Sacred Hoop biography
The belief today is that to stay relevant an artist has to put out albums as quick as they can make them, something like, and to paraphrase Method Man, “keep feedin em, and feedin em.” They say it’s a fast food nation, but there is something to be said of the chefs who take time to perfect a recipe. A certain mystique or piqued interest surrounds them, and legend builds. For Sacred Hoop, this couldn’t be truer. After releasing their debut, Bring Me The Sexy Head of Henrietta, in 1997, albums have come in intervals, but never once has anything bearing the name come out and been something you wouldn’t dub quick and pass to a friend on some, “you gotta hear this” type shit.
Consisting of lyricist Luke Sick (Palo Alto, CA) and producer Vrse Murphy (Phoenix, AZ), Sacred Hoop formed back in 1993 through a mutual friend, Fondouglas, who DJ’d and rapped with the group through the early years. “Fondouglas was a high school friend of mine who went to University of Arizona, where Vrse was at. When I dropped out of Santa Clara, I moved to AZ and hooked up with Vrse. At the start, Vrse was rapping and making beats, and I was DJ’ing,” remembers Luke of the early days. “Luke would write rhymes for Fondouglas and I when we were rapping. We were rapping like Grand Puba, but he would write sick shit like I drink gasoline and piss on fires,” added Vrse.
At the time Luke would take trips out to Arizona to record and such, but it wasn’t until the summer of ‘93 when the roles would switch, and Luke would take over vocal duties while Vrse settled into a fulltime production role. During that summer Vrse moved out to California and lived with Luke in Palo Alto, and in that time the two recorded a lot of material that would influence the direction of the group. At summer’s end, Vrse went back to Arizona and began working on the groups’ demo, Runny Poop. “We were just trying to be like everyone else, make your tape and get large. What amazed us is that we never got a bad response. From all aspects, from G’s to underground heads, they were both feeling it,” says Luke of the demo.
“It seemed pretty straight up to us, like this sounds like the Beatnuts or this sounds Gangstarr, but I think a lot of people thought it was really weird. We didn’t think it was all that eclectic or trippy, but I think a lot of people did,” voiced Vrse. “I think a lot of it to us, was failures. Like we were trying to sound like something and we failed, but a lot of people thought our failures were what we were trying to do,” Luke finished.
Continuing, “I remember a lot of reviews back then, they kept calling us Horror-core, which I thought was way off. I think they didn’t know. Vrse was making some scary sounding shit, but I was trying to find a way to be like the Jack Kerouac/ Charles Bukowski of rap. I was trying to find a way for a white suburban kid to do it. I think when our tapes came out, a lot of people were like, ohh shit, these crackers figured out a way to do it without sounding pretentious or without sounding like we didn’t know what was up. But at the same time we were describing shit that happened to us, we weren’t making shit up to sound hood or anything, we were just doing our shit. I caught on to the folk aspect of rapping really quick, that it didn’t matter where you’re from, it’s where you’re at. You can do your own shit, and be your own man, but you gotta sound fresh at the same time.”
After releasing Runny Poop and going the hand-hand distribution route, the Hoop pieced together their official debut, the four-track classic Bring Me The Head Of Sexy Henrietta. It was a mark of the Hoops evolution, as both Luke and Vrse ventured further into the complex and murky depths of raw, underground hip-hop. Vrse established himself as a genius of song construction, with tracks that would continually build and progress like an abridged epic soundtrack. His sample selection was far from typical and in turn he developed a sound that wasn’t like anything else at the time, and truthfully distinct from anything today. He provided Luke with a multi-dimensional canvas, and in that Luke was able to use the music to navigate through his dense cerebral webbing. It was a lot to absorb in one sitting, and required an attentive ear to catch everything he was saying but that was the great thing about the Hoop; every listen you got something different than you had gotten the time before. If there is one characteristic that has remained constant throughout their catalog of work it’s just that: with every album and song the listener will be rewarded with jewels that may not be visible at first glance.
