Mic Check: Ryu Black - Perfect 天

I've been a hardcore hip-hop head for decades, so I ain't gonna front about the Ryu Black album Perfect 天 (the kanji symbol has a dual meaning of Ten and Heaven). I know off the top that this album will not be for er'ybody. This is a concept-heavy production that contains a crazy amount of Japanese pop culture references, video game geek-speak, digital sound bites, knuckle-cracking action skits, and lots of other stuff that special peeps like myself can go, well... pretty much BAPE shit over. You see, I've been a hip-hop head for decades, but I've been a connoisseur of J-Pop culture even longer; Godzilla flicks, Robotech 'toons, Gundam models, Capcom arcade games. Yeah, you name it and I've probably geeked out over it. So it can almost go without saying that
Perfect 天 is kinda' like the 'perfect' soundtrack for peeps who love hip-hop as much as that other stuff.

Featuring ill mic skills as well as production by Ryu Black (aka MeccaGodzilla), Perfect 天 showcases the Long Island emcees bi-lingual love affair with hip-hop and the land with the largest number of giant monster footprints. And it's not all J-pop and video games, either. Following ancient hip-hop traditions, Ryu also speaks on heavier subjects, including teen suicide, bullying, stereotypes, divinity, the afterlife, and the blurring of cultural boundaries. Assisting him in this gigantic endeavor are guest artists Masia One, MegaRan, Majesty, Divine Life, Dashah and several others. As a killer finishing move, Ryu also enlisted comic book artist and homeboy Ronald Wimberley (aka D-pi) to provide the album's beautiful 64-bit visuals. Yeah, Perfect 天 is an album for folks who belong to the subculture within a subculture: the hip-hop heads who are also booty shakin' video game junkies, subtitle decipherers, manga fanatics and proto-culture addicts. People just like us. "Yatta!" (Recommended listens: Go-en, Chun-Li, Yama)

St. Paco, kungfugripzine.com


Sneak Peeks

The newest issue of Kung Fu Grip! has a lot of cool-looking content, including three beautiful full-color pages. But the traditional 'PLAY' section was still printed in black & white. I really liked the original color images that inspired the writing in this section, though, and decided to share online a sneak peek at four of the six products that were blurbed over these two pages. In addition to that, I also decided that I would share something else from KFG5 entitled "Geiger vs. Dali." A few buddies of mine and I have often (even very recently) discussed and debated the concept of originality. "Geiger vs. Dali" defines my position on that long-running discussion.

PLAY (Excerpts)*

Toon Tumblers
Remember those hot summer days of yesteryear when you walked into 7-Eleven with a handful freshly wiped of brow sweat and walked out gripping an icy beverage contained in a glass decorated with an image of your favorite comic book character? And remember how fun it was to go back every week to see which new hero glass had been introduced? Well, those days are here again, thanks to the ‘Toon Tumblers beverage glass series by PopFun. These high-quality 12 oz. collectible glasses feature colorful images of your favorite animated, comic book and comic strip characters–including some that weren't even available back in the day, like Power Man! Best of all, instead of that Slurpee™, you're old enough to walk around now with a tumbler filled to the brim with a frigid mudslide–or a frosty margarita! So show yourself and all of your drinking buddies a super good time with these great glasses from toontumblers.com.

DC Comics Superhero ‘Cami Panty’ Sets
Ladies, you're never too old for Underoos. Well, you actually are...but you’re never too old to have fun! And this DC Comics licensed underwear set can be a fun alternative to the 'blah' white bra and granny panties that the love of your life has begrudgingly become accustomed to. This strikingly colorful camisole and panty set features an 'enhanced' version of DC Comics’ Wonder Woman outfit. The red cami top with adjustable straps features a bold yellow ‘W’ bust shield, and the baby blue hot pants-style panties show off the classic star-spangled pattern. And for you Smallville fans, there’s an equally adorable Supergirl costume design. These 5% spandex / 95% cotton undie sets also come in a wide range of sizes, from small to a super-sized 3X large! To get 'outfitted' for some über fun times, fly on over to webundies.com!

Iron Man 2 4 GB USB Jump Drive 
Back when you were a young crumb snatcher, you could always trust ol’ “shell head” to save you from boredom. Now you can trust him to save all your important digital data–including movies, music and photographs! This 3" Iron Man 2 movie-inspired USB drive by Funko is a funky flash memory storage device that holds up to 4 GB of files. It also shows off your iron-clad sense of style when others see it hanging from a neck lanyard, keychain, or the messenger bag that holds your laptop. To get your own Iron Man 2 4GB USB Jump Drive, point your metal detectors to Amazon.com, or to the web site of your preferred high-tech toy dealer.

