A Spanglish blog dedicated to the works, ruminations, and mongrel pyrotechnics of Yago S. Cura, an Argentine-American poet, translator, publisher & futbol cretin. Yago publishes Hinchas de Poesia, an online literary journal, & is the sole proprietor of Hinchas Press.
Thursday, November 4, 2010
NUAI REVIEW, "DETENTION & RECESS" (2010)
Listening to “Detention and Recess” (2010) you get this immediate sense that Nuai pray at the altar of Afrika Bambataa, Pete Rock, and Immortal Technique. That's just me, I'm an east coast scumbag, so my frame of reference is eastcoastcentric to say the least.
If I were from the west coast, though, I might say Nuai are reminiscent of Jurrasic 5 and Pharcyde, maybe Souls of Mischief. Their new album, “Detention & Recess," is eclectic without being overtly technical, politically conscious without being "preachy", and reverent of Hip-Hop's revolutionary zeal, while at the same time, playful and raw. Ultimately, though, these three Angelino emcees, Aaron, Moses and Rahten, make original asphalt ballads that are “hardcore” but not heartless.
Track 1, "Other Side of Town," samples what sounds like the guitar riff from Das Efx's, "They Want Das Efx". Aaron and Moses joust on this track, and their chemistry is evident, but Rahten shines as well and provides a sort of verbal ballast to counteract the duo. Aaron spits "if you avoid the freeways, the streets are less busy/...conscious of when things are changing/ handshakes and fist pound indicate what part you stay in." Toward the end of his initial cipher, Aaron spits that "observation is the best way to stay upper-handed," and somehow I knew I was dealing with a trio of freestyle fanatics.
It becomes evident early on that ”Detention & Recess” is a robust critique of our Anglo-centric education system. The album serves as rebuke to those who say the educational system is equitable across socio- economic lines. I guess you could say the album concerns the many ways in which an individual can become "institutionalized"(school vs prison). The title might also refer to the way that lyricists use the flow of rhythm and silence to express themselves (Detention & Recess, if you will). Regardless, Nuai's second independent release is a work of unadulterated heart, pure in its convictions, and influenced by acts like Dead Prez and Slum Village.
Track 9, “Monster,” is lo-fi backbeat made kooky by a cartoon xylophone. Rahten ignites this track with, “it feels like I am a lost soul/ I’m facing death at the crossroads/ walking long roads painted with skulls and crossbones/ in the stone garden, cold-hearted and alone”. The track addresses the personal demons that we sometimes create for ourselves. Rathen adds, “Research and design/ the science of creating a monster that spits rhymes/first thing give em him heart, conviction/ line after line/last thing insert new eyes/now he’s alive!”
Track 4, “Tracks Needs Trains” is a soulful ditty where the piano functions as bass, reminiscent of that first Wu-Tang joint (Enter the Wu-Tang: 36 Chambers) when they dropped C.R.E.A.M. and blew everyone’s head. Feature MC “The Sicks” raps, “I know my mommas said that money shit gets old/ but shit looks new when its dipped in gold/with a touch like Midas and a gift like Hov”. The Sicks even underscores a healthy obsession with Immortal Technique and the might sword-pen when he spits, “technique like Immortal, in this world like a portal with the pen as my sword I kill microphones”
Track 5, “Sea Sick,” is a jazzy joint that could have been inspired by something Del the Funky Homosapien dropped on No Need for Alarm, or the Outro of one of the three Guru’s Jazzmatazz albums. The track recounts the physical sickness slaves must have felt during the Middle Passage. All three emcees emote a mumble Rahten “And when I am at the bank, it’s like I walk the plank/ In the water with open wounds in a piranha tank…soldiers roll up your sleeve and express one of your worse pet peeves”. The chorus intones, “Why does it smell like this?/ What’s this around my wrist?/ shackles and chains laying in a pile of shit/ Why’s everyone screaming, nah I must be dreaming/ I’m feeling sea sick”.
My standard for Hip Hop is impossibly high. What that means is you better not waste my time because like it or not I am a walking Hip Hop encyclopedia. For one thing, I am slightly older than Hip Hop; my frame of reference begins with Hip Hop's inception in Kool Herc's Bronx basement at 1520 Sedgwick and ends with the last album the radio stations have been giving heavy rotation. I may not have been there, in that basement, but I hold most acts up to the spirit of that recreation room. It’s no wonder the mainstream has appropriated Hip Hop as its next cash cow. However, acts like Nuai ensure Hip Hop remains a sonic movement of righteous populism set to music mashed up by overzealous masters of ceremonies.