There was a small but vital hip-hop genesis in Boston at the tail-end of the 1990s led by a motley group of artists (Porn Theatre Ushers, Skitzofreniks, 7L & Esoteric, Mr. Lif, Insight) who shared a number of musical attributes -- a love of block-rockin' retro-beats and veneration for the hip-hop "new school" of the late '80s and early '90s, and a proclivity for irreverent, tongue-in-cheek lyrical styles, to name the most significant. Bedroom geek Edan (aka the Humble Magnificent) was the most block-rockin' and irreverent of all Boston's underground scientists. A triple threat on the microphone, as a producer, and behind the wheels of steel, his music -- a willfully oddball and eccentric blend of rap's past and future -- caught on first among the progressive cognoscenti of London, but had such exuberance and appeal that it was only a matter of time before it staked out territory on its home turf as well.
Edan Portnoy grew up a musically inclined loner in the suburbs of Baltimore, MD. Inspired from an early age by the Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, and psychedelic rock, he picked up the guitar and bass during his adolescent years, but when N.W.A. dropped Straight Outta Compton in 1988, it instantly captured the ten-year-old's imagination and altered his musical path. By the time he was a teenager, Edan had begun to dig up and collect rare LPs and try his hand at making elementary beats inspired by the likes of Main Source, Pete Rock & C.L. Smooth, and the Native Tongues family, as well as old-school heroes both famous (Slick Rick, Big Daddy Kane, Ultramagnetic MC's) and obscure (DJ Cash Money, Percee P). After graduation from high school, he moved to Boston to study guitar at the Berklee College of Music, ultimately dropping out before taking a degree but not before delving into production and engineering. His newfound technical facility helped as he began creating his own tracks and, due to lack of an MC, rhyming on them as well. It resulted in a series of CDRs (including an unofficial debut album called Architecture and an early EP version of Primitive Plus), sold mostly at live gigs around Boston, and now-classic 12" singles, culminating with the much-sought-after "Sing It, Shitface," released by Boston indie Biscuithead Records in 1999.
Very much an acquired taste, Edan's popularity began to spread slowly throughout England. Due to its built-in fan base of vintage hip-hop, the rapper was given a measure of respect in England that was difficult to come by in his rap-saturated home country, and British promoters took the opportunity to fly him over for well-received live shows. In early 2002 the artist prepared a proper full-length edition of Primitive Plus (adding six new songs to the original EP) for release on British label Lewis Recordings. The album received rapturous reviews both in America and overseas. He followed it several months later with an EP, Sprain Your Tape Deck, also on Lewis, as well as outside production for and collaborations with Count Bass D ("How We Met") and Mr. Lif ("Live From the Plantation"), among others. ~ Stanton Swihart