I've already mentioned the two newest albums to sprout from the branches of the nutrient-rich Wu-Tang family tree, Children of a Lesser God and Heaven Razah, but there's been plenty more pieces of music leaking up from the underground. Here, we'll go a little bit deeper into the subterranean tunnels of independent, unpromoted, relatively unheard ingenious hip hop music.
These are folks who practice hip hop as an art form in a society that has moved increasingly far away from appreciation for aesthetics towards materialistic commercialism. As such, they are like many other starving artists: extremely talented, diligent in their craft, but not economically wealthy. And not getting nearly enough exposure since the masses aren't led towards true art anymore (except for in the field of cinema).
Aside from the thinkers and writers I enjoy and study the most like James Joyce, Joseph Campbell, Carl Jung, Friedrich Nietzsche who are all long-since dead, these are my favorite writers, poets, musicians that are living. Since it seems to me they don't get nearly the attention or appreciation they deserve, perhaps they are for posterity to realize and appreciate just like we've seen happen for folks like Nietzsche and Joyce.
These are a few of my favorite artists who might be ahead of their time, or perhaps stuck in an unfortunately brainwashed time.
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Lord Beatjitzu is one of many names used by a highly talented musician who makes beats primarily on a Roland sampler, one of those technological supertoys that helped hip hop music explode. It's a little console, really not much bigger than an iPad or small laptop and it stores sounds on each of its 12 button pads that can then be played live and turned into a melody over drums. Sounds can also be distorted and tweaked in all sorts of ways and so Roland samplers are often favorites of DJs. Much of Madlib's best work has been on Roland sampling machines and The Rza, along with his students known as the Wu-Elements (Mathematics, 4th Disciple, True Master), relied primarily on a more advanced sampler called the ASR-10 made by Ensoniq.
Beatjitzu has made a name for himself releasing free beat tapes featuring mind-bogglingly polished and melodic beats with a heavy Wu-Tang influence. These tapes usually feature deep or hilarious track names and tons of kung fu film quotes, sounds, themes, and samples weaved in and out and sometimes heavily distorted DJ-style to create a full experience of sound (an example is the moving of sounds from one ear to the next to create depth). He has been known to make such tapes during a span of a single night.
Here's an example of his early work (from about three years ago) that first turned me on to his music:
After not coming out with anything new for a few months, he recently put out two brand new tapes of 9 tracks each and it may be his best work yet.
His sound consists of extremely heavy hard drums played at neck-snapping, head-cracking tempos and mixed with unbelievably mellifluous smooth-sounding sample music.
Here's a taste of the new stuff, this beat is called "Shaolin Dragon," beware of heavy sound effects:
And here's another one of my favorites, this one named "Smoke Bomb Specialist." Notice the diametrically opposed tempos of the drums and the sample music and yet he's brought them together into a perfect harmonious piece of musical art:
One of these days, soon, I will present a post exploring the works of this young master more closely but for now I will share with you his two newest tapes which are completely free. You can download them here and here. Consider it a double-feature of classic kung fu flicks. Only it's music.
I will continue to heavily endorse this gifted producer and his unheralded art work until he is properly recognized as one of the best recent artists to spring from the Wu-Tang influence (even though his is an indirect and unofficial influence) because he has been carrying this style on into the future as well as anybody else currently making music. Better than most, in fact.
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I first heard of Purpose and his group Tragic Allies a few years ago when I came across some astounding sounds off of the "Soul Purpose Mixtape" (hosted by Wu-Tang legend Killah Priest) which I subsequently acquired and listened to repeatedly for months. If you enjoy rap music, I urge you to seek that mixtape and absorb it.
Here's one of that tape's best songs, probably one of the best rap songs of the last five years and probably only a couple thousand people (max) have even heard it:
Well the same guy, Purpose, released another new mixtape entitled "Better Than Your Album," a title which seems excessively smug until you realize that it really is probably better than 95% of the cds in the "Hip Hop/Rap" section of your nearest Best Buy. You can download the album here and I'll share with you a few of its best tracks:
"City of Sin"
(if your brain cells don't tingle on this one then you shouldn't be wasting your time on this post)
And here's a personal classic; for me, this is a modern embodiment of the tragic emotion as Stephen Dedalus discusses in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. By Tragic Allies (Estee Nack and Purpose) it's called "Visual":
* * *A Man Called Relik is a young spoken-word poet/hip hop emcee I've recently discovered and been amazed by. I had first heard him on a mixtape compilation for a group out of Indiana called Ironworkers Guild. This was one of A Man Called Relik's solo tracks that appeared on that mixtape:
"The Darkest Hour" produced by Kevlaar 7
This guy is overflowing with talent. I'm drawing attention to these artists because I believe they, despite their lack of any sort of mass attention, are among the great artists of our time. They practice a craft (pure hip hop) that is condemned and suppressed, not only by mainstream society but even by the music industry, and especially the hip hop music industry. The executives and suits in charge of big record labels don't want to give people intelligent material, especially not through the cries of oppressed poor people, however poetically eloquent and musically gifted they may be.
We are in age in which the disparity between the rich and the poor is greater than it's ever been in recorded history. And so it follows that the ones on the bottom, especially the artists of that segment of society, will be the ones speaking most passionately as a cry for change and with a condemnation of this decrepit era. Our society and our nation has evolved towards an unrelenting reach for material wealth, an attitude which even seeped into our arts (example: The Decline of Rap Music), and now the edifice of Material Greed (aka Capitalism) is collapsing, we're in recession, and the ones at the bottom are the first to be struck by the crumples of "shattered glass and toppling masonry." And this is the kind of art they're creating:
That track is called "Fire (Reprise)" and is produced by the resident gifted beatsmith of the Ironworkers Guild, Woodenchainz.
Here's another track from this camp, very creative writing here, each verse is written in sequences using the letters B & C. The track is called "BC 2 Me" and, since they've just released a video I'll share that with you. Observe closely the 2nd verse, that's A Man Called Relik. Apprehend the absurd combination of intellect and emotion:
A Man Called Relik recently released a full album of spoken-word poetry rap over some very good beats and, if you like what you've heard from him here I highly recommend it; Stone Messiah, who produced the track in the video above, recently released an album; and Woodenchainz has just released his first real album, an EP entitled "A Beautiful View" which has some very good stuff on it. You can listen to a sampler of free tracks featuring all of these guys here on YouTube.