Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Album Review: Die Ageless by Kevlaar 7

"I must've been an emcee in my past life/
presently I'm unquestionably poetic/ I'm mad nice"
- Cormega

"the great ever living dead man"
- Coleridge describing Shakespeare

For a brief decade or so, as you may remember, CD singles were a thing. You'd go to the store and buy a compact disc that contained at most 2 or 3 songs, sometimes instrumental and acapella versions included. A good enough single with substance to it might make that lone compact disc worth innumerable hours of spinning. The hip hop genre's ultimate height, the 1990s, coincided with the plateau of compact discs. As more and more music was enabled to be stored and condensed into less and less space, the overall quality of the artform rapidly diminished to the point of catering toward 99-cent ringtone simplicity. In similar fashion, the medium of printed books began as a means of storing and increasing our knowledge only to eventually have bookstores fill up with vacuous bestsellers. 

In his first full-length offering, Die Ageless, Detroit emcee/producer Kevlaar 7 has assembled a vastly rich musical novel of 19 chapters (18 songs plus thoughtful intro). One could isolate any one or two tracks, carry them around like an old single compact disc and continually uncover an astoundingly intricate artistic nuance throughout. It's a collection of true hip hop singles, every track feels deeply considered, you really could split this album up into 3 short EPs that would all have replay value. 

A classic Rza line goes, "A million strands of spiderweb weave to make my vest." Here we witness in musical motion Kevlaar's bulletproof verses spun out like a spider building its web, only realizing the amazing architectural balance of it all once we've managed to perceive the big picture made by his "spiderweb brain, off the wall." This entails numerous listens.

That's one of the key meanings of the title, he can die ageless because there's so much LIFE injected into the bars that the music itself will long outlast his physical lifetime. "Impregnate the song," as his brother Bronze Nazareth says. The title is also a reference to the ever reincarnating poetic soul. From the times of Homer (who always recited his poems) to primitive shamans to medieval bards, the true poet-prophet-seer outlasts the dust of mortality. This gift allows for unfettered lyrical imagination, Kevlaar with "limitless minutes" never seems to run out of unique rhymes, as represented by the towering stacks of lyric books littering the album's front cover.

While revolving around a few key themes, the songs cover a range from autobiography to denunciations of capitalism, love stories to gun violence lessons, posse battle-raps to transcendent spiritual hymns. Beside the basis of crisp, pure boom-bap flavor, what's always present no matter what, and what continues to strike me after a few months of listening, is the uniqueness of the rhyme style, an original piecing together of words that occasionally bends not just syntax but even the dimension of time, in a way few artists achieve. Yes, it's his first full-length LP, but we're given no reason to believe that Kevlaar hasn't been doing this for centuries.

1. Intro (This is Life)

About as good an opening as you'll ever hear on any album. Begins with the clicks of a record being placed on a phonograph which abruptly blares "WAKE up, goddammit" before settling into violins that begin to blend with a soul-rattling James Brown sample featuring an amazing melody and bassline. A narrator explains to our just-awakened selves that this is life, you're stuck here. Jail doors slam upon what the Buddha once called our "prison of the senses."

How are we to cope with this existence? "Ain't no way through it but to do it," our narrator advises. Further answers shall follow.

5/5 (the only non-song on the album yet it is of such superb sound that it cannot ever be skipped)

2. Am I Wrong For Trying? (The Prelude)
Prod by Bronze Nazareth

Kevlaar is armed with many great beats on this album and his brother Bronze is responsible for at least half a dozen that are off the charts, including this headliner. One can't overstate the immense quality of this beat; every bit of it (drums, sample, chops, sequence) is in an emphatic orchestral head-bopping harmony setting the stage for the two-verse audiobiographical odyssey of "The Kevlaar Kid."

This is our introduction to Kevlaar 7, who he is and what he brings to the table. The album's prominent theme of a soul that spans epochs appears in the first lines as he describes having "fought my way back and outlasted death/ ashes from earth" to continue an "everlasting mental birth," an eternal progression. 

