MC 900 Ft. Jesus
MC 900 Ft. Jesus is the stage name of Mark Griffin, a classically-trained musician turned rapper and experimenter born in Dallas, Texas. Griffin’s work was often considered well ahead of its time, and much of his sound and experimentation predates artists like Beck and Orbital.
Griffin’s wit and formal education help him to inject complexity and humor into his work as MC 900 Ft. Jesus. Deriving his MC name from a sermon by Oral Roberts, Griffin’s first album, Hell With The Lid Off (1990) was released under the name MC 900 Ft. Jesus With DJ Zero, but the MC has sole billing on Welcome to My Dream (1991) and One Step Ahead of the Spider (1994). According to a Chicago Tribune article dated November 8, 1991, DJ Zero appears on Dream under his real name, Patrick Rollins, because of uncertainty about whether he would have been able to tour in support of the album. Rollins/Zero is not listed in the credits for Spider.
MC 900 Ft. Jesus’ music is influenced by hip-hop, incorporating many samples, but the lyrics are often quite off-kilter and mordant. “Hell with the Lid Off” included the cult single “Truth Is Out Of Style,” a satire of postmodern man’s self indulgence. His next hit was “The City Sleeps,” which explores the mind of a serial arsonist. His last cult hit, “If I Only Had a Brain,” created a splash thanks to a video directed by a young Spike Jonze as well as exposure on MTV’s Beavis and Butt-Head and heavy national tour support.
Griffin’s use of rap, electronica, and cool jazz (Griffin is a trumpeter, and between lyrics and beats he often plays like Miles Davis) is perhaps the reason he never achieved wide success. MC 900 Ft. Jesus is difficult to define, being utterly “danceable,” thought provoking, humorous, disturbing, and genuinely musical all at the same time. Each one of his albums is unique, and as a result, the hodge-podge of styles can be off-putting to a casual listener.