Iconoclastic rap group Third Sight has stealthily built a resume over the last two decades as one of the more prolific and consistent backpack-style acts left. They have effectively outlived the two genres with which they were initially associated— Underground Hip-Hop and Turntablism. By staying true to their core aesthetic, they have developed a dedicated fan base that is entirely too small, a committed group of record collectors scattered throughout the group’s home turf of California’s Bay Area, Japan, and Western Europe.
Is this is all that can be expected for a group that refuses to be anything but itself? Their records are defined by dark, minimal beats, virtuosic rapping and scratching, and a macabre sensibility tinged with scatological subject matter. Before embarking on this project, we knew Third Sight was a niche group, but I don’t think any of us realized how underrated and underrepresented they actually were among even hardcore hip-hop heads. They’ve never been signed to a label. None of their lyrics are transcribed on Genius. Their most-played track on Spotify has barely more than 10k plays. (For comparisons’ sake, note that Ka, an artist mining a similar minimal aesthetic, has more than 10 times as many.)
As we approached several seasoned rap bloggers, the type of dudes whose vocation is to champion lesser-known MCs, we soon learned many had never heard of them. Perhaps this is by design yet their records draw consistently high prices on sites like Discogs due to the confluence of extremely high quality music with extremely low number of units pressed.
Perhaps they are best suited to their role as perpetual underdogs, as their output is by definition not for everyone. Let’s begin with the simple fact that the lead MC, a thoughtful and charismatic rhyme animal with a unique flow, has chosen for himself the moniker Jihad, a word fraught with horrible political and ideological connotations. As a switch-up, he will sometimes refer to himself as the equally problematic (though for completely different reasons) Captain Cum Stain. Every Third Sight album features long spoken sections from the pimp-ish character Sir Limpdic. Every release is filled with the kind of dense, dizzying polyrhythms, both vocal and scratched, that are somewhat difficult to comprehend upon first listen.
So, this 10-Piece Oral History is for Third Sight fans worldwide. Enjoy the thoughtful and detailed descriptions of Jihad the Roughneck, DJ D-Styles, and the rest of the folks who’ve had a hand in this unique and engaging career so far.
JIHAD – MC
D-STYLES (Invisibl Skratch Piklz) – TURNTABLIST / PRODUCER
DU-FUNK – DJ / PRODUCER
JERRY D “DA HERMIT” (Tone Freq) – SOUND ENGINEER / PRODUCER
ROB SATO – ARTIST / ILLUSTRATOR
I. PRE-VISION: FROM OUTTA NOWHERE
Let’s start with foundational benchmarks in your history: How did everyone meet? Had you previously already knew of one another? You two met at junior college, correct?
Jihad: I was in another rap group before Third Sight called Un-Cut Poets and we broke up over creative differences around 1990, maybe ‘91.
I did not feel comfortable going solo and I still wanted to be part of a group. I eventually came across an MC named Smooth Tone. I met up with him and did a few rhymes for him and we became fast friends. We decided to form a group together. Tone was from New York, Rockaway Queens and had relocated to California. He was in a group before meeting me called Deuce Of Clubs. I always felt that to be a legit group we needed a DJ so we went looking for a candidate for our new group.
First we met DJ Du Funk and began working with him. At the time we had no songs just some rhymes in rhyme books. Du Funk was dope with his cuts but he was more of a mixing party rocking dude and wasn’t really doing next level scratching. Tone and his old rap partner Calvin had been working with D-Styles and his friend Jolt-Ski. Tone arranged for a meet up between the four of us at Jolt-ski’s house. I always loved scratching and I was immediately impressed by what D and Jolt demonstrated that afternoon. Soon after we began working together as a unit. D and Jolt made some beats and later Du Funk got in on the production side of things.
This was in or around ‘93-’94 when I was attending De Anza junior college in Cupertino. I distinctly remember it was Christmas season in 1994 when D-Styles came up with the format for the song “Rhymes like a Scientist” because I was working at the Gap in Sunnyvale Town Center and I got caught by the manager writing rhymes during my shift. He had the gist of the song, fleshed out cuts and all; all I had to do was add the lyrics. Before we released the single in ’96, Tone left the group and moved to St. Louis.
D-Styles: Me & Jihad both went to De Anza College but we met before that. Let me backtrack. Back in 1992 I was working with 2 MCs (Smooth Tone & Calvin) the group was called Deuce of Spades. They were both from NY. Smooth Tone told me he had another group with some other guys from Sunnyvale and Santa Clara. Those guys were Du Funk and Jihad. So that’s how I met them and we all clicked. We recorded so much music back then on my Tascam 4track in my bedroom. But that’s how it all began. Third Sight already existed and I joined shortly after.
