For years Hip-Hop has been anxiously awaiting the arrival of the next truly prolific hardcore storyteller from back east. Someone to pick up where illustrious names like the Notorious B.I.G. and Slick Rick left off… This past Tuesday we got exactly that when Connecticut ex-con turned emcee Blacastan’s debut album Blac Sabbath was released.
Arrested and sentenced as an adult when he was barely legally allowed to drive, the Hartford, CT product is no stranger to the harsh realities he wields in his music. Some might foolishly assign his willingness to bare the facts of his troubled early life to being some sort of attempt at street credibility that he can use to make himself more marketable. Thing is, Blac doesn’t exactly advocate much ignorance in his wonderfully dense verses as much as he simply just tells the truth and seldom, if ever does he come off as your typical hard case who randomly decided to pick up a mic. No, in fact Blacastan is utterly witty and crafty and not at all an also ran, metaphor-for-hire mixtape act. He’s just as much at home spitting about the minor nuances of life as he is at giving us a glimpse into the more un-tame flipside of the coin that exists for so many.
Blac Sabbath is a classic hardcore Hip-Hop record. Containing all the unmistakable earmarked traits that lovers of the same sub-genre found on LP’s like Ready To Die, Word…Life and Enta Da Stage. From beginning to end the listener is enthralled with Blac’s anecdotal street gists that he spills with ease.
Starting with the musical dinner bell of any true head in some percussion that smoothly fades in, Blac bursts through the aural sound wall slingin’ a manic verse over a stripped down beat that bares a highly recognizable drum break, all while daring to taunt the sample police to sue him for his infraction on behalf of real Hip-Hop. From there we move into “Blac Magic”; a darting fantasy speech accompanied by an otherworldly beat composition, where again Blac is unafraid to touch on any and every topic he’d like to, weaving seamlessly in and out of a series of various themes. “The Dice Life” ensues and Blac keeps the superb pace going. This cut boasts Blac’s truly impressive knack for storytelling from the perspective of an inanimate object, a skill that also pops up on the gloriously engaging “The Life Of A Tape”; where Blac masterfully takes you on a life span progression told through the 1st person aspect of a cassette tape. Hip-Hop points scored…
There are plentiful moments on this 19 track opus when our MC’s imagery is just taken to extremely, technically head turning places…”Returning To Nam” is deftly graphic and gives RA The Rugged Man’s “Uncommon Valor” verse a run for it’s money as thee prime Vietnam inspired Hip-Hop penning to date. His talent is more than just an avid rhymer falling into his rhythm or getting lucky. His heady verbal symmetry can’t be ignored.
A paramount aspect to this cultivated album is Blac’s admirable beat selection. Every track flows together as one and the consistency that is produced as a result is first rate. Utilizing main production contributor ColomBeyond’s minimalistic boom bap gems that for the most part stick to the aesthetically perfect formula of 4 bar loops littered and layered with exquisite vinyl lifted stabs, Blac plays his position of aggressive, yet highly intelligent pavement poet to perfection. Touching on an oh so played subject in interracial dating, “Diamond” displays Blac reciting his love for Latinas and how that sweet tooth for chicas can sometimes be a hazardous undertaking when it concerns an overprotective father.
For good measure Blac of course gives us the ubiquitous crime story in several pockets, but also manages to put hair raising themes behind them. In the case of “The Darc Krystal”, he delves into the subject matter that is the afterlife and the atrocities that frequently come before it. It contains several, exceptional sorted references that stick out because they overthrow the track’s energy through affecting poignancy…the same occurrence takes place on the ode to a hood other than yours; “City To City” as well as the conspiracy theory and shock-imagery laced “You Wouldn’t Believe”.
Not one track on Blac Sabbath suffers from a sub par lyrical effort. Blacastan’s energy is un-yielding and he absolutely powers his debut with the force of a legitimately hungry artist armed with a properly padded rhyme book. “Blac Sabbath” isn’t overrun with guest features and the men who do add their vocals (Celph Titled, Esoteric, Bad Newz, Mark Fury & ColomBeyond) all possess a more than adequate skill set and rightly deserved to be apart of this monumental exertion of slick, throwback emceeing and golden age inspired beats. There are few albums I’ve ever reviewed that are as thoroughly presented and performed. A new star in Hip-Hop has emerged and re-birthed an all too forgotten raw sub text in the greater narrative. Perhaps lost in the incessant modern Hip-Hop nods to materialism and disingenuous props is the struggle..the relentless battle between good and evil, temptation and restraint, keeping it 100 and selling out that Blacastan brings back to the collective conscious of the culture mightily through superlative storytelling skills.
My greatest fear for this magnificent debut is that it’ll be lost in he shuffle; overlooked due to a younger generation feeling alienated by the steady stream of unfamiliar 70′s Rock and Soul samples, bare bones beat construction and wildly pugnacious mic venting. If your 15 to 18 years old this is your Ready To Die kids…Filled with the same flashing, relatable vulnerability coupled with edgy, cautionary pennings that all reflect authentic talent and humanity, Blacastan has undoubtedly birthed a classic debut.
$20.00 out of $20.00
-Dominick “BIG D O” Ledezma
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