Future Islands’ Samuel T. Herring On How Gravediggaz Changed His Life

This week on NME.com we’ve been asking readers for the records that changed their lives. Every music fan has a record that impacted them so profoundly they can’t imagine their life without – and musicians themselves are no different. Here’s Future Islands frontman Samuel T. Herring on his, Gravediggaz’ brilliant hip-hop trip, ‘6 Feet Deep’…

I first heard ‘6 Feet Deep’ in the fall of 1997 from my older brother Joel. I was instantly drawn to it, with its intense cover art and strange and hilarious drug-trip references. I remember transcribing the lyrics to ‘Defective Trip (Trippin)’ so that I could recite them for my friends in my 8th grade Algebra class. This was my first time really performing lyrics for friends, and also my first time just writing lyrics down in general. To this day, its the only album that I have memorized, lyrically, in its entirety. And if you ever run into me, though some of the finer points have been lost, I can pretty much recite the whole thing back to front, samples and all.

I was drawn to this record for its darkness and humor, and though its aim was to resurrect the dead minds of a new generation of hip-hop, it was also created as a “fuck you” to the industry. Prince Paul, Rza, Fruitkwan of Stetsasonic, an early hip-hop supercrew, and Too Poetic – RIP – had all had sour deals in the industry that left them at weird points in their careers. Because of this there is a certain level of experimentation, a kind of “we can do what we want” attitude, but also a great sincerity in the stronger points.

However, for me, the message worked. It awoke something in me, though based in exaggerated violence and humor, that made me want to write down every word. This led me to begin writing my own rap verses, to entertain my friends in class, then moving on to more exaggerated forms of poetry and then freestyle and then song.

Hip-hop is my first musical love – the artistic form that opened a love for music in me and a want to discover as much as I can about music to this very day. The following spring my brother bestowed upon me ‘Buhloone Mindstate’ by De La Soul, ‘Blowout Comb’ by Digable Planets and ‘Station Identification’ by Channel Live for my 14th birthday. These records would completely change my world and blow open my young mind. However, ‘6 Feet Deep’ was the record that started it all. The record that made me wanna write. It made me want to write words that some other kid would wanna take the time to write down and memorize and repeat every day.