In a few days - once we relocate to the heart of Disney (no, seriously) - this Blog is about to undergo a complete transformation. The Examiner posts will probably still be there, the stuff to the left won't probably go away...but the content is about to a drastic turn. Hell, even the name will change (although to what exactly I haven't decided yet).
I'm tired of a LOT of things. I'm not talking about personal life or anything of that nature. As I told my friend Marc (this is where my wife would say, "With a C?" and I would answer "Yeah, him"), there's too much BS going on in the world of pop culture - and music in particular - that can no longer go unchecked. SOMEone has to call this stuff out. And, well, if no one else is going to do it, it may as well be me.
Consider this a mission statement, then. Or a renewal of purpose. Or something cheesy along those lines. It'll take me a bit to get back up and running after the move, but I already have the first piece planned.
In the meantime, to mark the occasion, reprinted below from 411 Music is the entire Remixing The Industry feature that appeared last November. Slightly edited for form, this was conceived as one big piece that was broken in to four parts for easier consumption and continuity purposes:
Part 01: Skratch Bastid
Part 02: Apathy
Part 03: Lyrics Born
Part 04: Chuck D of Public Enemy
You're welcome to click and peruse if you don't want to digest this whole thing in one shot. And I won't be mad if you do. However, if you'd like to see it as it was intended, feel free to keep reading for an idea of what you're in for from here on out.
As Professor Griff intoned at the beginning of It Takes A Nation of Millions To Hold Us Back, "Consider yourselves...WARNED!"
"Remixing The Industry"
by: Michael Melchor
Paul "Skratch Bastid" Murphy comes from the "Golden Age of Hip-Hop" generation. Those of us from back in the day remember what Hip-Hop was like when Gods not only walked the earth, but they spoke to us. Every chance they got. With M.C.'s on the microphones and, most times, a DJ behind them standing between two turntables creating music and beats out of carefully selected vinyl.
Of course, that was the tactic that got Hip-Hop in legal trouble at one point. "Sampling" was known as stealing, but anyone who truly knows sampling – both when they hear it and how to do it right – knows there's a true art to recycling old music to create something entirely new.
Anyone who's ever heard it knows that Sean Combs's (It's easy to lose track of which variation of "Daddy/Diddy" he's using this week) tribute to the Notorious B.I.G., "I'll Be Missing You", is lifted straight off of The Police's "Every Breath You Take". Different key and slight tempo change be damned. Now then, quick quiz: Remember Naughty By Nature's "O.P.P."? Any guesses on what song was used to create that one? The sample of the Jackson 5's "ABC" is near-genius in its use to create what became one of the signature party anthems of the 1990s.
That in and of itself should be enough evidence to know that Skratch Bastid understands that art form like very few others. A good look at his "favorite things" could be considered exhibit B. Skratch Bastid fondly remembers when DJing was so new that the legal system had no idea what to do with it. He remembers when turntablists hadn't become programmers and those that constructed beats were known as DJs, not "producers". He remembers how pioneers like Eric B, Terminator X, Jazzy Jeff, Kid Capri, and so many others transformed a turntable from a means of enjoyment to one of creation.
Skratch was also lucky enough to have a mother that encouraged his new discovery-cum-passion. As we talk on the phone during a brisk October afternoon, Skratch explained, "I took a particular interest in DJing and my mom told me to go into a DJ battle that she saw advertisements for. I was like, ‘no, no, I'm not ready', but my mom kinda pushed me in to it and I placed third at the age of 16. I got with all the older people in the scene and started doing DJ battles. It all comes down to that push to be heard – I traveled to America and across Canada a lot battling all over the place, and those battles is where I started earning my name in North America. "
Truer words have rarely been spoken. Skratch has placed 2nd twice in the Canadian DMC Championships. He's won the Montreal Underground DJ (MUDJ) title two years running in '06 and '07, as well as being a three-time Scribble Jam Champion in '04, '06, and '07. You've seen Eminem's 8 Mile, right? The rap battles he got in to and finally won? That was Scribble Jam. Now Imagine Em with a turntable and you have an idea of what we're dealing with.
Of course, showmanship has a lot to do with it as well. Very few DJs are willing to go the extra mile that Skratch does at around 4:12. The raw talent of someone who loves an art form and the willingness to be the type of performer to wear that passion on his sleeve has launched Skratch in to collaborations with some of Hip-Hop's finest, such as Nas, DJ Jazzy Jeff, Ludacris, Mix Master Mike, Ice-T, DJ Premier, Modeselektor, The Tragically Hip, and Russell Peters.
