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Surely no pirate tale would be complete without a mention of robbery on the high seas or the like. Taking liberties (if not prisoners) with the expression “or the like,” Fort Wayne’s Land Pirates recently survived an episode of such scope. The five members of this hip-hop crew had just completed a set at the Anchor Inn (of course) in South Bend and were headed back to the Fort in a Lincoln Continental they call “The Ship.” Stopping at a convenience store on their way out of town, the Land Pirates encountered what may have been the Notre Dame Rugby team. Asking one of the Irish for a cigarette somehow led to a full-blown brawl. Both groups suffered injuries, and the skirmish ended just as the police and ambulance arrived. The LP crew re-boarded “The Ship” and headed home battered and bruised, but no doubt further inspired to carry on. Hey, these things happen to pirates. Shannon “Sombr1” Baugher, Lincoln “Knowone” Dyer, Jesse “IllStory” Franklin and Nickholas “Styxxoplix” Michell are the four emcees known as Land Pirates. Along with DJ/producer Kurt “Sci Fi” Shively, they create a hypnotic, literate, political and science fiction-infused hip-hop sound that is just beginning to emerge as part of the Fort Wayne scene.
Dyer and Baugher originally discussed putting a musical project together early in 2004. The project was put on hold while Baugher, 31, pursued another one of his passions, train-hopping. After hitchhiking to Denver when he was 19 Baugher was attracted to and adopted the young hobo lifestyle and ended up riding freight trains across the country for the next six years. Baugher became involved in a variety of movements (WTO protests, Books To Prisoners program) while living on the streets or camping in the woods in and around nearly every major U.S. city, including Seattle, Los Angeles, New Orleans and Atlanta. “I guess I wanted to control my own destiny. It’s like we are given a list of things to do or be our whole lives, and it’s just another form of slavery,” he said. Now somewhat settled, he still renews this passion for riding the trains a couple times a year, adding “I think it will always be a part of who I am.”
Baugher’s street life became a source of inspiration for his constant writing, and hip-hop would soon become his vehicle for expression.
After returning to Fort Wayne in late 2004, Baugher hooked up with Dyer again to get serious about the project that would become Land Pirates. The two added a persistent Franklin to the mix and began recording beats in the basement of Angela Horan’s North Highlands-area home. A creative, literate wordplay style emerged that was backed by samples suggesting 1950s science fiction movie soundtracks. Dyer states, “We usually suggest a theme and then each emcee comes up with his take on it. Sometimes the lyrics might contradict each other, but that’s okay.”
Dyer, 27, has been writing poetry for over a decade and also shares a love for skateboarding with Baugher and Franklin. Dyer has also been known to startle a karaoke crowd with his hilarious, spot-on Vince Neal vocal. (Hopefully, this disclosure won’t damage Knowone’s hip-hop cred.)
Adding yet more verbal diversity to the mix, Styxx (as Michell is known) came on board the Land Pirates project in late 2005. Styxx, 32, spent most of his adolescence in Germany as a military child. There he became involved in a hardcore band called Hyperactive Zombies. He then was a member of Prophets of Rage, a German experimental hip-hop crew that released two records in the mid-90s. (You can watch a young Styxx in several Prophets of Rage videos on YouTube.com.)
Returning to the states in Florida, Styxx was then part of a hardcore jazz fusion group (Mysterioso) that, in his words, played “dark carnival music.” Styxx landed in Fort Wayne in 2004 where he hooked up with JoJo of Unseen Handz before joining the Land Pirates. In addition to his work with Land Pirates, Styxx also does solo work and remains active in Unseen Handz projects.
Land Pirates are on the verge of releasing their first full-length locally. Pre-production versions of the CD are available at their shows. The record was recorded in Shively’s home studio. Tracks include “The Bookworm,” which name checks a stack of classic literature and authors behind a hypnotic B-movie loop. Another track gives some succinct advice to the current crop of talking heads that inundate CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, etc. One unlucky local news celebrity gets the same treatment. Of course, you can also visit Land Pirates’ site at MySpace.com to hear three tracks, including the eerie “Mad Scientist.”
On Saturday, February 3 the Land Pirates will be part of a bill of hip-hop artists slated to perform at The Brass Rail. While long established as a prime venue of Fort Wayne punk and other non-mainstream bands, this will mark the first hip-hop show at the location. Sombr1 (Baugher), who actually fronted a pair of punk bands in the 90s before deciding he could better express himself as a hip-hop artist, is excited about this event.
“I go back to the Rail from day one, when the old timers hated us … until they got to know us. I’m an O.G. of that scene and proud to host the first hip-hop show there.” Like most Brass Rail shows, it should be quite memorable. As hop-hop continues to explode in Fort Wayne, Land Pirates will certainly play a part in that explosion.