Hip-Hop Artist Anonymous: A New Voice of Truth on the Rap Scene

I met Christopher Gabriel Nunez aka “Anonymous {And.On.I.Must}” when I was asked to read a part in a staged reading at the LAByrinth theater company directed by Shira-lee Shalit. The play, Meat Puppet, was about the effects of pornography on a college student and his peers. I was reading the part of the porn star. I enjoyed reading the character, but not only because it was fascinating as an actor to explore her mindset and history. Nunez' language was visceral, aggressive, and challenging. 

As an occasional songwriter/poet myself, I recognized within his dialogue something particular to those who love music. Full of clacking consonants and juicy, unforeseen vowels, his dialgoue was so full of rhythm the words became a rapturous pleasure to say, much less perform. One read and I knew there was something special about this guy. Since then we've had several deep conversations about writing, pornography, human nature, playwriting, and the politics of relationships.  

In between rewrites of his play, Nunez has also performing his version of hip-hop around the country. Curiosity and the powerful impression his play reading had made on me, inspired me to don my leather jacket and haul ass downtown to see him perform his new album at the Bowery Poetry Club in New York City. In two, sweaty, thrilling hours my 40-something, over-culturalized, suspect-of-all-things-other aura was replaced with excitement and respect. I watched a young man take his self-prescribed role as a playwright into brave and dangerous territory. Ladies and Gentleman, Chris Nunez has something to say.

In preparing to write this article I thought of sitting down with him and asking stupid questions like, “When did you first know you wanted to be a rapper?” and “Why do you think you want to perform in this style as opposed to rock and roll or R&B?” I realized that those types of questions would be too easy, too lazy. Instead, I asked him to tell me about his influences and to send lyrics to a few of his favorite songs, especially the one I liked the most, the title track for his latest album, Cough Syrup for Your Offspring. I read the lyrics to his entire  album over and over, and researched all the performers he told me about. It was quite an education. 

The journey of an artist is always an interesting one to me; how a person is influenced, and by whom, and where that influence hits the artist -- it all tells a curious outsider not only about the individual, but about the society in which they live. Nunez told me he is drawn to artists that focus on a personal, human reaction to the overwhelming media/political machine that our culture has become. He is interested in the moment he is experiencing right now: youth, in the midst of being hammered into shape by a culture. A culture that cares not for the person's point of view, or their reaction to the dehumanizing effects of consumerism, or their need for meaning or spirituality or purpose, but rather a culture that exists to make a buck off their instincts. 

No song makes this point clearer than “Brick Layer”:

We make our way in the slant light, no lantern governs our path
We veer left --- ain’t that right? Don't waste a way, or a word, or a will
Last testament, broke nail scribbled in brail, they yelled:

"Sight to the victor!" and we swallowed what they gave us
No pill under tongue, we marched lock step to graveyards
Now we kick the dirt and blame mother for how she raised us
We shovel shit for our brethren who betrayed us.

So put a smile on that face and place faith in something
Be it your neighbor or your weapon, cocked back assumption
Fall, empire, fall, a matrimony of filth, our hands scrubbed clean 
While the capitol's built.

In the midst of this socio-political rage, this scream against the brutal squelching of instinct and potential both social and personal, Nunez reflects on another source of anger: the numbing effects of commercialization. He talks about our pharmo-suicidal tendencies and our ability to numb out through drugs, sugar, and media over-stimulation. As a result, he too spins into the madness. 

From “Cough Syrup for Your Offspring”:

While a grip of kids in Ciaro, David/Goliath widescope
Charge straight gat-less at rubber bullets and rifles!
Shirts vs. skins? Cool, rad, new tab
Seven-gram rocks and tiger blood?  How you do that?

Let the news feed soothe me, Sunnis, Shiites and groupies
Paparazzi, tag! Mubarak? Shit is a doozy ---
Tutti fruity lunacy, cooties, movies, the looming:
Sense, that I got none ... dun dun dun. 

The beats are set deep in the roots of classic hip-hop, but they also contain rhythms from punk, ska, death metal, New Orleans Jazz, turntablism, flamenco, and world music. His beats are colored by the poet rappers: Matt Embree’s reggae sound, Aesop Rock’s stream-of-consciousness flow, P.O.S and his punk shout power, and the quiet doom of Slug of Atmosphere. Pushed on by slam poets like Saul Williams, Nunez makes his own mark as his nom de plume “Anonymous.” 

Lost, passionate, confused, smart, trying -- everything society tells him is going to work and doesn’t. Punk angry. Aware of being manipulated, “Anonymous” delves into “the truth,” which is not an easy place to go, because in order to be absolutely truthful, you have to list your own faults and limitations as well as others. This is what separates Nunez from other rap artists and is perhaps a nod to his playwright and acting training at NYU: he is willing to be soft, broken, wounded, wanting, and flawed. 

From “Fingers in Wet Concrete”:

So if I throw up a tag on the wall outside the pharmacist
Am I less an artist? More a modern day narcissist?
I drop an album, under artist put "Anonymous"
Does that make my moral standing up there with the carpenters?
Or does it really matter what I'm doing if I'm honest?
The virtue of truth, is the sinners empty promise
So I throw my hands up when I go to introduce me
Cause who am I to you? A man or just my loose leaf?
Who am I to you? A man or just my what? The f-k am I trying to prove?

It’s just the beginning for this powerful young artist, but at least he has a sense of where he is trying to go.  Drawn like a magnet to the Spanish/punk/flamenco/hip hop or "jipjop flamenkillo" -- as the band “Ojos De Brujo” likes to call themselves -- the future is fusion, a mix of theater performance, dance, spirit infused video art, and street sounds, all pulsing poetry to a beat. 

At the concert in New York, Nunez first asked for the lights to be turned up, then he took off his shoes, then his shirt.  The top button of his pants open, I mused for a moment on the possibility he was going to get naked.  He looked happiest rapping on the floor with the audience, all of us jumping and moving close around him.  Then he rapped while doing a handstand.

To make my point, here’s a piece from “Ground Zero”:

Yeah! We built this city from the ground up
Gears shifting' till aint nobody could stop us
We want: NO FAME, NO FAME,
just to pull the reigns on the night when it came cause

It seems passion is the point and the purpose of his rap name, “Anonymous {And.On.I.Must}.” Like a true poet, he does not want to be better than us --- he does not want fame. He wants to be one of us, and for us to realize how great a thing that is; just to be. How important it is to say what you really think; how important it is to not let anyone break you or take away your right to live your truth. How important it is not to self-destruct, or become violent toward others when you feel hopeless or unconnected.

Thanks, Chris Nunez for reminding me yet again of how honesty can both liberate and empower. Thanks for keeping me awake when I find myself equally overwhelmed and numbing out. Thanks for reminding me we are all in this together.

You can buy the album Cough Syrup for Your Offspring and or listen to it for free by following the music link at andonimust.com.

For booking related questions ONLY, please contact Amanda Bell 
AudioVisions Entertainment LLC Amandabell29681@yahoo.com