Mr. Cliffnote combines CD with comic book in new release
By Steve Furay
Special to the Michigan Citizen
The art of hip hop has always been more than just the music. A new album from Detroit hip hop artist Mr. Cliffnote exemplifies this tradition with a unique mix of music and visual art.
His album, “Path to Notification,” comes complete with an exclusive comic book written and illustrated by himself, a rare accomplishment for an artist to combine his talents for a single project.
Mr. Cliffnote is now a full-time independent artist, working both as a musician as well as a visual artist and entrepreneur. He runs his own business, Aired Out Customs, located inside Northland Mall in Southfield, where he provides a range of airbrushing services, from portraits and T-shirts to custom wall murals. The CD and comic package for “Path to Notification” is available for sale at Aired Out Customs.
The CD features seventeen songs, with guest artist contributions from a number of highly regarded Detroit hip hop artists, including DJ Dez, Insite The Riot, Massive, Coko Buttafli, B-Side and Fat Ray.
Mr. Cliffnote is a veteran of the Detroit hip hop community, having spent time in groups such as Shadow Nation, as well as years spent as one of the city’s top battle rappers.
He started out at the famed Hip Hop Shop during the 1990s, and was one of the first artists to contribute each week to the ciphers currently held at 5e Gallery in Corktown.
“I come from the era of freestyle battling,” says Mr. Cliffnote. “So, you had to be able to come up with something off the top of the head about the person in front of you, and that was the thing, ‘8 Mile’ style.”
The album is much different than his freestyle performances, where he has focused on the writing of songs rather than clever rhythmic wordplay.
“Path to Notification” is a more complete representation of himself as an artist than what he could convey to an audience through a freestyle battle, he says.
“It’s a lot of story-telling and a lot of tidbits out of my life that I compiled in the project,” says Mr. Cliffnote, “I feel like the album is giving people notification of what’s going on.”
“So the path on the album cover (artwork) is leading to me. Basically it’s a life journey. That’s what the album is. By the end of the album you’ll feel like you know me, you might feel like you grew up with me a little bit.”
Mr. Cliffnote had to overcome a major setback in 2006 when he suffered a heart attack, a scare that dramatically changed his life. When he spoke with the doctors about his condition, he realized that the heart attack was an effect of not being conscious of maintaining a healthy diet.
“They said I had 90 percent blockage, all from having high cholesterol,” he told the Michigan Citizen.
Aside from gaining a new focus on his health, the experience brought a perspective to his life as an artist, where he has since become more focused as a business owner and aware of the opportunities to create meaningful projects and work with other artists in the city.
“That’s why I go so hard with everything now,” says Mr. Cliffnote, “I had almost lost the chance to get everything I want out here, so that put a lot of stuff into perspective. I’ve got to quit playing and get it done, and do it how I want to do it.”
When the songs for the album came together, Mr. Cliffnote did not want to just release it in typical fashion, knowing that his fans would want the best package possible. He decided to put together the comic book to accompany the album as a way to express himself fully as an artist.
“But then I wanted to do something outside the box with it, other than just put out a CD, so I did the comic,” says Mr. Cliffnote. “I always wanted to do the comic book, so I decided to put it out with the CD to do something innovative.”
Mr. Cliffnote hosted and performed at his album release party Jan. 12 at Manila Bay Cafe, located at 4731 Grand River in Detroit. Guest performers included Pnukkl, Insite The Riot, Valid, Ill Uno, Ron D and B-Side, with sounds from DJ Los and DJ Dez.