Jihad, was the consensus always for D-Styles to produce and you rap? Were there other considerations for other producers and DJs?
Jihad: The original idea was for D to be on the cuts and production side but Du Funk was also doing the same thing. We had a dual DJ/producer set up from the beginning since we met Du first. We worked with some other producers in the beginning. We worked with Shocking A/C but none of those songs made the Golden Shower Hour. I even produced a track or two in the beginning because I always had some rudimentary production ideas.
Actually it was a two MC-two DJ set up like the Get Fresh Crew until Tone left the group. On the Golden Shower Hour the production duties were split down the middle with Du Funk doing half and D-Styles the other. Du Funk actually cuts on the “Execution Starts,” “I’m Kinda Vain,” and “Ballsacks.” However by the time we did Murder Death Kill, D-Styles was holding down the cuts by himself and Du Funk became more of a production-only guy.
D-Styles: I just remember giving Jihad a bunch of my beats on tape. He came back a few days later and wrote the illest rhymes over them. I was blown away. I knew he was serious about music and he was hungry. He said all the shit in raps that I always wanted to say but couldn’t.
Are the aesthetics of your songs planned beforehand or is it more touch-and-go; ‘here are the beats, rhyme over them.’
D-Styles: Usually it was ‘here are some beats, write what you feel.’ But every now & then I would already have scratches on the beat and have him write around that. In retrospect I think that’s what worked best for us when we did that.
Jihad: The way D-Styles used to give me beats is a great memory. I would shoot over to his spot in Fremont and we would go for a ride or park in the neighborhood and blaze one then he would play the beats for me…. it was a perfect way to be introduced to a new beat. I miss those days! The song “Ballsacks” came from one of those jam sessions at Du Funk’s place. He was doing the cuts during the freestyle session and that phrase gave birth to the song. Back then I would often write in class to the rhythm of the teacher’s lecture cadence. For that song, I was inspired by all the pretty girls in my classes, at De Anza Junior College.
Your sound has essentially stayed the same. Is that a conscious choice of using the same equipment?
D-Styles: I started out using drum machines first. The Casio rz-1 was my first sampling drum machine. You had 4 pads and each pad you can sample 0.5 seconds. I eventually got the Ensoniq EPS keyboard sampler and that’s what I used to make “Rhymes Like A Scientist” and all my other Golden Shower Hour beats. Soon after I upgraded and got the Ensoniq ASR-10 keyboard sampler. That’s what I used for all the other beats after Golden Shower Hour. Now I use Ableton software but I kept my Casio RZ-1 drum machine and still sample drums into that if I want dirty 8-bit sounds.
Du-Funk: I used the Roland W30 on Golden Shower Hour, Murder Death Kill EP & Symbionese Liberation Army. I don’t use it no more but if I need to remake songs from that I did on the W30 I will transfer over to the MPC 1000.
Jihad, you have a very distinct delivery. Is that how you began or was that a specific choice to try and do something outside the norm? And who are some of the MC’s that inspired you? Please elaborate a bit on your approach to writing and rapping.
Jihad: My rhyme flow was a little more asymmetrical before meeting Smooth Tone. He had a very stilted symmetrical attack and mine was all crowded and jumbled, sometimes very esoteric and not rhyming at all. Tone kinda taught me the benefits of symmetry and I incorporated that to some degree. I was inspired by Melle Mel and Run in the early going. Later on by Rakim, Kool G. Rap, Kane and Kool Keith. As a child my grandmother would read me nursery rhymes often she had on these four pieces of pink paper she had stapled together.
I memorized those before I ever wrote any rhymes. I would often memorize song lyrics and improvise some new words in place of the actual lyrics. I always liked rhymes and rhyme patterns so rhyming came pretty natural to me but when I started I memorized the words to the song “I’m Fly” by Kool G. Rap and I would go to junior high school and pass off his rhymes as my own. I used to be a biter before I was a writer. I also used to bite a local MC I heard on KSCU, his name was Steel Master Mo. Later I realized that even though I was getting great reactions from being a biter I was going to have to bring my own lyrics to the table. I was also influenced by the way Ice-T would lay out narrative story telling rhymes.
Then of course the potty mouth rhymes from Kool G. Rap and the patterns of Big Daddy Kane and Rakim of course. “Raw” and “Check out My Melody” blew my mind. Then when I heard the esoteric space rhymes of Kool Keith that hit me hard. I liked and listened to many more I was a huge EPMD fan and also a fan of the lyrical gangster Just-Ice. KRS-ONE of course got major plays in my boom box and Walkman. I listened to just about any hip-hop I could get my hands on and some influenced me to do this or that and the others influenced me what not to do.
