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Colorado Springs, Colorado, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2014 | INDIE

Colorado Springs, Colorado, United States | INDIE
Established on Jan, 2014
Band Hip Hop Roots




"INDY MUSIC AWARDS - Che Bong - Hip-Hop (solo) 1st place"

Style of music, in 10 words or less: "Hip-hop with an old-school soul feel"

Three artists he owes everything to: Gil Scott-Heron, Quincy Jones, Rakim

Debut performance: 2009 (with the group Elevated Etiquette)

Recordings: Sleeping While You're Awake (2012), 4Play (with Bullhead*ded, 2013)

Why he matters: "I wouldn't say I matter over anyone else," figures Toney Wren. "But I make music ... and the music matters." The emcee, better known by his stage name Che Bong, grabbed the local scene's attention as a solo artist with his 2012 album Sleeping While You're Awake. Its first single, "Okay," was accompanied by a Hussain Sola-directed music video that's easily among the best to come out of this town. The song forgoes the boasting typical of even the most underground hip-hop for a more considered critique of silent acquiescence. ("You think by saying yes, you'll get respect, yes-man? OK, all right, you'll lose every step.") In the months ahead, he'll be releasing a second solo album, playing shows as Hiatus with fellow emcee iBe Hustles, and recording tracks with his partners in crime, Bullhead*ded, for a follow-up to last year's 4Play EP.

1st place: Che Bong and Stoney Bertz (tie)

3rd place: Black P - Colorado Springs Independent

"BULLHEAD*DED (Colorado Springs, CO) – “4Play” Debut Album /// UndergroundHipHopBLOG.com"

Bullhead*ded was forged from the similar but seperate experiences of two pioneering hip hop duos trying to rise in, while at the same time helping to create,The Southern Colorado underground music scene. One half Made Up Minds, one half TooTone Taurus,and 100% real live hip hop,Bullhead*ded creates its eclectic sound by showcasing the uniqueness of the individuals and groups that form it.

Bullhead*ded has performed over 400 shows across the USA with the likes of Sage Francis,The Chicharones,2Mex,LMNO,Planet Asia,Dilated Peoples,Del,Zion I,People Under The Stairs,Sweatshop Union,Eyedea and Abilities, Pharoah Monch and many more. Bullhead*ded won best live group in the Colorado Springs Indy Music Awards 2012.

Bullhead*ded’s debut Album “4Play” releases 4/20 (2013) on Sound Powered Engine. - UndergroundHipHopBLOG.com

"Bullhead*ded – 4Play"

Just like any kind of structure we encounter, be it a building, a bridge or in this case an album; a well thought out plan always leads to a stronger foundation and more functionality. Bullhead*ded’s latest album, 4Play had four engineers in ZETfree, Nato, J.P.S. and Che-Bong. Rather than simply throwing together a lackluster project, instead they sketched up a blueprint, measured twice, cut once and built a sturdy album that is entertaining on many levels.
“Fly,” is a energetic track with a rapid fire succession between each of the four emcees. The way they pass the mic, so to speak, is so seamless that you wouldn’t even know that the emcee switched if they didn’t have such distinctively different voices.
“Write Another Song” has a careless feel even though it’s focused on a vital part of the process. The playful chorus is the highlight of this one.
“Tears in my Beard” isn’t quite as comical as the title, but it does describe the hardships of the industry. With the resurgence of the epitome of manhood, the luxurious beard, this one is sure to resonate with a variety of manly men across all genres.
The group took the typical voice message skit to a whole new level with members of Strange Famous Records calling to tell them to stop harassing Sage Francis. Starting with 2Mex, then Swell from MeterMaids and ending with a defeating call from Sage himself telling them “please fuck off.”
The obvious perfectionism in putting together this album had one downfall, it’s far too short. Would liked if they had tacked on a few more tracks because the album in its entirety runs short of 30 minutes. 4Play is fun and well planned. Nothing wrong with that.
You can preorder 4Play now, or you can wait, because this album drops on 420 (April 20, 2013). - HipHopRollCall.com


Lastly, I should mention that BullHead*ded totally stole the show from headliner Mickey Avalon at the Black Sheep this past Sunday. - Colorado Springs Independent

"Rhymesayer - Che Bong and the Sound Powered Engine crew kick into high gear"

When Ice Cube said to "check yourself before you wreck yourself" nearly two decades ago, he could have been offering advice to the four emcees in BullHead*ded.

