Hell Razah’s music first impacted me when I heard his early work with his Wu tang Clan affiliate group Sunz of Man. He was just a teenager then, but his lyrics, wordplay and the content of his rhymes struck a nerve in me and many other fans of the "golden era” of rap music, the mid-‘90s. A few years later, I took a job as publicist at Red Ant Entertainment in Los Angeles and found myself as the point person on Sunz upcoming major label debut album,The Last Shall Be First. Soon I was in the studio with Razah and his bandmates as they recorded with Earth, Wind and Fire, the Fugees, RZA and their Wu Tang family. The album came out to much acclaim, the band hit the road, I continued working the project and then – POOF! – one day it all disappeared. The label, folded, the group got dropped and eventually broke up, I hit the road with my rock band at the time and bailed on being a PR guy, and we all went our separate ways. Except Razah and I. We always stayed in touch and remained close.
A decade later, around 2008, I was working at NBC and directing a podcast calledFreestyle 101, where we’d have rappers come in and spit and then talk about the artform. I had Razah and Shabazz the Disciple on when they were promoting theThug Angelzalbum, and soon Razah and I started plotting some musical projects together. He recorded some new vocals and gave me a bunch of accapellas from the album he was working on, and I got to working on beats with my musical partner Bruce Duff. Since both of us come from rock ‘n’ roll backgrounds, we decided to bring a cadre of live musicians and make all the music as a band. We assembled some of L.A. finest, members of my bands Sweet Justice and the Streetwalkin’ Cheetahs plus players from The Bellrays, Bazooka, Toothpick Elbow and more. We laid down the funk behind Razah’s fiery political raps and had a blast!
Before Razah and I could release what would becomeStairway to Heaven Razah: The Rock Remix EPa terrible tragedy happened, my dear friend suffered a brain aneurism in 2010. A series of stressful incidents in his life led to a blood vessel in his brain bursting, an event that changed his life forever. He lost the ability to walk, talk, think clearly, focus and rap. Though he thankfully survived this trauma, Razah was constantly besieged by excruciating headaches and riddled with depression. He thought he would never rap again, and he was devastated. He needed something to pour his energy into. He needed a project to focus on. And he needed a friend with an unflinching belief in him. So, I grabbed my camera, headed to the East Coast, and started asking him questions about his life, career, family, music, and what led him to this place. Five years later, Razah and I (with the tremendous help of our executive Producer and friend Robert Juster) emerged with our documentary filmRisen: The Story of Chron "Hell Razah” Smithand started hitting the film festival circuit. We scooped up a ton of awards, scored a worldwide distribution deal, and walked the red carpet to promote our beautiful, personal movie about his incredible life. I was so proud of him. Still am.
Hell Razah, now known as Heaven Razah, is the strongest man I know. He has overcome so much and held his head high with grace and confidence every step of the way. He is a fine example for those that are determined to overcome adversity, leap over hurdles, and turn negativity and hardship into art and opportunity. He worked hard to regain his strength, to walk again, and to rap again. And as our friend R.A. the Rugged Man once joked, "Now that Razah can talk again, you can’t shut him up!”
So enjoy the long-delayedStairway to Heaven Razah: The Rock Remix EPin this dope format, and make sure to stay up on ALL of Razah’s musical endeavors. He was always an incredible rapper, and still is, but his comeback has him working overtime, cranking out albums, mixtapes, side-projects and more like a man possessed. Like R.A. said, you can’t stop him now!
Risen: The Story of Chron "Hell Razah” Smithcan be found atwww.risendocumentary.com, Amazon Prime, Tubi, Google Play, YouTube Movies, and most digital platforms.
Director,Risen: The Story of Chron "Hell Razah” Smith
Vocals by Hell Razah
Produced by Frank Meyer & Bruce Duff
Live music performed by Frank Meyer, Bruce Duff and more (see below)
"Article 1” and "High Science” co-produced by 4th Disciple
Engineered by Bruce Duff and Josh Achziger
Recorded at ToneDuff Studios (Los Angeles) and Ton Studios (Los Angeles)
Frank Meyer – Guitar, Backing Vocals, Percussion, Bass & Keyboards on "Lost Ark”
Bruce Duff – Bass, Backing vocals, Keyboards
4thDisciple – Turntables & Horn Programming on "Article 1” and "High Science”
Mickey Taelor – Backing Vocals on "Brother”
Paul Roessler – Keyboards
Josh Achziger – Melodica, Additional Keyboards
Vince Meghrouni – Saxophone, Flute
Todd Westover – Percussion
Chris Markwood – Drums on "Article 1” and "High Science”
Bryan Howard – Drums on "Brother” and "Angel Riders”