THE (logically incoherent and oppressively unforgiving) BLUEPRINT
Thu, 04/14/2011 — Shadax
Ask any true hip-hop head about Sierra On-Line and you'll most likely hear nothing but admiration for the sprawling and detailed examination of the Robin Hood myth and the ramifications of the Third Crusade in Conquests of the Longbow. But only the most ardent scholars of the golden age of hip-hop remember the studio for perhaps its most underrated contribution to pop-culture: the rap group KQ4.
Founded by King Gram (a nickname the young man earned for his uncanny ability to weigh a package of cocaine to the nearest gram in his hand), Larry Laffer, and several of the most raw drug dealing computer programmers Simi Valley, California had to offer, the then unnamed rap collective languished in the obscurity of command line easter eggs for years. At a time when the nascent genre was dominated by party-raps and novelty acts, the group's raw lyrics bragging about the drugs taken to create adventure game puzzles went unheard for years until the widespread popularity of the rap that gave the group their name, The KQ4 Rap:
However, while the song gained the group local fame and made them minor legends within the hobbyist scene, major success eluded them. The group only released one album, 1988's Soft Porn Adventurez. The album languished on the deep end of the charts after a debut at #93. Hip-hop historians often contribute this failure to the similarities of "Fuck Tha Bert" (a gleefully misanthropic youth anthem about the difficulties of working under Roberta Williams) and a similar track from fellow California rappers N.W.A. These allegations of plagiarism would continue to dog KQ4 through the rest of their career, although the only real mention of the group from the N.W.A. camp came when a confused Eazy-E asked during an interview if "them's the motherfuckers that made Contra, right? With the spread gun and shit?"
The group had a second wind when they found their ranks bolstered by Arabian Prince, who was muscled out of N.W.A. in 1989 in light of being increasingly superfluous. However, the collaboration proved short lived when Arabian Prince left an increasingly fragmented KQ4 over what he felt was a racist portrayal of himself as a hash-selling genie that dabbled in mediocre electronica in Quest For Glory 2. Further cries of plagiarism eventually lead to a bitter break-up of the group when their single "Police Quest (Tha Kindred)" was decried as a blatant copy of Body Count's "Cop Killer." However, even this controversy couldn't raise KQ4's profile. A thorough examination of the song's lyrical content (in which a police officer's wife is stabbed and left in a coma as her husband gets caught up in increasingly pedantic police procedure) by Tipper Gore left the Parents Music Resource Center co-founder confused; Gore was later went on the record to bemoan the fact that "the lyrics made no sense and often required vast leaps of logic. I had to order the accompanying hint book to even get through the first verse." This relentless negative attention was the last straw for KQ4, who broke up shortly afterwards citing a lack of media attention and a growing feud between King Gram and Larry Laffer. This feud haunted the marginal solo works of both men, and would simmer until Laffer's death from sexually transmitted exploded genitals brought on by the short-sighted mistake of not purchasing a condom during the one opportunity to do so several years prior.
While the works of KQ4 are largely lost in modern hip-hop, many scholars of the movement can trace the influence of the group to many modern classics. This is slowly changing through the efforts of their biggest supporters, who tirelessly work to connect the music of KQ4 to the modern rap world. Amongst their biggest supporters is noted hip-hop historian Austin Walker, who feels that modern hit-makers owe a sizeable debt to the group: "Lyrically, the KQ4 really took it a step further. At the time, everyone was talking about doing deals on the street, but these guys were talking about shipment. You know how many people jacked that from them? Biggie, Jay-Z, just everyone! I mean, on Hustlin', when Rick Ross says, 'I'm into distribution, I'm like Atlantic/ I got them motherfuckers flyin' cross the Atlantic,' that lyric—Atlantic?—was supposed to be Sierra. Of course, his label made him change it. They thought the lyric was too smart."