To add to that list, Skratch is flipping the script a little by inviting others to join his parties as well. Take the upcoming "Skratch Bastid Presents" showcase as an example: not only him, but Scratch (from The Roots) and DJ Starting From Scratch in a "3-man live tag team event" that Skratch plans on doing quarterly, though maybe not necessarily with the same people.
Of the "Skratch Bastid Presents" series, Skratch says, "What I wanted was a collaborative night. It's not just me playing records – it's a collaborative experience where we just go on stage and see what comes out of it. The first one is 2 DJs and Scratch, the beatboxer from The Roots. The idea behind that is, all of us with our musical knowledge and experience, just going up there with a couple things in mind and building off of each other and see what the crowd is feeling. Scratch is a very DJ-minded beatboxer; through our rehearsals, it's amazing what he was coming up with. I just want to create a different experience rather than just going to the club and hearing the DJ play tunes. Have it DJ-oriented, but take it to another level that's not—it's a DJ show, but on another musical level that people can enjoy and feel even like they're seeing a live performance."
Definitely an atypical approach to a DJ show – and one that might even work. The idea is catching on, if his Facebook page is any indication. That attitude carries over in to the way he does business like it does with a rapidly growing number of artists today.
Of course, in his line of work, it somewhat has to lest we go back to the discussion of legality and red tape. In light of that, even if Skratch were offered the supposed "golden ticket" of signing with a major record label...
"The way I see it now, [record] labels can help you take it further only at a certain point. They don't even have time to develop an artist. You've got to do a lot of that on your own. From the results I've gotten, it just takes some work on your end. If you've got a good thing going—hell, you could have a quirky little thing going and, as long as it‘s popular like your son dancing or something like that'" he trails off, laughing. Then, "If you've got a good thing going nowadays, it's not so hard to get it out there. If you have a good product and people want to check you out, then the power is in your hands. I've had a lot of fun doing that and it will continue on. I'm no marketing major, but I do know there's a lot of power in the hands of the artists these days, and that's a good thing."
Of course, the new way of doing music business is a greater benefit for the artists – namely, more money by cutting out the middle man and more control by eliminating the need to have a boss that dictates how your product and career will be handled. Another key component of seems to be in not only what's in it for them, but for their fans as well. Skratch confirms, "If you go about including your fanbase in what you do and give them love, they'll give back to you. People know when you're giving them something, so if you give them something, it'll come back to you eventually – be it monetarily or in longevity or at the shows. People want that connection, and there's no easier time than now to make that connection with your fans."
On his own power, his "mixtape" releases – more literal for a DJ, as you can imagine – have done quite well. Filling up the length of an entire CD, his albums are continuous, uninterrupted flows made up of some of the best party jams and funky diversions recorded in the last 30 years. His ear for great music is nearly unparalleled, and his aptitude for working that into newer music is second to none. Of course, there are t-shirts and other items that also make up some of the financial end.
At the end of the day, as an independent artist perpetuating an art form that was thought dead and gone as recently as earlier this decade, Skratch Bastid is making his name and music heard through his God-given ability, hard work, and sheer resolve. Not only that, but he's also making enough of a living that he can turn his dream in to his "day job" without having to depend on the formerly-tried-and-true label system (that a surprising number of artists still think they can't live without). And he's not the only one. One artist in particular was already part of the major label system at one point – only to walk away willingly.
Chad Bromley, more colloquially known as Apathy, was a member of the Atlantic Records roster. Yet, no record came of it and now he's a free man. The air had to be cleared – in public, if you will – as to what exactly happened between he and Atlantic as we talk. The response from Apathy was somewhat amusing:
"Nothing. That's the point – that's the reason why I left. There was really nothing going on and we couldn't come to terms. We couldn't decide on what to do. That wanted me to do a whole bunch of funny shit that I wasn't willing to do, they weren't giving me answers, and there was no definitive timeline, so I was tired of spinning my wheels and dealing with them. Eventually, I asked for a release and got off the label."
Many lamented what a damn shame it was that Atlantic – a major label with major resources that's able to get virtually anything done for their artists after 50-plus years in existence – could be so stupid as to let one of the hottest, and arguably best, rappers actively in the game today simply walk away from them.
