Straight Outta Como
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
J.D. Jimmerson IV, a.k.a. Mr. Aggravated Foe, just can’t be stopped.
By KEN SHIMAMOTO
Tupac and Biggie are gone, and these days Snoop Dogg is an MTV clown. (Heard the country version of “Gin and Juice” yet?) But somehow, hardcore rap has managed to survive its mass-ass co-optation. Maybe part of the explanation is a guy like J.D. Jimmerson IV, a.k.a. Mr. Aggravated Foe. Imagine a Como kid who manages to get some of the most eminent (and still breathing) hip-hop figures in the country to contribute to one of his albums, teach himself the record business, make a movie for which he wrote and recorded the soundtrack — and still work at the local record store, selling big labels and handing out his own discs from his pocket. If that’s not hardcore, at its essence, then nothing is.
Jimmerson’s latest project is The Kitchen of Agony/Solja Deep, a four-disc set of potent rhymes and beats that reverberate like gunshots, made right here in Funkytown. The album includes contributions from legendary hip-hoppers like Bushwick Bill (of Geto Boys fame) and Quint Black, as well as a cast of lesser-known rappers from Fort Worth and around the country — D-Train, Mr. Maintain, Roy J, Da Unknown, Grody, Bistro, and a host of others.
Jimmerson combines hardcore rap aesthetics (sample song titles: “Got Weed,” “Aggravated Thugz,” “Don’t Give a Fuck,” “Killa Killa”) with a work ethic that’d be the envy of a corporate CEO. Since 1998, Jimmerson has self-released five c.d.’s and Da Killa, his horror movie set in Como. He already has 20 backing tracks in the can for his next c.d., Tha Underground Raw, and plans to start filming Da Killa 2 this fall. Not bad for someone who says he considers music and film production “a hobby.”
In person, Jimmerson radiates an infectious energy and a vibe that can only be called mellow. It’s hard to reconcile the wiry, playfully humorous young man — with luminous, surprisingly blue eyes, his hair in his trademark braids — with the thuggish persona he projects on disc. At Wherehouse Music, where he’s worked for the last five years and sold thousands of his c.d.’s solely through word of mouth, his pockets are stuffed with his discs at all times, and he keeps copies of Da Killa behind the counter. “He’s a good, honest kid,” said Charles Buxton, Jimmerson’s boss at Wherehouse. “I told his mother that anyone would be proud to have a son like J.D.”
Local hip-hop aficionado Derek Lewis agrees. “He’s a natural salesman,” he said, “and he’s notorious — he pops up everywhere.” It’s true. When I mentioned Jimmerson to a rockabilly kid of my acquaintance, there was an immediate spark of recognition. “Da Killa!” he said. “I know that movie! I used to go to that store, and one day I was buying a bunch of movies. The guy behind the counter said, ‘You like horror movies? I’ve got one I made, set in Como.’ I told him, ‘You’ve sold me.’ I’ve passed that tape around to a bunch of my friends.”
Jimmerson was born in Austin, moved to Plano when he was in seventh grade, and landed on Como’s Goodman Avenue four years later. He’s used “The Kitchen of Agony” — which he’s had registered as a business name since ’98 — as the rubric for all of his creations since he was in eighth grade, after a producer told Jimmerson that the name of his group at the time, Triple Trouble, was already the subject of litigation between two other groups. Jimmerson says the name reminds him of “pain, knives, sharp objects. It’s hot in the kitchen — if you can’t stand the heat, get out. People hear the name and ask, ‘What y’all be servin’?’ ”
He made his first recordings when he was in high school at Western Hills on a humble DAT machine, rapping on a karaoke machine over beats he recorded using a cheap keyboard. Today, he considers his first three c.d.’s — Step Into My Kitchen, Bustin’ Out Da Underground, and Da Killa soundtrack to be simply demos. “I did the best I could, but I’m always trying to get better.” Since then, he’s upgraded his technology, buying a computer and c.d. burner and learning how to produce backing tracks using Acid 4.0, Fruity Loops, and Beat Machine software. “I’m at a level now where I can make everything from scratch,” he said. “In the last four or five months, I’ve gotten to where, if they threw me in a cave with a plug, I could work.”
