BY: MELISSA REGENNITTER
Mar 9, MUSCATINE, IOWA (JOURNAL) Muscatine man's journey takes him off the wrong path and onto a new course full of Krsna, spirtuality, music.
Jason Fladlien, lone member of the “band” Straiht Wikid Crew, hip-hopped onto the local music scene last year. Now, the Muscatine musician is promoting his debut album, “Kali Yuga Demolition Vol. 1”
Released last month, “Kali Yuga ...” was written, recorded, mixed and produced by Fladlien in a process that took nearly a year and half.
But before this one-man band could marry his music and his Muse, he had to travel a winding road— a road that, by his own admission, had no direction and sometimes went down the wrong path — but one that ultimately brought him full circle.
The life of ‘Flad’
Fladlien’s circle began when he was 8 years old and he started writing raps. By the time he was in junior high school at Central, he began performing for high school students who couldn’t get enough of his hip-hop solos – which he did “until it wasn’t cool to do any more.”
Some might remember Fladlien as the young kid who’d clown around at Muscatine High School football games in the early 1990s doing choreographed rap skits for the fans in the stands.
Some might also recognize Fladlien as the young man who sometimes sits at the riverfront with his drum and beats away a rhythmic tune. This practice reveals another side of a man of change.
After graduating from Muscatine High School in 2001, he went to college with what he describes as no direction, a path of self destruction and only stalwart atheist beliefs. He majored in psychology at Iowa State University but had no desire to make a career of what he was studying. All he could think about was music. Despite his good grades, he dropped out halfway through his second semester.
He was indirectly introduced to the life of Hare Krishna (those who worship the Hindu God Krishna and are a member of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness) through a friend who had traveled as a monk. At the time, Krishna did not interest him but he knew his friend was a vegetarian and was curious about becoming a vegetarian himself. After searching Internet sites for vegetarianism, he came across a site about Krishna. From that day on, he hasn’t stopped reading about the worship of Hindu gods.
Although he hasn’t been formally initiated as a Hare Krishna, Fladlien says he believes in the religion and practices his devotion. He has done so for about two years.
He wakes at 4:30 a.m. every day to chant for one and a half hours. He chants at least 16 rounds on his japa-mala beads, which are similar to a rosary necklace. There are 108 beads and on each bead he chants the Maha Mantra once. The Mantra is a chant of the lord Krishna’s holy names. It is an offering of respect that helps Fladlien find focus.
“Generally, 16 rounds takes about one to two hours to complete, depending on how focused the mind is and how pure the chanting is,” he said.
He reads Vedic scriptures that originated in ancient India and marks his body and forehead with Tilaka, clay from the holy rivers of India. Fladlien sees this as the most outward way to show his devotion to Krishna.
He plays his Mrdanga, an authentic clay drum that has been used for many centuries by Indian cultures to accompany chanting. His favorite place to beat his drum and chant is on the riverfront. With the river before him, traffic along Mississippi Drive behind him and the sounds of nature and people around him, he takes in the area and finds it especially peaceful.
While he was unemployed, sometimes he chanted for seven hours a day. He lived off of savings that he had accumulated to purchase his recording equipment.
In early 2004, Fladlien began practicing the religion and became a self-described recluse in his apartment. For once, he pursued what he really wanted, not what others expected of him, and devoted his life to religion and music.
“I would go for months without seeing my friends … and my parents were concerned about me,” he said. “But, I was happier than ever because I found this new freedom – a new release.”
He saved his money, wrote music, taught himself how to play the piano and learned to cook vegetarian dishes. Finally, he purchased the equipment to record his album. After years of rapping and learning to write and record, he had a finished product.
“I spent hundreds of hours on one song trying to make it perfect … . Fifteen hours would have been good enough for most people.”
Fladlien said once he came out of seclusion, in October 2005, he shocked his family and friends. They had no idea what he was doing and he popped out with an album and open arms. He’d found a new love and respect for life.
His parents say they are very supportive and thankful for the path he’s taken.
“They’ve seen me full circle,” he said.
His father, Mike Fladlien, watched him go down the wrong path and knew he was unhappy. His son was partying and lacking in focus and concern for his future. Now he sees the changes Jason has made and the different person he has become.
“I’m just extremely proud of him,” said Mike. “What’s overwhelming to me is the intelligence of the lyrics and how he is able to convey his emotion into the audience. Religion has helped him with inner peace and he performs to his full potential in life.”
Jason Fladlien said the lyrics he writes come from his experiences, friendships, struggles and life in Muscatine.
He also takes pride in putting on shows. Not only does he rap, he performs, choreographs moves, gets the crowd involved and pulls people onto the stage.
“A lot of people tell me they never expected anything like this coming out of Muscatine,” he said.
Dan Orr, 25, another local musician who plays in the bands Disgruntled Noisebox and The Clones, befriended Fladlien during a show.
“My first impression was his music is very upbeat; it made me feel good,” Orr said. “I could also tell that it was the result of months of hard work.”
According to Orr, Fladlien connects with his audience and goes to extremes to make his music heard. Fladlien doesn’t wait around for someone to notice him; he is constantly trying to find new venues and is active in making his own success a reality.
“If he keeps going at the rate he’s going, he’s got a chance to make it in the music scene,” Orr said.
His fans talk to him a lot. The most meaningful words he hears are those of inspiration and gratitude for the connection he brings through music to his audience.
He describes his tunes as bold and unique, and says that people either hate or love them, but it’s definitely not like anything they’ve ever known.
A crew of one
On March 3, Fladlien held a record release celebration at the Muscatine National Guard Armory where he performed for the fans, whom he now calls his “crew,” and newcomers alike.
When the crew started out, Fladlien had a couple of friends who helped him make music. Those two didn’t stick through to the end, but Fladlien kept going.
“I decided to stay with the name Straiht Wikid Crew because when I started doing shows, I realized who the real crew was,” he said.
“It was everyone who would show up at the shows. They are as equal a part of the music as I am.”
Contact author Melissa Regennitter at 563-263-2331 Ext. 317,