Not that it was anyone's fault: The local hip-hop group was driving to Denver last month to play at the Fox Theatre when, without warning, a tire came off its rim and sent them swerving to the side of the road.

Climbing out of the car, they were relieved to see no one was injured — until a friend who'd come along with them suffered a seizure on the spot. "His eyes rolled back in his head and he just kind of passed out and fell to the ground," says emcee Che Bong.

As it happened, their friend had been in a more serious car accident days earlier. The ambulance took him to the hospital, which wound up being within walking distance of the Fox. Not knowing what else they could do, the group ended up performing that evening and were surprised to see their friend in the crowd.

"Once he got a clean bill of health, he walked over there, man!" says Che Bong in amazement. "We were like, 'Why didn't you call anybody?' And he was like, 'I didn't want to bother you guys while you were onstage.'"

Labor of love
As impressed by the group's work ethic as the show's organizers may have been, they probably weren't all that surprised. After all, by Che Bong's estimation, the group played well over 100 shows in 2010, routinely appearing on hip-hop bills at the Black Sheep, V Bar, and various Denver and Pueblo venues. This year, they slowed down some — only about 60 shows so far — to focus on a variety of recording projects for local label, Sound Powered Engine.

The brainchild of manager Gary Vanderpool, Sound Powered Engine is home to a tightly knit group of friends and collaborators. A good number of them will be making the leap en masse from mixtapes to CDs in the coming months: Made Up Minds' Of Sound Minds will be out in early 2012, followed by a second installment in the label's Coloradio sampler. In March, BullHead*ded's debut gets tossed into the ring, while albums from Too Tone Taurus and Milogic are slated for May.

But first out of the gate is Che Bong's debut album, which will be celebrated with a CD release show Sunday at the Black Sheep. (Note: "Che" is pronounced like the Chinese term for life energy, not the Marxist revolutionary.)

At a time when a lot of indie releases wear their slapdash-for-no-cash aesthetic on their sleeve, Sleeping While You're Awake shows meticulous attention to detail. It's evident in everything from the polished gate-fold sleeve to the rapper's resonant baritone and skillful flow. Through it all, there's no sense of acting or artifice, just a combination of determined optimism paired with down-to-earth realism that appears to reflect the artist's own personality.

Also impressive is local filmmaker Hussain Sola's video for the track "Okay," which finds the musician doing auto-shop and call-center work, hauling vacuum cleaners door-to-door, and dealing with enough asshole bosses to last a lifetime. The lyric sums up the dilemma: "You think by saying yes, you'll get respect, yes-man? OK, all right, you'll lose every step."

Of course, not everyone is in the best position to choose.

"That's right, you need some food in your refrigerator, you need to keep those lights on," says the artist, a former Wal-Mart employee who's spent a lot of time in the trenches. "I worked for a major chain corporation — grocery store, department store — for 10 years, my man. Non-union. And I was also a cook, and I've also detailed cars, and my wife works in a call center. So I have a pretty good insight into all of those jobs."

Another must-hear track on Sleeping While You're Awake is "The Rooster," in which Che Bong raps over the haunting whistle of an Ennio Morricone-style backing track about what he describes as "wanting a whole bunch of things, but not wanting to do anything to get them."

"Raise Your Glass," a live favorite during BullHead*ded sets, finds Che Bong trading verses with producer/emcee Nato, while a breezy track called "The Thickness" features Sound Powered Engine label-mate Milogic. The album also incorporates some decidedly old-school elements, including samples of the Coasters' "Down in Mexico" and Fats Domino's "Hello Josephine." There's even a doo-wop version of "Be Thankful for What You Got," the oft-coverered "gangsta lean" song that the artist says his mom used to sing around the house when he was a kid.

On balance, Sleeping While You're Awake is an upbeat affair, but Che Bong says there will be a darker side to its follow-up, most of which is already in the can. "The next album's going to be called When You Just Can't Win, and it's kind of a concept album, you know, kicking rocks and feeling like the world's coming down on you, that there's nowhere you can turn. Not that I personally feel that way now, but at the time I was recording it, I kind of did."

