When Jason "Mr. J." Medeiros and his longtime collaborator Stro booked their upcoming Procussions reunion shows in Colorado, one of the last things they were expecting was for all hell to break loose in their former hometown.
But Colorado Springs was definitely on Medeiros' mind last Wednesday when he posted the link to a free, Stro-produced single called "The Rockies." "Hope it lifts some 719 heads," the Los Angeles-based emcee/songwriter wrote on his Facebook page.
Arguably the best-known hip-hop act to come out of Colorado Springs, the Procussions relocated to Los Angeles and, in 2006, released their sophomore album, 5 Sparrows for 2 Cents, on Sony's Rawkus imprint. A national tour as opening act for A Tribe Called Quest — whose music was a profound influence on the group — soon followed, as did Medeiros' first solo album, which was also released on Rawkus. In 2008, after 10 years together, the Procussions went on indefinite hiatus.
For this week's reunion shows in Colorado Springs, Pueblo and Denver, the two performers will be joined onstage by Springs-based turntablist and producer Boonie Mayfield, whose own videos have garnered more than 5 million views.
Last Thursday, I spoke with Medeiros about "The Rockies," the Waldo Canyon Fire, and the prospects for a new Procussions album.
Indy: You uploaded "The Rockies" single just yesterday. Is that something you'd been working on for a while, or did it all just come together in the last few days?
J. Medeiros: No, we'd been working on it for a while. We wanted to make a song to promote the shows, and I think maybe there's some providence involved, who knows? But we got a little confused as to whether or not we should have put it out because, for the small number of people who were paying attention, we didn't want to seem opportunistic. Like, there's a catastrophe going on and so you wanna sell a song.
Indy: I was in L.A. during the Rodney King uprising, and I remember driving down the street and hearing Tom Petty's "Peace in L.A." come on the radio. I have to admit it did feel kind of opportunistic. But then again, he's a guy who makes huge paychecks, and you're putting it out as a free download for friends and fans.
JM: Yeah, I also struggled with putting it out because, if you listen to the song, it doesn't necessarily focus on the positive ...
Indy: I think you can leave the word "necessarily" out of that. It just doesn't.
JM: No, it really doesn't. [Laughs.] If you listen to the second verse — I don't think people catch it — but there's a little Ted Haggard in there. ["Drop knee believer redeem your demeanor / Run rhymes 'cos sometimes the green is greener / When you see the whole scene / Through the sheen of a screen door."] And if you listen to the first verse, you know, it mentions friends and people you've lost.
You know, I live in Los Angeles, I've been here for 10 years, and you hear stories from friends who went to school in Belmont, Echo Park, East L.A. and stuff — and they're not that much different from what I grew up with living in Widefield and Security. You're in junior high school trying to figure out if you need to join a gang or not. But then at the same time, you're still driving by pastures and having problems with cows in the road.
Indy: Were all four of the original Procussions from here, or did you kind of converge on the place?
JM: I was born in Colorado Springs. Rez was born there. Stro's a military kid, he spent his school years there. And Quintron was born there.
Indy: I know the shows you're doing out here are with you and Stro. What's Rez doing now?
JM: Rez is a full-time photographer now. When we started the group, he was always interested in photos and Web design and everything. So he's out in L.A. doing photos.
Indy: And Quintron, is he doing OK these days?
JM: You know he has multiple sclerosis, and it struck him really hard and quickly. In a year, he was confined to a wheelchair, but since then he's done some creative stuff. He graduated from college — you know, when it would be in remission, he'd be up and down and still went to school. He's alive now and he's pushing, but it's a difficult disease, for sure.
Indy: What was it like for you following what was going on here with the fire, especially on Tuesday night?
JM: Well, you know, I talked to all my friends. My good friends and family are still in Colorado, so when we do all our mastering and our artwork, everything's in Colorado. So I think I feel as close as you can, being, you know, a thousand miles away.
People would call me and they're like, "Dude, the Flying W Ranch is done." It's sad when you think about all the times we went there. I just got married this year and my wife's French, and I wanted to treat her to the real Colorado experience. And one of the first things that came to my mind was the Flying W Ranch. I'm like, "You gotta go there, you can sit there and see the cow and eat beef!" Yeah, even looking at the photos, it's still hard to get how massive [the fire] is.
Indy: I remember when I interviewed [Canadian rapper] Shad — who was featured on your "Pale Blue Dot" single and also beat out Drake for the Juno Prize last year — he told me how important the Pharcyde was to his musical development. Is there someone like that for you?
JM: Of course, the Procussions' biggest influence were A Tribe Called Quest. And we were really blessed to have been picked to go out with them on their first comeback tour.
But I think for me personally, as far as rappers go, it's Black Thought. And if I had to reach back further, then I would say Kool G Rap was probably the strongest influence on syllable word-play, you know, that machine-gun-fire rap style, still staying extremely relevant and bordering on being socially conscious rap, but without the arrogance. And he did it with a rhythm that was impeccable. Even with a lisp, this dude was still impeccable.
Indy: When did you last play Colorado Springs, and what prompted this particular gig?
JM: As the Procussions, the last time we played there was 2006.
Indy: And so why now?
JM: We had a couple offers, and we've both got plenty of friends and family there who've been asking us to come out and play. And once we announced that we're gonna do a show, there were a lot of people who seemed really excited. And not just there, you know, I mentioned it on Facebook and we've had people from Belgium and Australia, Paris and London, people in Florida and L.A., they were all commenting. And so we're wondering if this is something that the Procussions need to look at, and possibly do another album. If the sustained support is there, then I think it's something that's really possible.
Indy: You and Stro already work on each other's records to a degree. How would it differ if you did do something under the Procussions name?
JM: It would be completely different, definitely. When I'm working as Mr. J. Medeiros with Stro doing the production, I focus more on storytelling. He tells me I'm depressing. [Laughs.] I don't know, I guess it is a little depressing. I enjoy it, though, you know?
But as the Procussions, we focus on a show. We focus on having a lot more energy. We focus a lot on the tracks sounding really hard and heavy. We focus on the things that we can only do with both of us at the wheel.