We’re in an (albeit circular) era where rappers got more chains than raps. Where dressing like a Tiger or Tygah or Tyga or Tigger or whatever the fluff is more prized than attacking the mic like one. Where names resemble Muppets and r&b stylings are again no-diggety-ing hip hop to death. I’m not gonna sit here and complain about it. It’s just an observation. I don’t listen to that stuff much, but if an artist or song or album did appeal to me I wouldn’t have any reservations about going batshit for it.
Take that new Kendrick Lamar track with Young Jeezy. While Kendrick is fast becoming or might have already became the new face of as-close-as-the-industry-will-get-to-a-lyricist, I haven’t really fuzzed with Jeezy at all! Like AT ALL! I can’t name a track, an album, a video, nada. Does that make me an out of touch old, elitist prickface? Probs, bro. Probs. But that track goes HAAAAARRRRD! I cares not one shits about who the artist is. If it's goods, it's goods.
I have always felt that industry rap has its place in the grand scheme of things. I mean without it what would these underground rappers have to rap about? Without commercial hip hop to what would strippers dance? I mean I’m super suspicious of a dude riding by windows down bumping “Magic Stick”, but at a bachelor party with some tag-team ish going on, there is no better soundtrack. That music is perfectly suited to situations like that; it’s perfect fantasy music. And in those situations, I’m widdit.
I could critique most underground rap too for being too dense, annoying, poorly recorded, pretentious, full of delusions of grandeur from otherwise subpar artists. Collaborations are usually the worst! But when it’s good, there isn’t much better. I love the comic book-esque feel of fellow super emcees tagteaming to destroy the evil supervillian of wackness. Destruct (Rebel Minded Music) and Beond (Acid Reign) put out a record a few months back that makes a pretty damn successful attempt at a quality underground collaboration.
The album, called React, is a raw collection of straight-ahead raps from Destruct, aka Mr. Collab, aka I look like a terrorist, and Beond, aka the dude from Acid Reign who you can understand what he’s saying all the time. React is akin to what Social Distortion is to punk. It’s a no-frills, frontal, uncomplicated romp through fourteen grimy Broken Finguz-produced tracks. It’s a blue jeans and t-shirts (black, black, XL t-shirts) kind of sensibility that I can appreciate. You’re not going to get much flash from these guys. There’ll be no pyrotechnic, holographic, go-go dancers. There won’t be any swag, or neon, or ironic mustaches. Unfortunately that usually means there won’t be any girls either, but when are there ever girls at underground hip hop shows? (Minus of course you girls with Sage Francis Li(f)e inner-thigh tattoos, and/or felony convictions!) React is a straight-up, old school head-nodder.
Beond has made a name for himself as part of Project Blowed’s Acid Reign along with the tweeker-tongued Gajah. Beond’s brand of choppy skate raps appeal to my sense of street running. He’s the perfect soundtrack to a night out with backpacks full of cans. That being said, in person, I don’t think there is a more chill and respectful rapper in the game. Beond is simply a good, and very talented, dude.
With these two names on the cover, I half-expected Destruct to be outshined by the veteran Beond. While the reverse is hardly the case, Dee does a damn good job of keeping up. I’ve been performing and shitting about the underground LA hip hop for a decade and Destruct has grown from a raw ass battle rapper to an emcees emcee. His populist sentiments are solidifying him as an emcee for the people.
React is just that: a certified underground hip hop album for the people who love certified underground hip hop. If you ain’t that, this album ain’t for you. There aren’t over-coded double entendres, or arrays of syllables scattered about in an experimental kaleidoscope of meaning and imagery. That being said there are also very, very few throw away lines. On the whole the flows are surprisingly substantive and refreshingly gimmick-free. The features are strategic (AWOL One, Self-Jupiter, Pigeon John), and revealing (EQ, Gajah, Express Fresh). React, in no way, has cross-over written on it, nor was that in the plan. This is hard knock conscious rap, populous street music. And simply put, this record is my shit!