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Too Poetic

Background information
Birth name Anthony Ian Berkeley
Also known as Grym Reaper, Tony Titanium, Poetic, MC Supa Flea, Too Poetic Da Grym Reaper, Ghetto Repaired Young Mind, General Grym
Born November 15, 1964
Trinidad and Tobago
Origin Long Island, New York
Died July 15, 2001 (aged 36)
Beverly Hills, California
Genres Hip hop
Occupations Emcee
Record producer
CEO
Instruments rapping
Years active 1989 – 2001
Labels Tommy Boy/Warner Bros. Records (1989)
Gee Street/Island/PolyGram Records (1994–1996)
Gee Street/V2/BMG Records (1997–1999)
Empire Musicwerks/BMG Records (2000)
Associated acts Brothers Grym
Gravediggaz

Anthony Ian Berkeley (November 15, 1964–July 15, 2001) better known by his stage names Too Poetic, Grym Reaper, or just Poetic was a rapper and producer from the horrorcore hip-hop group Gravediggaz.

Contents

Early life

The eldest son of a minister, Poetic was born in Trinidad and raised in the Wyandanch section of Long Island, New York. After forming his first hip-hop group, Brothers Grym with younger siblings Brainstorm and E Sharp in 1989. Sharp handled some of the production duties, while Poetic and Brainstorm provided vocals. They created a buzz for themselves on the underground with their first official demo, which included notable cuts like “Circle-Circle-Dot-Dot” and “GRYMnastics.” Just when the group was close to landing a record deal, Brainstorm surprisingly decided to quit rap altogether and forced Poetic to pursue a solo career and released a solo 12-inch single, Poetical Terror/God Made Me Funky, in 1989 on Tommy Boy/Warner Bros. Records. However, his deal with Tommy Boy fell through before the release of his first album, and Poetic fell on hard times, including a period of homelessness.

Gravediggaz

Poetic then joined Wu-Tang Clan's The RZA, former De La Soul/Stetsasonic producer Prince Paul, and Frukwan from Stetsasonic in the hip-hop supergroup Gravediggaz. Concerning the origins of the supergroup, he said:

Prince Paul was going through a period in the business where he was number one, not getting acknowledged for his talent and two not getting his monetary situation... when he owned his own label, Dew-Doo Man through RAL and Def Jam, they owed him a lot of money and he really got stuck into a position as a producer where he wasn’t producing for a couple of years because he was waiting on Russell Simmons, waiting to do some things. That left him frustrated, angry and kind of vexed. He’s very creative, so naturally he wanted to translate that feeling back into his music, so during that period he was making a certain type of music and he decided that he wanted to get a crew together so he could vent against the music industry. So he called on people that he was working with: myself, Frukwan and RZA as vocalists who he felt had the same opinion of the industry and how they were being treated unfairly... he put it together for that express purpose."[1]

Each member adopted a Gravedigga alias, and Poetic became known as the Grym Reaper (with Grym, an acronym for Ghetto-Repaired Young Mind, also referring back to his first group). His offbeat rhyming style quickly gained attention as the group's first album, 1994's 6 Feet Deep (also known by its original title Niggamortis outside the US), garnered positive reviews and strong sales alike.

After the group's second album, The Pick, the Sickle and the Shovel, was released in 1997, The RZA and Prince Paul decided to leave Gravediggaz, leaving Frukwan and Poetic as the only remaining members. During this time, Anthony's rhyming style had matured more, and he no longer sounded crazy. He later showcased this new style in the 1998 single “Savior,” which was produced by British-born producer Baby J, The song was more different than most of his Gravediggaz related material as he rhymed about how much he detested mainstream hip-hop music in general.

In April 1999, Anthony collapsed in his home studio with stomach pains and was subsequently diagnosed with colon cancer. Given only four months to live, Poetic nonetheless kept on the struggle against cancer despite his initial refusal of chemotherapy in favor of a diet of herbs and fresh juice. He began the treatment, however, after the cancer metastasized spread from his colon to his lungs. Financial support came from both fans and other artists, including the seemingly unexpected likes of Warren G; however, Poetic was reportedly "very, very disappointed in The RZA, to the point of hurtfulness" at the latter's failure to contact or visit him during this time.

During this period, he collaborated with The Prodigy's Maxim Reality and Last Emperor under the name of Tony Titanium (given to him by Frukwan because titanium metal was "as hard as Poetic’s will to live," and as a reference to the titanium valve in his chest through which he received chemotherapy) and his original name Too Poetic, as well as continuing work on the third Gravediggaz album. The subsequent release, Nightmare in A-Minor, was the darkest work the group had done. It makes many references to Poetic's cancer, perhaps most notably on the track "Burn, Baby, Burn" and on the Last Emperor's track "One Life," which extensively detailed his brutal battle with the illness.

Death

Poetic died of colon cancer on July 15, 2001, 1:45pm EST at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, California, five weeks before Nightmare in A-Minor’s scheduled release. He had survived almost two and a half years beyond the doctors' initial 4-month diagnosis. Tributes came quickly from across the hip-hop world, both from fellow musicians such as Chuck D of Public Enemy, who wrote an article in tribute to him on his Welcome To The Terrordome commentary section on the group's Web site,[2] and from critics, who widely wrote of their regret at the loss of his talent.

An intimate memorial service for him was held at the Riverside Church in Harlem on August 4, 2001, attended by his family and close friends including bandmates Frukwan and Prince Paul. His family established a non-profit organization called the Life Goes On Foundation in his honor to raise money for medical bills of close to US$100,000 and also raise awareness of debilitating illnesses.

Nightmare in A-Minor was initially released by Echo Distribution on August 23, 2001. It was re-released without the track "Better Wake Up" on Empire Musicwerks/BMG in 2002 to critical plaudits. According to Frukwan, a new album may be released using left over material from Poetic.

Poetic is survived by his parents, John and Ela Berkeley, His sister, Dawne Gray ,his brothers, Richard, Joel And Edward Berkeley, his brother in law, Keith Gray ,his daughter Qidinah Berkeley, his only niece, Courtnie Gray and wife, DeeDee Hill-Berkeley.

Discography

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Singles

  • 1989 "Poetical Terror / God Made Me Funky"

Appearances

Vocals only unless otherwise noted.

  • 1994 6 Feet Deep/Niggamortis (album by Gravediggaz)
  • 1997 The Pick, The Sickle And The Shovel (album by Gravediggaz; vocals and production)
  • 1998 "Savior" (from Baby J's album Baby J Presents The Birth)
  • 2000 "Worldwide Syndicate" (from the Maxim Reality album Hell's Kitchen)
  • 2001 Better Days (album by Liquid Ltd. (of Bran Van 3000); vocals and production)
  • 2001 Nightmare In A-Minor (album by Gravediggaz; vocals and production)
  • 2001 "We Run Shit (with Frukwan)" (from the DJ Honda album hIII)
  • 2003 "One Life" (from the Last Emperor album Music, Magic, Myth)
  • 2003 "Ghetto Apostles" (from the Shabazz the Disciple album The Book of Shabazz (Hidden Scrollz))
  •  ?? "Game Over" (originally by R-Kade, Poetic does additional vocals)

External links

[3]

References


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