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Most of the moments on this EP sound as if I Self just blacked out and these streams of B-boy laced, politically charged, spiritually affluent lyrics with a space age twist, just poured out of him at will. At times, the imaginative word linkage so beautiful collides with the intending meaning that I can hardly envision him being able to conceive the ideas. It’s almost if these words have always existed within him and Rap is just how he chose to convey them. If that sounds a bit dramatic, that is because it is supposed to. It’s an accurate depiction of the tricks my mind played on me when mentally digesting I Self Devine in this time period. Point blank, after I heard the “Farward” EP I placed I Self Devine considerable high on my list of one the greatest MCs of the current time*. And that time was 1999, right at the turn of the millennium; I hardly think that was a coincidence, not with the fitting content of the title track…
“Farward” is such an ill concept. I Self Devine is telling you about your future, but from the perspective of it being his past…say what??!!?? Yeah, we are talking about some next level illness right about now. Right from his initial words the concept smacks you off guard and may have you question what you heard, “We remember the future like crystal clear/Forward in the future like it was last year/Kids used to float, playing tag in the air/Anti-Gravity suits sold by the pair/Vehicles slided thru the air like poisonous vapors/Inhaled by the masses, your savior, was self or your neighbor/Rebelistic behavior in public was major fatality danger…”
It was quite fulfilling that I Self chose to spend his post-synopsis of the future detailing some critical points that I would actually care to know about, such as political structure, the state of Hip Hop, outcomes of religious wars, available technology and things of the sort. It’s refreshing because when other MCs have afforded themselves the opportunity to paint a visual of the future they have been often been so “kind” to provide such useless info about how many girls they can still sex, what the future club scene is like, or perhaps remark about the improved strains of weed available. Whether I will find those things intriguing in the future or not is irrelevant, they certainly aren’t the things I would be most concerned about if I only had 3-5 minutes to collect some information from a future traveler. I Self is mindful to provide a well-rounded assessment of what our species may come to experience in the days to come, circa timepiece A.G. (After God)…
As for the state of Hip Hop, I Self Devine forewarns of a true need to go underground, “Forward in the future Hip Hop was crushed/By the mainstream, it was too much for them to touch/Government outlawed styles got more raw/Freestyle was life and death, equaled the law/Names got changed and it became blood vibes to survive on the inner/Non-linear forms transformed on the sinner/The future we remember like breathing/The ups and downs of devil season!”
After your brain soaks in all that you are ready to transition in to “All Live”. The mood is set by Kase, courtesy his classic scene in Style Wars. This track is also an excellent example of the stylistic approach of Kool Akiem. His beats are melodic, but with a touch of the abstract. Specifically here, he has these panned open hi-hats that can be pleasantly distracting in headphones. Some sharp horns are strategically placed, sneaking in at various spots, it’s almost like they are trying to say more, but never get to fully express themselves, effectively leaving you wanting for more, but simultaneously finding yourself quite satisfied. As for Ak’s scratch style, it’s rhythmically abrasive with minimal fader usage and acts more like an active functioning part of the production, rather than a separate element.
Verbally, “All Live” finds I Self Devine fully in his zone, blessing the listener with rap perfection and just when you think it can’t get any better, it gets much better, “Emotionless, for those devotion-less, genetic clones and microphones split/Horizontal-less, I take my mission serious to bless the nation thoroughly and rigorous/Teleported down to earth, lyrically and physically/Adhere to the tenets of terrorizing the government/Pummeling, breaking solid matter to dust/Word sound power summoning energy that’s most high/We activated, All Live, All Live!” The verbal assault continues on the second verse and comes to climatic close with, “Then Swarm on the public, not under or above it/And if you ask the origin of the crew let’s change the subject!”