His musical texture is so vivid it's often cinematic and he sees this album as worthy of winning "an Oscar without even acting" as the experience is so real he can see us listening: "I see you right now, you reading the credits/ me being executive/ written, produced & arranged by/ the one and only Imad" and it's as though we're scanning the closing credits of a great film to see who made it and scrolling the album's sleeve at the same time. Kevlaar's lyrical film projector then shows scenes of his upbringing, beginning with memories presented like they're family videos:

"I try to reach you with visions of me,
revisit the People's Army, and how Pops and Moms charmed me
even though marijuana smoke drifted,
gifts was still being given, Innervisions sound was spinnin' 
throughout the house
Real loud neighbors come to plot,
Please turn it down!"

When he's reached 25 years old it's time to stop and reflect for a minute ("damn, we adults, PAUSE"), let the beat have a moment to itself. A shorter second verse begins again with birth as a renewal, the eternal poetic soul given a new inhalation of life before he exhales the song's best lines:

"The past is my memory/ of walking wind
lungs was pumped/ I breathe in
I'm leaking my soul
breathing vocab to feel the future unfold" 

This is a perfect track. Powerful emotion underlying every ounce of the beat and a real lyrical journey through both time and space, concluding with a promise to represent the forefathers of his movement:

"The land our guide DuBois died in, 
the balcony where King's soul arised from
through the eyes of the family that witnessed the murder of Malcolm"


3. Kings ft Salute
prod by Woodenchainz

There's hardly a song on this entire (lengthy) album that isn't appealing in its own way, but these first two are among the very best, certainly two of the best beats. This one from rapidly-developing spellbinder Woodenchainz is hip hop sample chopping in its most highly evolved form. So much intricacy here in this bold-sounding regal beat, besides the pattering pimp-lounge drums, the sample is deftly woven into such a complicated melodic pattern that it sounds much more like a live band than a simple loop. 

Kevlaar puts on a lyrical clinic with a long-winded verse twisting out "cerebellum tingling" wordplay and jaw-dropping imagery like "High hopes/ jumped flights/ cut through the sunrise" and "I bleed a hard road to follow/ swallowing shadows/ the past left me shallow/ xylophone suture." It's a well-paced ("my footsteps in the dark carry Ivy League timing") outpouring of verbal visions with this artistic creed as the crescendo:

"I'm alive/ y'all die for the Pennzoil
and any utensil
I can stencil/ my life's pendu- lum
Ho-hum, pound to the beat of my drum"

Fellow Wisemen member Salute the Kidd plays a big role on this album with a few guest verses where he almost manages to steal the show. His thick stack of rhymes here has many great moments, among them "Get pinched/ the pressure build/ don't squeal/ whether half-empty, half-full/ don't spill," but on this otherwise flawless track he seems to go on for a few lines too many.


4. Solstice
prod by Kevlaar 7

At under 2 minutes long this serves almost as an interlude, yet the content is jarring. It's a poetically written (true) story of witnessing the last moments of a shooting victim's life. The first lines present the setting, it's fall of 1995, shots just rang out, "alotta screamin and yellin and tires peelin out." With ambulances "taking they time like it's a mothafuckin nosebleed," Kevlaar approaches the victim on the ground, thoughtfully named "Solstice", and witnesses his "brain matter and blood runnin' hopeless." As he stares into the dying young man's eyes, the lyrics begin to weave realism with a timeless dimension. He sees scenes from past epochs of human history as "angels spread wings and sing" before coming back to the present to deliver this powerful message: "A good nigga's what I saw, yo/ Almost perfect, but one mistake captured his soul inside these verses/ Y'all listen and learn that this violence is worthless" while at the same time Solstice's body begins to quiver with its last breaths. The final line is perhaps the most poignant, zooming out to the city's horizon as "Solstice chest stopped rising." 

This is a true gem and Kevlaar's own production, featuring Stevie Wonder-esque organ keys, serves it well.


5. We Gon Make It feat Solomon Childs
prod by Central Intelligence

The longest and most exciting track on the album. An all-out tour de force with a brolic, smoothly rapid beat (involving bongos) over which these two emcees expel four verses of sustained shellacking.

