Review Summary: Stepping out from behind the boards to immortalize the CunninLynguists' legacy
Hooray. Kno finally decided to craft a solo album after being heavily petitioned by the loyal fan-base of his choicely named hip hop group; Cunninlynguists. It’s of no surprise that after last year’s terrific Strange Journey
releases, the next hip hop album floating to the top from the Cunninlynguists moniker would kick ass. The producer, known for his grimy, rampant southern-style beats, is in full control, pouring a healthy amount of dissonance and acid-flaying synths into a darker, emotional venture into life and death. And for the first time since 2003’s SouthernUnderground
, he’s picked up the mic again to deliver more witty, punchline rhymes. Fans of the group, throw your guns in the air, for Death is Silent
brings this respected producer to new heights of turntabalism and lyrical dexterity. It is an effort that outshines the masterful albums that brought CL to fame, and stands to become among the top hip hop albums of the century.
From the album cover, tracklist and concept, genre mashing tendencies tell us that this will be the spawning of ‘emo-rap
’. Fear not, because til Fiddy realizes he has more chance of utilizing his talents by picking strawberries than rhyming, and cries an album about it, we won’t hear of this horrible genre title. The soundtrack aims for a depressing, soulful adventure that explores the shadow that death casts over us. Crudely, it is warning us that death is a bitch. At the crux of the album is a message that death is inevitable and creating life is only a way of averting the true purpose of living: to make the most of what we have already.
With CL-related releases, an instrumental version of the studio release is always mandatory because the album can always stand as a piece of art with beats alone. Let’s just say, this time round, Kno has exceeded his best experimentations, crafting a glorious entry into the vaults of instrumental hip hop fame. No sh*t. The production here is exceptional
. You wouldn’t think so from the first couple of tracks, but when the album starts flipping through the many highlights, the masterpiece will be unveiled. Loneliness
is Kno’s biggest bassline which sounds like the best thing he’s done since A Piece of Strange’s
“Beautiful Girl”. Expectations are immediately exceeded on the next two tracks, both released as singles. La Petite Mort (Come Die With Me)
is Kno’s way of showing he is in full control when he rhymes both sublime verses. The first single, and the second track in a row to send shivers up your spine, Rhythm of the Rain
, plays Spanish guitar, crisp drums and guitar-slides as Thee Tom Hardy and Tunji spit beautiful rhymes with earnest and conviction. Tunji kills a verse that would rival any other delivery on the album: “Wintertime – one sweater/Dinnertime – crumbs fed us/I sit and think about the wisdom that I’ve gained/Reminiscin as I listen to the rhythm of the rain” It’s going to be hard to say, but after two full length CL albums and many other guest verses, Kno has nailed his best verse right here. Sleek rhymes and apt analogies abound, the verse will stand as a benchmark for the rest of his material.
The bar has been set too high for the rest of the release with the first half of the album terminating with Smile
, providing a groovy instrumental freshening as a quick way to trial a smooth, jazzy hip hop sound with drums that should be talked about forever. Natti’s verse on If You Cry
has been nailed to no surprise, and Deacon is solid as he features on Spread You Wings
The second half kicks off to the tune of frantic pipes and psybient base licks, as Kno spits “She don’t swallow/That claim’s preposterous/Let’s just say she has a populous esophagus” on Graveyard
. They Told Me
and When I Was Young
wallow in magnificently chill synths, with the former invoking ex-weed addicts to flick their wristbands as we are taken to an ethereal landscape of sinking, tropical beaches as the ocean tests out the boards. Deacon the Villain opens up about where his life is heading, and Kno speaks of his childhood troubles on the latter - “Didn’t know my father, at least not sober” A lighter side is taken, on the final rhyme, Not at the End
reminiscent of Kno’s direction on the Strange Journey
series. The track is friggin’ addictive, planting limericks of fun-loving nostalgia into our heads as Kno has a bit of fun “Yeah, I’m here now/There’s nothing to feel now/One day you will die/So I’m killing the year round” Tonedeff, another QN5 riser, spills stories of his childhood on one of the greatest verses of the album, namely I Wish I was Dead
. It’s sad as f*ck, and it’s a rhyme that would feel so forced on any album other than this. “And I wait for the light at the end of the tunnel, until it hits me, and it was a train.” As one of the stronger tracks on the album, the song is marred by Kno’s readin’-a-diary style verse, which is by far his weakest on the album. However, the beat is a flawless freefall into space-time, Psychedelic Ambient-esque phantasms, with an incredible deep, dirty, southern beat meets Mary-Jane madness.
They tend to be an incestuous bunch at QN5, and most rappers (even those we haven’t heard before) appearing on the tracks do not fail in providing the same unrestrained honesty as they pull on our heart strings, verse after verse. As a lyricist, Kno is probably not given the credit he deserves, plucking lines of gold such as “Tell Mother Nature she can blow on the wind and choke on my kids” and “The clouds break and I can tell it’s over/‘Cause she’s my sunshine but I’m catching melanoma”. Appearances by Deacon the Villain and Natti on at least two tracks each, along with the stylistic production reminiscent of A Piece of Strange
lead you to believe that this is a CL release. And why shouldn’t it be" It has the same production, emcees, guest performers, yet it oozes with a dark foreboding never heard on any other CL release. Although Kno was right in saying this album would sound nothing like any other CL material, the level of emotional maturity conveyed in the lyrics and delivery beg for your devoted attention as the rappers bleed their souls out to the listener. It dabbles in Kno’s witty streak vested in his earlier works, but is dwarfed by the deep personal bond he establishes with the listener - “Wish you could see Atlanta/Wish you could see your Nana/Wish you could see that I believe that we should be together”
As the last instrumental track concludes, “It’s one life to live, so do the best you can.” Any time, we can fall victim, being left with nothing and taken from everything. Therefore, we must live our life and look to the future and the joys that life provides us. Kno is ready for it. Because it’s about time we all woke up.
Kno’s “Death is Silent” is out 12th October, 2010 via QN5 Music