Rhyme University “>”

 Black Ceaser and Bustrip are Rhyme University (click Image for Rhyme U on MySpace)
       Years from now, someone will extend their index finger toward a map of the United States and press it up against the middle of the state of Missouri, about halfway between Kansas City and St. Louis, and say, “There…That’s where it all started”, and they’ll be mostly right. They’ll be pointing to the city of Columbia. It’s the home of the state’s most prestigious college, the home of the Tigers, and the home of one of Hip Hop’s most promising, young acts, Rhyme University.
      In 2005, while attending the University of MO, the Iyoho (pronounced E-Yo-Ho) brothers recorded their first (self titled) C.D. in their home studio. After years of writing rhymes, inspired by songs ranging from 1982’s “The Message” by Melle Mel of the group Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, to 1998’s “Ex-Factor” by Lauryn Hill, Tony, Charles’ older brother, purchased an Akai MPC and began making beats. That was in 2001. By 2004, he bought his first recorder and the two began putting their song writing skills to the test. As Charles, otherwise known as “Black Ceaser” attests, “We didn’t initially plan to release it; we just wanted to record a bunch of fresh material.”

       Around this time, Melissa Bushdieker and Tivis Landers, the former, an M.U. student from St. Louis and lover of all things Hip Hop, the latter, a Columbia local from California and veteran emcee in his own right, co-created “Mad Real Monday”. This was a forum designed to allow local underground artists to shine at the club where Bushdieker was a bartender. From the beginning, the weekly event was a success, as many of Columbia’s aspiring D.J’s, B-Boys and emcees swarmed the premises and unleashed their talents to the delight of the rapidly growing crowd. It was here that Rhyme University first performed their music publicly, and the reception was such that the two brothers knew that they were on to something.

Born in Tulsa, Oklahoma to Nigerian parents Willie and Grace, these young men are well-traveled and highly educated. Together, the two can count Missouri, Texas, Florida, Illinois, Louisiana, France, Oman, Holland, and of course, Nigeria, among the places that they have lived. Throughout all their travels, their mother and father taught them the importance of working hard, unity, and being the best person you can possibly be.  Tony, who calls himself “Bustrip”, after a song he wrote based on personal experience about a guy who is dumped by his girlfriend and forced to take a Greyhound home, cites the duo’s second project, 2006’s “Children of Uyo, Give It Your All” as his sentimental favorite (Complete Rhyme U catalog available on itunes).

“It’s the album which came about the most freely,” he says, “meaning there were no motives other than to make songs that meant something to us. The album was unapologetic, honest, moody and brutal at times.  We’ve since made albums that had better sound quality, but for the feel, this one is my favorite. Chuck and I are just so well-balanced on that one. We wrote most of the songs while residing together.”

           “The Anthem” by Rhyme University

       See that’s the thing. While one would be right to point to Columbia, MO as the official birthplace of Rhyme University, most of the duo’s five albums were essentially created while they both lived in completely different states. And, considering their long list of residencies, it’s difficult to point to one place as more influential on their music than another. In 2005, after earning his Bachelor’s in Mass Communication at Missouri, B.C. moved to Texas and earned his Master’s degree in Journalism at the University of Houston. Meanwhile, Bustrip stayed in Columbia to finish his BS, MS and PhD in mechanical engineering. Eventually, Charles left Houston for Shreveport, Louisiana to work and spent much of his free time performing live and honing his skills.

This means that Rhyme U.’s third and fourth albums, “The Mo(u)rning Call” and “Sunshine Tears” , respectively, were created entirely through a sort-of “long-distance relationship” method. Being apart did nothing to adversely affect the quality of their music, however. Bus would make the beats and email them to his brother. Caesar would then formulate the concepts of the songs, write the lyrics, and get them back to Bus, who in turn would craft his verses to coincide. Then, B.C.would fly out to his brother’s home in Columbia, or Peoria, IL, where Tony found a job in 2008, to record. Amazingly, the two would knockout entire albums during these weekend excursions.

Flash forward to 2010, in beautifully sunny San Diego, California, where Bustrip landed his current job. When asked why he moved there, he cites the job, and then adds, “Because it’s fucking San Diego, man!!!” Fresh off the heels of the release of Rhyme University’s fifth album, “The Great Rise” (which is more of a solo effort by Black Caesar), Charles has temporarily rejoined his brother. “For a change, in a scene where I could potentially do a lot of damage, musically”, he explains.

Click Image to download "The Great rise"

“Dreamin” by Black Ceaser

        The Great Rise features beats by B.C. himself, Deacon Strukt of Los Angeles, California, Danari, James Kelley of Houston, Texas and of course, Bustrip. Also, it features vocals by Deacon Strukt and artists such as Clay, and Bliss. Ambitious, diverse, and thought-provoking, Black Caesar shines in a way that denotes the growth of an artist at peace with himself, unafraid to try new things, while still sticking to the overall feel to which fans of Rhyme U. have grown accustomed. When pressed about his prolific writing, he’ll tell you, “I pay particular attention to my surroundings and the world, (I hope so…It’s the title of one of the tracks on the album!). A dope concept for a song can literally come from gazing up at the sky (the inspiration for “Hope Sings”) or from deep conversations I’ve had or overheard, as is the case with “Kiss the Sky”.” The track he’s referring to is an up-tempo jam where each verse focuses on a woman who’s had a hard life, dealt with drug addiction and/or prostitution, or ends up with a man who cheats and uses her. “Looking for a sign to rise/ Man I hope she kissed the sky”, he laments. Recorded while he was in San Diego, released for free at the end of last year and made available via download over the internet, “The Great Rise” is a must have; a gift for your eardrums.

Asked what he has up his sleeve in 2011, Bustrip elaborates on his own solo effort, “A Life in A Day: Toil the Earth”. The project is produced entirely by PRE, a friend he met in MO who now, coincidentally, also lives in California. “It’s a complete concept album that describes a typical day that I could have”, he says. Seven of the nine songs are completed and he expects to release it this summer at the latest. He describes it as the first in a trilogy of C.D.’s to be released in the next two years. He also mentions a project he’s been working on with another friend, MO artist Silly J-Skills, where he is the sole producer and makes several vocal appearances. “Skills is one of the best I’ve ever heard do it, so the material is sounding amazing right now. That’s another one I can’t wait for people to hear.”

Some artists, if you can call them that, make music specifically to turn a profit. This is not the case with Rhyme University. They write songs about which they are passionate. They do not look at Hip Hop as a means of “getting paid” or succeeding in life. They have already done that. Charles is a journalist who writes for AOL and serves as the Communication Director for a non-profit organization called Family and Youth Roundtable, in downtown San Diego. And Tony is a Research Engineer in the same city. As Black Caesar says “I’m America’s worst nightmare because, I’m young, black and educated.”

…And the great shall rise…   ~ Orlando Escobar

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