Outside the Lines With Rap Genius – Dante Ross Excerpt #5: Black Bastards LyricsEmbed
SameOldShawn: One of the things that scared people a lot was the cover of the final KMD album. Do you remember that decision? Did you ever try to say, hey guys, maybe you shouldn't...?
Dante Ross: Hell no. I remember clearly. It's really...
SOS: For our listeners who don't know, can you describe the cover?
DR: The album's called Black Bastards, and it was a play on the game Hangman. It had a couple of the letters from "black bastards," several of the letters, and it had Sambo, the KMD character, getting hung. So Sambo is getting hung, and it says, basically -- and this isn't hard to figure out -- "Death to stereotypes. We are not Sambo anymore. We are not black bastards. We're killing this ethos". And it scared the fucking shit out of people. But the irony is, KMD were little kids who weren't scared of anyone. They were great, intellectual little kids. Those guys, man -- I was more dangerous than they were
It was the first time that I had worked at a major label that I thought, this might not be something I'm gonna do the rest of my life. I've thought that fifty hundred times since, but I thought, this is the fucking biggest crock of shit I've ever seen in my life. And my boss called me in, I remember, and he was like, "I gotta talk to you about this album. We can't put this out." I was like, "What do you mean, we can't put this out?" He's like, "Look, this woman Terri Rossi, she's the Billboard R&B reporter, she caught wind of the album cover, and she's gonna go after us." And she did
She wrote a big thing about it, and she had rallied up several prominent black people in the industry to vilify the record. My boss at the time, Bob Krasnow, was not empowered, and he told me that. He said, "Look, I'm fighting a lot of battles here, and I don't think I can fight this one." So we were supposed to have a meeting with the board of supervisors...I don't know what they're called, but the board at Warner Brothers, me and Zev -- me and DOOM. This was on the heels of his brother having been killed, too. So he'd been through a lot
SOS: So he especially didn't care...
DR: Well, also, he'd been through a lot of emotional shit. So maybe he especially didn't care, but I really cared, cause we had buried his brother. So we're supposed to meet the powers-that-be at Warner Brothers. It was Dick Charles -- I mean, Richard Parsons, rather. I believe Sylvia Rhone, but I could be wrong. Terri Rossi, a bunch of other people. And we were gonna have dialogue about the record. Cause I had said to my boss, "Do you understand what this is saying? Killing stereotypes. There's not one thing racist about this. You gotta let the kid defend his thing." And my boss, he believed in freedom of speech
And the day we showed up for the meeting, my boss was like, "We're not gonna have this meeting. We've decided we're gonna let the band go." He told DOOM, he's like, I'm gonna give you back your masters, I'm gonna write you a check for X amount of money, and I'm gonna let you go. And DOOM really seemed unphased by it
He went in my office, and I had a case of wine that someone had sent me. It was white wine -- sweet premium wine, that's the song -- and he popped open a bottle, and we drank two bottles of wine. And he said to me, "I should get dropped more often every day." He said, "I'm gonna get twenty five thousand dollars and my record back"
I was absolutely crushed. We walked downstairs out of the building, drunk. He walked to the train, and I walked to a cab, and I took a cab home. And that was it. It was a decision that I've always thought was an absolute crock of shit. I thought it was total bullshit. They weren't allowed to defend their rhetoric, their point of view. I believe in dialogue, and there was no dialogue in this case, and the kid got thrown to the wolves. And as a testament as a human being, he took all of shit he got handed and reinvented himself as MF DOOM, and basically invented underground backpack rap
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