I'd never before been much impressed with Wu-affilated Staten Island spitter Solomon Childs who, despite his signature deep raspy voice, often seemed a little boring and slow-paced. But the veteran from the days of Supreme Clientele (one of the great rap records of all time) struts out a masterful performance here, understandably amped off the booming bounce of this beat. He's great on the chorus anthem and his second verse has a memorable piece where he's describing, in short melodic but unrhymed lines, hanging with The Rza and Knicks' power forward Amare Stoudamire after a Knicks-Pacers game in an affluent "Mojitos/ first class" club scene. It's followed by the wild closing lines of driving around in a high speed chase with his niece and dog (!) in the car, blasting a shotgun out the window and screaming out "FREE KILLA SIN!" (the incarcerated Killarmy member).

As for frontman Kevlaar 7, he simply bends time in his two ridiculous verses. Witness him witnessing his past self "strolling through the world" from out the comfortable window of an "aristocratic beach home" in Verse 1:

"Intelligent wealth/ eyeballing the past
tried calling 'Kev!!! Fuck you doing over there?
Come back up here!!'"

and then hearing it in Verse 2 at about the same point:

"The fuck are they yelling? Yo! That's my nigga's anthem!"

The anthem illustrated here seems to be the repeated phrase "you don't know where you going until you know where you been." Displaying where he's from and what he's been through is exactly what this album is about, "dictate a dubplate of my life sincere" as he puts it. Besides this there is just an incredible amount of detail in K7's two verses, you can really pick any line and unravel tons of meaning from it.* Most importantly, though, even if you don't care what any of it means, it SOUNDS good. Especially the concluding chunk where he spazzes out with the flourish of a verbal witch doctor splashing a colorful mix of medicines. 

Tied with "Someday" for best track on the album.


* Since he claims to spin verses together like a spider's web, inviting us to take a scalpel and "dissect manuals" let's briefly look at one line as an example: "Melting the black ice." This refers to the "cold" or deadly streets of Detroit as well as the actual cold winter weather up there which causes dangerously slippery black ice to form AND it's a reference to original Black Panther Eldridge Cleaver's classic book "Soul on Ice" as his next line is "walking with a panther". And in just those four simple words are described his approach: just like Cleaver, he's trying to free the minds of his people from their frozen state.

6. Sons of the Most High ft Sha Stimuli & Ras Kass
prod by Kevlaar 7

In similar fashion to past tripartite track "3 Kings" where Kev shined among two revered mic veterans, here he stands between a couple of underground masters while providing the thumping production. Ras Kass' familiar smack-you-upside-the-head delivery sounds great over this beat and Sha Stimuli has all kinds of fun with his flow.

Though I've got minor quibbles with the beat (sample sounds a bit too heavily manipulated and I always find it hard to like clap snares) and chorus (thickly-warped slowed-down echo a little weird), Kevlaar's verse is simply monstrous and raises the song to lofty heights.

One line that especially strikes me is Kevlaar's interpretation of the "knowledge and violence" juxtaposition first mentioned by Sha Stimuli: "balancing violence and lead chips/ ricochet our lineage." The ricocheting lead chips refer both to lead bullets and lead pencils which bounce off the paper as they bring forth "our lineage" which is both lines of rhymes and lines of black history. It's a delicate balance, this music/lifestyle of sharing positive messages and moral uplift while being fully equipped for violence in a rough atmosphere. It's what he means by "Still ignite the sun, pun intended"---ignite the flame of a gun barrel if necessary but stay shining the illumination of knowledge.

This is a harrowing situation to be in, certainly, and he eloquently describes it all along with the listener's position in the equation:

"Sky high and nest-less/ every day I'm tested
Walking mental Iraqi deserts
guessing directions/ I guess I'm ventin'
I'm just happy you listenin' 
and penny-pinchin' and tithing/ to purchase the Wisemen invention
Lyrical insulin/ bloodless intentions
it's healing my vision/ gripping my brethren/ resisting the lynchin"


7. Federal Reserve Note
prod by Woodenchainz

Artful verbal graffiti inscribed across a dollar bill. This lone lengthy verse is loaded with invective against the green paper and everything it stands for, conceived through consistently colorful language:

"Climate boost with colder ice/ a platinum noose
It's just public masturbation/ higher manifestation
Keeping with Joneses/ who got the coldest bones?"