You drop a lot of different references; from Kraven The Hunter to Alexander Dumas to Pontius Pilate. You don’t hear a lot of that with other MC’s. Are you a big reader? And if so, does what you’re reading seep into your lyrics?
Jihad: I am a voracious reader. I read comic books, fiction and non-fiction. Not only does my reading seep into my rhymes but also it guides my rhymes to a great degree. For example I read a book about Carlos the Jackal to prepare to write the song “Hostage,” which is pretty much a blow by blow account of him air jacking a plane full of oil executives for the PLO. I’m a huge nerd and history buff and my comic book collection fills up the back of my garage. If I have to or rhyme about something I don’t know about I pick up a book. It keeps my language and rhymes fresh it’s essential to my whole existence as an MC.
You also tend to drop a lot of verbiage dealing with the human body—and body fluids. Seems to be a reoccurring theme in your rhymes.
Jihad: I have a rather demented sense of humor [laughs]. In the beginning I was a little less vulgar with my rhyming. I was fairly straight laced and I would not even curse in my verses. When my Mom heard what I was doing she said that is not going to work when all the other MC’s are cursing. That was one of the times I listened to her advice and the rest is history. When I was younger I would put on a cape and ski goggles and an enema bottle and run around the apartment saying ‘I’m Enema Man!’
I get pretty graphic with the rhymes, which I owe to my junior high school writing teachers. I just took descriptive writing to its logical perverted conclusion, at least in my mind. A lot of my writing assignments were rhymes. I’m not sure if my teachers knew I was rhyming but I was. I would cram all vocabulary words into a single sentence just for fun. I think it helped my writing in the long run.
Your narrative songs are some of the best written in in hip-hop. Do you re-write and refine the lyrics to make sure that the stories make sense as well as how everything fits in its musical structure?
Jihad: In the beginning I never did re-writes but I did do research before hand. I was an only child and I played by myself a lot. I would create worlds full of characters and play with them in the back yard. So pulling a narrative out of my ass was not that difficult when I started seriously writing rhymes.
Sometimes narratives can limit the rhyme patterns because of the need to stay on topic but I always try to rhyme as often as I can to set myself apart from the more simplistic storytellers. In this regard reading helped a lot. I started doing more rewrites in 2008 when I started working with DJ Ruthless in Foul Mouth Cringe. I realize now there is no shame in re-writes. Freestyling to the beat before I write to it also familiarizes me with the structure.
II. 12-INCH BALLSACK
Let’s start with the “Ballsacks” b/w “Rhymes Like a Scientist” 12-inch and explore your releases. What do you remember about the making of that one?
Jihad: When we first got together I wanted to make a demo and get signed to a label like all the East Coast MCs I admired. Even though we had some bites we were not getting signed. D-Styles had put out a record on his own before so he suggested we just put it out ourselves. I was initially resistant but that’s what we did. Du-Funk got some money from his Moms and we dropped the single. We were not sure which songs to put on the single but I think D-Styles let Peanut Butter Wolf hear some of our joints and those two stood out to him so we went with those two cuts.
A few publications dissed the record when we put it out but we sold out pretty quickly. We repressed the record so there are two pressings the first one with the image on the record center intact and it was blurred on the second pressing. It was our first 12” but we had a cassette before that called from Out of Nowhere that had Smooth Tone on some of the songs. We recorded the vocals at Studio Apogee in San Jose with engineer Peter Stanley. When D-Styles came in to do the cuts he was having a hard time doing them in the studio and Peter started dissing his cuts, saying they were off beat and that he was taking too many takes. That was the last time D-Styles did his cuts in the studio. He went home and recorded them at home and those are the cuts on the single.
D-Styles: Yeah the “Ballsacks” 12-inch was our first vinyl release. We recorded that on reel-to-reel tape. It was right before the digital ADAT era. I did the scratches to “Rhymes Like a Scientist” live in the studio. I remember hating that feeling because you felt the pressure of everyone watching you. You are paying for studio time so you can’t do 10 takes. You wanna nail it in 1 or 2 takes.
I remember the engineer being a prick to me. He kept asking me if I know this DJ and that DJ and that DJ is the best. Anyways if you listen to that song, you can hear all the pops and clicks from the phono/line switch of my DJ mixer. That was the only mixer I had and it was on its last leg. Now when I hear that song, I like those pops and clicks from the line switch. It had a lot of character and stands out from that “clean” scratch sound you hear today.
