Bionik is a producer who’s been honing his craft for more than a couple decades now and was a key part of the ’90s Chicago Underground scene. I didn’t learn until semi-recently that he is originally from the Twin Cities, and didn’t move to Chicago until right around the time I was first making my way onto that scene.
I don’t remember exactly when I met Bionik, but I heard his name many times first. Throughout the ’90s Bionik was producing demos for some of the finest the Chicago underground had to offer: Spalaneys, Gravity, Children Of Reality, Thawfor, Kinetic Order, JP Schmedrick, etc… However, these were all demos and there were rarely any production credits, so unless a name was shouted out in the song then the producer went nameless. It wasn’t until later that I started piece together that Bionik was behind some of my favorite Chicago demos.
As for Mr. Gene Poole, I remember the first time I saw him. It was at Scribble Jam ’97, the first time I officially met anyone from Rhymesayers. Siddiq, CEO of Rhymesayers and my H2 co-host, made the trip to Cincy, OH along with a host of people, including Beyond (a.k.a Musab) and Mr. Gene Poole, who both entered the MC battle. From that day the interaction between Rhymesayers and myself became active. When I made my first trip to Minneapolis to explore the Twin Cities scene it was for a Rhymesayers show at the 7th Street Entry: J-Live, Absolute, the Native Ones, and Phull Surkle. Gene Poole was a member of Phull Surkle, and watching him perform made me a certified fan. Phull Surkle was one of the groups from the Headshots tapes who never made an album, but I was really looking forward to one based on their creative concepts from their contributed tracks to the Headshots tapes that I got my hands on back then, Effort and Industrial Warfare.
At this same time I was helping manage the career of a talented upcoming producer named Jel—and I don’t know how it came up, but at some point the idea was born to have Jel and Mr. Gene Poole record a project together. Jel spent some time out in Minneapolis and I was excited to hear the results, but unfortunately no songs were ever completed. As Jel recalls, “I don’t think we ever recorded a song. I just remember him writing to beats and me making beats…I was impressed with his work ethic.”
(Jel also said, “All three of [my] beats on Lucy Ford were made during the Gene Poole sessions at Stress’s house. I was knocking out a bunch at that time and saved some for Sean,” which I believe makes him the only other producer besides Stress to have beats on an Atmosphere album that weren’t produced by Ant.)
Even though that project never came to light, Mr. Gene Poole was keeping himself productive. He had previous made a powerful statement with his impressive performance as part of the Rhymesayers Super-Group the Dynospectrum. Eventually, Phull Surkle morphed into D.A.P.O and released their Public Assistance album in 2003. Maintaining the Rhymesayers conection, Gene Poole also made guest appearances on three additional Rhymesayers projects: Atmosphere’s Headshots: Se7en, Los Nativos’ Dia De Los Muertos, and Semi.Official’s The Anti Album.
He also became active on the Twin Cities battle scene, which is how I got reintroduced to him when I moved to Minneapolis. At the Loring Pasta Bar, MC battles he would be so explosive and fierce that sometimes it seemed his opponents might feel safer if they took a few steps backwards. But then he would finish his verse with a smile and a laugh, showing you it was all in the spirit of competition.
Fast-forward about 10 years and Big Quarters and I were putting together the Last Of The Record Buyers compilation. I had just become aware of Bionik moving to Minneapolis and he let me know he was very interested in connecting with some local talent to work on projects. Based on the great music he was sending me, I knew that I needed him on this compilation and I wanted to make that connection between the ’90s Chicago and Minneapolis underground scenes merging, so the likely common denominator was Headshots and that lead to Mr. Gene Poole and Extreme (a.k.a. Dispute1) collaborating with Bionik for the song “Raw Energy.”
The timing for that track was perfect, as Bionik was continually branching out from his traditional boom bap style and Gene Poole was at a pivotal point were he was pushing the limits of how to use his voice as an instrument. The result is The God Particle, which covers a wide range of styles and sounds. “Turn It” is essentially a club track with a house music twist. “Xellerator” starts off in a similar vein, but adds a touch of electro and then drops into a slowed-down beat for the verses. “From Tha Bottom” is the best entry point to experience their collaboration; it’s a straight up hardcore rap cut, accenting what they are both most well known for. The remaining bulk of the album allows them to explore a host of other soundscapes and concepts. As an added bonus, the album only has two guests, but they are well chosen, with Slug on “Kongrats” and Desdamona on “Lights Out.”
The God Particle is what can occur when two musical vets get together and decide to push the boundaries, and in the process add some new sound textures to the Twin Cities hip hop scene. Listen to a track from the “The God Particle” on this week’s edition on H2 Local Current!
– Kevin Beacham
Catch Kevin Beacham and Siddiq’s hip-hop show H2 tonight and every Wednesday night at 10 p.m. on 89.3 The Current. Their all-Minnesota hip-hop show, H2 Local, airs Tuesdays at noon and Wednesday nights at 11 p.m. on the Local Current stream. You can listen to the Local Current stream at thecurrent.org/local, on HD radio in the Twin Cities at 89.3 HD2, and via the MPR Radio app, which is available for iPhones and Androids.