Bunk Talks Delaware
By Gentle Jones
Ernie Talbert built a reputation in Delaware over several years writing and recording as Bunk, steadily gaining numerous fans and accolades. His battle cry of “All we got is us” resounded locally with his crew 68 Society and culminated in the website allwegotis.us which grows daily into a significant Delaware indy music portal. More than just a rapper, Ernie is a well-rounded individual: a skateboarder, a businessman, a graphic artist, and a social visionary.
Gentle Jones: What type of music was listened to in your home growing up?
Ernie Talbert: Growing up my household was filled with all types of music. I remember cruising in the back of my parent's station wagon with the sounds of funk, soul and R&B coming through the speakers. Other than that my parents were into Smooth Jazz and I also got a heavy dose of Gospel music via Mahalia Jackson when I was with my grandparents. While I consider the music I listened to as a youth part of a unique cultural experience, it wasn't the music of my generation.
See the 80s and 90s were a different time for kids growing up than the 60s or 70s. We needed a different music that spoke to the new set of frustrations and stress we felt. It wasn't until I heard my older sister playing Big Daddy Kane that I had an idea of what that music was. The energy I felt coming from groups like Public Enemy was like nothing I ever heard before and I instantly gravitated toward it's message. I memorized the words to "Burn Hollywood Burn" before I learned my multiplication tables.
Gentle Jones: What Delaware artists did you hear early on that made an impression on you?
Ernie Talbert: When it comes to rap I was only initially familiar with some of my sister's friends who tried to be rappers in high school. Remember I was still around 8-10 years old so that's not that big of a compliment. When I got to high school I became more involved in the local rap scene and was into Grace & Divine, The Outfit, Pooch/Cage One, and Serafino. Oh and Super Dave is still one of the best freestylers I've ever heard.
The first Delaware artists who made a real impression on me weren't rappers, but were groups of my friends who were in punk bands. I know this seems like a change in direction from my earlier praise for rap music, but in my mind it wasn't. Punk music has the same youthful energy and pent up aggression that rap music exerts. The first Delaware artists who I actively checked for and recognized were bands like Infection, later Hard Response and My Body My Blood. Also friend's bands like Walleye, Trailer Park Riot, Bureaubrats, and Short Round kept the local scene fun and full of life. There's really too many to name. The punk and hardcore scene of DE in the 90s in to the early 00's is still a period that made the biggest impression on me and no other time or music genre from DE has been able to compare.
Gentle Jones: When did you decide to make your own music?
Ernie Talbert: I was 7 years old the first time I decided to make my own music. My friends and I from the neighborhood got together and formed a rap group called Bad Boys Justice (BBJ) in the same vein as the other three letter initial groups of the time. You know, ABC, BBD…the East Coast Family? My sister's friend Harvey wrote lyrics for us and we got together in my basement a few times to scratch up my dad's precious vinyl. Imagine your 7 year old son and his little rugrat friends destroying records you've saved for 20 plus years because they want to learn how to DJ? Yeah, sorry about that, Pop.
Gentle Jones: How your group Counterparts come about?
Ernie Talbert: The Counterparts emerged as the brainchild of my friend Brian and myself. We initially started as a band with him on drums, myself on guitar, and another friend on bass trying to play a more hardcore punk sound in high school. After the Roots released “Things Fall Apart”, our whole outlook on sound changed. We started to record music using live instruments in his basement. We took those instrumental tapes and then recorded raps over our beats using a two tape deck karaoke machine. When Brian and I roomed together in college he began making beats using software to eliminate the need for purchasing beats or cramming our instruments into an already small dorm room. The group was local and although we did radio appearances, mixtapes, and numerous rap battles in the area it was ultimately hard to keep together because we were in the process of growing up.
Bunk came after that. That was a rebirth of what Brian and I were trying to do earlier. The majority of the production on the project came from Brian and I laid down the vocals. I did it to re-energize the scene and give allwegotis.us a launch pad and provide credibility to our movement. A lot of kids know me, but I also want them to know where I’m coming from in terms of my outlook and perspective in today’s society. I tried to keep the music engaging, but not preachy while intertwining social and political messages I believe both Brian and I hold dear.
Gentle Jones: What is the purpose behind the website allwegotis.us?