That said, the album might well lighten up between now and its eventual release. "Since it's so far out, I do plan on doing a world of things to it. I'm not trying to bring folks down, not at all. Not trying to do that."

Beat of the brat
Although Sleeping While You're Awake is his first proper CD, Che Bong has been doing this music thing for a while.

"I started rapping when I was 9 years old," recalls the artist, now 32. Asked who his rap heroes were back then, he rattles off a list of underground hip-hop innovators. "Oh, man: EPMD, Eric B. & Rakim, KRS-One. All those guys were going on then, the forefathers, you know? That's what influenced me. And, you know, De La Soul, Tribe Called Quest." More recent favorites include Blueprint, Murs ("he's like the James Brown of hip-hop"), spoken-word artist Saul Williams, and the Doomtree collective.

And then there's the late Gil Scott-Heron, whose politically conscious soul, jazz and spoken-word masterpieces prefigured hip-hop long before Kool Herc, Run-DMC or Public Enemy arrived on the scene.

"He's one of my heroes as far as being a writer and being an emcee," says Che Bong. "I think hip-hop gets so pigeonholed into being this certain type of music. And of course you've got somebody spitting lyrics over a beat, but it's so much more than that. Through the sampling and the drumming — all kinds of different beats — I think that hip-hop is the one music that actually embraces all music."

To whatever degree that's true, Che Bong himself hasn't shied away from diversifying his own musical portfolio. A military brat, he lived with his mother in London, Sacramento, Calif., Albuquerque, N.M., and, finally, Great Falls, Mont. It was there that he played drums in a band called Bent Elephant, which specialized in Nirvana, Stone Temple Pilots and Foo Fighters covers. He was also the frontman and lyricist for a more original group called Organic Elements.

"We had a drummer, a bassist, a keyboard player, a deejay and then myself," he recalls. "We did all kinds of fun stuff together for 2½ years. And then things dissolved, as they tend to do."

As for his ability to transition from indie rock to hip-hop, Che Bong sees both as being part of something bigger.

"I feel like it's all one thing on a different level. Whether I'm playing the drums or listening to Megadeth or at a Murs concert, it's all music. We're the ones that put the labels on it, but on a different level, it's all one thing."

Once his mom retired and came to live in Colorado Springs, the musician paid annual visits before he and his wife decided to relocate here themselves back in 2006.

"When I moved here, the first thing I wanted to know about was the hip-hop scene in Colorado, and I got hold of a DVD by Accumen, which is Samir [Zamundu] and his brother back in the day, when they were doing their thing. So that was really enlightening and very inspiring. So I was like, let's dial on into this."

Samir would go on to form the ReMINDers, the husband-and-wife duo whom Snoop Dogg recently introduced to his 4 million Twitter followers after they opened for him at a gig in Vail. Che Bong, meanwhile, hooked up with another emcee named J.P.S., and began performing as Too Tone Taurus. Earlier this year, the ReMINDers and Too Tone Taurus took second and third places, respectively, in the hip-hop category of this year's inaugural Indy Music Awards, with Black P taking first place.

Too Tone Taurus got the last part of its name from the astrological sign both emcees were born under. I ask Che Bong if the first part stems from the duo's racial makeup. "Sure, that's a small element of it, as well," he says, "but it's also just the combination of our vocal tones, you know what I mean? J.P.S. is up here, I'm kind of down here, all that stuff."

In the summer of 2010, the duo made plans to tour with their friends in Made Up Minds, another local hip-hop group fronted by emcees ZETfree and Nato (who also did the beats and most of the production on Sleeping While You're Awake) — to head out on tour.

"We were gonna take Made Up Minds and Too Tone Taurus on tour," explains Che Bong, "but we were like, man, we can't take these two really obscure groups that no one's ever heard of to California and all across the West Coast."

Instead, at Vanderpool's suggestion, they opted to take one obscure group that no one had ever heard of, reasoning that it would be twice as easy to get gigs that way. With an assist from friends in Portland, Ore. hip-hop group the Chicharones, the newly minted BullHead*ded set up its itinerary, and ended up getting along so well onstage and on tour that they decided to keep it going once they got back.

