Mark Batson: Infinite Kundalini
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It was in late 1993 that Batson came to the attention of the entertainment industry. He and his brother, Scott, had formed a group, "Get Set V.O.P." -- performing as Mark "Infinite Kundalini" Batson and Scott "Kwabena the Triumphant" Batson. They had been signed to Polydor Records (now an imprint of the Universal Music Group), which was releasing the duo's debut album, Voice of the Projects. They had been signed on the strength of their 1990 performance with Meshell Ndegeocello -- that year, she won three Wammies (Washington Area Music Awards; the first award that Dave Matthews Band ever won, in 1996), but the Batson brothers were forgotten. Two years passed until an enthusiastic Polydor employee who had been in attendance managed to track them down; they had a contract within two weeks. At the time Voice of the Projects was released, Billboard wrote:
With "Voice Of The Projects," its debut disc on Polydor, the duo mixes jazz, classical, hip-hop, and rap. As they blend musical styles, the keysmen/rappers (who grew up in the Bushwick section of Brooklyn) also are attempting to shatter some of the stereotypes about where they're from: an inner-city housing project.
"A lot of people think of just one thing when it comes to the projects," says Kwabena. "But [the residents there] aren't all teen-age males. There are working people, families, and older people in the projects too."
And what should listeners expect from "Voice Of The Projects," which shipped Sept. 21? Not grungy darkcore or more grim reefer tales. "This is the other voice of the projects," says Infinite. "It's the voice that's been dying to be heard; the voice of civilized people standing up and saying, 'Hey, we're not all killers and murderers. We're good people.'" The first single is "Pretty Brown Babies (Pro Seed)."
Though Get Set V.O.P. failed to establish either fame or fortune through their only release, Mark Batson had made a name for himself within the industry, and set forth to do something with it. For the rest of the 90s, he did a little bit of everything. He spent years playing different styles of music for a series of touring bands, playing throughout the world. He became known as one of the BluWave Bandits for his work with Jean-Paul Bourelly (in which time he worked with Rob "Blue Black" Jackson, a renowned Charlottesville-based hip-hop artist), and studied with Eric B. (of famed duo Eric B. & Rakim) and Marley Marl (who produced Biz Markie, LL Cool J, Big Daddy Kane and Rakim, among many others). While honing his skills was good experience, it was putting those skills to work in the studio that would earn him acclaim.