It’s always refreshing to hear disciples of mid to late ‘90s independent New York hip-hop make great music. Brooklyn’s Super Chron Flight Bros., made up of Privilege and the extremely slept-on Billy Woods, are slowly establishing themselves as one of the more consistent groups to come out of NY underground. The pair started appearing on record with Woods’ unheralded indie release Camouflage, then the Reaver’s Terra Frima in the mid ’00s. Back in 2007, they dropped the extremely slept on Emergency Powers, then followed it up with the heavily dub-step influenced Indonesia. For lack of a better description, they’re seemingly continuing the career Cannibal Ox should have had if they hadn’t broken up, and that’s not just because Billy Woods used to be in a group with Vordul. With Cape Verde, they’re reportedly finishing their “trilogy,” after which Privilege and Woods will record some solo material. Cape Verde does an excellent job at exhibiting the strengths of the group, in creating abstract, yet vibrant lyrical paintings, all tied to a central theme.
Cape Verde has been described as “a day in front of the television,” and throughout the album, Privilege and Billy Woods craft their rhymes using abundant references to both prominent and obscure TV shows and movies. The album’s production is handled by long-time collaborators and Backwoodz Studio’s mainstays BOND and Willie Green, along with a track by Nasa. The small roster of producers creates a cohesive musical feel to go along with the TV theme, as well as splicing in samples from old TV commercials and news broadcasts.
The first song of the album, “Reggie Miller,” sets the album’s tone: After starting with the theme to “The Golden Years,” the track launches into an upbeat organ loop and guitar licks. The pair of MC tell tales of finding ways to make it through junior high and high school, particularly reveling in how marijuana, both smoking it and selling it (“Reggie Miller” also being 1990s slang for low-grade weed). The album then progresses to “Golden Grams,” Privilege’s ode to the morning ritual of waking up on a Saturday morning and spend a good chunk of the day watching cartoons. Song topics go from surviving on the streets (“B. More”, inspired by The Wire) to the complete ridiculousness of 24-hour news stations and the pundits that populate them (“No Spin Zone.”).
One of the album’s best tracks is “42nd St.”, where Super Chron trade verses with Lord Superherb, Pastense, and HiCoup, all trade verses over a funky Willie Green track that samples a chunk of Menahan Street Band’s “Traitor.” All five MCs create a vivid picture of pre-Rudolph Giuliani and pre-Disney Times Square, in all its grimy, crime-ridden, cracked-out glory. Willie Green provides more musical heat on “Rap City”; its soaring strings and keys create a solid platform for Privilege, Woods, and label-mate MarQ Spekt (of the Invizzibl Men), to rail against shady record industry practices.
Another is “Wheel of Fortune,” where, over a chaotic NASA track, Super Chron detail the United States current economic crisis through a game show metaphor. The track features a murderous opening verse by Masai Bey, who sounds right at home spitting his bent flow: “The ultra is truly tapping in/ Just because your paranoid doesn’t mean it ain’t happening/ If your ass got a safe seat, better strap it in fast/ Channel the soul of a solar panel, ’cause we’re running out of gas and ammo.” Woods later ends the track in grand fashion, spitting lines like, “The road to perdition is paved with debt consolidation forms/ Arm, leg, and your first born/ Midnight marauders robo-call to my answering machine/ Piña coladas at the Marriot in Witchita Falls for the seminar, living the dream.”
Then there’s the 1984-inspired “Emmanuel Goldstein,” where the legendary Big Juss (of Company Flow) absolutely shuts shit down on what’s essentially a guest solo-track. His pair of verses (though it’s more like one long verse) may well end up being the best of the year, and are, if nothing else, among the best of his storied career. Juss creates mind-blowing, disturbing imagery: “Reality is an overload engineered to breakdown your mental state and overwhelm you like Clay Aiken eating edible panties off of Reuben Studdard and Flavor Flav/ And you just realized that your trapped on a rickety Ferris Wheel from Hell with no escape.” He later goes for the throat with lines like, “R.I.P.: Revenge Isn’t Promised/ You’re just an average fucking Joe; you harmless/ Don’t let us take it back to Rome at the Coliseum in Rome rockin’ flip-flops and brawling Lions/ We’ll draw and quarter that ass to see who’s a survivor/ You in a Favella: the hills got eyes/ This ain’t Temptation Island: fools stay around out here, they’re tired 24 hours/ Jack Bauer don’t be even coming out of hiding.”
The album wraps up with “Guns & Pussy” (“Big sign, can’t miss it”), Super Chron’s tribute to late night paid-cable flicks. Woods narrates his journey to the a roadhouse bar, including his flirtations with the sexy bartender, and the eventual descent into violence. The little details that he adds, from the bartender’s sour apple lipstick to the National Anthem on the jukebox, make the three-minute journey even more captivating.
One would hope this is not Super Chron Flight Bros. last album for a while, because they’re getting really good at the lost art of crafting a cohesive album. It takes a special kind of talent to create a work that takes the listener on a journey, especially one that doesn’t take any apparent missteps. Here’s hoping that Billy Woods and Privilege will offer much more of their talent in the future.
NOTE: In late 2009, Backwoodz Studioz made available Deleted Scenes, a free album made up of tracks that didn’t make Cape Verde, as well as other remixes, solo tracks, and other odds and ends. It’s worth downloading, if nothing else to hear more material from the Cape Verde sessions, listen to Privilege rhyme from Steve Buschemi’s perspective and witness more evidence of why Billy Woods is becoming one of the best MCs rhyming today.
Written By Jesse Ducker