Jimmerson and his Kitchen of Agony cohorts are part of a Fort Worth hip-hop community that includes Kinfolk Kin O Die (featuring Kasper G and Buc Bigalo), Roc Balla, Funkhouse, All in the Family, Innerworld, Immortal Soldiers, and Friend or Foe/Underground Movement. It’s an underground scene, with shows taking place in small clubs and c.d.’s you can’t buy anywhere “unless you find us.” Jimmerson prefers it that way. “If someone offered me a deal, I wouldn’t take it,” he said. “I want to make music my way and then sell it. I don’t want anybody putting their money into my project.”
Why? “People trust the industry more than they trust themselves,” he continued. “They need somebody else to tell them what’s good. I always used to hear that you can’t get stuff on c.d. without a manager and a producer, but I knew that wasn’t right. If I make something good enough, maybe somebody will pick me up, but I’m not going to wait.”
The fourth Mr. Aggravated Foe c.d., 2002’s Comin’ Dead Serious, marked Jimmerson’s first time in the studio, where he encountered Bushwick Bill, who agreed to donate a track (“Invading My Space”) to TKOA/SD. Those sessions also marked the beginning of Jimmerson’s association with Sean Kennard, a.k.a Roscoe Da Balla. “Roscoe made 75 percent of the beats on [Comin’ Dead Serious],” said Jimmerson. “Some of ’em are so tight I don’t even deserve ’em.” The two stayed in touch when Kennard joined the Air Force and left town, first for California, then Japan, where he’s now stationed. Kennard’s travels in the military have put him in contact with many of the artists who appear on TKOA/SD and contributed to the spread of Jimmerson’s music as far away as Italy and the Far East.
Back in 1981, when the Clash released its similarly ambitious, three-LP opus Sandinista!, the group’s leader Joe Strummer explained, “It’s supposed to take you a year to get through it.” By that standard, the four discs and 69 tracks that make up The Kitchen of Agony/Solja Deep (the shortest c.d. contains 76 minutes of music) will take you until well into 2005 to digest. Dive into any of the platters, and you’ll find yourself swimming in a mythic universe that extends from Goodman Ave. to the LVT (that’s Las Vegas Trail to all you outsiders) and a sound that’s as much head music as body music.
The beats range from blood simple to highly complex, and the groove is every bit as deep and hypnotic as anything by Parliament-Funkadelic or ’70s-era Miles Davis. A few of the tracks are “screwed” or slowed down in the style of the deceased Houston mixmaster DJ Screw. The contrast between the different rhyming tactics of the rappers can create an effect not unlike listening to a series of jazz soloists. On “Got Beef,” Jimmerson is joined by rappers OC and Daeon 12 for a freestyle free-for-all around the refrain, “Niggaz talk shit / Niggaz get dropped / Niggaz got beef / Niggaz get shot,” while on “We Be,” Jimmerson gets bested by his cousin Scub at the rapid-fire staccato style favored by both. Hispanic rapper Peso rhymes in Spanish on the tracks “Texicans,” “Vatos from TX,” and “Dyeme Puto.”
On tracks like “Darkside Rider,” the music has a sinister sound, as emblematic of the creeping sense of dread underlying ghetto life as it is of Jimmerson’s horror movie obsession. The rappers repeatedly refer to themselves as “soldiers,” ready for war with nothing to lose but their honor. Jimmerson said that a lot of his friends who are rappers are in jail, and it’s easy to believe him when you hear lines like “My niggaz don’t talk that much / So don’t you try to ask them questions / We’ll leave you fucked up / With your organs hanging out your rectum” (“Takin’ Heads Off”), or “If a nigga tripped and slipped / You’d find him blindfolded and stripped / Shot up from his face to his hip / Fully dismangled from the hollow tip / So don’t be surprised / When you realize how many niggaz die” (“Freestyle”).
The most redemptive moment here is on “Caralax,” a song about rolling through the West Side in a Cadillac, “Cause it feels so good / When you’re slumped down leanin’ back / On the Interstate smokin’ a black,” but even then, “Ain’t no tellin’ / When a nigga might try to test your patience / That’s when it calls for some break-a-leg.” Whether you see the rest of the album as street journalism, a glamorization of the thug life, or a highly evolved form of the dozens, there’s no denying that on Mr. Aggravated Foe’s West Side, even a little steady-rollin’ relaxation can be hard-won.
So far, Jimmerson has only performed live a few times, and his only national c.d. appearance was on the Texas Hood Connection compilation back in 2001. Undaunted, he continues work on his musical and cinematic projects, always hustling, building webs of inclusion that stretch from Goodman Ave. across the country and around the world. “I want to get as many people on my c.d. as I can,” he said. “Then if I blow up, they’ll be there with me.”
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