It's only half the story, but I've ferreted out details about rap duo Royal Ruckus' decade-long hibernation into the belly of Middle-Earth finally to emerge this past March with their latest: Rumors of Our Demise Have Been Greatly Exaggerated. While Michael Walker has been unavailable for comment, I've gotten the other half of the band, Jamey Bennett, to sing like a lark. Or rap like one.
The classic Royal Ruckus experience is like falling through a portal of whimsy. You are Alice. They are Wonderland. Or maybe they are Alice, and you are Wonderland. From appearance to verbiage, you can't help but not to do a double-take when you lay eyes on these California boys or hear the eclectic vibe of their Old-School-Hip-Hop-inspired tracks. I mean, nothing about Jamey or Michael is hood.
Except maybe neighborhood.
But how do I describe this album? Hmm. OK, take
Kern County's suburban . Lace with rural Bakersfield 's landscape. Intersperse with witty, life-stylized picture-parodies of middle-class Tennessee . Toss in any flavor of Hawaiian and Cowboy musical influences. And periodically punctuate with an Anglican reverence. Now, you have an idea of the ruckus these tracks make of your mind. America
In the same whimsical and thought-provoking spirit of their music, I want to give four, little-known insights into this album.
1. Rumors of Our Demise is about rumors. So what have these guys been up to this past decade? The dirty truth is that Jamey has been teaching. Yes, teaching. Flicker Records might have brought Royal Ruckus to Nashville, but it didn't pay the bills. In the long run, that is. In the interim Jamey earned a BA in education and taught at a classical school. Not only did Jamey teach, but he actually wrote curriculum, eventually publishing several books. Here is a link.
2. Rumors of Our Demise is about of. I actually got to know Jamey pretty well as an educator (my line of business). One of the first members of an educational forum I founded in 2004, Jamey not only met me on Monday nights, but we also met several times outside those hours to talk about ideas. Jamey is one of the few "idea" people I've met who actually churns out a finished project. He has a pretty good track record of making art. Even when the music wasn't flowing, the beer was. And the beard. Jamey developed an insatiable interest in beer and beards.
Especially the beards.
Well, the beer, too.
What does that have to do with of, and specifically Jamey's ofness? Nothing, even though I tried to make a connection.
3. Rumors of Our Demise is about our. These rumors aren't only about Jamey. They are about Michael, too. Other than the fact that Michael married a beautiful gal who, months before they met, was a dinner guest at my house. Other than the fact that I've seen him dozens of times at the Square in Downtown Franklin with his firstborn son. Other than the fact that I was disappointed when Michael had his son visit the barber for the first time to have his beautiful, blonde locks trimmed. Other than the fact that we've exchanged numbers only to not talk, I have little to report. Let me go do some good old facebook stalking.
Here is Mike's facebook page. Snoop on it yourself to find out what he's up to (I have a reputation I have to keep).
Oh, snap, I just found Mike's blog page. It looks like he's been working on his own solo album!
4. Rumors of Our Demise is about demise. A lot can happen in eight years and has. The dissolution of Jamey's first marriage wasn't planned. Subsequent depression wasn't planned either. A job change in education and relational overhauls found Jamey all over a map that was hidden to most of us.
Aside from a chat by my fireplace a year ago, the last I saw of Jamey for a couple of years was when he officially left Franklin, Tennessee. He packed up his stuff (I took several bags and boxes to Goodwill), took his dog, and set off for a short trip to visit family and friends on the West Coast before relocating to Hawaii. Then he took off for Europe, writing at pubs, investigating cathedrals, making the ever-witty comment now and then on Facebook. Then he was back in Hawaii. Then I ran into him at a local pub. Then he was at my fireplace, reminiscing about the whirlwind in both our lives.
The reminiscing was painful for myself as well as for him. Certain projections in life just didn't reach their targets, and for Jamey that sense of being derailed infused his experience with a sobriety that lyric writing, beer brewing, and beard-growing alone were incapable of producing. Demise is the right word, but rumor is even better. The lyrical wit and hippity-hoppity fun of Rumors of Our Demise is rumor. A big one. That long, entangled process has been one of rising from the dead.
Now, that's a rap.
Listen to this awesome album at: