Following the release of their new studio album ‘Colour Wheel’, we caught up with MC Green, one third of European alternative Hiphop group ASM about his step dad H, and how the progress of his physical disabilities became a back bone to the overall development of the group.
In the spring of 2006, there was a palpable shift in the energy that surrounded this thing that we did - flipping beats around samples from old jazz and soul records, and grappling to find our own voice on the mic based on stylistic vocabulary we had internalized from the obsessive devouring of golden-era boom bap albums. Until that spring, it was something we did for fun, like playing hacky sack or drawing pieces in black books.
Now there was a tangible momentum towards something else. We had started getting recognition within the underground hip hop community in Europe, membership of which at the time still required meaningful commitment and physical displacement (it was the early days of Myspace), and were starting to get booked for shows and selling more copies of our bedroom-made first album than we ever realistically anticipated. We felt like this was our time, the puzzle pieces were all falling into place and there was an irresistible gravitational force all around us and within us.
During this time when you could hold youthful optimism with both hands, my step dad H was a quiet bedrock presence that enabled this ephemeral energy to manifest. Infinitely generous with his time and means, he gave us money to print our first run of merch t-shirts, taught us how to use video editing software to build backdrops for our show, and even gifted us our first touring vehicle – the infamous Frankie Four Wheels, whom the song “The Heist” on the Crown Yard album is about. He remains to this day the most naturally empathetic and giving human I have had the pleasure of knowing.
Ten years later, in the spring of 2016, H started experiencing muscular fatigue which he initially put down to lingering effects of an acute injury when he fell off a ladder. His physical condition worsened steadily and after months of tests and systematic ruling-out of all other possible causes, he was diagnosed with ALS, a degenerative nerve disease which leads relentlessly and cruelly in one direction. The news of the diagnosis was a cold steel blade to the gut.
H is now confined to a wheelchair which he operates with his chin. He has lost all muscular functionality from the neck down and needs constant assistance to perform the most menial and tasks and primal functions. His attitude and resilience of spirit throughout this deterioration process has been nothing short of heroically inspiring. He still has an excitable gleam in his eye at the prospect of being able to help, to be of service, in whatever way he can through advice, knowledge, or connections. As he says, despite it all, he’s rolling on.
Our group still exists, and hip hop has been good enough to us through the years to pay the bills, even if we haven’t been able to buy mansions, fancy whips, or secure the future of our children with rap money. I am now a 30-something who has lost his tolerance for grungy parties and hard liquor in favour of natural wine and decent stemware. At times, still being on the road and playing shows that are not always sold out or being put up in less-than comfortable accommodation by my middle-aged standards can seem gruelling, even to the point of fundamental doubt.
Seeing H and how his zeal for life prevails in the face of the cruellest of fates makes me remember that none of this can be taken for granted. Sometimes it’s the warm embrace of the bubble in our space shuttle, sometimes it’s the path of the blood oath that I’m doomed to walk, but I can look in either direction, backwards or forwards, and muster a smile that has its wellspring source far below the surface. H has a body that is as useful now as a lead balloon.
His spirit soars over glaciers.
ASM- Colour Wheel
"Colour Wheel" sees ASM take a step away from the narrative tilt and soulful orchestration of their epic cinematic odyssey “The Jade Amulet”, and back to the essential – neck-snapping beats and spectacular lyrical agility. The album is held together by the concept of musical colour, with each track being anchored by and bearing the name of a distinctive hue on the spectrum with song titles such as “Azure", “Burgundy", and “Apricot". The colors coherently guide the aesthetic and lyrical direction of each track. Beyond that, MC’s FP and Green and beatmaker Fade are taking full liberty to unleash in each chosen direction.
The soundscapes and rhythms are clearly contemporary, but always informed by the sonic texture and rich musical culture that has guided ASM through their expansive career – driving boom-bap, raw funk, and smokey jazz. On Color Wheel, these guiding threads are stripped down to their bare essence and reinterpreted through a present-day lens. Experience tells, most clearly in tracks like the ferociously minimalist opener “Grape” featuring dancehall legend Cutty Ranks, or the speaker-shredding “Honey” featuring long-time collaborators and newly found label-mates Chinese Man.
The essence of the album can be summed up from the line in the international rap-legend laced posse-cut Emerald: “Beneath the rust coat, reveal the faded color-combination, now for restoration!”
Colour Wheel is out now available here.
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