Prefuse 73 is one of the key characters in the book. With a career spanning two decades and a myriad of aliases and releases, Guillermo Scott Herren is central to the book’s story due to the impact his early work as Prefuse 73 made on the hip-hop and electronic worlds.
His 2001 debut, Vocal Studies + Uprock Narratives, reconfigured what hip-hop could be showing not just new potentials for the instrumental version of the music but also new aesthetics for its more traditional rap format that emulated electronic styles – like the intricate cut ups of IDM – in a more ‘traditional’ way. Alongside people like Dabrye, Daedelus and Danny Breaks, Herren was a visionary. As with most of those characters, his vision wasn’t intentional, but simply a by-product of making hip-hop his own based on personal experiences and circumstances.
I’ve been trying to get in touch with Herren for a while and after moving to NYC earlier this year we finally connected. What followed was a few months of meetings and conversations that were used to put together a profile of Herren for FACT magazine ahead of his first album in four years, and his first away from Warp, his home since 2000.
The profile delves into various aspects of Herren’s life and past that have remained nebulous until now. We’re due to continue meeting up this year to discuss other parts of his career – notably his work with Chocolate Industries and his own Eastern Development label – that are of interest to the book’s narrative.
For now though this is a taster of what the chapter that focuses on Herren – as well as the Miami and southern scenes – will look like.
When Warp picked up Herren in 1999, licensing his first album under the Savath & Savalas name as well as signing him for the Prefuse material, they got more than just a wunderkind about to reinvent hip-hop. They got a young man whose identity and links to hip-hop weren’t easily definable. “It would have been easier to package if I’d been from the Bronx,” Herren laments during our last meeting. “Instead I was from Miami, and lived in Decatur.” Over the next few years he found himself subjected to questions and assumptions about his cultural background that felt like they were trying to box him into something he wasn’t. What was a white kid from the suburbs of Atlanta doing recording rap joints with MF Doom? Within those questions lay misunderstandings about both Herren’s upbringing and racial identity.