III. FIRST SIGHT – GOLDEN SHOWERS
Talk about the making of The Golden Shower Hour. When was the last time you listened to it? Who’s responsible for the cover art?
Jihad: I have all the Third Sight albums in my iPhone so I often hear the songs but it has been years since I listened to it all the way through. Most of the songs are on an equal footing to me it’s hard to decide which of your children you like the most but “I Will Never Leave You” I wrote for my mother in an abstract sort of way. I often mask my true emotions within the narrative of the rhyme. That song was based on a couple of artistic film influences, The Professional and Psycho.
My mom was a into some heavy drug shit and I was always afraid she would die so I was in a round about way telling her I would never tell on her or go to the police or allow myself to be removed from her care but I covered it all up in insanity sauce of living with a corpse like Norman Bates. When they came to get me in the song I would fight them off like Leon in The Professional. That and the fact that even with all my Mom’s flaws I loved her more than anything in the world. “Don’t Say Nothing” is another song that is dear to me it’s so gritty and raw and reminiscent of how my life was at the time. Dark times.
D-Styles: I think my favorite song off that album is “Greatest World Famous.” Jihad’s voice mixed with that style of rim shot beat. Plus it’s a short teaser song so it leaves you wanting more. My friend Jay Ramos did the cover art.
What’s your favorite beat off the album? What are your favorite cuts by D-Styles on there? What stands out to you most about the chemistry between you and D when making this?
Jihad: My favorite beats would be “Don’t Say Nothing”, “I Will Never Leave You”, and “Gas Chamber,” which is a remix. The original was dope too but the remix made the album. Favorite cuts by D..? All of them. I’m a huge scratch groupie and I love everything he touches but especially when he cuts over his own beats like on the Golden Shower Hour. I think one of the things that fuels our chemistry is that D-Styles is an MC in his heart but he speaks through his cuts but if you examine his work his progressions are spot on rhyme pattern progressions. He is rhyming with a turntable and his lyrical approach makes him create soundscapes that are perfect for cutting as well as rhyming. I trust him implicitly in all things music he is the mastermind behind all this shit. I have been following his lead for decades and he has never steered me wrong. It’s about trust.
Was that self-released? Tell us about the formation of Darc Brothas Records. Was that a one off or were there more releases and ideas for the label?
Du-Funk: Self-released. My dad funded the project.
Jihad: So the Darc Brothers was the crew that DJ Du-Funk belonged to before we met him. It was formed by DJ Flash from MC Twist and the Def Squad, also known as Sir Limp Dick. The name was based on the porno production team the Dark Brothers. They made the film New Wave Hookers and a bunch of other shit. Du-Funk financed the first single and when we put out the GSH we went with the same company and title. But I was fighting with Du-Funk after the LP dropped about money and control so subsequent releases were put out under Disgruntled Sound Recordings which was me being pissed off about money and control. DSR was my idea, Darc Brothers was his. So it was kinda a one-off because of that. I want to say Murder Death Kill and the Zodiac Killer were DSR releases.
D-Styles: Yeah all our music is self-released. I’m glad we did it that way because we learned how the music biz works. We learned how to press up vinyl and how to distribute the music. It was all a learning process for us. I can’t remember the exact quantity of the first pressing of Golden Shower Hour but if I had to guess it was 500 records. So if you have that album on vinyl now you know how rare that is.
It seems for the two EP’s in between the two full lengths that the production changed a bit. Darker with even more minimal beats. Was it a conscious effort to do that?
D-Styles: I think that was just my style of beats. Since I make beats to scratch over I tend to keep things minimal. I’ve always heard people complain that my music is too minimal. I guess I don’t wanna put too much dressing on my salad. I like to keep things simple and raw. Less is better.
Give us a little insight behind the Murderdeathkill EP. Why was it decided to put out an EP rather than a full length?
Jihad: We were slow in releasing stuff in general it took us like 6 years between LPs. I think D-Styles was busy touring and getting down with Invisbl Skratch Piklz and I was getting anxious to do another release in the interim. So Murder… is all Du-Funk production. D-Styles cuts on “Solo Vega” but I just wanted to drop something new while we were waiting then later we dropped the 12” for the “Zodiac Killer b/w Will I Get Shot By a Doper Fiend” 12” when D had more time to work.
D-Styles: Murderdeathkill was an ‘in-between albums’ project. We had music that was ready and that we wanted people to hear ASAP. But we didn’t have enough music for a full LP therefore Murderdeathkill was released. I didn’t have any beats on that EP. That was all Du-Funk and Raggedy Andy.