PEZ Candy Dispensers
Mild depression got you thinkin’ about poppin’ pills? How about poppin’ PEZ instead? PEZ candy is a cheap and non-addictive alternative to drug prescriptions (and the even more costly drug habit). So when you’re sitting around worrying about things you have absolutely no control over, knock back the head of your PEZ dispenser, open your mouth, shake, and let that sugary goodness give your nervous system a jolt. By the time you’re done chewing, you may feel as right as rain again. And although nothing at all has actually changed in your life, sometimes we need a shift in perspective. And sometimes we need good tasting things to remind us of the good stuff in life.
PEZ candy can serve as a quaint reminder of the good ol’ days when we had virtually nothing to worry about. Frankly, these cool little joy dispensers also serve as good figurative symbols of all of the people whose caps we would just love to peel back for making our lives a living hell: the boss, the ex, the idiot who cut us off in traffic! Just flick back the cap of your PEZ dispenser, close your eyes and imagine yourself crunching down on the sweet bones of your oppressors. Go ahead. It’ll make you feeeeel gooood. (Find PEZ in the candy isle at your local grocery store!)
*Originally published in Kung Fu Grip! No. 5

Giger vs. Dali (Alien Autopsy Remix)*

It’s impossible to recollect what book I was thumbing through when I ran across this sketch by the Spanish surrealist Salvador Dali. I do recall that I discovered it sometime during my first semester of graphic design school. That would probably date the photocopy that I made of it to sometime in 1994 or ‘95.

Come to think of it, there was this Grateful Dead tie-dye t-shirt wearin’ ex-hippy classmate named Orin who was a fan of Dali. And I do remember that he came to class this one morning with a hairy armful of art books, the majority of which were devoted to the work of Dali. So he must be the source to whom I will credit my discovery of the sketch.

I was never a fan of Dali. As an artist, he has always been responsible for a staggering body of work that generally didn’t appeal to me. And, unlike Orin, I was an infant during the classic summers of Woodstock, have never taken hits of LSD, and did not subconsciously look to surrealist art to remind my brain of any previously experienced “altered states.” What I was at the time was a fan of the Swiss surrealist H.R. Giger.

When originally introduced to Giger’s work I was not a fan. Frankly, his art scared the popcorn eating shit out of me as it stalked across the screen in Ridley Scott’s 1977 film Alien. I was 8 years old and – like everyone else in the theater – had never imagined anything as horrifying as a 7-foot creature with an insect-like exo-skeleton, a fleshless skull of a face, retractable inner jaws, razor sharp teeth, and a deformed embryo of a head.

Yeah, for me Giger’s creature was like a fever-induced nightmare. And any thought I had about being an astronaut ‘when I grow up’ was completely second-guessed once that bad boy hit the screen. After watching Alien, it was hard to imagine walking into a bedroom while the lights were off, let alone exploring the dark outer reaches of space.

Over the years, and especially after the film’s 1985 sequel, I became a fan of Giger’s work. It was primarily because I had never seen anything like it. And that remained true until that day in the mid-1990s when I ran across a sketch of a deformed humanoid figure by Salvador Dali.

The loose brushwork illustration isn’t dated, and I don’t remember now if there were any details about it on the facing page. But as I walked over to the photocopier to make a duplicate, something about it made me feel sure that the image actually pre-dated the Alien design of H.R. Giger.

Or maybe it just seemed too unlikely that two artists could separately conceive of such a uniquely grotesque being. It was possible, but seemed highly unlikely. Especially when taking into consideration that Dali was already a world-renowned artist by the time that H.R. Giger began carving a name for himself in the nightmares of others.

Finding the photocopy again today, I still do think that Dali’s sketch was the inspiration for Giger’s creature– right down to its jaw line and Stegosaurus plated spine. And it doesn’t make me think any less of his creative genius either, but really illustrates to me that nothing comes from some dark, empty vacuum of space where ‘no one can hear you scream.’ Inspiration, in fact, comes from everything around us. And each generation gets much of theirs from the drawing boards of the past.

– St. Paco

*Originally published in Kung Fu Grip! No. 5


[Destroy All Headphones®] KFG5 Mixtape: Thirty Fingers of Death

This soundtrack was a mini-collaboration between myself and DJ Mane One for his long-running 30 Minute Mix blog. I supplied the cover and concept, and Mane provided a killer mix that he describes as "kung fu music put to funk." I call it thirty minutes of ass-kicking wax-ploitation, complete with outta' sight Jim Kelly sound bites. Yeah, this mix is so funky that at one point the needle actually skips due to a serious case of funk overload–or a dirty record. Take your pick, 'cause either way it's the result of some f-u-n-k.

