Chris Greer was hunched down in his seat, slim face almost eye-level with the top of his desk, feigning the mild amount of interest needed to pass ninth grade earth science with flying colors, when something actually happened. The kid next to him—Brendon Whitney, the tall one who dressed like Parker Lewis—turned to Chris and asked: “Hey, what music do you like?” Chris responded the only way he could: “Guy.” “What?” “Guy…you know, Teddy Riley.” Brendon sighed: “Jesus, man. Here. Borrow this.” Something rippled the staid classroom air, and a copy of Special Ed’s Youngest in Charge skidded to a stop on top of Chris’ desk.
It was the beginning of a lot of things. To name three: a valuable new friendship (Brendon would soon become known as emcee/producer Alias), a future movement in art and sound (see “Anticon”), and a powerful obsession that would drive Chris away from new jack swing into the tough-but-loving arms of hip-hop. His roots were in the quiet suburbs of Maine and New Jersey (dad was in the coast guard, mom was a nurse, little brother fed the cats); his “now” consisted of spinning rap at school dances, working on his turntable chops from the bedroom window (each noise complaint was a merit badge), and combing local vinyl bargain bins for little round bits of fantastic. Thusly, DJ Mayonnaise arrived.
1993 saw Mayo and Alias crossing fate with another pair of inseparable and unusually named high school friends: Sole and Moodswing9. Together (with a few others) they founded a short-lived indie label (45 Below), became the greatest rap crew Portland, Maine has ever seen (Live Poets—Mayo contributed the cuts), and forged one puzzle piece of the early Anticon collective. DJ Mayonnaise was among the first wave to follow Sole’s vision to the Bay Area, to cramped spaces and creative saturation. And his first compositions helped define Anticon’s monumental opening salvo: Music for the Advancement of Hip-Hop, Deep Puddle Dynamics’ A Taste of Rain…Why Kneel, Sole’s Bottle of Humans, and his own debut LP, 55 Stories (all released in 1999). Mayo’s Stories was an eclectic instrumental platter built from (the art of) scratch with a deep, bassy melancholic core. It would also be his last album for eight years.
In 2007, Anticon welcomes DJ Mayonnaise back into the fold. Day jobs, distance and disillusionment can work their wear on one’s inspiration (as can living in a two-bedroom apartment with eight other artists), but if Chris Greer learned anything in earth science, it was that in the most familiar of circumstances, inspiration has a tendency of appearing quite naturally before one’s eyes. Mayo returned to his roots—moving to the arts-friendly Portland neighborhood of Munjoy Hill—and there he discovered his sophomore opus, the full and brightly musical Still Alive. His latest is marked by bold instrumentation, effortless detail and atmospheric pacing that, in sum, outright destroy the notion that DJ Mayonnaise had fallen off. On the contrary, we’ve finally been invited to his homecoming.
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