References to the symbols seen on paper money abound throughout as in "legal tender for all debts," "serial numbers is flipped," and even "Norvus Ordo Secolorum." The bar which says the most though is "You might see me on currency/ triple K burning me."

This is the one song on the LP that comes closest to the revolutionary theme which dominated his powerful EP Who Got the Camera? as the "sturdy chemist" sits "defending exile in my pad" aiming splintery screed at the "single eyeball up top."


8. Famine O'Clock ft Zagnif Nori, Victorious, Bugsy da God
prod by Bronze

There are two posse cuts on this record and Bronze Nazareth manages to steal the shine from everybody on both of them. Here he does it without uttering a word, his splattering snares and speaker-drubbing kicks do all the talking.

Kevlaar's verse speaks volumes as well, the entire sixteen is sewn with the same semantic seam. Every line ends with the same rhyme sound, always resonating with the word "famine":

"My bastion is slammin'/ whippin' the wagon state to state/ handin' you plates of metal javelins"

"No fastin' in my faction/ we the new blueprints/ and I'm the draughtsman" 

It's a brilliant display of rhyme craftsmanship and delivered with intensity. The three guests that follow him are all invited to take a shot at showing who's hungriest by rapping on the dinner bell theme. The winner appears to be budding Kevlaar protege Zagnif Nori though the well-regarded Bugsy has a strong display ("doing tummy touches/ bound to sit at the table and eat the food up in my clutches/ like a poor man walking in crutches/ without a thing in his stomach"). Victorious' extra laid back delivery kind of baffles me.

Overall, it's the crackling flames of Bronze's production heat that really makes this track, though still plenty of dope lyrics to go around.


9. Losing Hand Gamble ft Rain the Quiet Storm
prod by Bronze

Another Bronze thumper with a great sample, though it feels like a few too many elements going on at once in this beat. Its key feature, the piano loop, gets a bit muffled by the eery strings and heavy, grim bassline. 

These added elements are there to emphasize the darkness in this track's theme, the story of being jilted by a lover. Always ambitious in his creative conceptions, Kevlaar presents it all through game motifs, the first verse using the dice game Bones, the second using chess. Love is a sort of twisted game, after all.

Refreshingly phenomenal female emcee Rain the Quiet Storm carries on the theme by mixing in multiple games/gambles (chess, poker, board games) to tell her own story of being deceived by "a master of illusion/ confusing my strategy... My king took everything/ my energy, my inner chi/ a tantric team, now opponents and enemies." This woman is a revelation. 

A track with clear emotional overtones, it's presented through the prism of cerebrally constructed verses, with an overall feel of a nightmare playing out. Having broken up with my woman after a lengthy relationship right about the same time this album dropped, I can relate to most of it, especially the end of verse one:

"Eyes of a lioness/ Black stone shine brightest
Always boomeranged back to me/ like life was night-less
Turmoil and fights was/ soon to come
Trouble with my hustle/ zero trust in my skill
What's the deal?/ I planted seeds in the field
From the yard we've grown/ plus I gave you a rib
I knew this was a problem/ the moment you knocked
I had the heaviest hand yo/ the moment you walked..."


10. My People
prod by J Scrilla

While the track runs over four minutes, this serves as something of an interlude with one single verse before transitioning into the words of Dr. Cornel West, expressing his "Socratic prophetic calling" which seems to mirror Kevlaar's approach in the song. 

"I walk the streets of gold with a death mask and chrome mag
Reaching for knowledge inside the dope bag
So I can educate our people..."

Lyrically it's a plea for change, to "acknowledge our wrongs" and uplift to realize our mental gifts and potentials. The wordplay unfurled here is stunning ("Hurt my liver drinkin thinkin on a David Dinkins ceiling") as even while expressing an important message, he doesn't sacrifice anything in lyrical flavor. 


