By Ashley Zimmerman
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But this is no adolescent fantasyland. Disappointingly, there are no flashing neon lights, no mood music, and no life-size posters of Ron Jeremy. It is here that the armed forces of GuerillaARC hide out. Built by Lt. Plex, Gen. Doc Faust, Sgt. Seth P. Brundel, Chief Bean Pie, and Cmdr. José Tavarez, this is the latest entry on a growing list of sure-shot record labels to emerge from South Florida's gritty hip-hop underground.
Which brings us back to these five soldiers, who are talking in the office kitchen at BangBus.com. Faust, Bean Pie, and Brundel work here as video editors. Though the funding for the label is coming from porn paychecks, BangBus.com doesn't necessarily conflict with the collective's ultraradical stance. The "guerilla" in GuerillaARC is not only political; it's how these kats do business: by any means necessary. "We take no shorts and make no compromises!" exclaims Plex.
So who are these guys? Plex, Faust, and Brundel are Algorithm, the politically charged, in-your-face, do-or-die hip-hop group that has repped South Florida since its inception in 1997. Ideologically, the trio's music is a cross between El-P and Zack de la Rocha, formerly of Rage Against the Machine. Musically, it's more haunting than that, with Plex and Brundel crafting melancholic strings and piano keys over subtle loops of trumpet horns. Lyrically, MC Faust spits like machine-gun fire, stacking up enough content to fill library shelves while maintaining his composure through a vocal monotone so as not to spontaneously combust.
It took about 12 years for the company to come into being. While attending Braddock G. Holmes Senior High School, Brundel and Faust tried to create a rap scene in a city that seemed to be bassed out. They started a party promotion company called the Mad Squad, bringing down big guys like Redman and Outkast and starting a mixtape label, a home studio, and a hip-hop magazine called Invasion that never invaded. Finally, they formed a production company, Algorithm, with Plex in 1997.
Meanwhile, Plex and Brundel formed a short-lived group with rapper Stress as Spirit Agent, putting out a 12-inch called "Input/Output." Then there was January 2001's "Defective Experiment," Algorithm's official introduction to the public.
"I don't think we ever wanted to be in this position [of owning a label]," Plex says. "I'm an artist first. So when you censor an artist song... that was a fucking bitter day."
The bitter day he refers to came shortly after 9/11, when Danny Dominguez, owner of Miami's Counterflow Recordings, decided not to release Algorithm's highly charged track "Suffer Great Nation," a song written before the World Trade Center attack and performed from the perspective of a terrorist.
Dominguez removed "Suffer Great Nation" from Algorithm's "War @ 120/80" 12-inch in October of 2001; it turned out to be the group's last Counterflow release. (The track was eventually released by Botanica del Jibaro on the Void EP in early 2002.) "If I give you a song, that shit is for real. Some of my flesh is in that shit," Plex complains. "Don't turn around and tell me it's not the right time to put it out. In fact, it was the perfect time! He almost got killed that day."
But faith is hard to come by. With such a diverse demographic, the Miami hip-hop scene is a wild, combative reflection of the city itself. Faust says he tried to hold a community barbecue last year at Biscayne Park to bring local players together and create some sort of unity. But this being Miami, the barbecue led to more beef getting placed on the grill. Instead of slugging beers, some of the guys in the crowd were actually throwing punches at each other.
"Motherfuckers will hate on you on purpose!" says Plex, who recently moved back to Miami after a short-lived stint in NYC. "At the end of the day, the grassroots organizations can't compete with that big corporate money or they're not prepared to do what it takes to compete with that. Which is where GuerillaARC comes in -- we're prepared!"
So with a game plan, ample support from manager Tavarez and PR/marketing whiz Bean Pie, and a tight artist roster that includes local brethren such as Mayday (Plex and local MC Bernbiz) and MTV MC Battle II champ Wrekonize, GuerillaARC is amped and ready to start making chess moves. Its first release, Algorithm's debut full-length, Dawn of a New Error, hit stores early this year.