Track for Track Interview: Elucid & AM Breakups on ‘For Madmen Only’
Cult Favorite consists of MC Elucid and producer AM Breakups. I reviewed their stellar debut For Madmen Only earlier this year and reached out for them to be the guinea pigs for a new interview format I came up with for Thought On Tracks conveniently titled “Track for Track”, designed to give the reader some insight into the concepts behind each individual song contained on a particular album. They obliged, we linked up over Skype and peeled back some of the layers of the onion that is For Madmen Only.
1. People’s Temple
Thought on Tracks- Elucid on the first song “People’s Temple” your rhymes sound like they’re from the perspective of a cult leader. Can you touch on the perspective you used to write the song?
Elucid- I just wanted to set the vibe for the album as far as like the concept as the Cult Leader. I mention
Father Divine and Daddy Grace and those are two guys from the New York Area, leaders of large groups
of people in the 50’s for Daddy Grace, and Father Devine was a little earlier on in the 20’s. Also I had in
mind guys like Jim Jones and the Jonestown Massacre. A lot of the lyrics like “for who so ever believes”
are like bible verses. I was raised a lot of my life in the church so coming out of that, that’s like second
nature to me. I wouldn’t consider myself a Christian now, I don’t go to church or follow those kinds of
teachings, but it’s natural for me to reflect back on that.
ToT- When you say “Fear not you are perfection, would you die for my message, after all that I’ve
invested” you could take it from the perspective that someone is deceiving someone or possibly
helping them out.
Elucid- It’s encouragement, but with ulterior motives there, even evil…With the Jonestown example he
did that so much that these people packed up and left the country…
AM Breakups- It’s scary to have blind faith in anything. I know kids that I grew up with that are Jesus
freaks now and you can’t get a thing in their ear because they are so thankful that someone has done
this for them. It’s a very strange psychology to get into that, it’s almost unnecessarily guilt driven, like
you gotta pay them something back.
ToT- The specific word “Technocult”, is that something you came up with? Or where did it come
Elucid- It came from a free write session. (I just thought) these words sound cool together. Technology
and Occult, you can kinda jump off from that, like “Data miners tracking my keystroke/ they offer me
deep throat” thinking along internet lines with surveillance. It included ideas like police brutality as you see in the interlude at the end. I try to have concepts, but I’m not the best with that honestly, I just kind
of let it go.
AM- Which is amazing because your songs are all so conceptual by the time they’re done.
Elucid- I think it comes out of being aware. I read news, watch news, read books…all that makes its way
out via the rap. But I don’t really think about things when I sit down and write, I just go where his tracks
ToT- AM, the beat on “Technoccult”, especially the drums, has a thick, almost underwater feel
to it that I feel is representative of the album. Were you trying to create any particular sound or
AM- (Elucid) really pushed me to do things out of my comfort zone that I’ve never done before. When
we were making it he would come over every Sunday for our Sunday worship. I would play him things
that I had worked on and wasn’t sure about and a couple of them that I didn’t think were worthy tracks,
he said “No, this is finished”. I would have kept going but he made me restrain myself at times.
ToT- For “Omega3,” which features billy woods, was it something where you already had the concept for the song and asked woods for a verse or how did it come together?
Elucid- We had already done “Freedman’s Bureau” and on that song I was going again with police
brutality and I think he thought “I can fuck with this kid”, so on this record here we went more with the
racism in America type of thing…I was working at this bullshit job and got harassed on the phone and it
turned into that song.
AM- You showed up at our crib right after work that day and were like, “You’ll never guess what
happened to me at work today”.
Elucid- Yeah, so it came out of that experience and when I sent it to (woods) he was like, “Oh yeah, I’m
all about it”. We had just started making the Cult Favorite record and he was like “What is it about?
What’s the concept” and I told him the title came from reading essays from Eldridge Cleaver and he had
a strong anti-opinion of Eldridge Cleaver, so his line (“don’t get it confused like Eldridge Cleaver/ Soul on
Ice, balls deep in white pussy/ still cuts like a knife when he out juxing”) is a little jab at my concept.
4. God Body
ToT- “God Body” is a different song from most of the album, is it about a specific relationship or what is it drawn from?
Elucid- It came from a couple different relationships, being attracted to these similar types of women.
AM- (Elucid) gave me the drum loop, but that’s interesting we haven’t really talked about how on a
couple of occasions it goes from the cult leader vibe the girl/romance thing.
