April 26, 2016
This month a bunch of veteran MCs dropped some growly-growling mass extinction bars...the direct descendants making good on Jeru's 'You Can't Stop The Prophet.' Analog souls with zinc-plated connections. More likely to toss a Molotov than snap a selfie. Dead city radio broadcasting from 24 hour bodegas in quarantine zones. "There are men of letters & then there are men of militarized letters..peace to Rammellzee."
True story: when I was a dumb youth, there were two 12" records where on first listen I couldn't figure out if they were 33 or 45rpm and kept flipping the switch because they sounded mad fucked up either way. One was the Bring The Noise and the other was Swans' Cop. These gods put those records on the one & two at both speeds and cut 'em up like Grandmaster Gysin.
Fam. The cops think every day is Purge Day. The water out the tap is poison. The World-Eater himself, Galactus Toupee, is on point to be the next president. Somebody blew up Amerikkka? Coulda been these cats.
Once upon a time not long ago, when people wore backpacks and dial-up modems were slow, the N.W.A. of the Rawkus era was Company Flow. These days El-P is doing his Rap Van Halen thing, and Mr Len is doing...whatever it is he does.
Bigg Jus was straight up CoFlow's MC Ren, and seems to spend more time on his puzzling Tumblr than blessing the mic. In the '00s it feels like Justoleum's been reclusive and radio-silent, but between 3 solo LPs and the two Nephlim Modulation System joints, he's dropped precision munitions not clusterbombs. It's been four years since Machines That Make Civilization Fun, but I have it from the man himself that this joint is just the first knife out the drawer--a Kingspitter EP and third NMS LP dropping this year. Prepare yourselves. You need a record cut, you call the record cutter.
Another mic-wrecker from the Def Jux camp with a staccato flow and rhymes like depleted uranium rounds--dense, radioactive and deployed in dubious war zones. Lif's first solo LP in seven years kicks off with two tracks of rapid-fire, storytelling heat on some 'Shakey Dog'/'Know The Ledge' type shit. The rest of the record's got him hanging with old homeboys like Del, Edan and the Perceptionists and showing off some surprisingly lighter, positive and optimistic joints--fair enough for a comeback I guess, and the closer 'Don't Look Down' is literally transcendent. Put it between Scarface's 'I'm Dead' and Killah Priest's 'Almost There' on your Preparation For The Next Life mixtape.
His I Phantom's finally got a re-release: remember this one? The whole-concept LP about a struggling MC (a la Prince Among Thieves) that ends with nuclear war (a la no other concept album unless it's supposed to be a rap prequel to 2112)? Yeah, that one. Cop both and look out for that Emergency Rations too.
Couple things I never can understand. First, why do rappers have such unbelievably shitty, cheesy bad taste in rock music? It's the 94th Element of Hip Hop or something. Premier will sample the soundtrack from a 1924 silent movie, Puffy will sample 'Carmina Burana,' but when it comes to anything with guitars we get...'Walk This Way?' And the Judgement. Night. Soundtrack. I never understood this. All that cratedigging, you cats never once picked up a Minor Threat record? Bambaataa made a record with Johnny Rotten and nobody ever sampled the Sex Pistols? My Make-A-Wish Foundation was always that that one time Chuck D ad libbed on a Sonic Youth joint had become a whole collabo LP. A lot of people listened to Godspeed You! Black Emperor and thought, I should start a band. I listened to them and thought, somebody should rap over this.
This is the other thing I don't understand: why don't dälek get their props as underground legends? I mean, everyone got all amped about Death Grips and I was all, this is just Shouty Dälek, y'all into this but you ain't down with Gutter Tactics? I figured, well, their shit is too dense and deep, heads will catch up. Maybe it's the umlaut or the spelled-dälek-but-pronounced-'dialect'? I don't know. You cats like your clipping. and BLACKIE and all that and you still don't ride for dälek? And kids who're into My Bloody Valentine wanna hear them sing about...whatever it is they're singing about, sexy girls with dirty feet and cigarette breath?--not the broken-glass-everywhere-people-pissing-on-the-station rhymes, I guess.
Catch. The fuck. Up.
From 1998's Negro Necro Nekros on, dälek took the multi-layered density of the Bomb Squad and swapped out James Brown samples for Einstürzende Neubauten. They kept Chuck D's political intensity and lyrical density but deepened it, broke it like bottles and pushed it into a Liam-Neeson-right-before-he-fucks-your-shit-up growl. This was all the angry noise of contemporaries Jedi Mind Tricks but without the WWE theatrics, and all the orbital uplift of Daydream Nation--God in the whirlwind.
dälek were mainlining in the cold vein three years before oxes went cannibal. Over the years they lost Oktopus and still (peep that solo instrumental joint though--broken concrete beats), and the new joint takes on Mikey Manteca and DJ rEk for some boardwork that's John Cage's broken abacus run through Lee Ranaldo's entire effects pedal collection. Asphalt definitely still merks the murk and stretches long gobs of hellfire drone, but gets more melodic/indie rock on '6dB.' But it's still on the strength, filthy tongues speaking abandoned language.
I been fucking with Elucid for about five years, and his newest really takes it to a new level of artistry, mastery and cohesion. (But you should still cop Super Chocolate Black Simian, Cult Favorite and Concrete Sound System on top of Armand Hammer). Elucid's the next generation of Growl Rap with a voice like Rap Nick Nolte--specifically, that time he voiced the angel-turned-rockpile who was Noah's mans and them. Prone to wrap your head in knots round those Boo-yaa-Baraka lyrics. And I heard your 'Society Is A Hole' sample up in the back of that bebop-for-bboys 'Son Still Shine' joint, son. I heard that.
These two joints--the 16 minute opus EP Osage and the LP Save Yourself--are I think his best work yet. 'Obama Incense' smells like broken promise and 'Cold Again' is on some I've-seen-rivers poetical miracles. The beats are a diverse but coherent mix jumping from gospel to shoe-trap to Confusion Is Sex steez. He's breathing ghosts on this one. It's fractured blues and St. Augustine visions. Sipping on Flint water in ruined tabernacles. Sprinkling baby powder in kicks on power lines. For real, god took a bag of coal and turned it into gems. Every cut on these are repping some Jane Jacobs, some Amiri style. Skinny Luther nailing it up son.