Give up your day job
Less than two years and close to 200 gigs later, the four emcees' onstage chemistry is undeniable, and the audience can't help but get caught up in the enthusiasm.

"ZETFree, he's the showman," says Che Bong in regard to the emcees' complementary performance styles. "You know, he's the guy who's out there just going crazy and really getting through to the crowd. And Nato, he's the guy with the sharp lyrics and the beats, he produces all the BullHead*ded stuff. And my man J.P.S., he's a really skilled emcee and showman, too. And you know, I feel like I'm more lyrical and just — I don't know what I am — I'm just happy to be there!"

As are crowds who've seen them on their own and opening for touring artists like Dessa, Blueprint, 2Mex, Canibus and People Under the Stairs. During a recent Black Sheep show opening for Mickey Avalon, they clearly stole the show from the national headliner. Now they just have to translate that into making albums that can get their own music out to a broader audience.

"We have all these artists in our camp that need to make records, so that we all have stuff that's tangible, that people can take home with them," says Che Bong. "And doing one show after another, it's just kind of hard to get all of your writing and recording done. We normally go on around 10 or 11, we don't normally get out of the place until 2, get home at 3 after getting something to eat, and then at 7 in the morning you gotta be at work, you know?"

There's also the potential for too many gigs to result in overexposure. "Yeah, we talk about that all the time, and we're kinda conflicted," says the rapper. "My man ZETfree likes to kind of take it easy and wants to do shows that are important, that are lasting. And then, a couple of us might think that it's like buckshot; you shoot out as many shows as you can, and you're gonna hit somebody, you know? So while we generally are heavy show guys, we felt that we needed to focus on getting these projects out."

Earlier this year, Che Bong took the process a step further by leaving behind the day-job grind. "I'm still doing things, finishing garages, you know, doing odds-and-ends stuff," he says. "But now, for at least a little while, I want make myself available to really delve into this music."

Toward that end, the artist is never seen without a pen and notebook in his back pocket. Or at least that's what it says in his online bio. So naturally, I ask for proof.

"Really?" he says, before producing a well-worn notepad covered with stickers of friends' hip-hop groups. Asked to read the last thing he wrote in it, he recites part of his verse for a track BullHead*ded will be recording for Death By Thr33s, a series of EPs being put together by Maulskull, frontman of Denver hip-hop act Black Mask: "While life seems so slow, I'm going fast / Cover my tracks, with long sleeves / Huffin' the gas, I'm lightheaded."

"I carry this everywhere I go," says Che Bong, who's never taken to writing lyrics at a keyboard. "I do have plenty of buddies that type lyrics into their phone, but I like writing because it lets my thoughts flow better. I tend to do a lot of writing at shows. I'll be in these crowded bars, sitting bellied up to the bar, writing my lyrics there. [Laughs.] Yeah, people call me a weirdo all the time."

Not that he particularly minds. "It feels so much better, what I'm doing now," he says. "Just trying to focus on what I want to do. Not necessarily in terms of being selfish but, you know, Wal-Mart and all these other jobs are gonna be there. They're not going anywhere.

"But these dreams, you know, the things that you want to do with yourself, might not always be available. You have to take advantage of those situations while you still can."

— bill@csindy.com - Colorado Springs Independent


The show also featured some pretty impressive sets from Che Bong's Sound Powered Engine labelmates, including Milogic, Made Up Minds and Bullhead*ded — whose infectious "Breakdown" deserves to be a hit when their own album is released early next year. (You can read last week's cover story on Che Bong at bit.ly/u2LKHv.) - Colorado Springs Independent

"Better than the best For your listening pleasure, a year-end Top 10 that places the music first"

4. Che Bong, 'Okay'
One of four emcees in the local hip-hop group BullHead*ded, Che Bong is also the second cover story subject on this list. "Okay" comes from his first solo album, Sleeping While You're Awake, which was released last month on Colorado Springs' Sound Powered Engine label.

