music (2006-02)

Still Messing with Our Heads

Blowfly preaches a strange sermon

BLOWFLY FOR PRESIDENT: “You’ll all get laid!”

by Kevin Crowe

"You just made the biggest mistake of your Cracker-life!” a voice says through the telephone, followed by deep-throated, maniacal laughter. “Well, speak up, young man,” the voice adds.

Too late to hang up and start over—I’ve entered the demented world of Blowfly.

I’m talking to a 60-year-old man, born Clarence Reid, the musical mastermind who once cut records with Gwen McRae, Sam and Dave and K.C. and the Sunshine Band. But before Clarence was playing with hitmakers of the ’60s and ’70s, he was a kid in Cochran, Ga., endowed with a manic and filthy mind. With the tune of Ernest Tubb’s “Walking the Floor Over You” stuck in his head one day, he decided it would be a good idea to change the lyrics to “Jerking My Dick Over You.” And the Blowfly style was born. “I say shit other people can’t say,” he reflects. “I want to get in people’s minds, shock their ass. It’s an experiment that went wrong.”

His grandmother first gave him the moniker “Blowfly” after hearing how dirty her grandson’s mouth was. “She said, ‘You’re a disgrace to the black race,’” he recollects, with a subtle laugh. But is he being dirty just to be dirty? Or is there any real substance to this madman? The more I talk to Blowfly, the more I start to believe that there is a message inherent in his madness, the kind of psychological matériel that has a purpose on any philosophical battlefield.

Corinthians 1:19: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.” This kind of philosophic machismo has forever been the fulcrum upon which any new worldview is spun, and Blowfly is smack in the middle of the process, helping to destroy our current notions of morality and ethics. He sings dirty, but in real life, when he’s not playing the Blowfly role, Clarence Reid doesn’t drink, smoke or take drugs. In fact, he’s a poster child for God-fearing Christians. “Blowfly is the one who kicks ass,” he says, out of the blue. “If it weren’t for blowflies, the world would be covered with germs.”

His new album, Fahrenheit 69 , marks another opportunity for Blowfly to vaccinate more cultural germs. “We’re gonna burn down MTV, and Clear Channel Radio,” the song “Blowfly for President” proclaims, adding: “Vote for me and you’ll all get laid!” Ice Cube, Jurassic Five and Puff Daddy have sampled him, but his name doesn’t receive much recognition whenever the history of hip-hop gets written. That’s a bit of a tragedy, to say the least, because his song “Rapp Dirty” is arguably the first song of the hip-hop generation. Some reports place “Rapp Dirty” as far back as 1965. And Blowfly himself claims that it easily predates the 1979 release of Sugar Hill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight.” “They’re just jealous,” Blowfly says of his maybe/maybe not status as the grandfather of rap. “I said, ‘Fuck Y’all!’” Yet nothing in Blowfly’s world is how it seems.

“A white woman, an attractive woman, asked me if I started rap,” he tells me. “I said, ‘Unfortunately, no. I’m just the first black rapper.’” He then gives some credit for starting the rap phenomenon to an unlikely source, Tex Williams’ 1947 country classic “Smoke, Smoke, Smoke (That Cigarette).” Williams employs some spoken-word lines, which Blowfly believes helped create the soul-talk of the ’60s and ’70s, which he picked up whilst recording as Clarence Reid. It was in the ’60s, at some club in Atlanta, when the character Blowfly first took stage. “When you go out there [onstage], you play some funky shit,” he instructs. “Blowfly just destroyed their minds.... They’d say ‘that’s disgusting,’ while trying to keep from laughing.”

Perhaps the rush that comes from shocking people is what keeps Blowfly doing what he does best. In a way, he seems to enjoy his position in the history of rap; whether he’ll one day be hailed as the original innovator of the genre is completely immaterial, as long as he gets to mess with our heads while he’s alive. And, if he gets his way, we’ll never know when he’s being sincere or when he’s pulling our chain. When I finally get to thinking that Blowfly and I are jibing, he says, “You don’t know what you’re talking about, cracker.” I guess, after talking with Blowfly, I’m inclined to agree. It’s never a good idea to drop your guard around him. He’ll tear into you and laugh about it. But, for some reason, it feels like a big game, like yelling “yo’ momma” jokes out on the playground, back when words were just words and political correctness hadn’t taken some of the fun out of language.

For those of us who love the jocular sacrilege and obscenity, thank goodness Reid still performs, still gets decked out in an old-school Mexican wrestler’s mask, still calls himself Blowfly, only to sing “The Booty Bus,” “Diggin’ Boogers” and “Ugly People.” He’ll keep doing it, too. “As long as people want me,” he says, seeming to drop the acrid Blowfly persona. “As long as it’s fun.”

What: Blowfly w/ Maxi and the Pads