I think Ice Cube once boasted he was the rap game Donald Trump, so I thought it would be funny if I bragged in a rap lyric that I was "The Mr. Rogers of the Rap Game." Since I was once a preschool teacher by day and a rapper on the microphone by night, the odd juxtaposition is something I've lived so the joke made sense.
What was originally just an unrecorded lyric has now become a forthcoming Royal Ruckus release series. I'm totally stoked to finally announce our next musical project....
Volume 1: Come On and Wake Up!
Volume 2: Neighborhood of Make Believe
Volume 3: Wisdom of Fred
The project is a truly collaborative series, and we are honored to work with many great artists. The record has been primarily produced and conceived of by me, with collaborations from Mike including both beats and rhymes! That's right, Flatline of Royal Ruckus will be blazing mics again.
We've got a dream team of collaborators, which includes Sojourn, CookBook, Joey the Jerk, Spoken Nerd, Jeremiah Dirt and Samuel Oxymoron of Shadow of the Locust, ThatKidCourageous!, and some surprises to come!
I'm also excited to be recording with DJ Sean P at his studio in Fort Worth, where we have made magical music in the past. Sean and I will be in the studio for 5 days straight, and I'll be keeping supporters up to date every step of the way.
If you've enjoyed the "Ruckus resurgence" of the last few years, you'll love this concept series. I hope you'll listen in, share with a friend, and consider sending us a celebratory beer or underwriting a key component of the project, like buying a guest spot.
Now we've been working on this record for several years now, but it's coming time down to the final stretch of recording and promotion. If you think this project is a worthy endeavor, please consider throwing your support behind it. For everyone who kicks in at least $5 (and requests it), I'll send you a Rap Game sticker in the mail.
Thanks for coming this far. If you'd like to know more, see below.
Email: jamey at jameyb dot com
So instead of one long record, we are doing three medium-sized records. I started writing songs a few years ago that related to Fred Rogers in some way, then I realized the scope of what needed to be covered would require the project to grow.
So to do justice, and to still not write a four hour rap opera, I decided to split it into three parts. Mr. Rogers of the Rap Game is the title of the series, spread out into three volumes, which will be released several months apart.
Volume 1: Come On and Wake Up! is named after one of Fred's own albums, and jolts the listener awake with the rapturous beauty life—and its torturous difficulties. We've already got a music video in the works for this one.
Projected Release Date: November 19, 2022—20th anniversary of Royal Ruckus Self-Titled Release on Flicker Records.
Volume 2: Neighborhood of Make Believe takes you into that part of the show, and of life, where escaping from the coldness of reality a bit is okay, and you can be a bit more imaginative. This land is ruled by a great puppet king, who, in some ways, reflected a side of Fred rarely expressed in Mr. Rogers. We are all King Friday in some ways, too.
Projected Release Date: Jan. 21, 2023—This date marks 25 years since Royal Ruckus was founded.
Volume 3: Wisdom of Fred will round out the project and help to bring out some of the major messages of Fred Rogers, reimagined into a Royal Ruckus record in our time now. I'm sure a good bit of me and collaborating rappers will get in there, too, but hopefully what will stick best will be the distillation of Fred's wisdom in rhyme. Without annoying preachy moralizing, this is a poetic conversation of an adult who grew up on Mr. Rogers and is in conversation with life and culture now.
Projected Release Date: March 20, 2023, on Won't You Be My Neighbor Day, a day that celebrates the impact of Fred Rogers.
How will I hear the music?
Supporters here will have early access to music, and many supporters will be given an opportunity to download the record from Bandcamp, which offers a range of audio nerd options. For everyone else, it will eventually be available on Apple Music, Spotify, Amazon Music, Tidal, Pandora, etc.
We'll be releasing music videos on our YouTube channel, too, so subscribe here.
Will there be CD's or vinyl?
For sure! We have options for you to go ahead and secure physical albums. The sound of our fully mixed and mastered CD is the optimal way to experience the sound of the music.
We always go all out with great art, so even if you don't have a CD player, if nothing else, it's a really great coaster conversation piece, and it will still play in your XBox or DVD player, or your buddy's 2008 Camry.
For vinyl collectors, no plans yet, but we would like to do a special release of vinyl soon. Sharing with others your support here on buymeacoffee.com/royalruckus will make such endeavors more likely.
We are working with some amazing talent, and you'll be familiar with most of these guys if you've listed to any of our recent music. Other artists include Sojourn, DJ Sean P, CookBook, Joey the Jerk, Spoken Nerd, ThatKidCourageous, Sir Mathew Thomas, and others! Will tell more soon.
You're darn good at the raps. I don't believe I ever seen a rippity rip rap like that. How many of them rap songs do you think you have memorized by now?