Ernie Talbert: In 2010 I started conceptualizing a way to bring the fun and energy that existed in the 90s punk scene and translate it in to hip-hop. So in 2011 I launched a site called www.allwegotis.us. I along with a few friends use the site as a platform to promote music, launch projects and brand events that we've pushed since then. Allwegotis.us was founded on the single principle that the best and most authentic facets of youth culture have been DIY. My friends and I work as a collective to spur a not for profit scene that reinvigorates and promotes the talent that exists hidden in Delaware. While an important piece of the allwegotis.us puzzle remains the accomplishments of my friends, it was not created to act as a promotion piece for us. We non-selfishly post what we want to, put on free all age events when we have the resources to, and try to give different groups exposure when we like their music. It wouldn't be without the contributions of my friends Allen, Colin, and Brian that I would have been able to establish the allwegotis.us brand as successfully as we have. The site is my way of staying involved with the scene that molded a great deal of my character especially considering I have not lived in Delaware for the past 7 years.
The difficulties Allwegotis.us has faced are dealing with a lot of self-entitled unknown rappers in the area. These types of superstar attitudes completely sour what we're trying to accomplish and I can't get down with kids like that. My suggestion to them is to stop fake thugging and go get a job.
I’m always down to support the younger generation in what they’re doing especially as I felt my friends and I received limited support from people with the access. However being constantly bombarded by rappers who demand that they be allowed to perform at our shows or demand we promote their music gets annoying. If they could see how many other thousands upon thousands of kids across the country claim to be the “hottest rapper” they might reevaluate their strategy.
For our Flavor Hour events we certainly drew inspiration from events like the Groove Lounge. We feel we pay homage to the movements that inspired us by not being afraid to admit we recognize and appreciate the contributions of those who came before us. It’s sad that level of respect is not a constant. Various groups have tried to bootleg our events numerous times without extending a cent of gratitude to what we’ve ignited. The scene belongs to everybody, but when you rip somebody off and get called out for it, man up. Kids who take shots at older guys for the sake of cheap fame and don’t know when to play their role weaken artistry. It’s weakened ever further when the kids doing the ripping off are watered down versions of the original with no style. And that goes past music.
Recently I am beginning to bring on a group of younger more involved bloggers to continue making updates and re-establish the movement in 2013.
Gentle Jones: What is your take on the modern music scene?
Ernie Talbert: My take on the modern music scene with regards to local rap music, is it's exploding. There are tons of kids in Delaware with a great deal of talent. As I put allwegotis.us together I began to meet more of these kids and see what they were about. In my mind a lot of these young rappers are the changing face of music and redefining what it means to be into hip-hop. They have a lot of talent and want ways in which to express themselves, however if we as society fail to give them a platform to do that positively then we see negative results. If areas like Wilmington and more so Newark gave their local youth as many options as they afford the college students, we would see a greater deal of positive productivity. However the local music and arts scene fails due to lack of venues and places for kids of all ages to safely get together and do their thing. My suggestion to Newark would be to redirect some of that imaginary crime money in to your town's youth and support their development in to dynamic people. An important piece of the allwegotis.us mission is to create safe and free events that allow kids with similar minds to bond and develop.
Gentle Jones: Where do you think music is headed and are any Delaware artists taking it there?
Ernie Talbert: In my opinion rap music has diverged into three different paths. The first being an even more dumbed down version of rap from the early 00’s. It’s more mainstream and utilizes drug and violence references in a catchy manner to appeal to a club crowd. The second is this dare to be different form of rapper who pushes the envelope of “normal”. They dress different and usually push the envelope of your everyday lyric content in their music. The third phenom I would say is the more conscious 90s boom bap era style of music that’s re-emerged. Generally these are kids who were born in the late 80s and 90s to parents who were listening to 90s era rap. They grew up hearing this type of music and now have their shot to reinvent it in their own way. There’s a lot of young guys who are directly and indirectly involved in the development of music in and from Delaware. I see guys like Joey Moon, Walt Fraze, Kae Hock and Mike Hurtt really out there pushing their music in attractive ways. There are tons more, but this interview will look bad if I’m just dropping names non-stop. Also guys like Troy and Hoxtah work behind the scenes with artists to develop different sounds and are pushing the envelope.
