Review Summary: Foster finds his stride, alongside more consistent production in a more concise package
While Sadistik’s 2008 release The Balancing Act
was an impressive debut, there were a handful of issues that held it back from being something really great. The number of different producers lent the album some variety, but with that variety came inconsistency. A major drawing point for the album was Emancipator supplying some of the beats, and while his tunes are undoubtedly gorgeous on their own, they aren’t ideal as a backing track for such an aggressively intimate hip-hop record. Tracks featuring Emancipator often split the listeners’ attention between the calming trip-hop and the aggressive verses Foster spits, which ultimately detracted from the albums replay value. With his sophomore release, Cody Foster (aka ‘Sadistik’) amends these missteps, working strictly alongside Toriano Terrell (aka ‘A Kid Called Computer’) to create a concise ep that approaches the limits of Foster’s extremely personal brand of hip-hop.
” Dying is an art, like everything else. I do it exceptionally well. I do it so it feels like hell. I do it so it feels real.”
Opening this EP is an extended introduction, backed by a monotonous Sylvia Plath extract. Anyone familiar with Sylvia Plath’s works (even those unfamiliar with poetry may recognise allusions to her from albums like Antler’s ‘Hospice
’) will immediately understand the lyrical direction intended for The Art of Dying
. The 6 tracks found here are intensely emotional and intimate, with Foster spewing his misgivings and regrets across an instrumental skeleton perfectly suited to his delivery. From tense strings runs accompanying an intrusive ride cymbal and aggressive lyrical content (‘Black Rose’), to a cloudy synth-heavy mix backing his more downhearted passages (‘Ghost in the Machine’), the emotions conveyed to the listener range from depressed to furious, and often switch between these several times within one song. The producer clearly worked very closely with Sadistik to develop beats that would enhance the purpose of each section of the album, and communicate confusion and suffering to the listener as effectively as possible.
All of the tricks found in Foster’s debut make their return on this album, but this time he eases them into the tracks with far more finesse than before. The rapid-fire assonance found in ‘Absolution’ makes a return in ‘Save Yourself’, but isn’t nearly as jarring as it was in his previous release, where he completely changed his flows pace to make it sound more impressive and thus detracted from the listening experience. Similarly, the most aggressive track to be found here, ‘Black Rose’, is a very mature step forward from the worst track on his debut, ‘Writes of Passage’, which was so out of place that it could warrant a skip. In this release, each song contributes to the next, and benefits from the song before it, constructing a far more coherent piece of music and perfectly depicting the emotional ups and downs associated with the end of a relationship.
The very specific lyrical content and personable delivery style means this album isn’t for everyone. While issues like whiny delivery and bloated run time from some of his other releases aren’t present here, it also doesn’t have the topical diversity that Flowers for my Father
does, which had whole tracks dedicated to covering facets of drug use, loss of a parent and dealing with your own imperfections. Here are 6 tracks wholly focused on relationships, and this means that if the listener can’t appreciate this extremely emotional portrayal of a disastrous end of 2 people’s commitment to each other, then they likely won’t enjoy the EP. Foster holds nothing back, revealing himself to the listener and rarely giving them time to breathe or reflect. His flow borders on suffocating, and while Terrell’s production and several spoken-word sections go a long way to alleviating this, it still somewhat limits the audience for this EP.
This is a single, unified reflection of Sadistik’s mental turmoil. It can be depressing, enraging, ugly, but above all, it is honest and intimate. Those who enjoyed his other releases may not find as much to love here, but those that do may fill a hole in their music library that they didn’t know existed. This is one of the most personal hip-hop records ever laid down, Foster’s most consistent release from front to back, and contains what is arguably Foster’s best single song in ‘Ghost in the Machine’. The Art of Dying
is 34 minutes of unfiltered emotion, a classic in the niche of emotional hip-hop and the height of Sadistik’s career to date.