Studying at the sonic temples of the masters since he was young, Apathy understands the true spirit and style of the art of the rhyme. Born of that knowledge and infatuation of the genre, Apathy combines a razor-sharp flow with a commanding voice and sense of urgency not heard since the days of Chuck D, Rakim, and KRS-One. To describe his style in detail—well, yes, this has been done before, but it bears repeating since it's the most effective demonstration:
Whether that's a freestyle or not is immaterial. Three different speeds, zero mistakes. Perfection on a mic. More evidence is presented to the jury when I bring up to Apathy how I first heard of him and subsequently became a fan almost instantly: the "Personal Jesus" freestyle off of Where's Your Album?! (the title, a direct reference to the Atlantic debacle). To that, Apathy chuckles, "I love that ‘Personal Jesus' one, too. That was important for me to really kill it with the flow on that beat, too. That's one of the ones where you hear it and you want to go crazy. When you get a beat with a dope pattern like that, that's like catnip for rappers. Just makes you want to go on there and attack and kill." More proof that radio rappers and other Hip-Hop artists at the service of VH1 and other corporate outlets that want to boast about "real Hip-Hop" need look no further than Apathy before they check themselves in a mirror and try again. Maybe.
As Eazy-E would have put it, It's all about makin' that GTA. And Apathy is far from lazy in that respect. In addition to his newest album, Wanna Snuggle? hitting the stores (and getting a ton of rave reviews since its release, with many – including this site - calling it the best Hip-Hop album of 2009), Ap has followed that right up with the new album from Get Busy Committee, featuring he and Ryu (Styles Of Beyond). There is also a new one due before year's end from Army Of The Pharoahs. Early next year should see new albums from Ap's main crew Demigodz as well as solo material from fellow Demigod Celph Titled. This is also doing a ton of production work, including a spot on Cypress Hill's album due next year. And did we mention Ap is already working on his next solo album to boot? In giving us all this info, Apathy laughs at his near-suicidal work schedule. "I stay busy, man! I'm constantly working all the time."
Under the control of a larger label – or most any label, for that matter – Ap's output would be about one-fifth of what's listed above. However, Ap has a system in place to take getting his name out there to a whole new level. "I wouldn't say [Demigodz Records] is necessarily a label," explains Ap, referring to the umbrella that newest album, Wanna Snuggle? was released under (with most of the aforementioned projects to follow). "It's just a means of us putting it out – Demigodz Enterprises. We have a digital account so we can put things on iTunes, we have a distribution route with traffic, so it's just a way of us putting it out. We don't really take it seriously, like ‘we're gonna have our own label'; under that name, we might start one in the future."
Ap continues, "The thing that's great about that is that we can put out whatever we want. We're in charge of whatever we want. We only have to answer to ourselves; we're our own bosses. And if you want something done right, you have to do it yourself. That's always been the best thing for us – it's always been the most lucrative. When you're in control of your own business and you're in control of things, you have no one to blame but yourself. It also motivates you to work harder."
He's even kind enough to offer some thoughts on the state of the industry, including a little advice: "Labels are dead. They have terminal cancer – it's only a matter of time. Labels might be good for somebody that doesn't know how to do a Goddam thing, but if you can do it yourself and you have the ability and you can manage that, you should definitely be putting out records by yourself. You make more money, you have more creative control, and nobody's trying to micro-manage you."
On the other side of that coin, however, is the fans' involvement. Apathy states, "It's very important for people to understand that this is a crucial time for fans to support the artists. If you're a fan of these artists, this is the time for the artists to prove themselves. If you're not supporting them, you're proving to the world that these artists are no good. You're saying, "Hey, I'm not gonna buy these guys' stuff. I'm not gonna support them.' You can't download and say, ‘Yeah, the album's hot, I love it – I download everything you've got'. There's no proof of incentive for us to continue to do it. That's why a lot of people would quit. It's a time where it is definitely more important than ever to support artists that you feel. Even when people say, ‘Ap, I'd rather buy the CD from you at the show than in the store so you can get the money' – no, I get the money anyway! It's very important for the stores to see that this guy sells because, if you don't buy the CDs in the stores, they're gonna be like, ‘we're not gonna carry your CDs in the store because they don't sell. No one's buying them!' "
If his ever-growing reputation as one of the finest around – both in front of the mic and behind the boards – is any indication, then Apathy is certainly handling his business the right way. Once again, he's another artist that does this for a living without having a corporate sponsor, boss, or thief to answer to. Because, as his own theory states, he simply can. It's that easy anymore. And his fans are behind him enough to make it work, like others still that have walked their own path – such as Tom Shimura – known to a wide audience as Lyrics Born.