“Da Hermit” Jerry D, San Jose, California-based producer and audio engineer, mixed a lot of your records. Talk about meeting him and what the working process was like.
Jihad: He is the unknown Third Sight member pretty much. I think Jerry mixed everything after the Golden Shower… I can’t really remember when we first met but I remember working in his studio during the period between the GSH and the SLA. He is my go-to guy to record my vocals and he will actually end a take a yell at me if I fuck up on some shit. Anybody else I would fight for doing that but Jerry knows how to get the best takes out of me and D trusts his ear on the mix. He mixed Third Sight IV just a while ago. I really look up to that guy he’s one of the only cats from Santa Clara to have a record deal and go on tour and all that.
Jerry D: I met D-Styles in the early 90’s, I actually met him at a junior high DJ battle. Back then DJ’s would mix in the battle but he was the only DJ that scratched and juggled. Him and I started hanging out and he mentioned he also produced beats, and was also a DJ for a rap group. That group was Third Sight. He then introduced me to the group. The first song he played for me was “Rhymes Like A Scientist.” I was blown away. From listening to the music and lyrics you cant tell Jihad wasn’t just your typical MC, he was actually a MC that knew a lot of shit that made sense.
D-Styles: I’ve known Jerry for a long time. Like back in the late 80s gangbanging days. Back then you had DJ crews and you had gangs. Eventually the DJ Crews turned into gangs and that’s around the time when I met Jerry. We had DJ’ing and music in common but knew the same thugs so we got along well [laughs].
Jerry D: After the Golden Shower Hour album came out, D-Styles asked if I was interested in recording Jihad at my studio for a few singles. We started to work together. The group would come by my mom’s old house in Santa Clara. My parents were cool enough to let me turn their family room into a full-blown recording studio with a vocal both. Back then I was recording into 24 tracks on ADAT. From there we kept our relationship and we stuck together all the way through from the SLA album that was mixed and mastered by Dave Cooley through Chillin’ With Dead Bodies in a B Boy Stance that was recorded and mixed by me.
V. WHAT’S YOUR SIGN – ZODIAC KILLERS
Off the Zodiac Killer EP, what’s that bass line from “Will I Get Shot By A Dope Fiend”? Or perhaps you could tell us about studio techniques for that track.
D-Styles: Damn it’s been so long I can’t remember the artist now [laughs]. I wanna say it’s Ron Carter but I’m not 100% sure. All I did was loop the bass line and then repeat the beginning part of it. Its not rocket science at all. I got lucky finding that little bass line piece and added drums to it. I always wanted to use that Too $hort phrase- “Am I gonna live ‘til next week, will I get shot by a dope fiend.” That beat seemed to work well with it so I added it and gave the beat to Jihad. He heard it and wrote around the hook.
Third Sight dedicated the “Zodiac Killer – 12” to Ken “Spiderman” Hamilton and I know you guys played his tribute show in SF. Talk about your relationship with him.
Jihad: Damn, Kenny was a true friend and he had a huge impact on my life. I used to go by his show and freestyle. His show was called the Monday Beatdown on KFJC. We became fast friends after the initial meeting but even more than friends that dude supported Third Sight in every way he could. We didn’t really have money to put out the “Zodiac Killer” single and I was venting to him. Kenny worked at a record store in San Jose and he had an incredible vinyl collection. When he saw me upset he offered to sell his records back to the store to raise the cash. I told him not to do that but that offer really touched my heart. I was like ‘this dude really believes in me,’ and that meant the world to me.
I used to go over to his apartment and play NBA live on the PlayStation, back then I was a huge Utah Jazz fan so I would pick Utah and he would pick a better team and beat the shit outta me repeatedly. We used to go to mad hip-hop shows and he even set me up on some dates with young ladies. I loved that guy. He schooled me on the history of the Armenian people and the genocide. I was devastated by his needless death in a car accident. It makes me mad just recalling it.
D-Styles: I remember him from the radio station and from hanging out at Cactus Club in San Jose back in the days. We all liked underground hip-hop and he was a big supporter of our movement back then. He was one of the few on college radio who supported local hip-hop back then.
Third Sight’s artwork has always been very distinct. How did you come to design hip-hop record covers? What was your involvement in independent rap?
Rob Sato: By complete coincidence I used to live in a house in Oakland upstairs from a bunch of guys in the Anticon collective during the mid to late 90’s. My roommates and I were a pack of art school kids making paintings and a huge fucking mess around the clock upstairs. And the Anticon dudes lived in the basement apartment making music and a shitload of noise nonstop. We would hang out a bit in the process.