11. Duel of the Minds ft the Wisemen
prod by Kevlaar 7

Just your standard Wisemen grandiose banger. Kevlaar shows off his production prowess on this posse cut which (I think) is the first time all the members of the large group have ever rapped on the same song. It's noticeable throughout the album that guests seem to step their game up knowing they're involved with a project of such lyrical eminence, but I find it most evident here as all of six (!) verses are strong. He who grabs the most attention on this vast display of bars, though, is Bronze Nazareth with blasts from "sawed-off shotguns full of thinking." 


12. I'm Open (Changes)
prod by Lastchild Musik

Doesn't belong or fit here. Very good song but so out of place in this spot and even more disappointing since it appeared on the previous (classic) effort Who Got the Camera? where it fit perfectly.


13. The Lean ft Salute
prod by Bronze

Reminiscent of the classic "Mixture of Muhammad," here Kevlaar unleashes a dazzling torrent of controlled chaos. Few other emcees in hip hop right now are capable of this kind of sustained intensity: "froze deserts with blessings from natives/ originating the making/ of molecules/ consume melodic skills." He summons the spirits of Emmett Till's killers to exact vengeance on them (since they never served any penalty during their lifetimes), swinging with verbal hatchets until "fractions of atoms shatter." 

As great as Kevlaar is, Salute the Kidd manages to stand tall next to him. "Born bastard, blame Pops/ Mom did her best/ left the nest, hit the block," begins his concise summations of the Detroit streets. Through it all he's persevered, "Walked the green mile/ barefooted, nails in my toes/ never shiver through the cold/ Uplift and behold." 

Beat-wise, as much as I love the sample, there's a bit too much going on with the drums. Seems like two different drum loops going at the same time and not entirely in synch. Nevertheless, a jaw-dropping display of lyrical ferocity.


14. Fallen Angel
prod by Bronze

Both Kevlaar and Bronze specialize in writing songs with parallel verse structures (as we'll see later on), but here we have an entire track that is meant to echo an earlier song. This lengthy verse is, like "Solstice," a true story of gun violence and the lessons contained therein.  

The beat is vintage Bronze Nazareth, apparently Ghostface had called dibs on the instrumental a while ago but dragged his feet so Kevlaar usurped and made great use of it. Even while outlining a personal real life story, the fabric of his bars remains astoundingly rich---nothing is shared in a simple-minded, plain manner, as witness the imagery of "high beams cascade across the landscape" or the story's barking antagonist who "laid a foul tongue."

The setting is an icy night in Detroit, Kevlaar trying to get home on a late evening, while cruising the streets he reflects on the harsh environment his children are being brought up in: "Time to relocate where my children could play/ the devil's to blame and until I lay in my grave/ I speak about a path to pave, pharaoh." Squeezing through a narrow alleyway he's confronted by a truck's high beams, yells at the driver and then finds himself facing the barrel of a gun. The beat momentarily fades as the tension reaches climax and death stares him in the face:

"True story, before me he laid his tool/ on the edge of the window
and if the wind blow/ I'll be cold as Detroit's river
HOLD the hairpin trigger"

In that brief moment, his soul had already begun traveling out of his body ("I thought I saw the sun") until he witnessed "earth, in the form of a passenger" who pleaded with the gun-toting driver to let him go. This song would be great for an animated video as the cold misty nighttime scenes are vivid throughout, most prominently when the driver zooms away and Kevlaar looking into his rearview mirror sees the following:

"As he peeled off/ dirty angel wings formed in his exhaust"

What a picture. He concludes with a reflection on inner city gun violence, seemingly designed as an "attempted genocide from the inside" and his stated goal to liberate minds and "stop the gun cocking." Terrific song all around.


15. Breakout! 
prod by Bronze

A moment of levity on a serious album, everything about this song screams "LIVE"---it would sound great live, the intro is a clip of live in-studio discussion, and the content is describing scenes from live concerts---and yet it's a precisely assembled, polished two-verse recording. Similarly, he's whimsically describing wildness and getting out-of-control ("hyperventilate/ my throttle on asthma/ pass the White Owl/ tonight I'm a Rasta") while flowing his well-written bars with utmost precision. He's a raw witty drunken bastard stumbling in image but flying in delivery.