Lyrics Born has to be quantified as "Hip-Hop" if he’s required to be fit in to a particular genre at all. Not due to a contractual issue or threat of death or anything – simply because "L-Beezies" is about much more than just rap.
Sure, he can flow as good as any emcee out there. Better than most, really – he can tear your ass up if you're not careful. Outside of that, though, he can be funky enough to light up a party in a heartbeat. And did we mention that he can sing, too?
Lyrics Born clarifies during our conversation that this is a lifelong pursuit. "I think from a very early age, I think I knew I always wanted to be some sort of artist or some sort of performer. It wasn't until I first heard Hip-Hop that I knew what type of artist or what type of performer I wanted to be. I think, once I heard it, I got into it. And then Hip-Hop, in turn, got me into all these other kinds of music."
And a hell of a performer he's become. Not a single crack or falter in his voice. He didn't even cheat by changing the key of the song. And, as you can see by rolling with a live band, there are no pre-programmed beats or tracks to be had. Not many in today's fast-food Hip-Hop culture can go out on stage and kill with no safety nets or crutches.
In talking about the live band, Lyrics Born seems even ballsier. "Well, mostly because I wanted to grow. It was never my goal to be just a Hip-Hop artist. At that time, the confines of the genre were pretty much dictated by sample use. If we're gonna move forward and I'm gonna grow and move my music forward – as well as the music forward in general – then I just have to get beyond those limitations. That's what made me get into music was live musicians, both on the road and in the studio."
Outside of The Roots – another Hip-Hop act that's made its name on ability, ardor, and an adventurous approach to the genre – there is virtually no one in Hip-Hop that crumples up the antiquated mindset of what's "expected" and throws it in the trash like Lyrics Born. Race not even being an issue, his music is simultaneously loose in its feel and tight in its construction. He can – and does – cover just about any subject matter you can think of, including love. It's not all an act (unlike even so many R&B singers) or a shallow attempt to look like a well-rounded performer. He actually is one.
You'd better believe that same mindset that permeates his music also presents itself in his business sense. Looking at YouTube channel, scrolling down the About Me section on the left-hand side is the following: Lyrics Born has been one of the most licensed hip-hop artists in the world, with placements on Diet Coke, Motorola, Nokia, and Vans commercials, TV shows such as "Entourage", "Six Feet Under", "What About Brian", "Gossip Girl", and "Gilmore Girls", films like Michael Mann's "Collateral" and Justin Lin's "Fast And The Furious: Tokyo Drift", and videogames by EA Sports, 2K Sports and Atari. He has had sponsorships with Puma, Adidas, Diesel, and Evisu. Certainly sounds like any other Hip-Hop artist out there – except when you realize that Lyrics Born did that all on his own. No label, no middle-man negotiating all this for him, just him. Having that kind of control, he feels, is vital not just to his career, but his situation as an artist in the world of the web 2.0. "I've supervised, 'A&R'-ed, and executive produced every album I've ever done. The people I work with trust me enough to do so," he proclaims.
With Lyrics Born, however, the question of whether or not he's with a major label is a moot point. What matters is how he's presented and being able to be the performer he wants to be. "You know, I never cared if I was independent or on a major [label] or...none of that ever mattered to me, as long as I can make the records I want to make," he declares. "If a major label came along and said, "Hey, we want you to sign this deal", my first question is, "okay, but can I still make the record I want to make?" If they said that was cool, then okay, I'm down. And if an indie did the same thing, I would say the same thing to them."
Fortunately for him – and so many others that are able to see the power of immediately dispersing information to the entire world with just one click – he has no need to even entertain the idea. "I think we live in a great time right now where artists have that choice if they so choose to. With the way the internet is now, if you want to self-release your own music, you don't need the labels anymore. It used to be that the labels held the keys and were the gateway to your dreams, but it's not that way anymore. You can self-distribute. There are companies out there that will distribute your music for you, as-is. It's not the same as it once was; the companies don't have that kind of control anymore like they once did."