At some point Sole asked me if he could use a painting of mine for an album cover and it ended up on his “Bottle of Humans” 12-inch. I can’t remember if D-Styles or Jihad was the one who saw it and thought of me for some album art, but D-Styles was the one who met up with me first. His request was, ‘Can you make something that scares us?’
It is a very unique cover, particularly for a rap 12″, what was your inspiration and are you pleased with the final result?
Rob: Dave [D-Styles] brought over some record covers to show me the kind of imagery they were into, one of which I remember was Archie Shepp’s “The Magic of Juju”. He used the term, “death-hop” for what they were making which sounded fantastic. I’m not much of a rap fan but I am a metal guy. I grew up loving metal album cover art and I channeled a lot of that influence for “Zodiac Killer.” Yeah, I’m extremely happy that it’s a cover for a rap 12″ and not any other genre. I love that so much. It was also super gratifying to hear from Dave and Jihad that it scared them.
VII. SECOND SIGHT- SLA STYLE
It wasn’t until 8 years later that a full-length, Symbionese Liberation Album, was released. Why so much time in between projects?
Jihad: We are fuck-heads pretty much [laughs] but seriously all of our albums are collaborations even between the three of us and in between albums life happens and you have to be patient with life. We were busy dating, working, painting, going to school and since we were never signed raising money for the next project. Also working with D who is one of the most sought after DJ cats born. He was getting down with Mystik Journeymen, ISP and the Beat Junkies. His schedule was tight so we had to take the time to get things right and not rush.
In the case of the SLA we made that album twice a lot of the songs that didn’t make the record ended up on the cutting room floor and on my solo LP E Pluribus Urine, which was recorded before a lot of the SLA stuff. We are trying to be better timing-wise because it is hard to build a brand when you have to continuously remind the public you exist as a group but I’m kinda Zen about the whole thing. I live and let live and I know we will put out some crazy shit eventually. That is one of the reasons I get down on features and side projects like Foul Mouth Cringe and my solo stuff.
D-Styles: I think life happened. I spent less time making beats and more time scratching. That’s when I started working on my solo album Phantazmagorea. Also I was putting out a lot of battle or break records. I was trying to find ways to make a living from DJ’ing. Also, I started doing more shows with the Skratch Piklz.
During the interim, were you constantly making songs? When was the last time you heard the album? What about it strikes you now?
Jihad: Yes, I record as much as I can. Back in the day I had more rhymes than beats but now I have more beats than rhymes. I don’t think I have listened to SLA end to end in a while, maybe when we pressed the vinyl a couple years ago. That album I had my fingerprints all over the way it looked and the title, etc. I read this book about the Symbionese Liberation Army and Patty Hearst and it had a big impact.
I walked away from the book thinking two things, the first being that Patty Hearst was the white OJ Simpson and that in demonizing of the SLA, the media and law enforcement missed that this was the first multi racial black leftist group that had major roots in the Bay Area. To me that was a metaphor for Third Sight and our musical collaborators. We were revolutionary and from several different races and ethnicities. We have a definite symbiosis that’s how we get down.
D-Styles: I would send Jihad a beat once in awhile. It wasn’t until I moved to Las Vegas that I got serious and we all agreed to put out another album. Jihad would come down to Vegas to do the rough vocals. Once he felt like he was ready he would re-record the vocals for SLA at Jerry D’s studio.
How do you compare those two albums? Which of the two would you say represents Third Sight to the fullest? What strides do you think were made in between the first and second projects?
Jihad: The fans seem to like the GSH the most out of all of our LPs. The SLA had guest producers and MCs. We got to see what we would sound like outside the original Third Sight recipe of Du-Funk, D-Styles, and Jihad. For me I was less depressed when I wrote the SLA so I think it is not as dark, macabre and angry. I think D-Styles just progresses more and more with time. His cuts on there are incredible.
I considered not rhyming anymore when my mom passed away in 2003 so I thought the SLA might never happen but my mom told me in the hospital that I had to keep rhyming so I pushed on. She was right about just about everything.
As far as me as an MC I was a different person when we did the SLA than when we did the GSH. I had undergone significant changes because I was depressed because of my living situation during the GSH and I was going through stages of grieving during the SLA. I had moved to LA from the Bay and although I was sad I wasn’t super angry. I also got married and rescued the first of my three dogs so I was happy at times. I use my emotions to fuel my creativity and it was all new to write when I was more happy than before.
D-Styles: SLA album is mainly me on production so it has a very angry vibe to it. Golden Shower Hour has more range to it and more styles. So I’d have to say Golden Shower Hour represents us more.
