Boogiemonsters had an interesting approach to reppin' their spirituality in music. Their 1994 debut, Riders of the Storm
mostly has a mellow, funky alternative hip hop sound reminiscent of groups like A Tribe Called Quest
and De La Soul
. There are a few scattered Biblical references affirming the group's members, Vex, Myntric, Yodared and Mondo as subscribing to Christian faith, and while they don't beat you over the head with their beliefs, a few of the songs on here, like "Mark of the Beast" clearly indicate what the group wants to get across to its listeners. But the group scatters in lyrics about Africana, the power of good music, sex and other topics throughout the album, which definitely throws you off, whether you're a skeptical, heathen atheist like me, or a follower of the apparent god that the Boogiemonsters follow.
What I'm talking about is very much evident in the back to back tracks "Muzic Appreciation" and "Mark of the Beast" - Muzic Appreciation has the group members affirming their love of a woman, music itself, essentially picking her up like a woman at a bar. Then "Mark of the Beast" talks about Satan screwing a woman in the 69 position and impregnating her with the seed from "his gun", producing the Antichrist, coming across like the bizarre combination of the end of times passages of the Bible and a porno, though a kind of tame one, as none of the group members curse on any track on this album. Furthermore, the appraisal of black women, "Honeydips in Gotham", is pretty overtly sexual in nature.
Then there's "Old Man Jacob's Well", which is one of the creepiest and most disturbing narratives ever put on record. It falls somewhere inbetween social narratives like De La Soul
's "Millie Pulled a Pistol on Santa" and the horrorcore of groups like Gravediggaz
. Basically, Old Man Jacob is a child murderer. Two verses are told from his perspective, and one from one his victims, with the child being one of the rappers' verse with the pitch raised, while Old Man Jacob has his pitch lowered. Old Man Jacob knows he's a horrible human being and outright says that he deserves to burn in hell, but he believes he is helping the children he murders because he considers the world to be evil, and that the children he drops in an abandoned well would be better off in heaven. The chorus contradicts him a bit, though, and perhaps even the group member's own spiritual leanings, saying that "15 souls dwell" in the well, suggesting that the murder victims are basically stuck there.
The staunch darkness of "Old Man Jacob" and "Mark of the Beast" stick out like sore thumbs amongst the rest of the album, where the lyrical content essentially amounts to appraisal of the form of hip hop and the members' own rapping skills or being positive. Likewise, whereas many of the tracks don't have any Christian content at all, the biblical references in "Jugganauts", "Masterpiece Thoughts" and "Mark of the Beast" also stick out. Still, this album, which features production from Lords of the Underground DJ Lord Jazz, is definitely a welcome trip into unknown hip hop, and could be noted as one of the great forgotten alternative hip hop albums, with the group best remembered for this album's single, "Recognized Thresholds of Negative Stress".
Still, what do these guys have to offer to people that don't follow their religious beliefs? Well, I can appreciate the fact that they're not trying to hammer their message into listeners heads here (unlike their follow-up, God Sound
), and the real problem with groups like DC Talk
is not their Christianity, it's the fact that they're corny
. I'm not even sure this particular album qualifies as Christian hip hop. There's live soul and funk instrumentation placing this music well in line with alternative hip hop artists of the era, and the group does well by limiting the religious-based references to a minimum and not trying to beat the listeners' brains in when the songs do have a religious meaning to them.
All of the album's contradictory elements, such as the Basehead
-esque mixture of Jesus, weed smoking and lust, and a highly memorable disturbing social commentary track, make for a very peculiar album, though it is one I recommend, even as a heathen atheist. Eh.