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Fastest rapper on the planet
Seattle Times staff reporter
Seven hundred twenty-three syllables in 51.27 seconds.
That's what it took for Seattle's Ricky Brown, also known as NoClue, to break the Guinness world record earlier this year to become the fastest rapper on the planet.
The 20-year-old rapped at a tongue-numbing clip of 14.1 syllables per second. That surpassed the 12.5-syllable-a-second pace set in 1998 by Chicago artist Rebel XD.
"The first couple of times I broke the world record while practicing, my throat would hurt. It would swell up. Now it doesn't do that no more," Brown said.
"I wrote my first flow when I was 9," he said. "I grew up around music 'cause my grandfather was in a gospel band, and when I was little, I used to go to the studio with him, watching everything and learning."
Brown, who also counts Tupac Shakur as an early influence on his music, laid down the winning rap at Seattle's B & G Studios in January. His performance was monitored by a licensed speech therapist. The accomplishment is detailed in "Guinness World Records 2006," which hit the shelves in August.
Give it a try
"NoClue Mix" lyrics
This two-line passage contains 26 syllables, which means that Ricky "NoClue" Brown can rap it in just under 2 seconds.
How fast can you flow?
It's funny 'cause they're digging
their own ditches
Thinkin' they can come against me,
let the Lord be my witness.
Seattle-born, Brown grew up in the Rainier Vista area, the Central District and Federal Way.
Brown and his cousins — Jamel Fields, aka Realistik, 19, and Deavon Taylor, 21, who goes by S.K. — rapped together as kids. And as teens, they added mischief to their music.
"When we were in junior high, we used to do talent shows and sell our mixed tapes," he said. "We were jackin' people's beats and just rappin' over 'em. Like, Dr. Dre came out with a tight song or a tight beat, we'd just get the instrumental and rap over it.
"My cousin Jamel, he'd steal a box of blank tapes from the store. We'd just sit in the house recording all of them blank tapes and then the next day we would just sell 'em."
The tapes held 12 songs and went for $5.99 each. Good times.
But Brown is also frustrated by memories of junior high.
"I just hate that place," he said of the school he refuses to name. "I had a temper problem. I always fought. Didn't put up with nobody's lip. Didn't put up with nobody's nothin'."
So he was "kicked out a lot."
Brown recorded his first demo CD his junior year at Franklin High. But since his fists were still a problem, he bounced from campus to campus, as he had in junior high school.
And at 19, he landed behind bars at King County Jail.
The charge? Assault.
"It was just boring," Brown said of the three months he spent in jail. "And that's when I decided to really just get serious and go after the record — and my music career — 100 percent."
Brown's mother, LaQuitta Moore, always thought music could take her kid somewhere. But didn't she worry about his troubles with the law?
"Very much so," she said. "His music is a way of expressing things without his temper to overcome the situation."
Brown said that with jail behind him, "I put my destiny in my own hands 'cause everybody always told me I was fast. I just said I was going to break it."
Change is on the way
Breaking the record is just one sign that he's changed his ways, said Brown, who graduated from Seattle's South Lake High in 2003.
"I'm cool now. I'm more mature, smarter. I can't just go around punchin' people in the face."
As kids, he and cousins Fields and Taylor made a pact.
"With the three of us, we used to say that whoever blows up first gotta bring everybody else up, too. So we're all racing to see who blows up first."
About two years ago, Taylor was the one with a growing reputation. Then, Brown said, "he got locked up."
Taylor is serving a prison sentence for robbery.
"I'm just waitin' for him to get out so we can take over together," Brown said of Taylor, who will be released from Monroe Correctional Complex in a year.
Fields can be heard rapping with Brown on a track called "NoClue Mix," the same song used in the world record — and as fast as it sounds, this track is a slower rendition.
It's one of a handful of songs on the NoClue Web site (www.nocluemusic.com). Many of Brown's lyrics aren't suitable for kids.
On his own
"I'm not waiting to get signed. I'm doing it on my own 'cause I'm smart. I knew the attention that the world record would bring to me and it's just what I needed."
Brown said representatives from "The Ellen DeGeneres Show" are courting him. He's also been invited by some German rappers to do a song together. His Web site gets 4,000 hits a day.
"I'm not sure how my music is spreadin', but I'm getting hits every day right now from Japan, from Germany, Cuba, Mexico, just, like, everywhere."
Brown still writes all of his songs. He sometimes composes at home on a Yamaha Motif ES6 keyboard hooked up to four speakers and RCA-powered subwoofers. The equipment sits in his bedroom on the second floor of his family home near Colman Park in Southeast Seattle.
He doesn't have a full-time job. Instead, he occasionally throws a party at a club to make money.
Brown is producing his first album, which he hopes to release "under my own record label in about two months."
His new attitude carries into his music. Songs include "The Beginning," in which he details his ambitions; "West Coast," a celebration of rappers on this side of the Mississippi; and "Crazy," a biographical piece about going to jail and changing for the better.
"Everything I rap about is real. I don't rap about no cornball, phony stuff. [It's about] how I feel right now, how I'm trying to come up and get heard. That's why the album is called 'The Beginning.' "
Brown hopes to go from Web sales to BET, but being the fastest doesn't guarantee success in the music industry. Rebel XD, who held the record for more than 20 years, never put out any albums.
But Brown has determination — remember that sore throat? — and he continues to believe in himself.
"Me, I don't want no help from nobody. 'Cause I'm stubborn. I feel like if I'm gonna do it, I'm gonna do it on my own."
Judy Chia Hui Hsu: 206-464-3315 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright © 2005 The Seattle Times Company