You guys are sort of like a more literary version of horror rap, dark subjects but with a playfulness around the violence. Is there a concerted effort to try and merge the light and the dark?
Jihad: My sense of humor has bled through the fabric of the music as my overall mood changed. I enjoy making people laugh when I can so I fit it in when it is appropriate. I’m am the product of the merging of a dark sense of humor and a lot of lifetime suffering so my writing output can reflect that …at least for the attentive listener.
Where and how was this second album recorded? Talk a bit about Disgruntled Records, the working process and the vision for the label.
D-Styles: Most of the preproduction was recorded in Las Vegas. The vocals were recorded at Jerry’s studio in San Jose. There was no vision for a label really. We just needed a label name to put out the album and we kept disgruntled as the label. I guess Disgruntled stems from us feeling like we didn’t fit in with the normal hip hop that was being put out and getting love so I came up with disgruntled. There was probably a Post office shooting by a disgruntled worker on the news and that had some influence on the name also.
Jihad: The label name was a response to my being mad temporarily at how Du-Funk handled the GSH and my overall attitude towards the music industry around us. There was a lot of wack MCs getting more shine than us and so I was disgruntled and that’s what we named the label. More than a new vision for the label it was about continuing to put out our brand of music on the independent side. It put me in the driver seat for a lot of the label decisions.
IX. FOURTH SIGHT AND CADAVERS
Moving onto Chillin With Dead Bodies in a B-Boy Stance. It’s a record that exemplifies your talents as a cohesive group yet it didn’t get as much attention as the previous two projects. Talk about the process of putting this one together.
D-Styles: I was living in LA and we recorded one song, “Beat Biter.” In that song, Jihad says, “Cold chill with dead bodies in a b-boy stance…” When I heard that I thought that would be ill for the next album name. So that’s how that came to be.
Jihad: The ‘too much time in between projects’ bug kinda bit us on Chillin... We initially released it on digital format only. The whole independent music scene had died down a bit. I took us a long time to press vinyl and when we did it was through a German company that primarily distributed to Europe and Japan. With D-Styles and I being in So Cal we didn’t have the same connections with record stores and we only had a handful of promotional copies, so it was a low profile release stateside. We sold out of the inventory we had in Europe and Japan and that was cool.
Our process was a little different we spent less time in the same place but basically D-Styles gave me the tracks and I would travel to the Bay and lay down the vocals at Sticky Lab with Jerry. Jerry mixed it and we mastered at Trakworx in SF. We had 5 guest producers, Jerry D on “Pineal Gland”, Tape Master Steph on “Artificial Missle”, DJ Ruthless on “I Got A Lot of Yen”, Controller 7 on “Stratosphere” and Pryvet Peepsho on “Jeepers Peepers.” Jonas Angelet did the cover for us.
D-Styles held down all the cutting and the lion’s share of production. Working with new producers gives you a template for subtle changes as far as the rhymes go. The main difference on this compared to the others is that we spent less face-to-face time. There was a lot of emailing of beats and vocal and cuts and reference mixes between me, D-Styles, Jerry D, and Du-Funk.
We love the song “I Gotta Lot of Yen.” You’ve always seemed to had a huge following in Japan, perhaps even bigger than here in the States. Why do you think that is?
Jihad: D-Styles! D-Styles! D-Styles! He has a huge fan base on that island. Other than that Japan is very open and receptive to all sorts of Hip Hop. I think scratching transcends the language barrier more thoroughly than rapping. Especially with my more complex rhymes I would think it would be a chore to understand them even for Japanese fans that speak English but they know some D-Styles and ISP for sure. Our Japan tours had a profound effect on me and that’s what inspired me to write “Yen.” I really enjoyed the country and the warm reception that we got upon arrival.
D-Styles: I think Japan is open-minded to devious shit that we’re into. There is a scene for everything in Japan. Doesn’t matter how big or small.
Is there anything on this you would’ve done differently? Which cuts are your favorites?
Jihad: I tend to really like the songs that D-Styles cuts on the most. Not only are his cuts super nice and super clean but I am usually used to the beats and the rhymes by the times he lays down his cuts so they are like the icing on the cake. I get to delve into the patterns and his phrase selection is always bonkers. I start to wonder where did that phrase come from? His cuts are like Easter eggs you have to find and enjoy in a film. I really like “Artificial Missile,” “Baghdad,” “Accordion,” “Beat Biter,” and “Honey Aficionado” for that reason.
D-Styles: I’d say my favorite on that album is “Jeepers Creepers.” Pryvet Peepsho produced that. Its one of those songs that when you hear it, it makes me think, “Damn I wish I made this beat”.
