After getting down with U-N-I and experiencing the revival of West Coast hip-hop first hand, we were eager to discover another homegrown hip-hop hero, Krondon, who along with his Strong Arm Steady crew have just dropped their official debut album, the Madlib-produced In Search Of Stoney Jackson.
“We wanted to start off strong and I think this album that we did with Madlib and all the people that were involved really helped accomplish that,” said Krondon when we met up with him at his LA studio where he was working on new material with fellow album contributor and creative cohort, Planet Asia. “It was totally a collaborative effort from start to finish.”
While Krondon has been breaking down hip-hop barriers for nearly a decade now, this album marks the first official release with his crew, the Strong Arm Steady. Consisting of fellow local legends Phil Da Agony and Mitchy Slick, the trio helped orchestrate a completely original album that features a host of special guests and of course big-time beats by the magnificent Madlib.
“Madlib goes way back with us as a crew,” Krondon shared. “Phil Da Agony had a great relationship with him and through Strong Arm Steady we all eventually established a bond with him. We all worked together on Talib Kweli’s Liberation album and then we did a mixtape called Departed and he gave us a record for that called “Clean Up” which featured Black Thought from The Roots on it. He just loved it so much, every time we would see him, he was always like, ‘we gotta do an album.’”
However, In Search Of Stoney Jackson wasn’t intended to be the debut release from the Strong Arm Steady collective. They had been working on their “other” album that’s still to come this year, the highly-anticipated Arms and Hammers project which is an entirely different animal.
If Stoney Jackson is the light then Arms and Hammers is the dark. This album is a movement in its own right and Arms and Hammers will be as well!
“But that’s our baby,” he added. “We worked on it for four years and it’s coming out on a major label, so it’s a much bigger record. I mean we got The Game on there and Too $hort, who I grew up on and still can’t believe is on the album. We really love him here in Strong Arm Steady.”
With In Search Of Stoney Jackson completed for over a year and a half, and with the group still putting the finishing touches on Arms and Hammers, Krondon knew it was necessary to get something out in the ‘what have you done for me lately’ world of modern music.
“It was a point we came to where we had both records but we had to decide which one we wanted to come with first,” said Kronon.
It was an internal thing to release Stoney Jackson because it was more of an eclectic record, more of a progressive movement and that’s where we’re going with everything we’re doing.
With the album coming out on the San Francisco-based Stones Throw Records, which is one of the premier labels around for progressive hip-hop music, it seemed the perfect home for a creative crew like the Strong Arm Steady.
“We at Strong Arm Steady are a progressive movement. We’re not one dimensional, we’re three, four and five dimensional. That’s not just with music but also with fashion, because we’re getting into a bunch of things as far as merchandise and doing different accessories.”
This passion for exploring all avenues and areas is what lead to the band creating one of the year’s most memorable album covers, in which Stoney Jackson looks remarkably like a young and vibrant Rick James from back in the day. It also really reflects the soulful vibes of the Seventies that Madlib recreated (and re-imagined) for Krondon and company.
“I gotta give a big shout out to my man Rick James, may you rest in peace brotha,” Krondon said. “We were reaching more towards that era though and through our voices we were trying to create that kind of vibe but also channel it through the hip-hop vehicle that we’ve created.”
This was just something for us to push the gamut and really show that from this side of the map in music, for rap, we are just as progressive as anything that you can imagine, maybe even more. That’s why our album cover looks the way it does.
It’s forward-thinking artists like Krondon that have helped the West Coast experience a real rebirth in the world of hip-hop that has for much of the past decade been dominated by the sounds of the South.
“People think that West Coast hip-hop is all khakis and gang-bangers man,” Krondon complained. “We get pigeonholed in that arena and we are that to a degree but we’re so much more.”
“It was very important for us that we pushed the lines on this as if to say ‘hey no man, you can’t pigeonhole us, you fucks, no way,’” he added. “Everything is here and everything has to come here by way of passage in some way for some reason or another. I think the youth and the newer generation are acknowledging that and not taking that for granted and understanding there’s something to be gained. We’re drawing from so many influences now and being proud of our roots and heritage but at the same time being open to take in new sounds as well.”
Krondon is a big fan of the current crop of rising young stars in LA, including the aforementioned U-N-I and also one of his current favorite MCs, Fashawn. He features with Planet Asia on a fantastic track called “Questions.”
“He’s the essence of what I’m talking about,” Krondon explained. “He’s young but he’s got so much to say and his soul is just ancient. For too long we let the South, the East and the Midwest take over. That’s why I love acts like U-N-I and Fashawn because you wouldn’t believe these cats came from here.”
While much of mainstream rap music gets stereotyped for lazy lyricism and subpar songwriting, it’s an album that’s as rich and diverse as In Search Of Stoney Jackson that makes you realize there are artists in the game who are dedicating themselves to doing stuff that’s decidedly different.
The thing with rap that I’m learning that I didn’t know ten years ago when I started is that in rap, you have to say more than any other genre. It’s amazing that lyrically we put more into one song than some artists do in five!
“But you always got to make the music that’s honest,” he added. “No matter what point it is that you’re trying to get across. As long as you’re honest and true to what you and your spirit and heart loves it then that’s what’s most important.”
With a slew of videos slated to hit to promote the album, including one that we were present at, “Passion,” (which is also one of our personal picks from the album), 2010 promises to be a big year for Krondon and the Strong Arm Steady.
“We’re the best in new-age hip-hop. On a gangsta level I gotta say that because it’s a almost like a hard rock aspect that we always have to the music. In a sense where there’s a freedom.”
“We don’t really censor ourselves too much,” he added.
We let the music drive us and we’re always honest and come to the table with a point to prove. Sometimes that point may be abrasive or offense and if it is, we don’t run from that.
While we’re still loving every second of our continued search for the elusive Stoney Jackson, Krondon has provided a (free) download, in the form of his solo album Let ‘Em Live.
“Let ‘Em Live is my thank you to the world,” Krondon proudly told us. “Just thanking the fans for supporting not only Strong Arm Steady but also myself as I start my solo career, because I’m just at the beginning of this journey I’m going on.”
So at the dawn of this new decade, let it be known that West Coast hip-hop is officially back on the map. Just give one listen to the incredible In Search Of Stoney Jackson and bear witness to a coming-out party that should catapult Krondon and the Strong Arm Steady into the spotlight by creating what will surely be considered one of the classic hip-hop debut albums of the decade.