Elucid- Yeah, I mean cult leaders have sex, we like to fuck too!
AM- As a whole package I think it’s cool because it exposes the weaknesses, where as other places it’s
much more bravado.
Elucid- I think I brought it in late into the album, I thought “I haven’t even talked about women at all on
this record” so I thought pulling from real life stories it would work.
5. Planet Earth About to be Recycled
ToT- “Planet Earth About to be Recycled” is an instrumental track so AM, I’ll talk to you about this
one. What does the name mean and is there a concept behind the song?
AM- It’s funny that’s the only instrumental on the record and (Elucid) made the whole thing.
AM- No, but he played the synth…if you notice on that track it’s the same high-hat from “For all of
These Birds” and then Elucid sat with a couple synthesizers and made most of the tones, he sent me a
60’s rock track that we sampled for the distorted screaming sound, and then he picked all of the vocal
samples. So he basically made the whole thing, I just put an 808 underneath it.
Elucid- Yeah it came from a lot of different voices like Khalid Muhammad…Marshall Applewhite…Alex
Jones, who’s nutty and controversial but there’s certain things that he said that I sampled from…Bill
Hicks was on there too.
ToT- Were you responsible for all the vocal samples used throughout the album?
Elucid- Yeah, I did all of that. Even on my earlier projects I did that. AM was the first producer to give
me full reign…he was just really free to work with me in that way, I could even produce my own vocals
and stuff like that, so it was cool.
6. For all of These Birds
ToT- “For all of These Birds” is a big song for you guys, being a single and having a video. There’s a lot going on in the lyrics and the production is great. Just take me through that one.
Elucid- I think “For all of these Birds”, like “Omega3”, came out of frustration with work, “Dressing
better than my boss when what I have’s not what I want/ Still I’m thankful others make it work with
less”. I knew what I wanted to write about once I heard his beat, it just kinda took me there, that was
probably my favorite of the bunch that we recorded.
AM- That’s another one of those tracks where I don’t know if I’ve ever produced something like that
before or if I ever will again…I think Jimmy Da Gent was spinning a Cam’ron song in the living room
at the time and I was like, “Fuck this, I can make my kicks like that” and then it just turned into this
Elucid- The title is his title from the original beat, I didn’t do anything but add lyrics…I did the whole song
from top to bottom with no stopping and thought it was the best song we’d done.
AM- You can hear him say “gotta switch it off, gotta go from the paper back to the digital” when he
switches from the piece of paper he wrote the first verse on to his phone where he wrote the second.
He did it in all one take and then we all just sat there for a while.
7. Then He Rose
ToT- You follow up “For All of These Birds” with “Then He Rose” which is also as good of song as there
is on the album…
Elucid- That one almost got cut from the record. I didn’t want to put it out…I didn’t think it was that
strong, I thought it was very confusing to people. I thought that way because it was personal to me
in my upbringing. It was like bible verses twisted to fit where I wanted to go with that…I didn’t think
people would be into it…(AM) convinced me to put it on there
AM- It’s important, it’s the counterpart for “People’s Temple”. It shares the “there’s a man at the
pulpit” kind of thing. For me that track has a lot of weird inside stuff going on…The intro sample where
the guys are talking in the studio, that’s Levon Helm from The Band and he had just passed away so I
found this studio outtake where they were talking and I put that at the beginning and Elucid, completely
inadvertently, wrote a lyric in that song that goes “The band played a song, a smile spread across the
Elucid- I had no idea that was a Band sample, I’d never even heard of The Band.
AM- Also back in the day Elton John was obsessed with The Band and wrote a bunch of his songs about
The Band including one called “Levon” where he says “(Levon) calls his child Jesus”. Levon had passed
away so it all came full circle with the “Then He Rose”/Resurrection thing and it became this weird head
trip of a concept.
ToT- “Demolition” was the first song I heard that really got me excited about you guys as a group. Was it one of the first songs you recorded together?
