Flowers for My Father

9 out of 10
Brandon Backhaus | March 14, 2013

When I was young, I stayed with my dad every other weekend until my mom moved us to California when I was about ten. At that point it was underage plane trips complete with Delta wings pinned onto our matching shirts and the knowing nods and voices of overcompensating stewardesses. My little brother and I would spend a month or two every summer in New Orleans before heading back to LA.

My dad used to be big on brushing teeth. I didn’t realize it then but my dad is very self-conscious of his teeth. Now his front four upper teeth are all implants. You’d never be able to tell that they were knocked out when, as a kid, his face smacked hard against concrete during a particularly violent pillow fight with his older brother. But when I was a kid, technology, or the lack thereof, required my dad wear an insert that hugged the roof of his mouth. Before meals, he’d pop the teeth out and make funny faces at us. I’ll never forget that sucking sound of it being popped out or the endless fascination with four teeth attached to a medieval combination of metal and plastic sitting on his napkin.

One day, after an elementary school lesson on dental health, we were all provided these little chewy pills. The idea was that after you brushed, you were supposed to chew the pill and it showed, by dying it bright red, all the gunk and plaque and shit you missed through the inferior brushing techniques of childhood. It was supposed to teach you a lesson, but I took it as a challenge. I’d finally prove to my dad, a constant critic of my inadequate brushing, who really knew best. In the end it became just another wave contributing to the erosion of my perceived infallibility as I chewed the pill and was greeted by a mouth full of red, plaque-covered disgusting little boy teeth. My dad used to tell us, "front yard, backyard, upstairs, downstairs," – a mantra to ensure we brushed everywhere. I still tell it to my kids. And I hope someday they tell it to theirs. It turns out we usually do know best.

I’m glad I’ve figured that out while he’s still here. I’m glad I get to express my gratitude. So many of my friends don’t have that opportunity. Or never did. Despite the distance, my dad’s impact on my life is remarkable. And the older I get the more I realize it. I think Flowers for My Father is Sadistik’s formal announcement of the same. Though he’s not fortunate enough to share it any longer with anyone but us.

Sadistik didn’t exactly come from nowhere. I’d heard his name around. Heard a track here and there. He’s worked with Emancipator and Kristoff Krane, Cage. But I hadn’t really ever stopped and given him a committed listen. And if anything he’s previously released is as polished, well-written, expertly delivered, and emotive as Flowers for My Father, I’ve been seriously sleeping on dude.

Flowers for My Father is a mature release. Not mature as in lifestyle, I’m pretty sure Sadistik is still about that rap life. And you all should know by now that has nothing to do with maturity. But mature in terms of content and musicality. The whole record has an unhurried pace that makes the listener give each song its due. I’ve listened to the album probably four times now, and I haven’t skipped a single song. In fact quite the contrary, unless I’m paying attention to the titles as they chance, the album kind of runs together. It displays a unity of sound that is hard to pull off without the use of a single producer and even then. There are timely and thoughtful samples, over strings and synths and interesting drum programming.

My family, after my grandmother’s funeral, all gathered at this really, really good restaurant. It was so strange eating such delicious food while feeling so, so sad. I’ll leave that description there.

Outside of the excellent, “City in Amber,” the highlights are, for me, the last four tracks. Instead of the album getting weaker with throw away tracks tacked onto the end to flush out what should otherwise be a mixtape or and EP or something, Flowers for My Father gathers strength like a monster feeding off the fear and bullets, getting more and more urgent, building towards a satisfying conclusion. “Seven Devils” is a heavy rock infused head-nodder with a catchy chorus with one version: “Seven devils in my head / saying they are friends / Seven devils in my head / playing their pretend / Seven devils placing bets / Seven devils made of flesh / Seven devils in my head craving for attention!”

“Exit Theme” featuring Astronautalis and Lotte Kestner is a desperate leap into the night, a running start at a wall, full-knowing the outcome but incapable of ready, set, go. “Melancholia” might be, personally, the most meaningful writing on the record. I’ve actually looked up the words, doing that old replay-play-replay-play to make sure I understand. It’s why it’s taken me so long to write this review. I’ve been to busy actually listening. Flowers for My Father closes with what might be best song on the album, with chorus from label-head and lumpy vegetarian, Ceschi.

Sadistik has done an incredible thing with Flowers for My Father: he’s managed to display his skills both technically and through concise writing, and managed to move it all forward a bit. What I mean by this is that this is the first record from a, for lack of a better term, straight up rapper to achieve the same soaring meaning and sonic quality of Ceschi, or Astronautalis, or Why?, without the ability to sing or anything. Sadistik has managed to include intelligent features where needed to compensate. He also has the ability to communicate emotion not unlike David Ramos, with the ability to spit of a more traditional emcee. This might be the crossover record indie rap has been looking for.