Many thanx to Grand Imperial DJ Mane One for a super bad mix that makes me wanna jump back and kiss myself. And to Stormko (for his valued 2¢).

Get down.

St. Paco

• • • •

01. Theme to Blackbelt Jones - Dennis Coffey
02. Aragon - Roy Ayers
03. Enter The Dragon Theme - Lalo Schifrin
04. Si Me Ves Volar - Los Tios Queridos
05. Causeway - De Wolfe Music Librarie
06. Mystery Track
07. Mystery Track
08. Cookies - Brother Soul
09. Shaft In Africa - Johnny Pate
10. You Can't Even Walk To The Park - Johnny Pate
11. Brother On The Run - Johnny Pate
12. Alive and Well - Barry White
13. Jadoo - Passport
14. Mountain Mocha - Yellow Soul Force
15. God Put A Smile On Your Face - Mark Ronson
16. Funky Fanfare - Keith Mansfield

Click here to download.



It'd been a few years since my website was updated. I've finally gotten around to doing something about that. I haven't done a whole lot, but also see no need to. Especially when the site now functions mainly as a centralized hub, linking to one of my shops, the flickr page and the KFG blog. In support of that, the number of links at the bottom of the index page has been reduced to four. And the 'blog' link is now connected to my much more frequently updated page on Blogger. There's also an 18-page preview for KFG5. Check it out.


May I Have Your Attention, Please?

Though it was originally planned for release in March, for a lot of different reasons it seemed like a good idea to post-pone the official release of KFG5 until May. The most significant of those reasons being that KFG4 had just come out in late February and – due to the response it was still getting – I thought it was appropriate to give that issue a little more time to shine.

For as long as I can remember the number 5 has been my favorite number. I don't usually get caught up in any particular kind of symbolism, but I do have a sentimental appreciation for symbols and their meanings. Once the newest issue of KFG was finished, and I started lookin' at May for a release date, I then started looking for something in the way of meaning.

May 5th is Cinco de Mayo, the day upon which Mexico won its independence from European dominance. (KFG5 and 5/5 -- get it?!) Tucson is only about 60 miles north of the Mexican border and has a sizable population of folks with Mexican roots. As such, the 5th of May is widely celebrated here by Latinos and gringos alike. (Mas tacos pescado y mas tequila, si. Por favor!) So, I've chosen May 5th to be the official release day for Kung Fu Grip! No. 5.

I'll be in Phoenix on May 6th. My homeboy Darrell D is spinning at an after party that night which follows the Next Movement show at Scottsdale's 5 And 6 Gallery. (Wait, is that a five in that name?!) The actual show will feature collaborative works by Sol Exposure, the photographer for the rap group The Roots, and painter/graffiti artist Dumperfoo.

May 7th marks the 10th annual Free Comic Book Day. Since I'm gonna hangout in PHX for the weekend, I plan to drop off some zines on the freebie table at Atomic Comics. This store was one of my first haunts when I moved to Arizona. If you've seen the movie Kick Ass, the comic book shop in that flick was based on this popular Phoenix-metro chain.

Let's see...what else is going on this month?

Oh, Mother's Day is celebrated on May 8th. My mother – like most people's mothers – has always been a big supporter of her offspring's creations, so I'm lookin' forward to mailing copies of the new zine off with this year's cards.

My younger sister's birthday falls on the 18th of this month, so she'll be getting copies with her cards and gift about a week later. Also on May 18th, my fourth cover production for DJ Mane One's long-running 30 Minute Mix blog hits the web. (And keep your eyes peeled for another Mane One mix related post here later this week!)

On the 3rd of June, the Anno Domini gallery of San Jose opens its newest Art of Zines exhibit. Submissions for the show are due on May 21st. Copies of KFG 1-3 were shown in last year's exhibit, so I'm glad to have issues 4 and 5 to send off for this year's show.

As you can clearly see, May seems like a great time for KFG5. It's a month filled with lots of meaning for me, for people I know and even strangers with whom I share overlapping cultures and interests. It also seems like a good survey point to look at what I've done so far, while plotting out some goals for the second half of the year.

Seldom have I ever been one to pass on the chance to make a bad pun, so before closing this post I'm gonna say that the 5th issue of Kung Fu Grip! may very well be the best zine that I've ever produced. After you've gotten your hands on a copy, you may end up feeling the same. (Sorry.)

Now, I'm gonna end this with a hot lil' ditty from M.I.A's last album. I was thinking of goin' with "Tekila" (in honor of Cinco de Mayo), but XXXO is a much better track, especially the remix version with Jay-Z. By the way, should I also mention that the name of the album these songs are on is... MAYA?

[Nods head]

Yup. I could do this all day.