The musical foundation for their “Magnate” album is excellently handcrafted by Xilam Balam. He does a near-perfect job of incorporating bits and pieces of soundscapes familiar to both Mr. Gene Poole and himself, but succeeds in tweaking them just enough to create a personalized sound, unique to the Auddio Draggon experience. Quite honestly, I have long considered Xilam Balam as one of the most overlooked producers in the Twin Cities. He effectively blends his understanding of beautiful musicality with his roots in B-Boy assertiveness. For “Magnate” he also taps into something a bit darker and more moody than his previous work, resulting in a new sound, which he once accurately described as “Gangster Horror”.
Almost immediately it becomes evident that both MCs, even after a couple decades in the game, are comfortable in challenging their vocal tones and ranges. They both effortless switch their deliveries from pure hardcore to melodic to sinister and back again. Regardless of the chosen approach per track, sentiments of passion, confidence, and certainty remain.
“Magnate” touches on a range of topics and emotions. The album journey begins with “Bustdown World” and properly sets the tone in terms of musical mood and lyrical contrast. Xilam Balam leaves verbal impressions in your memory with powerful one-liners, such as the opening of the first verse, “Humans are the cancer of the earth now ain’t it/shoot it, you’ll hit a tumor, no matter where you aim it.” Meanwhile, Mr. Gene Poole strings together descriptive imagery that is near picture-perfect, “As terrible as it may seem/There’s a lot of folks like you who ain’t getting their cream/And those who are, ain’t living their dream/They wake up every moment in a different air stream/But the tarmac’s got too many cracks/ If the landing gear don’t snap, the tubes will collapse/You really hope that dude was relaxed/When he lubed up the flaps and pumped fuel to the max/Every time the fuselage is a trap/If that engine gets an object lodged in the gap/You can forget all or your maps, all of your apps, personal tax and professional contacts…”
Perhaps Gene Poole best reveals his storytelling ability and knack for graphic imagery on “Devil Came To MN”, where he exchanges wits and battles verses with the Devil himself. The Devil’s unexpected loss finds him in a predicament where he’s improperly prepared for the Twin Cities winter season…
“Dock Jumper” gives a glimpse of how Mr. Gene Poole would sound backed by an aggressive rock band. His flow is immaculate and his approach is explosive, “I’m just like American money/You can take me out at any party, everybody loves me/The only difference is I ain’t made of paper/Just some calcium deposits, enamel, and some vapor…”
“Reign Of Fire” acts as the defining warning for the Auddio Draggon emergence. Mr. Gene Poole articulates the transformation, “We’ve been making records since ‘96/Native Ones, Dynospectrum, grind your bricks/Put it in the air, like them wings that flap/Don’t even care, as long as I got things to trap/I fell into a dormant phase, highly evolved/Returned to my domain 90 feet tall!” On Xilam Balam’s second verse he drops a series of his trademark ingraining quotes, “So what if it hurts you and bleeds/What’s it worth if your mind gets freed?” and “Spirit pure and lose hope with ease/There ain’t nobody that can cure my disease/Brain built like a diamond-back rattle/I’m in too deep and your mind’s too shallow.”
“Storm Front” has all the makings of a theme song, with its cinematic melody and heavy snare that sounds like it’s about to explode out of beats frame-work. On the hook, Gene Poole’s light singing sounds despairing, while Balam let’s his voice go deep, in the background, to maintain the track’s intensity.
LISTEN/DOWNLOAD "STORM FRONT":
Both members of Auddio Draggon are also submerged in Car Culture, as is Balam’s Los Nativos collaborater, Felipe Cuauhtli. All three team up on “Rebel Outlaw” for a slow-riding soundtrack for late night rides thru the city streets, the bass foreshadowing your arrival a few blocks ahead.
“Fondu 2” showcases Mr. Gene Poole’s best use of his voice as an instrument. His verses contrast from urgently relaxed rapping to hauntingly melodic harmonies. A similar vibe is captured on “Wrong Turn”, with Xilam Balam outlining an experience with a shady cop, supported by Gene Poole on the hook.
After ten solid tracks, “Magnate” still finds itself reaching new heights with three of the album highlights closing the album out; “Candor And Commaradery”, where Gene Poole begins, “I’m like 99 percent psychotic/the rest of my mind is alien by-product…” and later declares, “Our live sets are like God when he riots.” That is followed by “Reputation”, which has all the makings of a great single choice with its driving rhythm and hypnotic chorus.
With each new listen, “The Garden Of Heathens” slowly becomes an album favorite. It is probably the best overall example of the Auddio Draggon essence. The beat, with its studdering snares, is entrancing. The lyrics are grim and the chorus contains the best use of their voices in unison.
The word “Magnate” refers to power, influence, and rank, all which are terms that accurate reflect the accolades held by these two Twin Cities vets who are showing no signs of being ready give up their respective positions.
If you missed it, here's an interview we did with Auddio Draggon when they were first starting to put this album together. It details their history in the Twin Cities scene, the Headshots days, and up to the developing of the Auddio Draggon concept!