Bring Me The Head Of The Sexy Henrietta built a buzz around the name, but it was their 1998 release Retired that certified the Hoop as a definitive and fearless crew. It was without question their most potent release to that point and a defining point in the development of the group. Eight cuts deep, Retired found the Hoop again expanding on their musical palette, still dark and cerebral but with strokes of up-tempo or fun tracks. To go with that, Retired featured the first collaborations with Hoop extended family and Bay Area legends DJ Quest (Space Travelers/Live Human), Jihad (Third Sight),and Eddie K (40 oz. Crew/Gurp City) as well as cover art by Minneapolis artist Aaron Horkey (Burlesque/RVCA). Lastly, Retired marked the inclusion of DJ Marz (Space Travelers/Gurp City) into the group, and while he wasn’t featured on the album Marz would take over as the tour DJ for the group through their follow-up Sleep Over.
After Retired, the Hoop released the vinyl EP She’s A Sacred, Sacred, Sacred, Sacred Hoop, and the cassette-only Hump Hut as supplemental projects between their fourth full length project, Sleep Over. It marked their first album in 3 years, as Luke was busy was a side project with Jason Slater titled Brougham, which was released Le Cock Sportif on Warner Brothers, with the single “Party Didn’t Start,” which was the lead single on the Can’t Hardly Wait soundtrack. Sleep Over also marked the Hoop’s first studio album. “When we did Retired and Sexy Henrietta we were recording all the vocals in our studio so we could sit there and spend months getting everything perfect, but it wasn’t tracked out or anything. When we did Sleepover, we were able to track things out in a big studio, but we also had to have Luke do his lyrics in one or two takes,” recalled Vrse of the recording process.
It was a different look for the group, and the results were recognizable. There was a fuller sound that bound the album, and it was also another step further away from the groups’ darker side. Lyrically the concepts were just as developed and intricately penned, but there was a party feel to the record that exemplified their personalities unlike any album before. The album was met by great fanfare and received high praise in tastemaker publications such as Fader and Urb.
After Sleep Over there was another extended gap between a follow-up release, but in that time technology advanced and introduced a program that would alter the shape of music production, now famously known as ProTools. The program enabled the group to record at home without the burden or studio time and the financial drain that came with spending hours in the studio. More than anything it gave them the time to perfect every little detail as they had with previous albums. “We never had the best of both worlds, where we have professional studio in our house, and that is finally what happened with Go Hogwild,” says Vrse of the groups fifth and latest album Go Hogwild. “We knew that going into it, so we fine-tuned everything down to the last sound. I think part of the consistency is that we were able to take the best of the best and push it further, tweaking every sound. We put that effort into each song, and that’s what you hear; that same complexity and depth and sharpness in the vocals,” finished Vrse.
Recorded between 2004 when Luke moved out to Arizona, and 2006 when Vrse came out to the Bay Area, Go Hogwild is without question the groups’ most comprehensive album to date. Tightly packed with 14 songs including guest appearances by regular collaborators Z-Man (99th Dimension/Gurp City/One Block Radius), Eddie K, Jihad and Brandon B (Gametight Electro) as well as new friends TopR, Conceit. Go Hogwild also marks the inclusion of DJ’s Quest and Raw B, both longtime friends, and a dangerous concoction of turntable wizardry that is literally unmatched in any other group that comes to mind.
“Both of these cats are gonna be an integral part of our live show from here on out, and we're definitely looking forward to that because they’re both like us; they hone their craft professionally and know that it's perfect execution that is the definition of success. It has nothing to do with how many people know who the fuck you are, because, "A man who spends his time to put his face 'cross the atlas/ is good for one thing only really: target practice,” expressed Luke.
As for the albums title, Luke said, “The way we like hip-hop is the stolen kind, the kind your not allowed to make anymore. I started viewing it like when the Scottish weren’t allowed to play their bagpipes, and they weren’t free men allowed to play their own music. Now that they made the laws against sampling, real hip-hoppers aren’t allowed to make their music. We decided to say fuck it, and make the records we loved like 3 Feet High and Rising, De La Soul Is Dead, all the Public Enemy albums, where people didn’t give a fuck and took what they wanted. That attitude rolled into stuff like the James Younger Gang, Dalton Brothers, and that turned into this outlaw style, which is American in itself; to do whatever the fuck you want. A lot of that is missing, and I don’t give a fuck about politics, but in our political climate, people are afraid to do what they want because they are scared and comfortable. That’s what Go Hogwild means: Stop listening to rules and do what sounds dope, make some real music. It doesn’t matter if your gonna get sued, it’s like, what are they gonna take?”