Review Summary: Dear Sputnik: Please Don't Sleep On This One.
Once I tried to read Ulysses
. I didn’t even make it past the second chapter, but I read the last couple pages out of curiosity and my mind was blown. Joyce’s genius filled me with inspiration and the profound prospect of endless possibility: here was a masterpiece, difficult to penetrate and yet so affecting. The idea of abstract art, of diving off the deep end and returning with the key to the universe, enthralled me.
The first time I listened to Black Up
was like the first time I read the end of Ulysses
was like the first time I listened to cLOUDDEAD
. Special and deep areas of my brain were tapped. I still consider cLOUDDEAD
to be one of the best hip-hop albums I’ve ever heard. It is the coalescence of the Anticon label's unique and undeniable talents; a triumphantly rewarding magnum opus.
, and similarly murky, psychedelic and genre-bending. But the most pronounced difference is how this sh*t bumps
. The whole thing is bathed in an air of seemingly effortless dope-as-fvck-dom. “An echo from the hosts that profess infinitum” loops a ridiculously sick vocal sample before kalimba, bongos and a gathering of other instruments enter and the track hits outer space. “Swerve…” is a dizzyingly good closer that, yes, swerves and snaps with jaw-dropping results. When it comes to the production on Black Up
, the closest reference points that come to my mind are the jazz samples of Endtroducing…
and the spectral thunder of El-P. But the music here is really on another level. Fuzz thumps, drums revolve, mantras repeat: boundaries are broken.
There is also the rapping, courtesy of Palaceer Lazaro, aka Digable Planets frontman Butterfly. The lyrical content is generally abstract (in a good way), but a couple standout tracks are thematically focused. “A treatise…” is a sweet ode to a fly girl and “yeah you” serves up phony rappers on a plate of rolling construction. Otherwise we get mostly spiritual verse like “You can’t sleep / Always hear that beat / It flow back to mind / Every time you breathe”
and personal-favorite “Clear some space out / So we can space-out”
. Palaceer’s MC-ing is solid overall, but look elsewhere if you want the tightest rhymes in recent memory.
is far from perfect and also far from classic, but it is important and really just inspiring. In less than 35 minutes it blows through the already extraordinary hip-hop landscape of 2011 like a ship traveling in hyperspace. It is a thoroughly hot banger but it is also avant-garde art of an outstandingly high caliber. It reminds us of all the creativity and beauty that there is to be found in life by joyously presenting it to us in front of our faces.