Rating: 5.5 / 10
Reviewer: A to the L
You know what’s cool? When I get emails from indie artists who have actually taken the time to read this site, and get an idea of what they’re dealing with, and how their album is likely to be covered if it makes it onto these pages, as opposed to MC ToeRag from Chi-Town who has just copied and pasted 126512786 contact addresses for Hiphop sites into the ‘to:’ field of their email, hoping that someone, anyone will reach out to them, and pay attention to their 2-bit project.
Its about style, folks. And manners. And respect.
And so, I introduce you to Alexipharmic, a college junior in Los Angeles, who proclaimed his love for tomato soup in his initial email, and then enclosed a recipe for said soup with his cd (celery is a big no-no by the way – this ain’t The Ivy.) Bribery will get you everywhere. As if such Solanaceaen japery wasn’t enough, the big hearted bugger has pledged to give 50% of all earnings on CD’s, merchandise, concert revenue, etc to charity (namely the Save Darfur project.)
Tugging on my heart strings (nullus) is a surefire way to focus my attention on a project – you know I’m all about the puppies, and the kittens, and the crack babies. A to the L IS FOR THE CHILDREN! However, please don’t mistake my partaking of soup recipe bribes as an indication that sympathy votes (and corresponding higher-than-normal-cos-that’s-my-man-with-the-soup-scores) will be handed out if this album is a car wreck.
I’m nice. But I’m not THAT nice.
On with the show.
First opinion? Its very… um… white. NOT that there’s anything wrong with that. Except actually there is – that whole annunciation thing gets on my tits… in Hiphop its ‘trigga’ not ‘trigger’ etc etc. Even putting this issue to the side for a second, the autobiographical opener ‘Who Is Alexipharmic’ is a bit of a head-melter, with Sarx’s stacatto beat already beginning to induce a migraine before Alex drops his opening lines. Flow-wise, he rides the beat perfectly – there’s definitely nothing glaringly wrong with his lyrics or his flow (although there’s a little bit of Kweli-like shoehorning of words into lines at points), but it might take a few spins before I can get used to the Mike D chopped & screwed-esque flavor of his voice.
The morose ‘Summer’ is a much better fit for his vocals as he explains the story of a young girl named (surprisingly) Summer and her life struggles. Reminiscent of 2Pac’s ‘Brenda’s Got A Baby’, but lacking the polish of that particular track, it serves as a warning to all on the dangers or drugs.
“Summer’s world shone bright, despite never knowing her biological
Parents that placed her in a dumpster near the hospital
Nurse Jones raised her right, and did all that was possible
For a woman of sixty-five that had her own life’s obstacles
Provided all she could afford, “a Ford” pickup and a tenement
Clean clothes, food, medicine, all bought for Summer’s betterment
Hesitant to let her out on the sidewalk alone
For fear of what was on the corner a few steps from home
But seasons change and it seems to have shown
She couldn’t protect Summer when she was full grown”
‘Fox News’ is a vicious beatdown of Murdoch’s ‘fair and balanced’ current affairs network, and the rousing call to arms against one of Bush’s greatest crutches sits perfectly over Clockwork Beats’ anthemic production to provide one of the highlights of the album. Its a perfect example of a ‘perfect fit’ between the rapper and the beat.
Unfortunately there are several glaring examples on “Run” of the most imperfect of fits too. While ‘Dark Days Of Darfur’s vicious vocal attack on US foreign policy and general world apathy towards the situation in Darfur is on point, the beat is sadly missing the vital spark to really bring it to life, as it trundles along weighed down by the stodgy African drum samples. Similarly ‘Wax Philosophical’ shines because of the old-school flavor of the percussion, but falls down majorly when Alex and guest Sarx begin trading vocals, with the pair both sounding more than a little overwhelmed by the fact that the sparse beat doesn’t disguise any of their delivery issues quite like some of the other more complex beats do. ‘Blueprint Of A Terrorist’ and ‘Adam And Eve And Koko’ are all-round uncomfortable listens, with major flaws in both beat and vocal delivery (although it must be pointed out that while the ideas behind both tracks are thought-provoking, its the execution of these ideas that lets both tracks down.)
Elsewhere, tracks like ‘Awkward Clockwork’, ‘Potholes’, and the title track provide a better bang for the buck. ‘Awkward Clockwork’ sees Alex examine his status in life, who he is, where he has come from, where he is going etc. over techno-tinged, string-heavy production; ‘Potholes’ is a simple piano-driven track and features Alex trading verses with guest Abadawn; ‘Run’ meanwhile focuses on several major historial events, and places Alex at the scene of each one as he tries to affect the outcome – Clinton’s near impeachment, Vietnam, the treaty of Versailles, Columbus ‘discovering’ America, the US slave trade, the Last Supper… all suddenly have an extra figure in their midst, pleading with the main headliners to look at things a little differently with the benefit of his hindsight.
Alexipharmic describes himself as “a kid trying to change the world for the better through music”, and sums up his sound as “something like Atmosphere meets Immortal Technique meets 2Pac with a dash of Bob Dylan and the Buddha”. Its actually a fairly accurate description – this IS music that IS saying something, and those who get off on the Slug/Atmosphere style of Hiphop will probably find there’s much here that moves them. Personally, its not my cup of tea, but I certainly applaud Alex’s efforts, and the fact that on several of these tracks, his visions are realised – the music has a message that the beat supports perfectly. The artist himself would surely admit that its often a little rough around the edges, but there’s plenty of room for growth here, and on this evidence, I don’t think this will be the last I hear of Alexipharmic.