AM- The first one was “No Invitation”, which is truthfully an AM Breakups featuring Elucid track because
that instrumental had been used on my previous album The Cant Resurrection…but I was making (the
“Demolition”) beat and I was super, super stoned. Jimmy Da Gent had dosed me with weed butter, I
was supposed to go out on a date or something this night and it was like me and Jimmy Da Gent and
MC Eleven chillin’ at the crib and Jimmy said like “Yo you gotta make sure that you eat before you go on
your big date”. I’d broken up with a girlfriend of like 2 years, really nervous and the kid fed me so much
weed that I was stoned out of my gourd. Eleven’s sitting on my couch writing raps and I’m just making
this beat because I’m really frustrated and really fucked up and I’m like, “This is definitely for Elucid”. I
burned two CDs, one of regular AM Breakups beats and one with just (Demolition) on it…I came to that
show that you did down in the Village.
Elucid- Culture Fix
AM- I was like “Here’s all these beats you should check out, but this other CD is THE beat that I made for
you”…must have been a week or two later you were like “Yo, I listened to that one that you told me to
write to, and I kinda like it now, I didn’t know what to do with it at first.” That was the second track that
we actually recorded, but the first Cult Favorite track.”
ToT- To me “Mollywhop” is more of a classic hip hop banger, the way the track hits you immediately, Elucid comes through really clearly on the song, what was the feel for making that song?
Elucid- It’s another song that I did not want to include on the record.
AM- [Laughs] We wouldn’t have had any songs on our record!
Elucid- On the hook I was like, “Oh that’s too much DMX” and then again I thought it was too slow and
too dark to do live, but again it just worked, people dig it…This is like the end scene, closing credits ya
know? “Dark shades in the rain, 10,000 yard gains”. This is I’m getting taken down, the Feds are rushing
in, like this is it ya know? It’s me recollecting…The “no knock, no knock” thing that came from these
NYPD laws, they don’t have to knock if they find whatever’s behind your door, if they find suspicious
cause they can just barge on in and mollywhop upside that head.
ToT- AM on the piano parts on there, did you take individual piano notes and stack them together or
was that a sample used on that song?
AM- I kinda give it away at the end of the track a little bit when I let the original sample ride out for
a minute. I guess I shouldn’t tell who it is, but it’s a really well known sampled guy, Busta Rhymes
sampled him for a couple of old 90’s singles and I don’t think anybody in a million years would have
chopped that sample and used it the way that I did because it’s not the way that the rhythm was
supposed to go…but that’s just one piece, that is actually one of the only songs that has synthesizer on
the album that wasn’t from a sample. Both the bass and the twinkly synth that comes in in the second
half are from synthesizers.
Cop For Madmen Only on wax at CultFavorite.com and look out for the full album remix featuring an
all-star list of producers which is dropping later this year.
Interview by John Bugbee
Video: Cult Favorite “For All of these Birds”
Fresh off the release of their thought provoking debut album For Madmen Only, Elucid and AM Breakups unveiled a video for the album’s lead single “For All Of These Birds.” The ominous feel of AM’s beat matches the industrial feel of the video perfectly. Per usual any of this duo’s output, first impressions don’t always tell the full story. As Elucid rhymes, “Might crack a smile, but ain’t a damn thing funny”. Jarring, progressive, philosophical, layered hip hop. Pick up a copy of the limited edition vinyl while it’s still available.
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Written by John Bugbee
Album Review: Cult Favorite ‘For Madmen Only’
Knowing versus believing. The nature of truth. Having vision and being accountable to it. Perspective’s impact on complacency. These are the types of themes and concepts that run wild through Brooklyn MC Elucid’s rhymes. The yin to producer A.M. Breakups yang, Elucid shows throughout For Madmen Only, the duo’s first album as Cult Favorite, that not only is he one of the best MC’s in the world, he is a flat out brilliant writer no matter how you classify his words. Elucid’s past tendency to rhyme mostly over busy, glitch-hop beats may have provided him the aesthetic that he desired, but it often shrouded his abilities to all but the most adventurous hip hop listeners. At first listen, A.M. Breakups production might sound similar to the electronic production that Elucid is used to rocking over, but A.M. is incredibly versatile as a producer and knows how to capture a vibe while making sure that he’s still showcasing the MC that he happens to be working with.
For Madmen Only is a quick listen at almost 36 minutes, but it’s been two years in the making and is about as dense as a 9 song LP can get. Throughout the album Elucid and A.M. consistently seek to explore the varying gaps between perception and reality (Elucid through his rhymes and A.M. through his atmospheres and clever vocal sampling). Elucid is especially adept at getting a listener to look at the world through a different lens while infusing his own hard earned knowledge and philosophies. A.M. Breakups’ lifelike production is the perfect setting for Elucid’s parables and helps give the album an ageless quality. A.M. also contributes an excellent instrumental track, “Planet Earth About To Be Recycled”, that is reminiscent of MF DOOM’s legendary sample based collages from the King Geedorah album.
