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[TOOTH Records; 2012]

By ; October 3, 2012 

Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOG

Experimental rap artist B L A C K I E has been flying under the radar of the music scene for a while now, only to be releasing some of the most out-there hip-hop that you can find. From last year’s EP True Spirit and Not Giving a Fuck, his work spanning back to 2008, and his live shows, he’s consistently held the reputation of Houston’s deliverer of inhuman amounts of noise, and rightly so, taking on-stage around twenty speakers full of abrasive beats and tormenting vocals. His infamy continued on, but he was beginning to get recognized simply by how loud he could get. Gen, on the other hand, acknowledges the supposed shallowness of the project to some, but spins it into thought and fulfills a mental narrative that quickly starts to sound more and more tragic.

Gen begins with a continuing series of ambient noise tracks, all of which carry varying amounts of sonic harshness. “Gen I” flows ungracefully into “Radiowaves”, a mocking, throwdown-esque track alluding to the sensory overload of today. Immediately noticeable is the complete lack of drums; it’s all acoustic, focusing solely on the extremities of Michael LaCour’s voice over piano and a surprisingly fitting use of saxophone. This acoustic theme of B L A C K I E’s continues throughout the record, creating some of the most conscious production choices that never come off as predictable — it’s a trip every time. “Loading Dock Blues” continues his existential, pseudo-psychotic ranting in a brutal spree of energy, spitting lines like “That mother fucker said ‘I hate my wife, I love my kids, I drink whiskey every night and we all laugh'” and following it with maniacal laughing. The sounds of the record at this point appear very harsh on the surface, but B L A C K I E’s raw anger descends into something that progressively sounds like reason.

Another object on the surface is the overwhelmingly easy comparison to Death Grips. While both are strange, loud outcasts in the rap world, B L A C K I E is far more concerned with laying his feelings on the table in the most human, soulful manner where his source material is very different, more focused at spreading minimalism in his music and presenting it in a maximalist sense, which for Death Grips is the other way around. Going deep into what the music is about, Michael LaCour could be better compared to blues artists and even conscious hip-hop — there is a positive message underneath the slime and agression.

The message becomes truly apparent around “Home Town Blues” when it devolves to LaCour slamming out raw emotion over a piano. Where that noise-rap reputation came from dissolves and allows a rare search into a man with powerful thoughts. You think back to the beginning of the album where B L A C K I E was using its runtime spastically screaming and moaning, creating a specific level discomfort between the listener and artist, listening to this man who is just seemingly yelling into a mic for the sake of being the loudest he can be.

The tables are turned a little bit by the time “Selfishness of Evil Men” comes around, or are at least quelled to the point of seeing his humanity. This track is seriously stunning, starting off with a calmly deliverance of: “Where I’m from, it’s better than a lot of places, because at least bodies will get left by dumpsters, but roaches can be your friends if you smile at the right angles.” The music just keeps going through vivid line after vivid line and is then surrounded by a build music where drums appear for the first time. The drums aren’t this giant wash of bass and snare, rather a humble stomp and clap with an occasional bass drum hit and it becomes realized that his message of Gen’s loudness and grime becomes unusual clarity, commenting: “The big boys always win, sink or dive into the deep end.”


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