Album Review: Dälek, Endangered Philosophies

 

If you believe these are troubled times, Endangered Philosophies, the upcoming release from the experimental hip hop group Dälek, may just be your soundtrack to close out 2017.

Dälek has returned to Ipecac Recordings for a September 1 release and has similarly returned to many of the group’s unique stylings. Fans of previous records will delight at the abundance of atmospheric blends of trip-hop, shoegaze, and other experimental hip-hop subgenres. While reminiscent of past works, the group has simultaneously upped their game, expertly advancing both their compositional and lyrical strengths. At its core, Endangered Philosophies distinguishes itself from its predecessors by providing a much more somber musical overtone, accentuated by one of MC Dälek’s (Will Brooks) most powerful and impassioned performances to date.

Covering an array of social injustices including the impact of institutionalized racism and police shootings of African American teens like Tamir Rice, it makes sense that the album would need to take on a sonically darker shade of blue. Further refining the vibe of the album, Brooks is vocally placed much deeper in this album’s mix than most mainstream rap albums, enhancing his dynamics, delivery, and audible sense of frustration. This seems as equally a creative decision as it was a personal and political one. Think about it this way; if you’re going to lyrically cover the violent suppression of a marginalized voice, especially if you connect or identify with that voice, the album should sonically mirror that struggle. Whatever the decision may have been to make Endangered Philosophies sound the way it does, it was an artfully impactful one.

By definition, to be endangered is to face the imminent risk of extinction. If you keep that in mind throughout your listening journey, you may just feel a sense of urgency. The philosophies of social and artistic progressivism are frequently painted to be in crosshairs of the corrupt and the ignorant.

Brooks brilliantly establishes necessary historical contexts throughout this album, by frequently comparing the past with the present. This is most immediately observed in “Echoes Of..,” the album’s opening track and debut single. Sonically, if you think you’re hearing the sounds of ghosts, you aren’t wrong. Nods to Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, Medgar Evers, and Fred Hampton, all of whom were assassinated for their activism, provide a haunted foundation for the track’s chorus. There’s a nod to Bobby Seale here too who, as of the time of this article’s construction, is still very much alive, though having been one of the cofounders of the Black Panthers Party is no stranger to the threat of targeted violence.

Artistic expression and originality is also frequently described as being under attack. Take for instance the track “Battlecries,” Brooks pays homage to some of African American culture’s most profound artistic contributors such as John Coltrane and Amiri Baraka (aka Leroi Jones). Simultaneously, he denounces cheap imitators:

“Very few have bared witness to true potency of linguistics

There is a vast difference between originators and mimics

Substance versus gimmicks”

He further alludes to a history of artistic appropriation and whitewashing with lyrics like, “There is a Jackie Wilson for every Elvis.”

The album concludes with an open-ended and humbling note with “Numb,” promising a future of change, though not necessarily one for the better. Like you may expect to see at the end of an essay, the closing track goes through a heartbreaking recap of contemporary issues that fueled much of the album’s inspiration including gentrification, mass incarcerations, the Flint Water Crisis, and more. Brooks puts it simply; “This is gonna change me, this is gonna change you, this has gotta change…”

Endangered Philosophies will be available for purchase September 1, 2017 via Ipecac Recordings. To promote the album, the group will be touring with Street Sects throughout October.

Tour details:

October 2  Richmond, VA  Strange Matter

October 3  Fayetteville, NC  Drunk Horse

October 4  Atlanta, GA  Masquerade

October 5  New Orleans, LA  Siberia

October 6  Dallas, TX  Curtain Club

October 7  Houston, TX  Walter’s

October 8  Austin, TX  The Lost Well

October 10  Albuquerque, NM  Launchpad

October 11  Mesa, AZ  Underground

October 12  Las Vegas, NV  Beauty Bar

October 13  Los Angeles, CA  The Resident

October 14  San Diego, CA  Soda Bar

October 15  San Francisco, CA  Bottom of the Hill

October 17  Denver, CO  Marquis

October 18  Des Moines, IA  Vaudeville Mews

October 19  Chicago, IL  Beat Kitchen

October 20  Cincinnati, OH  Northside Yacht Club

October 21  Cleveland, OH  Locker Room @ Mahall’s

October 23  Toronto, ON  Hard Luck Bar

October 24  Syracuse, NY  Spark Art Space

October 25  Boston, MA  Once Ballroom

October 26  Brooklyn, NY  Knitting Factory

October 28  Baltimore, MD  Ram’s Head Live (Days of Darkness Festival)

Street Sects open on all dates except Austin & Baltimore

(Words by Andrew Humphrey)