In the beginning there was a crew of kids in the Englewood neighborhood of Chicago (59th to 60th Ashland to Racine). While most were in the streets at the time dealing with gangs or drug selling these kids were trying to find their way bonding with personalities, sports, music and education (1989). Each member was a leader in their own right and as the passion for music grew so did the interest to record. The crew started with Lamont Bufford (DJ Butta), Derrick Wyckoff (D Party), James Taylor (Blaza), and Frank Johnson (Tsar X – Thou Seeking A Real – Existence).
(1987 – 1991)
The crew played sports and then would hang out at DJ Butta’s house (60th Elizabeth) where his mom had hundreds of records and old school turntables. Tsar X, who had started rapping and writing rhymes since 5th grade bought a used mixer and turned it over to DJ Butta dubbing him the backbone of the crew. Countless hours of pause tape mixes turned into recording songs in DJ Butta’s home while his mom was at work and brothers put to sleep (usually 6 PM, damn that was cruel). The Pause tape beats sparked the urge to let others hear what was going on and word spread in the neighborhood. D Party, Blaza and Tsar X wrote rhymes and Butta made the beats. Diss tracks were made, laughs were shared and bonds were formed.
This was a short lived hobby for members D Party and Blaza; however, Dj Butta and Tsar X continued to record pause tape songs. The recoding would start to wane and eventually stop once Tsar X joined the military.
After the military stint Tsar X returned home to the crew now a bit older and with tons of time on their hands the crew finally had a name and longtime friends had come into the fold: Rod Morrow (Big Psue), Merica Grant (MG), Erick Wallace (Big E) and Hank Stevenson (Sticky). DJ Butta’s family moved to 60th and Loomis and everything accelerated. The passion to record grew stronger and two things made that passion come to fruition: a chance meeting that Tsar X had with local Emcee Devo D (Dion butler) which led to a meeting with Dan Avinger (Silhouette) and longtime friend Ken Jennings (31) fronting the duo money to buy equipment so that they could make their own beats.
Devo D was in the process of making recording a solo project and solicited beats from his for former Sub Cult Riddim crew member Silhouette, Tsar X tagging along was able to meet the producer and instantly bonded after beats were played and freestyles were spit. DJ Butta meet Silhouette, they instantly clicked with the music and technical nuances of recording and DJing.
These were the first songs made by DJ Butta and Tsar X then known as the group, Nite Owls
- Sucka Nigga – Produced by Silhouette, Cuts By DJ Butta, Lyrics Tsar X, Recorded SuperSound Studios, Engineered by Vince (1996)
The Jazzy feel of this track reminded us of our favorite group A.T.C Q and seemed appropriate for this crazy subject matter. Silhouette is a Tribe as well and at that time had tons of Jazzy type tracks on deck, this was laid back and seemed to be the antithesis of the subject matter but everything worked. The approach on this song was to basically call out guys that would do anything for women; our style was a little raunchy at the time from a lyrical standpoint. Basically to drive the point home coming up with outlandish scenarios, the last verse actually happened. This is one of the few songs that DJ Butta’s voice can be heard. Cutting up Q Tip’s Sucka Nigga definitely blended with the overall message of the track, smooth beat rough vocals.
- Beats Vs. Rhymes – Produced by Silhouette, Cuts By DJ Butta, Lyrics by Tsar X, Recorded at Super Sound Studios, Chicago IL Engineered by Vince. (1996)
Silhouette and Tsar X had fun with this one as Tsar‘s love for Kool Keith inspired the song. Silhouette hadn’t entered into his dark music phase yet and had fun with the quirkiness of the sampled upright bass that would drive the track. Since the song dealt with the ongoing debate of what kept people more interested in music the beat or the rhyme Silhouette suggested that the song have two different feels from a vocal standpoint, rhymes were spit in various tones and effects were placed on each vocal. To bring everything home DJ Butta found dope records to cut in for the chorus carefully selecting songs that put emphasis on this battle.
- Feel That Freestyle – Produced By Silhouette, Lyrics by Tsar X and E Rab aka Big E. Recorded at Super Sound Studios, Chicago IL. Engineered by Vince.
With little time remaining in an 8 hour block of time and plenty of 2 inch tape for recording this is what you get: Silhouette making a beat on the spot, Big E and Tsar X bringing the off the dome freestyle sessions from the KUTS basement to the studio. (1996)
- Like This – Produced by DJ Butta, Co-Produced by Silhouette, Lyrics Tsar X, Cuts by DJ Butta; Recorded at Super Sound Studio, Chicago IL Engineered by Vince (1997)
As Prince Paul did with De La Soul eventually the production would become an in-house chore for the duo. Silhouette would co Produce and/or co engineer from the rest of the way. This was the first track produced by DJ Butta. The direction was to go with samples and became a signature sound of the crew. DJ Butta makes an appearance on the chorus (Screaming West Side) along with rarely recorded Silhouette.
- Go Rapper – Produced by DJ Butta, Lyrics by Tsar X (Lush), Drastic and Verbal, Cuts by DJ Butta; Recorded at Super Sound Studios, Chicago, IL, Engineered by Vince. (1997)
The group was going through a change at this point. DJ Butta connected with Verbal, a younger local emcee that was hungry to record. After talking it over with Tsar X the two welcomed Verbal into the crew and eventually changed the group’s name briefly to Low End and Tsar X changed his emcee name to Lush. Also, Silhouette introduced the guys to former Sub Cult Riddim Emcee, Drastic; after hanging out, discussing music and having a few freestyle sessions this song was born.
Almost Famous or Maybe Not
After completing the first four tracks the group felt pretty good about the direction. One day DJ Butta and Sticky was combing Chicago’s Lake Front to meet some young ladies, they happened to meet two young ladies visiting for holiday and made a connection. One of the young ladies, who had family from Chicago, had a brother (L.O.) that lived in LA and once was a record executive heading up a subsidiary of Capitol Records called Capitol Punishment Records. The Crew would take a trip to Phoenix and drove up to LA to meet with L.O. He listened to the four songs and told him that they weren’t wack but they needed to find their lane and to do one of two things: get more grimy or take the Will Smith route as he said that Tsar X (aka Lush ) reminded him of Will.
Draz was signed to Jake Records and in 2008 released The Image of Pain. In 2009 he teamed with Duece Maxwell to form Nu Magik releasing The Vintage LP, this was also re-released in 2011. The Duo also released V2 in 2014.