Lyrics Born continues, "The internet is great; it's a powerful tool. I'm just trying to harness it and be able to use it to express my passion and what I'm about and my story. It's just my point – all these tools, all these things are available to all of us. I'm just trying to take advantage of it."
Taking advantage of the internet is something Lyrics Born has excelled at almost as well being an exemplary performer. The latest example is his LBFM player on his website. A media player, according to LB, features not just his own music but the music that influenced him to do this sort of thing himself. Not many people take that extra step, but it should be clear by now that Lyrics Born isn't "many people".
As his latest album, Everywhere At Once still going strong, Lyrics Born has two singles from his new album already making rotation. LB even gave us a quick progress about As U Were: "I'm almost done; we're looking at a first-quarter release in 2010. Right now, I have about 12 songs mixed; I'll probably do a few more and then we'll take it from there."
With his music about to shine once again and his voice being heard in other places (like Cartoon Network's Friday night block, "You Are Here!"), Lyrics Born shines like few others. Paralleling the few in his category, though, he does it with heart and proficiency instead of hiding behind a corporate machine that excels in disguising the weaknesses of its artists (which can hit astronomical numbers if hearing the radio is any indication). It's actually refreshing to know that the corporate machine hasn't gotten a hold of him and tried to ruin what he does best. Others have lived through that very tale to fight another day. One stands out as not only a musical legend, but one who pioneered this entire movement as a defiant response to a debilitating system.
Yes. The rhythm, the rebel.
If anyone is familiar with the freedom granted to artists by the internet, it's Public Enemy's Chuck D. After the controversy he's seen and the battles he's fought, Chuck D has become the prime example of using the world wide web to forego the archaic system of the way things were done and furthering your career and message on your own power.
Still, in an exclusive interview done for this feature, we couldn't help but discuss some of the "old days". In particular, the subject of VH1's recent "Hip-Hop Honors" show spotlighting Chuck's old stomping grounds, Def Jam records, came up. "It was cool," said Chuck of being a part of the show. "Seeing Rick [Rubin] was really good. It's funny – you see a lot of the guys that took that corporate money, and then you see the people that didn't get the money all come together in a room. It's real funny because guys the guys that run Def Jam have turned in to the same rich guys that we all rebelled against," he chuckles.
As we talked, I remind Chuck that, along with Prince, he practically wrote the book on the new "do-it-yourself" aesthetic in Hip-Hop – and music in general. In turn, he reminds me that he's always been a champion of artists' rights. Touché.
As much of a mixed reaction as the move has caused, then, it makes perfect sense that Chuck would turn to a company like SellABand to not just promote, but be an instrument in letting the fans fund the next Public Enemy album. It has nothing to do with the group being strapped for cash or pulling a desperate publicity stunt, as many have accused them of. "I admired SellABand and what they were doing in Europe. In the United States, we've tried to emulate their message and the way we do things on a much smaller scale. At the same time, I wanted to take their system and see if it would work with something I already have – like Public Enemy. The difference with using SellABand for Public Enemy – we know we can make a record in our own studio on our own. We don't need any financing. I think, if anything, each and every song on this next record will be a collaboration. I think those collaborations for the fans would be something they would not get if we were to do an album on our own. If we're doing a SellABand record, we have to present something a little different than we would do on our own. I think that's what SellABand makes possible."
Chuck goes on to open up the possibilities wide. "Let's say we do an album with 10 different collaborations with different artists. This way, the fans can add their input in and we can bring 10 different collaborators to the table and give the fans what they actually want. SellABand will work differently for Public Enemy than they would a smaller artist."
To put things in their place in the "big picture," Chuck sums up: "Under the traditional way, a record label would pay you to do a record, you know? Under this way, we can say, ‘you want to see us with this artist or that person?' We're looking at this project as being revolutionary and experimental. I think this is showing the music business that this is taking baby steps toward eventual sponsorship that well help an individual – or a big company or a small company – further their brand."
As of November 2, the SellABand venture has raised $59,625 toward the fan-funded and fan-centric record that P.E. is putting together. Those baby steps are happening one foot in front of the other. For all the critics that have taken Chuck to task for this venture, the fact that Chuck is as revolutionary of a thinker as he ever was should have been at the forefront to begin with. Of course, those criticizing are probably playing right into the hands of the media and its perpetuation of "fast-food culture" by assuming there was no more to this than the band "being broke." And, quite frankly, if they had known how Chuck carries himself as an artist and forward thinker for any length of time, they should have known better.
