Tuesday 17 March 2015

Posted by T-Bird | File under : , , , , , ,
It’s really a pity that in the Abrahamic tradition (i.e., Judaism, Christianity and Islam,) that the snake got a bad reputation.  In the Native American and African tribal legends, the snake was revered for its changing skin, a symbol of rebirth or renewal rather than being the bad guy in the legends of Abraham’s descendants.  Its counterpart in ancient Egypt is Osiris and the Norse had Baldr—both gods who were regularly reborn.  Hip hop music seems to be shedding its skin at the moment, maybe doing a bit of soul-searching.  It started out as a Bronx thing, spread all over NYC, then the East Coast and then all over the USA and Caribbean before leaping across oceans to first infuse and then reproduce itself in the UK, Japan, the European continent and beyond…  It was underground, then crossed over before eating whole, then redefining mainstream music. 

Hip hop music has been pretty busy since the late 70s spreading its message of… 
…Well, that depends on how you were introduced to it.  Initially it was party music, then it got more sophisticated and realized there was more to be talked about—such as social issues.  There was Black Nationalism and the rise of violent gangs on the West Coast. Back in NYC (and the East Coast in general,) Black Nationalism gave way to Afro-Centrism and a particular strain of Islam (“5% Nation,” later known as “Nation of Gods & Earths.”) The 90s brought us jazzy beats & rhymes, paeans to Mary Jane, “Thug Life” and “conscious rap.”  Another equally important, yet understated development was the abstract and sometimes instrumental output of the Solesides (later called Quannum) collective, which included Latyrx (Lateef the Truth Speaker and Asia/Lyrics Born,) Blackalicious (Chief Xcel & Gift of Gab) and, most famously, DJ Shadow.  Although they weren’t major label talents, they were licensed in the UK by a very influential label: Mo’Wax.  DJ Shadow has gone on to be a hiphop legend based on his revered instrumental album, Entroducing, which really works as a long-form piece.  While Blackalicious never reached the stardom of Shadow, they have a lot of artistic capital.  Fortunately for us, they used some of that to back a group from the hip hop non-mecca of Portland, Oregon known as The Lifesavas. 

From this group, comes the MC Vursatyl, whose “Super” sounds a bit like J-Live produced by J-Dilla.  Dion’s vocals play the proper support role, yet stick in your head (isn’t that why it’s called a “hook?”) In place of J-Live’s “Gods & Earths” we get a quick reference to Vursatyl’s Christianity, “…the Messiah was on the cross between two crooks.”  Despite this, braggadocio is still on full “…You’re trying to reach your potential, but I keep raising the bar.” His delivery is confident and his flow dances around the beat, making him a joy to listen to.  He’s had a few years on stage going toe-to-toe with Gift of Gab and it really shows.  Rolling Stone tapped Lifesavas as “a group to watch” a number of years ago and they were onto something.  “Super” should be bumping in everyone’s car, iPod, home or what/wherever they dig on music.  I’m sure there’s more to come and I, for one, can’t wait to see where Vursatyl goes with Hip hop wearing its new skin…

'Super' is out now on iTunes and all major download stores.


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