P.M. Dawn Like To Be Heard But Not Seen

Mainstream soul duo finds working clandestinely allows them to make music they may not otherwise.

You might be listening to P.M. Dawn right now and not even know it.

If you thought the New York hip-hop soul duo's work was too mainstream or R&B for your

taste, take a closer look at your stack of underground hip-hop albums. One of them just

might be the clandestine work of Dawn's J.C. and Prince Be, according to the brotherly


"We've got a few records out on the underground scene under different names," said

28-year-old singer Prince Be (born Attrell Cordes). "A few of them even got on the top-10


"We haven't moved away [from hip-hop], we just sort-of kept it a secret," Be added. He

was speaking of the difference between the duo's more soulful sound on their latest P.M.

Dawn album, last year's critically acclaimed Dearest Christian, I'm So Very Sorry for

Bringing You Here. Love, Dad, and some of the phantom projects they claim to have

been involved in over the past few years.

Both Be and his bandmate, brother J.C. the Eternal (a.k.a. Jarrett Cordes), were reluctant

to reveal just where or how they'd penetrated the underground, but they did offer some

clues about why. Be said the switch to anonymity came in the face of what he called the

"extreme prejudice" the group's sound has encountered over the course of its

decade-long career.

The pair said they feel they've fallen in the cracks between hip-hop and pop, thanks to

such songs as their first hit, 1991's spiritual rap "Set Adrift on Memory

Bliss" (RealAudio excerpt) -- which sampled squeaky-clean '80s British pop

stars Spandau Ballet -- and more recent fare such as the R&B-tinged


music/P.M._Dawn/Misery_In_Utero.ram">"Misery in Utero" (RealAudio excerpt).

"When we first came out, we were in a weird category," J.C. said. "It was, like, P.M. Dawn,

MC Hammer, Vanilla Ice. It would be just like them doing hardcore records and

putting them out -- no one would accept it."

A hard-core hip-hop album by P.M. Dawn would likely be rejected even if it was good, Be

said. "The consensus is that we're supposed to do a certain thing as a band," Be said,

"and we suck at anything else. We wanted to cover a spectrum, and we couldn't cross

that bridge."

"It was really hard trying to please everyone at the same time, so we've been trying to

please ourselves instead," Be explained. "We could do hip-hop, but with the way the

world saw us, we weren't able to put it out."

So, J.C. said, they had to find another way to do so.

The answer, according to Be, was to separate the pop and rap aspects of their personas.

"We wanted to do both worlds justice, and we wanted to let our work get even more

segregated over the years," he said.

As a result, the pair would only offer a cryptic clue as to their identities in their New York

underground hip-hop incarnation.

"I would recommend anything on Makin' Records, anything on Raw Shack Records," J.C.


Although staffers for both of the New York underground hip-hop labels were circumspect

about P.M. Dawn's involvement in their recent releases, Raw Shack owner George

Sulmers did offer a tantalizing clue.

"Be has been trying to put together some groups and has been behind the scenes,

helping them put their stuff together," said Sulmers, who happens to be an ex-manager

of the duo. Sulmers would not name which one of his acts Be has been working with

most closely, but he did say that "this one person has gotten a lot of assistance and

advice from Be and J.C."

Sulmers, following P.M. Dawn's lead, apologized with a good-natured laugh that he

"couldn't be as forthcoming as I'd like to be."

Makin' Records' co-owner and head of operations, who goes only by the handle O.T.

(a.k.a. Over Time), said he is friends with Sulmers, but that Be and J.C. haven't released

any material on his 2-year-old label -- home to hip-hoppers Natural Resource and the

Bad Seed -- to date. "Who knows," O.T. said. "We might do something someday."

So far, Be said, their plan has worked, with the group gaining a wider acceptance in the

hip-hop world even as they kept it on the QT. "It wasn't really too hard to keep people

from finding out," Be said. "We've got our own studio, we sort-of have our own record

label, we dealt with distributors and magazines directly and told them it was just an

underground new thing and left it at that."

Be said the group couldn't elaborate beyond that at this point, because it might hinder


Adding a bit more confusion to the whole scenario, Be said the pair are looking to split

P.M. Dawn into at least three or four other groups, using funk legend George Clinton's

schizophrenic career with his two groups Parliament and Funkadelic as a model.

Among the groups with whom the pair plan to record is one called Epiphany, which will

still comprise Be and J.C., according to the singer, but will allow them to stretch into

different genres.

Be would not offer any additional information on Epiphany.