Slouch Hat," "the Writing on the Wall" (song and video), and "Agoraphobic/Claustrophobic" all made the ballot in seven categories including Best New Artist and Record of the Year.
Obviously I didn't end up in the top 5 next to Lil Wayne or Jay-Z but because of this (and my eco-friendly agenda), Waste Management chose me to attend the ceremonies on their behalf and blog about how the Grammy's started pushing a green initiative this past year. It was a very surreal experience, so I can only be thankful that an album which came from a dark place brought me there. It's ironic like one of God's little gests.
W: What does the future hold for VITAL EmCee?
V: I'll keep this one short--EVERYTHING!
W: Any last words?
V: Yeah. No matter who you are, no matter what you believe and no matter what you do--as long as you believe in yourself, the World can be yours. Believe that!
Sounds Scaned by Alternative Press
The Secret of the Invisible Man
(Mash Down Babylon; mdbrecords.com)
3 ½ Stars
WHO? Socially conscious rapper from Cali who’s signed to Matt Embree of Rx Bandits’ record label.
SOUNDS LIKE? Deep, thought-provoking hip-hop. The beats compliment the intense vocals well by creating a dark and sometimes cryptic atmosphere.
HOW IS IT? Impressive. He’s got a great lyrical presence and manages to pull off being catchy while still unloading some pretty heavy subjects.
ROCKS LIKE: P.O.S., THE PERCEPTIONISTS, KRS-ONE
Rapping Faster Than the Speed of Sound by Daily 49er
V.I.T.A.L. Emcee blew up The Sky Room Lounge Friday night with blazing fast raps and hot collaborations from his friends.
Noel Vinson, also known as V.I.T.A.L., was the huge headliner of the night, stunning everyone with his energy and his speed raps. The dark Sky Room in downtown Long Beach was the perfect place for him to celebrate his sophomore album release. Free shots of alcohol were served to guests whenever the microphone controller announced that it was time.
Vinson was preceded by two rappers. The first rapper, Imprint, performed a solid mix of hot rhymes.
Although Imprint looked tense for the first two songs, he settled into a rollicking hip-hop groove with songs such as “Magnified Development.” He rampaged through rhymes, spitting “I’m passing out free prescriptions/Every time they poppin’ a pill, they pick a mill and I’m a really kill ‘it/I’m injecting venom in their temple to leave ‘em crippled.”
By the time he reached the last song, “Check the Index,” he had the crowd of 30 to 40 people waving their hands in the air to his rhymes.
The second rapper, Swiss Precise, turned off the crowd slightly with his low-key rhymes to southern hip-hop beats. Although he had plenty of other exciting rappers to back him up, such as Hochii from Technicali, Swiss Precise was a cold fish. It’s a shame, because Hochii looked really funny rapping with just his underpants on.
The whole night belonged to V.I.T.A.L. Emcee. The Buena Park rapper made a grand Halloween entrance through a cloud of fog to the Michael Jackson song “Thriller.” His costume, modeled after Pinhead from “Hellraiser,” was an edgy work of art. He wore a black suit, his body was painted white and nails were glued all around his head, making for a mind-blowing transformation.
After tossing candy to the crowd, he immediately jumped into the new album’s opening song, “God’s Hands.” Bouncing around the stage with Chapter ONE, he effortlessly shouted, “The prophet’s in the house and it’s over/coloring you purple like Oprah with the crane and the cobra!”
He continued to take the house apart with “Off With Their Heads,” which blasted a cool, repeating “aah” sample to a staccato hip-hop beat. He stunned the entire audience with the song “Hip-hop Hijack,” featuring Maylay from Seekret Socyetee. V.I.T.A.L. breezed through an insanely speedy rhyme, saying, “Don’t move, put your hands up like you’re praising the Lord, we got hip-hop for ransom/and if any one of you kumquats wanna catch a buckshot, we’ll be giving ‘em out like assassins.”
The most memorable song of the night was “Slouch Hat,” a sweet track with Spanish guitar riffs to a swing drum beat. The beat was cool and smooth as Matt Embree and Lauren Coleman sang a lovely duet before V.I.T.A.L. ripped on the microphone. It was a relaxing break after all the hard-hitting raps from Vinson, Imprint, Chapter ONE and Maylay.
V.I.T.A.L. was on fire all through the night. After going through "The Writing on the Wall" with Maylay, he ended the set with a supersonic explosion of a rap in “Funhouse.” It was nearly impossible to keep up with him as he zoomed through nonstop phrases of lyrics in alliteration.
Half the fun of a V.I.T.A.L. concert is watching how many words he can say per second in his rhymes. This performance was no exception: It was an epic performance that amazed everyone who came to the Sky Room. Although people might not remember everything that Noel Vinson said in his raps, he truly is the Superman of the underground rap world, shouting lyrics faster than the speed of sound.
Review of Bomerang from VERSUS/VERSES by Whentheyreminisce.com
V.I.T.A.L. Emcee – Boomerang
I know hip hop is mostly about boasting and bragging, talking about what you can do on the mic and how many crews you wreck. At least that’s the way it should be and that’s the way it was in the beginning, but that slowly changed, for better and worse. Of course, we have the bling, bitches, brew and buds of today’s music, which has it place. In the early 80’s, Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five dropped “The Message”, and hip hop started tackling real issues. I still like powerful hip hop that provokes thoughts and thinking. That’s exactly what V.I.T.A.L. Emcee’s “Boomerang” does, it makes you think and, if you have any conscious or feelings, it might even move you some. Backed by a nice guitar and some vocal backing that reminds me of some Suzanne Vega type shit, V.I.T.A.L. spits a song about a life of a woman who has had a rough life. After being sexually abused as a child, she turns to the life of turning tricks. The story continues on over the haunting music, as a business man watches her day in and day out from his cubicle and starts to fall for her. Soon, this business dude starts dating a hooker…and well, you have to listen to the rest of the story. Haunting music and a good story that makes you wonder about the ills of society, oh and teaches you to never date a hooker.