Album: Kite Crucifix Beyond: Valium 1
Label: Hoverock Records
Rating: 4 / 10
Should you not be familiar with Andersen’s fairytale ‘The Emperor’s New Clothes’, here’s the short version: There was once an emperor who was obsessed with his wardrobe. One day two swindlers came to town, claiming to be able to work the most magnificent fabrics into garments that would be invisible to anybody who was either unfit for office or incredibly stupid. Intrigued, the emperor commissioned a new robe, hoping to detect which of his officials were up to their task and to distinguish the wise men from the fools. The swindlers were given money and began to work, weaving their non-existent fabric into non-existent clothes. Curious, the emperor sent his men to survey the work in progress, and in fear that they would be exposed, they reported what they were told they would see but didn’t really see. The news of the wondrous robe spread fast.
Finally the emperor asked to witness the weaving himself, and staring at an empty loom like everybody else, all he could do is praise the work as his followers obediently agreed with him. Then came the day when the robe was ready. The emperor got undressed, and the swindlers handed each garment to him, describing it in detail and praising its subtlety. Everybody went along with the charade, complimenting the emperor on his new clothes, noblemen even pretending to carry the train. Proudly, the emperor presented himself to his people, until one child said: “But he hasn’t got anything on!” Realizing his mistake, all the emperor could do was keep up the appearance and finish the procession naked but with as much dignity as he could muster.
Should you somehow be unable to see how that ties in with what we call hip-hop music, let me break it down for you. There are many – mostly self-elected – emperors in rap, and a lot of them are running around naked, figuratively speaking (including those that literally expose their gym-chiseled torsos, homegrown beer bellies or chirurgically enhanced boobs). Reminding you of the universal moral of The Emperor’s New Clothes is just another way of saying ‘Don’t believe the hype!’
It is important to understand that this approach should not be limited to any one end of the spectrum. Criticize the top sellers for whatever you feel like. They’re already laughing all the way to the bank. But make sure you direct the same amount of scepticism towards the exclusive brotherhoods that are abound in hip-hop. By the same token, try not to meet their elitism with your own. Be receptive enough to recognize and respect achievements in any field of hip-hop.
At least that’s how I as a hip-hop fan tried to handle phenomenons as different as Eminem and Company Flow. To stick with the latter for a moment, over the years we €™ve seen the emergence of the type of rapper who in Organized Konfusion not only had a guiding light, but also a lauded underground team whose name symbolizes his own lyrical vision. It’s the rapper who attempts to channel the complexity of the world, who impresses you with the sheer amount of information he processes in his rhymes. Admirers of that approach would probably argue that simple minds fail to grasp the complex nature of reality and therefore can only make simple observations about the world they €™re living in. Smart minds, on the other hand, know that there are no certain answers, that there is often more than meets the eye, etc., which inevitably renders their rhymes more intricate. Yet as any reasonable human being will tell you, a smart mind is not always a sane mind, and some of the smartest solutions are also the most simple.
Artistic license is a subdivision of free speech, and as such I €™m willing to defend it through and through. And so should you. But that doesn €™t prevent us from disagreeing with what some jerky commentator says or with how some wacky artist expresses himself. That €™s why I can €™t really condone Hoverock Records €™ €œKite Crucifix Beyond: Valium 1. € I believe it €™s a case of creativity running amok. It €™s logically beyond comprehension. You guessed it, this is avantgarde hip-hop of the most extreme kind. If you’ve been a longtime visitor to this site, you know that this type of music traditionally doesn’t get much love around these parts. Personally I always considered myself to be a bit more open, but now that I find myself at the other end of the cyberworld in Altrap.com’s critic €™s chair, I realize that some things are too much even for me.
If you don €™t expect music to make too much sense, or if you see more sense in something that doesn €™t make too much sense because that way it converges with real life, then by all means give this sampler a try. Give ‘The Good Son’, ‘Boondock Saints’, Take 7 and Kems a chance. Give them the benefit of the experimental artist. Find comfort in the fact that their product, albeit charged with distortion and dissonance, looks and sounds professional. Take the fact that the individual performers often produce their tracks themselves as an indication that these are pople who try to implement their own artistic vision. A label’s full-length debut should always get particular attention, maybe even moreso when it’s a compilation, and Miami-based Hoverock Records surely busts its ass to offer hip-hop fans an alternative. If you’re simply looking for something different or demanding, this sampler should be worth a try.
Still, €œKite Crucifix Beyond: Valium 1 € is not my definition of intelligent hip-hop. Then again, I don’t even know if that’s what they were going for with their “unforgettable off-beat fantasies.” All I know is that the mere addition of big words, often in apparently completely arbitrary order, is wide open to criticism, especially when you can’t muster a tenth of the style and flair we’ve come to associate with dope hip-hop since day one. Focusing on producers like PFM, Orion Pax and JES the Universal, Hoverock could come up with a pretty potent instrumental album, as evidenced by ‘Android Joe Namath,’ which announces itself like a sea vessel with its resounding horn (and is structurally not far away from southern sound explorers like DJ Paul & Juicy J and Timbaland), or ‘20,000 Leagues Under the Cosmos,’ where Orion Pax starts with distant depth charges, before seguing into a quirky mid-part and ending with heavy-set drums and a subdued melody. PFM’s ‘Claustrophobix’ is a nicely layered instrumental I could imagine putting on an experimental mixtape, and he deserves credit for concocting the sonic power surges that threaten to electrocute you at any moment on ‘Arktik.’
All of the beats, however, are subject to relentless adjustments, playing into the stereotype of the nerd who leaves every work incomplete because he’s never satisfied. Vocally, there’s not one rapper I would like to get more acquainted with, not one that would be eligible for the term MC, not if MC means Move the Crowd. At this point, the Hoverock Alumni speak in a coded language, and it’s doubtful if anyone actually understands that code, they included. If they don’t, we’ve got a classic case of ‘The Emperor’s New Clothes’.