"Alcoholics/ asleep on the toilet
Hangover? Pour it/ Drink more kid
Drink til we get Rigor mortis!"

The beat knocks as we're in the middle of Bronze's territory here, he's got four straight solid beats, this one with a lounge funk band vibe. I go back and forth on how much I like this track overall. It's hilarious at times and the beat is excellent, but often it feels skippable with so many other better tracks surrounding it.


16. Someday ft Bronze Nazareth, June Megalodon
prod by Bronze

Rap at its most transcendent and sublime. No one else makes music quite like this. 

Down toward the end of a long, vast album with many great songs, this cometary hymn has carved a massive crater-deep impact. It's quite possibly one of the best and most unique songs of the last 5 years or so, surely one of the best ever done by Bronze and crew.

This masterpiece consists of two parallel-structured verses from the Cross Brothers, Bronze & Kevlaar, with a brief middle refrain in between from June Mega whose line "I can do a sentence without flinching" perfectly describes the determined, controlled yet emphatic enunciation of poetry here. The beat's levitation into a luminescent extended and evolving hum in conjunction with the display of lyrical brilliance makes this whole thing more of an experience than a song.

While the pace of the organ hymns seem to momentarily make time stand still, the raps flow rapidly right from the beginning, eventually met by a quick-paced drum tumble that carries an outstanding beat, Bronze production at its finest. The heavenly essence of the beat is juxtaposed by the grimness of the verses ("chase holy water with brandy") which are constructed in thematically parallel bars. Where Bronze hears "Eight violins sing to the sound of cracking gravel," Kevlaar's mental vessel resonates with a "Whistle like an organ's epistle grieving apostles." 

Speaking from a heart that's "lashed like Harriet's back," Bronze pours out a magnificent verse but there's no doubt that this is Kevlaar's song. His verse here is one of the most impressive things on the entire hour-plus record (therefore, forgive me for quoting it at length). At his peak, he conceivably enters into a trance where he seems capable of channeling the collective spirit of a century's worth of black history and struggle and does so here with the utmost of eloquence.

"I tread on dirt and sand/ observing dead reflections
infected thoughts/ hope of lightning bolts connecting"

"Follow novels of living/ except our script's ink washed away
on Hastings from hostile/ firehose spray
Scenes inside syringes/ this winter killed all witnesses
Physical imprisonment/ only rekindle my fury
Blurry mirrors/ echo silent screams/ inside my forty winks
During sunshine I verbalize our forty acres
My grave and chain clinks only reply
Cry old spirituals/ my homicide's eventual"

It's mind-boggling that the verse is so well-written while still maintaining a line-for-line parallel with the bars of his brother's verse. Kevlaar's version comes across as an added emphasis, an inflation, an extra loud resonance. And so where Bronze mourned the sudden loss of his grandfather, Kevlaar's pained reminiscence of a lost friend becomes the ultimate emotional apex of the song:

"Life clotted my vessels/ revealing where he rested
Infected with the best/ cause God he always get them
Until then I'm with him/ and every hood victim
Chitlin' Circuit slalom/ forever live within them
System silent/ follow wisdom"

All the way down at track 16, this is the best offering on the album.


17. Metamorphosis ft George Clinton
prod by Ernesto

Following the album's greatest height, these last three tracks allow the musical journey to deepen into a slightly more meditative state. 

None other than the P-Funk legend himself, George Clinton, gives this track its electro-psycho-cosmo-futuristic feel. It's the most experimental and perhaps daring track on the album as its sound ventures off into other dimensions. Through his cross of sci-fi evolutionary DNA tangents with contemporary plight in the projects, detailed through opaque, purposely nebulous imagery, Kevlaar manages to make a pretty good song out of the experiment.

I can't help but think of Clinton's collaboration with the Wu-Tang Clan on "Wolves" (from their last group album 8 Diagrams) which also was more than a bit weird yet still ended up working well. This track hits the right chords too, though unlike the darkened funky dance-hall tones of "Wolves," this is a far-out journey, fast-paced but yet still hard to stay fully tuned into. It's possible I'll grow to like this song more as I get to understand it better, of all tracks on the album this one flies over my head the most. 