Right from the jump Elucid lays out the album’s concept. “People’s Temple” is a song that immediately reminded me of John Hawkes chilling portrayal of a horrific cult leader in the 2011 film “Martha Marcy May Marlene”. Elucid rhymes, “Catch them preying upon the lost/ Speaking to your distortion/ Sheep ‘ll follow for fortune/ Seek until they’re exhausted/ Pay till they can’t afford it”, laying out a devious depiction that could really just as easily be applied to an opportunistic pastor as an evil sociopath. Elucid then follows with the messiah’s mantra- “Fear not you are perfection/ Would you die for my message?/ After all that I’ve invested?” before repeating his own commentary- “For who so ever believes.” This stretches the concept even farther showing how manipulation can turn a mere mortal into a godlike figure. Elucid has a curiosity for the gray areas in life and an ability to show how wide or how narrow the spectrum of these gray areas can be.
“Then He Rose” is another standout song that features metaphorical religious imagery. This time Elucid uses the track as an exhibit of his outstanding wordplay, depicting himself as a Christ-like figure on the mic. A line like “Still cut the cards I’m dealt/ shuffle, perspectives tilt” might not resonate at first, but the more you dwell on it the more impact it has. Conversely, when he rhymes “rappers hocking poppycock/ my cosmic slop layered like a Basquiat” the impact is immediate, but equally impressive. Perhaps the best display of Elucid’s unique vocal talents, “Then He Rose” is also a prime example of A.M. Breakups ability to have a lot going on in a track, but still not make it sound overwhelmingly dissonant. No matter how experimental A.M.’s production gets, he never loses the melodic root that his music grows out of.
The album’s lone guest appearance comes from Thoughts On Tracks favorites billy woods on “Omega3”, who seems to have found a kindred spirit in Elucid. Woods has worked with both A.M. Breakups and Elucid in the past and plans to release a collaborative EP with Elucid later this year. Billy is the type of MC that tends to outshine most MC’s that get on a track with him, but Elucid has always held his own alongside woods. “Omega3” is no exception, as Elucid spits my favorite verse on the album. He opens the song with the lines- “Have you ever asked a redneck how his sister taste?/ I just got called a n***** and that really made my fucking day/ I smiled for a second, asked the aforementioned question/ First time when I was 6 alone in my daddy’s green cutlass/ wouldn’t say it corrupted barely knew what it meant honestly/ just an old white man walking past, I’m far from Rockaway” Elucid’s vivid reflective verse was the result of a self-described “shitty customer service job experience where (he) was racially harangued on the phone”. The eye opening verse shows off Elucid’s development as an MC and his ability to turn a common life experience into a compelling artistic statement.
Elucid’s gruff delivery and apparent indignation might be the first thing that grabs your attention on For Madmen Only, but it belies a strong emotional core that allows him to be revealingly honest about every aspect of his life. His vulnerability in relationships with the opposite sex is made clear on a few occasions, especially on “For All Of These Birds”. While the song is a virtual kaleidoscope of Elucid’s personal philosophies, the end of the first verse details an exchange with an ex that was particularly memorable for Elucid. Although he seemed committed to putting the relationship behind him, her closing salvo “You are what you attract and I be back on the reg” left him questioning how much control he truly has of his life and relationships.
Cult Favorite’s music allows a lot of room for personal interpretation, but For Madmen Only closes with its clearest statement “Mollywhop”. While both Elucid and A.M. usually tend toward the abstract, on “Mollywhop” they take a more traditional route to making a classic hip hop song. A.M.’s stripped down beat gives Elucid room to drop jewels like “Whatever truth is, shouldn’t need to be explained” and my favorite bars of 2013 to this point, “5000 years they been talking ‘bout the last days/ I don’t hear a word of it/ Talking crazy, “Melo kinda hurt the Knicks””. Elucid and A.M. Breakups are fully committed to their vision, a fact that may not help their bandwagon in the present, but will only help it grow in the future. Cult Favorite’s debut album may be a culmination of years of hard work from two talented artists, but it feels like the genesis of a new chapter in the bible of hip hop. Stream For Madmen Only below and cop the limited edition vinyl over at CultFavorite.com.
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Written by John Bugbee