But then, this is far from the first time that Chuck and the rest of Public Enemy have been at the center of condemnation and disagreement. From the lyrics to "Welcome To The Terrordome" sparking protests about the name of Jesus Christ to videos depicting the FBI gunning down a black family in their own home and the assassination of the (fictional) Governor of Arizona, Chuck has weathered the war like few others have. Many in his boat would have tucked their tail between their legs and gave up, but Chuck still fights on in the name of Power To The People.
He can also see the bigger picture better than many his field can. In observing that image, he sees Hip-Hop as it is now in dire straits. "The genre of Hip-Hop that people say is so big has serious structural issues. More like a lack of structural issues. Like I said, I just came from the Hip-Hop Honors and a lot of the new artists buoyed by corporate money and saturated radio have undershot their integrity and dedication to the art form that they're not even exciting the crowd that they do have. I have grave concerns over the buoyancy of Hip-Hop over the last 10 years. If it's not financed, it ain't stayin' up, you know? The concerns are not just in the area of records and record companies, but the radio stations and BET have done such a terrible job—they're limiting what the art form can do. They put it in a box. Therefore, the young demographic only follows what's in that box that's now being dictated from radio and television. At the end of the day, because of that, I have grave concerns over whether rap can hold itself up."
Chuck touches on other artists coming up without using the old system, like Skratch Bastid, Apathy, and Lyrics Born. What's needed for artists like that to get their due, Chuck says, is a system supported by fans of the genre – and music as a whole. "Every artist [like that] wants a support system that can take the cream of the crop and the artistry and magnify it. If you can magnify it and dignify it at the same time and build a structure to support whatever it becomes as long as they keep those two aspects in mind. Right now, you ask younger people and older people about what their attitude is toward what they're seeing. It might not be ‘Hip-Hop is dead,' but a lot of people say that what they see is uninspiring. If somebody like Public Enemy and The Roots are blowing somebody away on stage and somebody like a Rick Ross is not, there are grave concerns. The only way a lot of artists are big is through repeated radio play. Artists can go the independent route, but that has to be supported. If it can't be supported on television and the radio that the masses of black people are watching and listening to still, then you tell me how it's going to be supported.
"In rap music and Hip-Hop, the infrastructure has been lacking severely because, in the beginning, when rap music had no support system, it helped create its own. It's own alternative was created because that was the only way to catch it. Now that there's a limited view, you have a situation where other people dictate, what deserves to be heard and what doesn't. Who makes those decisions over that pecking order has affected the music more than ever. That's where it's at. If what I just gave you seems complex and you see the mental level it takes to see where this business is at, of course they keep everybody infantile. Then you'll never understand the problem. I just think the methodology involved in all of this is a little crazy and out of whack right now."
Fortunately, the future of the art form isn't a blank slate where the future of the genre should be. For every bland record and performance out there, there is still hope and promise that the music will not cease to exist. There are still explosive performers and scorching beats accompanied by incisive rhymes that harken back to the days when the art of Hip-Hop wasn't so stagnant. Chuck D continues to put the people and fans first in letting them dictate what they want and to have those days back. Others have followed suit, abandoning the corporate power structure in favor of bringing a new life to Hip-Hop. A new inspiration and passion that others are catching on to.
If those "baby steps" of going through ventures like fan-funding and giving the people what they want instead of what they're being force-fed continue, the movement will then begin to crawl. Then walk. Then finally run. All it takes to bring Hip-Hop back to another "Golden Age" – this time, to stay – is to stray outside the confines of the usual outlets and search for music that inspires rather than settles for being played in a nondescript background. As a man who has done this for over 20 years, Chuck is qualified to lead the way down the path that the other artists discussed this week are traveling as well. All we have to do, in turn, is follow them and discover a world outside of what's forced on us. A world that we, the fans, will ultimately control.
There are several people I owe thanks to in putting this together. The four artists that took their time to talk with me, for one. Much appreciated. Also, the behind-the-scenes work of Morgan Steiker, Matt Conaway, Justin Berger, and Jolyn Matsumuro for their patience. And finally, to our man in Amsterdam, Grimmy Acosta, who named this piece and pitched in on some editing.