I think I can say with supreme confidence that “Decapitation III” is a certified lyrical masterpiece and if I ever need to quickly illustrate to someone why I Self Devine needs to be regarded among the lyrical elite, this is what I will refer to. Before I even started to write this I knew that I was going have an impossible time deciding what to quote, so I just asked I Self to reach into his lyric files for the full joint. Here’s the full first verse transcribed from his notebook and repeated listens (note: he made slight changes on the recorded version). Please listen, read along and collect your scattered mind fragments upon completion:
“I burn ni**az thru the mantle, the core of existence/Self Destruct, burn myself, re-emerging with the fitness/Many clashes, splashing victims with acid/Out the depths of the ashes, smashed glasses/ My mission is mastered, extracts the vital elements from savage/Above average, the most lavish, the tiger eye lotus rocker/The platinum helmet with jade nuggets enforcer/Pearl fronts endorser/Capitalist, diamond vest sporter/ Duct tape with tape recorder/Recall messages of your slaughter/ To your first daughter/I’m vexed. Expelled from Georgia Tech/For holding a Tech at a Lab Technicians neck/Now I’m out of this/Wander the streets looking for eats/Dorm confiscated, L after L, I’m sedated/Feeling mental pain, I be walking around peepin’ sounds of the hectic surrounding/Mind and heart pounding/battling, keep my mind deep, sharp and ready ‘n/Exercising minds releasing pressure that I’m feeling/When I’m robbing and stealing for the basic/bread, water, shelter, tell me, can I face this/Displaced and flagrant, Neo-American face-lift/Flash the H-K, whole place shift and record skip/As a homeless MC I show the gift/People focus on outer appearance and bug out on strong fragrances/Giggling, devils be clowning on my apparel/Staring down the barrel, begging for life/I grab the mic, rally up the jewels/Finish my set, rapidly jet/One shoe fell off, leave it and step, murder my debt/Vietnam vets roll with my clique, major explicit, mass neglect/Government friendly fire thru neck/Paralyze, abuse with chemicals, run game/Maniacal, radical, addict of violence/In paradise rolling circle dice, smoking weed and ice/Crystallized, fools gallivant up in caravans/It’s the have-nots clashing in contrast with the..haves/Sticking em up and dash!”
The inclusion of “So Deep I Never Fell” and “Decapitation” give an impression that “Farward” was intended to serve as a sort of highlight reel for the Micranots. “So Deep…” and “Decapitation” are from the original tape that was approximately four years old by this time. Plus “Farward” and “141 Million Miles” had both appeared on “Return Of The Travellahs”. “All Live” was only partially a new offering, as the instrumental also appeared on “R.O.T.T” under the name “Contemplate”. The only completely new offering was “Decapitation III” which was an on-going theme on their releases up to this point.
The EP comes to an end with a remix of “Farward”, titled a Disco Remix, which can be a bit misleading. It’s highly unlikely that anyone is going to have a Saturday Night Fever flashback and it’s not even invoking a vibe of the more soulful disco, a la Chic. Instead, it’s probably better described as “Club or Electronic Remix”. There is one section that escapes into Jungle mode for a few seconds, but for the most part it maintains much of the original elements, but swap out Akiem’s drums for percussion heavier on the drum machine side and some spacey sounds. The remix is credited to Ogami Don Itto.
The Micranots left much less of a time gap in-between releases this time and followed up with their influential and impactful “Obelisk Movements” album the following year…
-Editor’s Note Of Additional Rambling: It’s worth noting or rather admitting that I was given a "Return Of The Travellahs" tape back in the day. I don’t think I got it as early as ’96, I may have been a year or two late getting my hands on it. My memory is a bit unclear of whom I received it from. I recently dug it out of shoebox and was reminded of why I didn’t give it the worthy amount of listens. The version I have is just a blank clear studio tape. The only indication of what it is comes from a tape-labeling strip I snatched from another cassette case and my sloppy handwriting scribbling saying “Micranots”. There’s no indication of what the project is called or anything. I remember having that tape and playing it once or twice and really enjoying it, but also being frustrated that I didn’t have any song titles or any info other about it. It didn’t help that it was a tape, a long tape, and this right on the cusp of tapes not really being the move anymore. In any event, my theory was I would soon get a real copy with credits and appropriate info and I would just play it then. When I got my advance copy of “Obelisk Movements” much later I assumed that was the album that I had on tape. I never went back to verify that it was not. I actually wasn’t 100% sure until this week when I pulled out that tape and checked it.
One reason why I’m saying this is because it puts things a bit in perspective as to why the “Farward” EP was my turning point for placing I Self Devine in such high regard as a lyricist, because I had basically slept on soaking up “Return Of The Travellahs” properly when I first had the opportunity…
I Self Devine Lyric Notebook(s): Decapitation III (Verse One)
I SELF DEVINE LYRIC NOTEBOOK(S): ALL LIVE VERSE ONE
FARWARD EP INSIDE PANEL
FARWARD EP BACK COVER
Written By Kevin Beacham