Imagine every sound that you’d expect from any macho, dimly-lit and explosion-filled sci-fi action flick: a few bells ringing down a burning subway tunnel, a warping bass line perfect for soundtracking an extended fight scene, some grating feedback-like synth, and a woman moaning, for good measure. Now imagine all of those sounds brought together and mixed into a three-minute instrumental.
Now check “Bringing The Phonk”–the de facto title track of Miami MC-producer SpaceGhostPurrp’s first commercial release, Mysterious Phonk: The Chronicles of SpaceGhostPurrp — to see how close you came to the actual thing. SpaceGhostPurrp is a master of creating narcotized, demented instrumentals, so deprived of anything warm and terrestrial, they truly sound alien (samples of groaning women notwithstanding).
It’s music meant for a slow, up-to-no-good nighttime cruise with the headlights off. The downright malicious “No Evidence” features what sounds like a household alarm being tripped. The tribal, warped percussion of “Get Yah Head Bust” sounds like a breathless chase through some dark jungle. Even “Mystikal Maze” — which would otherwise be pretty summery — is subject to the long synth chords that throw a black cloak over so much of Mysterious Phonk. And curiously, the curb-stomping intensity of “Bringing The Phonk” and “Elevate” complement the bedroom deviance of tracks like “Grind On Me” surprisingly well. So while the 21 year-old SpaceGhost is flexing his beat-making versatility throughout the LP, there’s never mistaking the RVIDXR KLVN universe you’ve fallen into.
His voice is also the only one on the album—there are no features to muck up his show, which has high- and lowlights. He’s best complementing his instrumentals when he is at a low growl and skipping between tight, rhythmic flows. “Get Yah Head Bust” is a highlight for this reason. On “No Evidence” he modulates his hushed delivery about every imaginable way around an 8-bar drum loop. It’s clear that SGP’s production sense also allows him a rare talent for how to effortlessly jump between flows.
Lyrically, SpaceGhostPurrp can be a mixed bag. He’s at his most compelling when detailing his X-rated escapades. He’s in the business of worshipping his women, even referring to his subject as an O.G. — an “original goddess” — on “Danger.” These are verses not crafted as boasts, but entreaties to whichever woman (women?) are in his bed at the moment. Even “Suck A Dick 2012” — with its clearly subjugating title (it’s the sequel to “Suck A Dick For 2011,” after all) — so heavily focuses on mutual pleasure that by the time the aggressive chorus comes in, it’s not clear whether this is subordination or Purrp just talking dirty. Lines like “Adam and Eve/ Fucking in leaves/ This a beautiful feeling” seem to suggest the latter.
There’s also plenty of deceptively positive philosophy being served up here. Near the end of “The Black God,” SpaceGhost insists we keep our heads up: “See, the world is not a safe place/ Gotta keep a smile up on your face.” The anxious need to dodge the world’s ills and live well is laid out on closer “Raider Prayer.” He first tips his hat to the women (“My songs is for the goddesses who puttin’ in work”), and then wraps up his whole life approach at the end of the first verse: “It seem the world will never get no better/ I just lay here with my bitch as I count this cheddar.” Indeed, SpaceGhostPurrp is an underground star, but by no means is he a savior, or even an aspiring one: his hopes and worries not so far off from any ordinary listener’s.
The only real disappointment on Mysterious Phonk is the appallingly, sometimes distractingly plain lyrical approach that plagues tracks like “Mystikal Maze” and especially “Osiris Of The East.” The latter, with lazy lines like “N—a got it made now/ What can I say / You should pray to me and be my slave now,” sounds legitimately like it was all done in one off-the-top take. (Which, considering his impressive “5 Fingers of Death” freestyle on Sway in The Morning, feels less critical than near-factual). This basic flow is intentional, but that makes it no more fun to listen to.
A lot of people were likely introduced to SGP through his “back in this bitch” feature on A$AP Rocky’s “Purple Swag Pt. 2,” or through some vicious production on Rocky’s knocking “Pretty Flacko.” A since-squashed beef, rooted in SpaceGhost’s claims that his RVIDXR KLVN’s style had been hijacked, between A$AP and SpaceGhost has cut any previous artistic ties. But that isn’t going to spell the end for SpaceGhostPurrp, and Mysterious Phonk’s strengths make that clear. He may not have superstar charisma on the mic, but his ability to create an enveloping, dungeon-like sphere of sound practically guarantees you’ll be seeing his name pop up on plenty of great releases for years to come.