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The Fire Still Burns: Black Merda
Sampling

The Fire Still Burns: Black Merda

As backing band The Soul Agents they played Motown-esque R&B/soul, going national from their home turf of Motor City. Until the discovery of Jimi Hendrix’ record ‘Are You Experienced’ led the group of twenty-somethings into a more psychedelic direction. Getting dirtier and funkier as Black Merda, the “First Black Rock Group.”

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Detroit’s Black Merda essentially consists of four “funked-out, psyched-out, bad-ass black guys," as bassist, guitarist, vocalist, and founder VC L. Veasey jokingly puts it in a rare radio interview in 2005, recorded right after they reunited after the release of The Folks From Mother’s Mixer. A compilation by Tuff City’s sublabel Funky Delicacies, featuring all tracks from their only two albums: their self-titled debut in 1970, and Long Burn The Fire in 1972.

Their run as Black Merda was short-lived, but their hybrid monster of funk, psych, wah-wah’s, voodoo blues, and rock-and-roll kept a long life through the Tuff City reissues, 2009’s all-new album Forces of Nature, and through the likes of Kanye West, Curtiss King, and Beastie Boys sampling their psych-heavy funk and rock—the latter of whom additionally saluted the group by naming one of the oddball-freak tracks on Hot Sauce Committee (Pt. 2) after Black Merda’s second album, “Long Burn The Fire.”

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The story goes that, back in 1967, VC L. Veasey and his friends bought Jimi Hendrix’ Are You Experienced for fun’s sake, after seeing a picture of him playing the guitar behind his back, which they thought was ridiculous. “They bought the record just to have a laugh, and it refused to leave their turntable for a whole month,” tells Sylvain Coulon based on a long interview with VC. Other mentioned prime influences for their switch from their Soul Agents to the “funked-out” Black Merda are Electric Mud by Muddy Waters, Sly Stone’s first few albums, and Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band by The Beatles.

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"We used to do the psychedelic dress before Funkadelic were doing it, when they were still the Parliaments and still dressing like The Temptations."

—VC L. Veasey (bassist, vocalist & founder of Black Merda)

The often-coined description of “First Black Rock Group” might raise eyebrows considering other rock-infused bands such as Sly & The Family Stone, Parliament and Funkadelic, who were all founded in the same years as Black Merda. But Black Merda was doing something different. Something much more psychedelic and rock-based. “These other [black] groups were kind of going into funk-rock then they switched to playing funk-dance music, but we were into doing psychedelic music,” VC told Detroit Metro Times back in 2004. “We’d play shows around the Detroit area and we used to do the psychedelic dress before Funkadelic were doing it, when they were still the Parliaments and still dressing like The Temptations. We dressed like that off the stage as well. Our dress, those clothes, we used to live like that every day.”

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In the beginning, the four musicians almost decided to call themselves Murder Incorporated (on a random note: that makes “Lying” a smartly chosen sample for Ja Rule’s “Exodus (Intro)” by Irv Gotti, the co-founder of that label called Murder Inc., from a long-gone past). But they went for Black Murder instead, following the 12th Street Riot in Detroit in 1967. That later changed to Black Merda for a more original spelling. A name in line with their lyrical content on racism, poverty, freedom, hypocrisy, and in VC’s own words: “all of the bad shit that was befalling black people and others on the everyday street level of experience.” Murda was the case - and sadly it’s still as relevant as ever.

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