Gentle Jones: Do you sell drugs or have you ever been to jail?
Ernie Talbert: No, I made the decision long ago that I would never get involved with drugs due to my uncles' own substance battles. I saw how drugs not only ripped apart their lives, but damaged the lives of those around them. I've never seen an underserved community advance due to a flourishing drug trade. Lastly, I've lost friends to substance abuse and the violence that accompanies the drug game. Fortunately for me I've never been in a position that made me feel like selling drugs was my only way out. I say all that to say while I have personal reasons for not being interested in drugs, I'm not here to judge anybody.
Instead I took out loans, took myself all the way through grad school and now work for a billion dollar apparel brand that has 95% household penetration. Loans are kind of like jail, but paychecks are better than commissary.
Gentle Jones: Do you think there is a problem with sterotypes in rap music?
Ernie Talbert: Look I think people in this country will need to start taking another look at the stereotypes that revolve around rap music. Sure you have that aspect of rap music that feeds the stereotypes, but what you have to understand is there is a billion dollar push behind these artists to pump that garbage. That style of music isn’t just fueled by inner city kids hanging out on the corner, it’s fueled by millions of suburban kids who want to experience the thrill of the music. They’re not gangsters, they’re not thugs and they’re not underprivileged even though some would like to pretend they are. These kids are the ones receiving itunes gift cards on Christmas and putting money back into the pockets of the executives who reinvest into the image of thug rap. Most of the time these rappers are used as tools to line exec’s pockets who profit off the misery of inner city black people.
Proof that rap music appeals to a widespread demographic is everywhere. Now and in the future you will have men/women who grew up listening to rap music running million dollar companies and investment firms. Think about it, there are guys who listened to the drug influenced rock music of the 60s sitting in top offices. Are they walking in their offices with long hair and tye-dye shirts on while popping LSD in the hallways? There are people who grew up on the party fueled hair metal of the 80s that encouraged you to “rock n roll all night and party everyday”. They go in to their work places and function normally because they don’t have to deal with stereotypes surrounding their personality. Rap music and even Punk are music like any other. Ultimately it boils down to the character of the individual and not the music they enjoy listening to in their private lives.
Gentle Jones: How has skateboarding influenced you and how has it impacted pop culture?
Ernie Talbert: Skateboarding is my life. It’s where I met the majority of my friends and how it’s how I bonded with them. I consider it a major piece of my life because it’s where I found my identity. Being a little black kid skateboarding in the 90s wasn’t a popular thing with other little black kids. Haha. It’s exciting to see how that stigma has changed over the past decade. 15-20 years ago skateboarding was a considered a sport mainly participated in by outcasts. Today approximately 1 in 10 kid’s owns a skateboard. There are an estimated 10 million kids riding skateboards in the US and more kids participate in “action sports” than participate in traditional sports. That translates into consumerism.
Tons of consumer marketing and music companies have tapped into the image of skateboarding. A lot of people have differing opinions on the impact of this, however I see it as a positive thing. It pours tons of money in to the sport of skateboarding and helps fund skateparks. Mainstream culture involvement has certainly made aspects of skateboarders cheesier, but it doesn’t water down the kids who are into for the love of riding.
Gentle Jones: Care to highlight any differences between Wilmington and Newark? Seems most of your current crop of mentions are Newarkians.
Ernie Talbert: The music coming out of Wilmington and Newark has always been different. Wilmington obviously draws more influence from the street and the environments in which their music is created. Same goes for Newark. Going back into the 80s you had a vibrant rap scene from Wilmington that put out nationally recognized vinyl records. Today you have Radimez and OT Records keeping that tradition alive in town. Wilmington rap music has always been more rugged, however today there are pockets of kids from in town who don’t want to be involved in the ‘goon’ lifestyle and are lyrically more diverse than most. I make sure our reviews and events include kids from all around the area, but I will only deal with those who have good heads on their shoulders.
It’s weird to me that there is or was any beef between Newark and Wilmington rappers. You guys know you live in the second smallest state in the US right? I would think the competitive focus would be on Philly, Baltimore or NYC; cities that could actually get you noticed.
Thank you to Regular Size Monster for this opportunity. Look for more events and reviews on allwegotis.us in 2013. Embrace who you are and do what you love. One.