A song about the downside of giving in to abusive authority figures — "You think by saying yes, you'll get respect, yes-man? OK, all right, you'll lose every step" — it marks the recording debut of an artist who (like the ReMINDers before him) is well-positioned to represent local hip-hop well beyond state boundaries. - CSIndy.com

"Now hear this Local albums worth tracking down"

Che Bong, Sleeping While You're Awake

Che Bong is the first of four emcees in the Colorado Springs hip-hop group BullHead*ded. The subject of a 2011 Indy cover story, he draws upon the spirit of the music he grew up to listening to, like Tribe Called Quest and Eric B. & Rakim, and more contemporary underground hip-hop inspirations like Murs and Blueprint. Sleeping While You're Awake finds him moving into the ranks of established Springs hip-hop heroes Black P and the ReMINDers. - CSIndy.com

"Indy Music Awards Meet this year's winners and performers"

Hip-Hop (Solo)
Che Bong
Style of music in 10 words or less: "Underground hip-hop with a throwback feel to it"
Three artists he admires: Jimi Hendrix, Gil Scott-Heron, Blueprint
First performance: 2000
Recordings: Sleeping While You're Awake (2011)
Prior to making a name in his own right with last year's Sleeping While You're Awake album, Che Bong already had a significant presence in the local hip-hop scene. He's half of the duo Too Tone Taurus, who placed third in our 2011 Hip-Hop category, and is also one of the four emcees in BullHead*ded, who took first in this year's Local Live Act write-in category.

"I've been doing music since I was 9 years old," says the former military brat, who spent his early years in London, Sacramento, Calif., Albuquerque, N.M., and Great Falls, Mont. After he and his wife moved to Colorado Springs six years ago, Che Bong fell in with BullHead*ded and other acts on the Sound Powered Engine label.

Recently, the SPE collective has begun releasing a small torrent of albums and mixtapes. "In this past year, I've been able to drop my first solo album as well as a video by [director] Hussain Sola for 'Okay,'" says the emcee. "I've also been a part of Ashtray Confessional by Nato, as well as the new Made Up Minds album, the Summer Heat mixtape by Chuck City and DJ Prominent, and a compilation EP called Stages produced by Milogic."

Meanwhile, the BullHead*ded gang continues to gig relentlessly throughout Colorado and beyond. "I've been able to take part in countless shows across the country, which has given me opportunities to work with talented out-of-state and local artists I respect," says Che Bong, who sees potential for an increasingly vital hip-hop scene here. "I'd like to see venues show more support for hip-hop artists," he says. "The quality of music has gotten so much better from when I first started. The fans and all the groups have really stepped it up."

Second place: Black P
Third place: Milogic - Colorado Springs Independent


Bullhead*ded - "4Play" (e.p.)

Made Up Minds - "Of Sound Mind" (Bullhead*ded)

Che Bong - "Sleeping While You're Awake" (Bullhead*ded)



BullHead*ded is making big waves in the Hip-Hop world.  With an unforgettable live show and performances like their headlining spot at this year’s “Rock The Canyon” Festival, the group is quickly garnishing a large following as well as quite the reputation. Recently BullHead*ded has toured with the likes of Sage Francis, The Chicharones and Maulskull. Backed by the masterful production of Nato, and Live musician’s Nicholas Hureau (Drums and Keys) and Jesse Cottonstone (guitar). BullHead*ded’s music is upbeat, stimulating and intellectual. It is the type of music that moves your body as well as your mind. Armed with epic music, an infamous live performance and a BullHead*ded mind set this team is unstoppable.

Intrigue and Mystery surround the group. In 2013 one of the four original M.C.’s (JayPeS) disappeared and has not been seen or heard from since.  Within the last couple years stories of the group’s antics and escapades have been circulating amongst circles in the hip-hop community, and the group’s name has grown in infamy.

BullHead*ded’s debut  E.P. “4Play” was released in 2013, to add to an already impressive list of releases including member Che-Bong's "Sleeping While You're Awake", and Made Up Mind's release "Of Sound Mind". The group is currently in the studio working on their highly-anticipated first full-length album that is set to be released sometime early next year. With big plans for the future, a forthcoming album with already coveted songs and an upcoming national tour the group’s intrigue is sure to only grow. 

Band Members