It's also a pretty short song minus the long but effective spoken meditations and slogans of Clinton ("been there, got the tee shirt"; "free of the need to be free"). 


18. Now
prod by Woodenchainz

The record closes with two of the more singular solo Kevlaar showcases, and they're two of my favorite tracks. Here he's got three verses (for the only time on the whole album) over an introspective, soulful, meditative beat with a unique drum pattern. 

As on "Kings", Woodenchainz provides a relatively complex yet striking melody. He strings together a sequence of elements---guitar, piano, resonant vocal---that rise into a crescendo before a sputtering drum bridge starts the slowly elevating sequence again. Somehow this is all hemmed into a smooth harmony that's bluesy hip hop at it's finest. 

The verses contain some of the best lyrics on the LP, such that the song could garner a full-length study of its own. In summary, they touch on every theme of the album, especially eternal recurrence and autobiography. Occasionally "seriously funny" and often ridiculously rhythmic ("biased proprietors can't deny us") while often serious, it's a plea for us to wake up: "Good morning/ got the egg whites and turkey bacon waitin/ Wake up call." In between the tapping drum pattern, his bars and their flow create their own cadence, stuffing the song with verbal art:

"My diaspora/ to my unborn euphoria/
until my cremation/
The square mileage of earth got me salivating/
Navigating/ on elevated thinking" 

"Get yours/ where's the applause
it ruins minds/ so inclined
on holograms/ dreams was all in our minds"

In one bar he sums up the entire "Die Ageless" theme: "My unborn feel me/ the recipe is legendary." This poetry promises to be hailed as legendary by future generations, his unborn future children, generations of "diaspora" will be digging this music. Pieced together with "legendary" intentions through an ancient recipe, a timeless artform, that of the musical medicine man, a sort of poet-shaman: "Architect how I build speech/ Percocet/ pain's intense/ No opi-oids, poisons moisten my lungs" and in the next song he asserts, "I'm needed for healing."

Through almost 5 minutes of a slow-paced beat and a few bars of (surprisingly good) singing, this song manages to not only stay interesting but provide mollification for the soul while still stimulating the brain. 


19. Final Call
prod by Kevlaar 7

At long last, a curtain call. Besides "Solstice", it's the only completely solo Kevlaar track where he provides both the beat and the lyrics. It's also quintessential Kevlaar 7: the beat is heavy in bass, the tempo a bit elaborate, and the lyrics tightly wound into a sort of spiral delivery of intricate wordplay ("penny-pinching with my mental riches/ imagine me dead/ an existence so legitimate/ don't get it twisted"). 

Line-for-line it's one of the deepest tracks on the album despite coming as a one-verse closer over a beat that lets the record mellow toward its conclusion. The emphasis on renewal, new beginnings, "re-commission genesis" and eternal recurrence ("delicious sequels infinite... intensely live continuous") continues among the many weighty bars presented here. In the midst of word wizardry he even seamlessly incorporates a promise for an immediate follow-up and acknowledges his fans before signing off. 

After the song fades, a lengthy and somewhat tedious clip features psychologists/philosophers discussing the deceiving position of the ego in man's psyche.


Overall: 9 out of 10
Lyrics 5/5
Beats 4/5

Overall, you'd be hard-pressed to find an album more thoroughly loaded with lyrics than this one. Not just great lyrics, but an ORIGINAL and unique style, the type of bars that might leave you pondering for years. While it's certainly got a large chunk of outstanding beats (and not a single bad beat), some of them are a few pieces shy of perfection. If I could muster one complaint, it'd be that I would have rather had more Kevlaar production on display. Still a monumental opus of pure hip hop.

Best tracks:
We Gon Make It
Am I Wrong for Trying?
Final Call

Best verses:
Sons of the Most High (Kevlaar)
Now (second verse)
Someday (Kevlaar)
The Lean (both)
We Gon Make It (Kevlaar second verse)

Best beats:
Am I wrong for trying?
Fallen Angel

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