King Gordy keeps up lighting up the dark

[9 April 2007]

By Len Righi

The Morning Call (Allentown, Pa.) (MCT)

King Gordy is not afraid of the dark. In fact, the Detroit hip-hop performer embraces it, especially in his raps.

That lyrical stance has kept him working mostly underground in the four years since his debut, “The Entity,” drew the mainstream spotlight with its mix of hip-hop and Gothic and B-horror movie themes on tracks such as “Nightmares,” “Time to Die,” “Stress” and “The Pain” and a few beats from Eminem.

But Gordy wouldn’t have it any other way. “For me, the underground is the most real,” says the 29-year-old rapper, born Waverly Alford, over the phone from the Motor City. “It’s not filtered; it’s raw and uncut. And it’s the best music out there.”

“People that do hear it, it touches them more than a No. 1 record of any kind,” he adds. “Underground followings love their artists more than mainstream audiences, which will love you only as long as radio and TV will love you. To them you’re only as hot as your last single.”

Gordy’s latest efforts are his 2006 mixtape, “King of Horrorcore,” and his new album, “Van Dyke and Harper Music,” which dropped in January.

The self-styled “ghetto Edgar Alan Poe,” who sometimes performs in a red skullcap with horns, describes the former as “a dark album, a mix of rock and rap (stuff),” and the latter as “urban Detroit music.”

Unlike “The Entity,” both were released on Gordy’s own imprint, Morbid Music, not WEB Entertainment, Eminem’s initial label, which is now headed by longtime Slim Shady producers Mark and Jeff Bass.

Asked why, Gordy replies, “I didn’t have a lot of creative control over (`Entity’). With Morbid Music, I have more freedom. ... (Both releases) were offered to WEB, but they didn’t want them.”

Any hard feelings on either side?

“They didn’t want them, so I put them out. How can they be mad at me, or me be mad at them?” Gordy says. “That’s logic. That’s common sense.”

Gordy, who was raised in an east Detroit ghetto, says he started writing rhymes when he was 8, “imitating Run-D.M.C. or whoever was hot at the time.”

His parents split when he was 13, “and me and mom struggled.”

But hip-hop helped Gordy through hard times, and his dedication prepared him for what he calls “the transition when rap went from underground to mainstream.”

Listening to rockers such as Nirvana, System of a Down, Marilyn Manson and Queens of the Stone Age, as well as bluesman Howlin’ Wolf, brought a distinctive flavor to his music, Gordy says.

By 1999, his rhyming was good enough “to let me get out the basement,” and soon he was competing at open mikes in the Detroit area along with Eminem, who became a friend and fan. (He also appeared in the Eminem film “8 Mile,” playing rapper Big O.)

Asked to describe his songwriting method, Gordy says, “I get the beat, smoke about 15 blunts - purple haze, white widow, whatever - then I vibe out, and when I’m done I have about 15 verses and a hook.”

And what is the major change in hip-hop since he entered the game?

“It’s gone from being the greatest genre lyrically to only being concerned with making poppy, simplistic chants, or the next dance song,” Gordy says. “You don’t have to be lyrically sweet, like you did in 1995, when Lords of the Underground or Biggie Smalls were rapping.”

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