Great question, I've memorized at least 3-7 songs by now. But when it comes to my songwriting, perhaps we should not measure in songs but in albums.
We aren't quite sure how many records (iterations, and reiterations) we've released over the years, but today, we have seven albums and two special single releases streaming everywhere online—along with over a dozen recent music videos.
You can find our music everywhere music streams. If you follow this link to our latest EP, Unexpectedy Joy, it will help you click through to Spotify, iTunes, and the rest: https://song.link/unexpectedjoy
As crazy as it is to think about, I've been rapping for most of my life. I had my first taste of a professional recording studio at 13, and I was hooked. I released my first "garage band" type tape at 15 as Cleva-MC, recorded on a 4-track—and beats were "produced by Royal Ruckus Productions" (which at the time was just me), with a little help from local musician friends. A couple years later, I joined forces with decidedly not hip-hop friends of mine, Mike Walker and Jason McCutchan, and Royal Ruckus the rap group was born.
All relationships change over time, and the composition and division of labor and art has varied over the years with Royal Ruckus. It's always been "Flatline and Chunjay" pretty much from start to finish, but we've had some great guys to work with, too.
What is this Ruckus about? I remember you guys from a long time ago and I wondered what you were up to and found you on Spotify. What have you been doing?
Mike and I have been sporadically making music for almost 25 years now, and we have seven albums online currently, and two singles. We long felt like we had our best material in front of us if we would just take the time to make a record. And in 2017 we released not one but two albums in the form of The Summer of the Cicadas double album. (If you want the CD, you should get it—it is available here in one of the support options—it's a collector's item, and the artwork includes stunning original oils/mixed media paintings by my friend Monique Sarkessian.)
Cicadas was a great opportunity for us to revive live performances, which I have taken on solo, or with a guest DJ. Since 2017, I've played over 80 shows in 50-something cities in about 20 states in order to support the release of close to 50 new songs—on three EP's and a double LP. We've been prolific, and all while maintaining our lives and jobs.
Rappers love to quit the rap game. But you haven't.
Some rappers even come back to the game after retiring. But we haven't quite figured out how to quit the rap game. From Bakersfield to touring the country to joining the Nashville music scene and signing to a Christian record label, we've always been really grateful for the opportunities we've had. We may never have become a household name, but we've had an incredible time making music together and made so many amazing friends along the way.
Where does your lyrical inspiration come from? Are you guys a Christian rap group?
I returned to the live music scene in 2017, convinced that right now counts forever and that I should make haste to make great music. Mike and I live in different states, and while our friendship remains solid and deep, it's difficult to align all the time. We've both converted in and out and sideways of things since our evangelical upbringing.
These days, most of the conceptual and lyrical direction of our music comes from me. I am an Orthodox Christian and have been since 2009, but I don't usually make Orthodox-specific songs. I want everyone to wiggle their booty and hear my songs.
Musically, of our recent work has been more of a presentation of "Royal Ruckus Productions," but Mike is involved in conceptual and musical components, and provides feedback along the way. He makes beats and contributes vocals as he is able, and I oversee the structure of the project and execution.
Today, RR is just Mike and me—but it's always been more than us. We've always been about collaboration; pushing the boundaries of hip-hop; and yet doing so in a positive way. All of that remains true today.
Why Fred Rogers?
When you get older, you consider what matters. Both the character and the real life Mr. Rogers were one and the same, and filled with love. He made every child in front of him feel as if they had his full attention, and respect. He was tender, intentionally slow, and methodical, and always kind. And it wasn't mere feel good fluff—Fred dealt with the tough stuff of life, too, like death and divorce. He even bravely tackled racial issues with subversive simplicity, and would often model his message louder than he would speak it.
The project is fun, reflective, and somber, humorous and serious, romantic and playful. It is light. And heavy. The trilogy could stand alone as rap records in their own right, but the project is conceptual, and every song ties into the life, teaching, and ministry of Fred Rogers, known to young children as Mr. Rogers. It's my record, and from my perspective, but it is inspired by and infused with Fred.
Things are difficult in the world right now, and we seem so hopelessly divided. This project is my musical contribution to restore dignity, kindness, and hope to the cultural conversation, and to loudly proclaim that every human being has value and that you can be loved exactly how how you were made. Fred was a prophet (of sorts), and his kind, wise voice is needed today. I want to celebrate him and what he represents, and infuse that into this culture.
I'd like to thank my dear friend R. Heath McClure, whose love for Fred Rogers is contagious. One day, over a pint of Guinness, he gifted me a copy of Tim Madigan's book, I'm Proud of You: My Friendship with Fred Rogers, and re-ignited my love for Mr. Rogers. His love for Mr. Rogers is unmatched, but I do hope that my efforts will honor Fred and delight Heath.
Stay tuned for more information and opportunity for Royal Ruckus merch and music and more...