Wednesday, March 16th, 2005

The Quannum Story

…pic to be posted here soon…

Sam Chennault has done a great job at capturing the story that began as SoleSides and continues to reach new heights as Quannum. Thanks, Sam. It’s deeply appreciated.

Now since I do know a little something about the topic, I did want to gently and respectfully offer some footnotes and corrections.

1) Lydia’s last name is Popovich. Not Popozitch or Popozen. The dashing Isaac “Quick Hide The Sake” Bess deserves every bit of inky praise (and much much more), but I think Lydia’s contributions to Quannum haven’t received enough recognition–she’s not only one of the hardest working people in the music industry I’ve ever met, she is the main link thousands of people have directly to Quannum. She has coordinated much of the promotions and marketing, in addition to zillions of other duties. Much much love for our girl.

2) The Lyrics Born (back then he was called Asia Born) side of SS001 was called “Send Them”, which we often called “Send Them Come” from the original dancehall sample, but never called “Send Them, Tom” or “Tom, You Send Me” or “We Sent Them Tom And They Sent Him Back” or “Send Zen To Office Depot For More Toner”.

3) I actually don’t ever recall Pete Rock wearing an African medallion. I thought he wore a dookey rope on Mecca And The Soul Brother. Am I wrong about this?

4) This next one’s a matter of interpretation…and it’s possible I’m looking back at this through my own lens. I was definitely the most ideological in the crew about the importance of being indie–part of my politically-minded steez, no doubt. But when the majors came calling, I don’t think I was that insistent, much less Stalinist, that we remain so. But again, I’ll say that this may be a matter of my changing memory. Truthfully, there’s a lot more of the story yet to be told on this, but now is probably still not the time. One day…

5) While I’m on the topic, I will say that at the time, I was–and still can be–a stubborn kind of fellow, and I never would have said that we needed to end SoleSides. Thankfully, the crew made the decision for me. The world didn’t need another mediocre hip-hop indie label business manager. (Tho maybe it didn’t need another hip-hop journalist either! Time will tell.)

But, looking back, I agree with Shadow that SoleSides would not have remained a sustainable model. I’d add that much of the reason was that the industry had begun to change around us. Indie distribution had narrowed considerably from the time we started to the time SoleSides ended. At one point, the largest independent distributor in the country, called INDI/Alliance, declared bankruptcy–leaving us locked out thousands of dollars in receivables and product.

After that, regional one-stops were shutting down left and right. To take care of cash flow issues, we had moved into an independent pressing and distribution deal with a local company that itself was quickly on its way to going under, and that left lots of West Coast labels high and dry. Overall, it was like the tap shut off and I think, more than anything else–glut of bad indie records, mainstream records getting better, whatever else you want to point to–the narrowing of distribution mechanisms is what ended that particular era of indie hip-hop from the West Coast.

By the end of the 90s, indies had either built up enough clout and branding to be able to survive, or were about to get smashed by the fallout of the growing monopolization of the industry. In retrospect, the transition to Quannum–that is, toward a hybrid model rather than a strict indie–happened at exactly the right time.

6) The center of operations was already in the Bay when SoleSides ended. We had been running the biz out of an office on Haste and Ellsworth in Berkeley during our last year or so. There were a gang of interns from UC Berkeley–many of whom have become famous in their own right: DJ Icewater, prominent music attorney Gene Kim-Whitney, Inventos Hip-Hop Cubano filmmaker Eli Jacobs-Fauntauzzi, and a host of other folks whom we all have much love for. (And lots of whom unexpectedly showed up to holla at me on tour–I see ya!)

7) It’s sad that the piece didn’t get to include the huge fam that supported all of us in Davis and in the Bay Area, especially Benjamin Davis, aka Mack B. Dogg, a rapper, homie, a KPFA DJ (“Late Night Hype” after the CMW song), and Lyrics Born’s best friend, who passed away suddenly a few years ago and whom we all deeply miss.

8) 2005 is going to be a banner year for Quannum not just because of all the projects coming from the principals, but for the star-studded gang of artists who have joined the fam. To me, Quannum has shown again why it remains ahead of the pack–each of the acts is not just incredibly innovative and amazing, they represent a new global-minded breed of hip-hop artistry: Curumin, Apsci, General Electrics, Honeycut, and Pigeon John. With LB’s album setting it off in a month, you’ll be hearing much more for the months to come.

If it sounds like I’m still a fan, hell yeah, I remain so. In this life, it’s been an honor to be associated with these folks.

posted by @ 10:43 pm | 6 Comments

6 Responses to “The Quannum Story”

  1. Oliver says:

    “Send Them, Tom”? Was that some white label promo I didn’t get back in the day? Must check eBay…

  2. Sam says:

    I already e-mailed Jeff and Lydia about this, but I’ll make a public apology as well: I’m very sorry (and more than a litle embarassed) for misspelling your name, Lydia.

    I really love what Curumin, Honeycut and General Electric are doing. My not covering them was only a matter of limited space. Like you said, Jeff, there’s a lot more to this story and I’d love to read your take on it someday.

    And what about all the the song titles I got right, Jeff?!? What about those? [/ Millhouse voice] And in regards to the Pete Rock thing, I don’t have a picture but absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

    And thanks for being such a great interview, Jeff. This was my pleasure.

  3. Jeff says:

    Hey Sam, no you’re absolutely right. Glad you didn’t call Shadow’s first single “Re/Flux”. There was also the potential for lots of jokes about latex. Close one.

  4. Diana says:

    Jeff Chang,
    First of all your book was amazing. I love what you and Quannum Projects are doing with hip hop. We are the hip hop generation and you Quannum are some of the very few who recognize this. Their vision of what hip hop is and can be has yet to be fully realized. I look forward to continuing my support of the local bay area hip hop scene and what you, along with Quannum, are doing for the scene and hip hop music as a whole. Much thanks for all the amazing music, inspiration, and education.

  5. Jeff says:

    Is that Trinity Diane? Hey, you wouldn’t happen to have that incredible Quannum special you did on KFJC available would you? You rock!

  6. Kevin says:

    I appreciate you propping the late Benjamin Davis. He was an incredible dude, an old KPFA Apprenticeship buddy in ’94-’95. I remember coming in to do his show at some ungodly hour, carrying crates of vinyl and what not. He was a very dedicated cat, and he always brought others along for the ride. Your entry was the first I had heard of his passing.

Previous Posts

Feed Me!






Come follow me now...


We work with the Creative Commons license and exercise a "Some Rights Reserved" policy. Feel free to link, distribute, and share written material from for non-commercial uses.

Requests for commercial uses of any content here are welcome: come correct.

Creative Commons License