Talk about the latest album project, IV. How does it differ? How is it fundamentally the same?
Jihad: The difference with the new project is that it is largely crowd funded. Don’t get me wrong a crowd funding campaign is a lot of work but the financial burden is shifted to the fans and all we had to do is make an album like we always have. Right now we also have a lot more tracks on this album. Du-Funk stepped up his production output on this one. On the last two he only put in one song after producing half of the GSH. He has three cuts on the new one. He has been ultra prolific on the beats in the last two years. So much so that we are doing a Jihad Du-Funk LP that will be released after the new Third Sight.
On the new album the music seems bigger; the beats are a little more dense. Is it because the technology has changed so much in the last decade or a conscious decision?
D-Styles: For this new album I’m actually taking a backseat from producing. I have a few songs that I produced on the new LP but I wanted to gather myself and Jihad to gather beats from other producers and pick and choose beats that we felt Jihad would compliment best. I think by doing this it gives the album a wider range of styles and moods. The new project has a lot of different producers and different styles. This is the most producers we’ve had on a Third Sight album before. So I’m hoping it will have a wide range of moods and vibes to it.
Some of our favorite songs in the catalog are almost duets between D’s scratches and Jihad’s lyrics, sadly a rarity in today’s hip-hop landscape. Talk a little bit about how you continue to inspire each other.
D-Styles: I think me and Jihad carried the torch from Premier and Guru and that influence. We’ve just tried to reinvent that into our own style. You’re right not allot of hip-hop artists still do that these days.
Jihad: I love cuts and scratches and in my opinion they are a staple of Hip Hop instrumentation and vocalism. It is rare that groups have a full time DJ nowadays. We have the luxury of having a virtuoso scratch DJ that can hold down an LP or a show all by himself. For us the cuts are not just a background sound or musical garnish but a living voice on the record as much as any verse I’ve ever written. That puts us ahead of the game in a way you used to see with Gang Starr and a few others. I don’t ever want to be left in the dust by not bringing my A-Game when I know that D is going to tear down any song he cuts over.
I’m just holding up my end of the bargain. I know in the past DJs have not been paid as much as the MC and have left groups because of it but we have always split the money equally. We make sure his cuts are not buried in the mix, they have to be loud and proud! He inspires me every time I see or hear him n the cut with ISP, by himself at a jam or at the Low End Theory in LA. I think ‘damn this guy is so fresh’ and he recognized my rhyming talent from the jump. I consider myself fortunate in that regard. Even if an MC woke up one morning and thought he could step to me he would be demolished by a Third Sight diss track with D on it! People don’t really fuck with us as a result.
You guys seem to be one of the more slept on artists in bay hip-hop. Do you think being from the South Bay instead of Oakland or SF had something to do with that?
D-Styles: Yeah it could have. I always felt like we never got the opportunity to showcase at the right shows back then. At that time we also didn’t care much about politicking too. For me I guess I’m more comfortable being in the studio and working. We also didn’t have the best organization back then as well. There were a few groups that were able to make it out of San Jose. PBW and Charizma being the bigger names.
Jihad: I think the logistics of being from the South Bay, being largely an anti-social freak-a-zoid who cannot network, not having a deal and our sound which is different than other more prominent Bay Area groups has led to our relative obscurity. I mean we knew some of the more well-known acts but we always played the back. D-Styles used to demand that we go on first at a jam so a lot of people would come late and never hear us even at our shows. I spent a lot of time in the basement at KZSU Stanford when I could have been networking and building. I also have a huge chip on my shoulder about trying to be the best lyricist and that can be off putting to other rappers.
What does the phrase ‘Third Sight’ means to you and has the meaning evolved over the years?
Jihad: The long form name of the group was Third Eye Sight in the beginning. The eye part was the Egyptian symbol for the eye of Horus. My other suggestion for a group name was Super Sperm, which nobody liked. Eventually we shortened the name into Third Sight. As far as the meaning I guess that has been a constant for me for all these years; it’s really a commitment to Hip Hop excellence. I have always felt that we were dedicated to a high level of dopeness across the board and by that I mean dope lyrics, dope beats and dope cuts.
D-Styles: It means to open up your 3rd eye. When you are falling asleep and start to feel your soul leaving your body. We’ve all had that happen before and it can be scary as fuck. But that’s the dimension we want our music to go towards.
Du-Funk: Three different sights on music.
*By David Ma, Nate LeBlanc, and Jeff Brummett. Foreword by Nate LeBlanc. We’d also like to thank everyone involved for their graciousness, patience, and time.
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