Something we’ve never thought would see the light of day is a new Black Star release, let alone one produced by Madlib. But this week, it happened! Yasiin Bey (Mos Def ) x Talib Qweli dropped No Fear Of Time (Luminary), poised to be yet another classic release, followed by the almost 25-year-old tag team debut, Mos Def & Talib Kweli are Black Star. There’s no stream of the album but you can find it here. It’s well worth the listen.
If there’s anything you should have, is material by the post-hardcore, post-punk, post-rock, post-whateverness of Girls Against Boys. Directly out the gate, GVSB gave listeners something they didn’t know was needed. A monotone vocal delivery, razor-sharp guitars, and a thick & hearty rhythm section that sounded as dangerous as the group looked. On its 25 anniversary, the band re-releases its fourth(!) album on double vinyl. One would think this is a feat that should happen to just a debut album but that would only mean you need to listen to House Of GVSB (Touch and Go Records). The album hits with its distinctive sound and fury. Once “Super-fire” begins, you’ll be intrigued. As it leads right into “Click Click,” your teeth will be rattling. As soon as “Crash 17 – X-Rated Car” drops, you’ll be all in! We should all reference back to the GVSB catalog because it’s that good. Don’t take my word for it, just listen to it yourself.
As it happens on occasion, life isn’t always over once we transition to another state of being. This isn’t about existentialism or the like but it’s about Ross Norton, the artist that was known as kidDEAD out of Nashville. Norton passed away sometime last year and left us with what I believe was his final offering, Cave Paintings (Fake Four, Inc.) produced by OneWerd. I was wrong. It seems kidDEAD left a lot more than that, including the newly released The Man Who Lived Forever, produced by Nathan Zensen.
Obviously, there’s a disparity from one album to the next considering it’s produced differently but with The Man Who Lived Forever, we have another side of kidDEAD to whet our palettes with. We get the familiarity of kidDEAD and at times find the humor in his lyrics when he feels the need for it. The opening title track may be self-reflective, but it isn’t braggadocio. Semblances of self-deprecation may be inferred (“Everything that I touch turns to crack ay / Watch them fake friends turn they back ay”) while also referencing the idiocy of men (“All these rappers that’ll call these women bitches / Not a single one can find the clitorises”). The irony in the title alone isn’t missed and we’re hit with the hard truth whenever he refers to himself as “the man that lived forever.” But it’s the bounce and catchiness of the rhythm, the bassline & keys that reel one in. There’s a heaviness to “Cost,” which features Spoken Nerd, Brzowski, and Bobby Exodus. There’s a price paid for everything, as each rapper brings deep hearty lyrics to fit the rhyme scheme.
That heaviness shifts to melancholia on “Yeah” driven by piano and a hearty beat. kidDEAD’s words are poignant, and he digs deep from personal experience, expelling what’s necessary. But things shift with “Live,” which features Sophia Miriam. It’s a banger in the most literal sense with its flavorful catchiness, Sophia’s majestic vocals and kidDEAD’s strengthened vocals. His words border on the existential here but it shows he had so much more to offer. But the bouncy “You Can Count On Me” hits like something we’ve never heard before. Where others shoot straight with a positive outlook, having your back, kidDEAD lets you know “You can count on me, not to give you what you need.” There’s no hesitancy here, he knew the downside to being Ross Norton. “ShotGun” delivers that humor again with the playful beat. Here as an artist, no fucks are given so take it or leave it. And we should all take it!
The emotional ride is hard to take in all at once, see-sawing from one feeling to the next. The desolation of “Ride” hits hard but when he hits the chorus on every note, it’s just dope, there’s no way around that. “Goodbye” is just sorrowful. Knowing what we know about kidDEAD, it’s a hard listen but should be listened to. There’s a point to The Man Who Lived Forever, and you know, kidDEAD will live forever through his music.
Since its earliest days, Hip-Hop has always pushed against the status quo, ushering in a new form of protest song, cut and laced with images of gritty reality. From Melly Mel to Public Enemy, songs were lyrically verbose and dealt with drug use, race, clashing cultures, and so much more. Only a select few continue to share works focused on the racism and the diaspora of a people. dälek not only forces one to confront one’s own perception of culture but also challenges listeners to give ear to music/Hip-Hop in a different manner.
dälek, comprised of emcee dälek as well as sound manipulator Mike Manteca, has just unleashed its latest effort Precipice (Ipecac Recordings). The group has always taken the path less traveled, allowing it to remain derivative only unto itself. While in the past dälek’s lyricism has been palpable, filled with rage as his venomous words struck at the hearts of the authoritarian and the greedy, this time around it seems the emcee embellishes on that anger with disgust. It’s in his tone, which takes nothing away from the album but allows listeners the ability to get closer to dälek itself, offering a bit more familiarity.
From beginning to end, Precipice rages on, beginning with the instrumental “Lest We Forget,” with stunning washes of instruments colliding in the wind, floating into an oblivious black hole of beauty. THIS is where dälek continues to let the world know its life and breath extends much further than Hip-Hop, with its charm as it seduces; a sweet cacophonic lullaby. The track leads to “Boycott,” filled with the same thunderous instruments, coupled with thick, deep beats. dälek’s lyrics bite and gnaw at the bit, offering up a wide array of discontent. He explains, he suggests, the accusations fly but you’re hard-pressed to pay attention. When he says, “reacts against the very facts I been tried telling you,” it seems his words have been falling on deaf ears. With “Good,” dälek takes a bit of a different approach, with a sound that’s inviting and a delivery of lyrics we all understand in its indirectness. “If we breathe wrong, we can’t breathe / Choke holds and knees / Taught like birds and the bees / Live beneath the sword of Damocles,” doesn’t require explanation and the anecdote is clear. This one may just be the favorite of the group of songs, with a clever way of presenting the chorus as well.
Speaking too quickly has become hazardous because there other songs that hit with a fury that should keep listeners incensed. The 7-minute-plus of “A Heretic’s Inheritance” drones with remarkable tenacity and leaves listeners scathed with shrapnel of guitar notes. It’s at the halfway mark when featured artist and Tool guitarist Adam Jones hits the recollection button. Jones’ sinewy guitar adorns an already evocative track, with words revolving around conflict at a base level with no fucks given at any point. The systemic racism is evident and this, while not necessarily a call to action, puts them on notice, watching their every move and waiting for the next move.
With Precipice, dälek continues to move into territory it’s familiar with while searching for new paths to carve out other directions, that is if it chooses to. There’s much to dissect throughout the album and we’ve only made it part of the way through it. There’s no pause throughout the album and even the closing “Incite” will leave you wondering what your next step is. Dälek has it on lock, knowing full well the monster it’s unleashed onto the world.