I don't think most people are going to like this. The average Hip-Hop listener is going to say, "I don't get these beats". The average electronic music listener is going to say, "This sounds like rap". The Pop music fanatic is still talking about that Lady Gaga "Telephone" video (overrated and a mess that yes, is quite inappropriate for kids - in case you were wondering what I thought). But to dismiss this outright would be deadly wrong. This is a challenging record, yes...but it also has many, many important things to say and for fans of clever wordplay and insightful lyrics, Thavius Beck deserves to be on your playlist.
I've had this album since it came out in January and I've been waiting to give a proper review to it because of the fact that it is incredibly challenging to listen to at first. I had heard some of the tracks that Thavius Beck produced for Saul Williams and was intrigued. This is not an album you will understand right away. Musically, I say that it is challenging because Thavius Beck isn't so much concerned with creating head nods so much as creating a soundscape that serves as a platform for him to deliver his rapid-fire lyrics. He comes off as a pissed off revolutionary and his music is all about the message. So will it make you dance? Probably not. But if you listen carefully, it might make you angry or motivate you to change your life. Granted there are perhaps more entertaining ways to accomplish this as demonstrated by Street Sweeper Social Club. But sometimes you need to look at music as more than entertainment and when the subject matter is as important as it is here, you need to appreciate is as art.
The other challenge here is the rapid-fire nature of the lyrics. They just come one hot verse after another and unless you are a regular Hip-Hop listener, this may seem a bit impenetrable. But break it down and you find real brilliance. I wish that the simple packaging had included the lyrics because they are just that good.
If you check out some of the release notes for the album you'll find at the top of the page a quote that really gets to me and affects me as a real fan of Hip-Hop music. From that link:
"I'm of the opinion that if you have a platform to say something, don't just say some bullshit. Use that platform to say something worthwhile - it doesn't have to always be ultra conscious or serious, but if every song you make is about bitches, cars, and drugs, you either live a very empty life or you're a huge liar. Either way, I think an MC should be able to draw on their life experiences and translate them into meaningful songs, maybe even grow a bit after reflecting on it during the songwriting process." - Thavius Beck
Yes! 100% Yes! I concur, wholeheartedly, sir. USE THAT PLATFORM TO SAY SOMETHING WORTHWHILE. And let me tell you, the man does so. The album is called "Dialogue" for a reason. Thavius Beck wants to have a nice little chat with you about politics, Hip-Hop, the various ways that public is easily manipulated by clever marketing, and getting off your ass and achieving your goals.
So why recommend such a difficult album to listen to? Simple. Because the message is strong, because there are moments where the music matches the subject matter, because Thavius Beck is an incredible lyricist, and because of the track "Violence". I considered making this entire review just about that one song. You want to talk about saying something? Here is the opening verse from "Violence"
They say the state of your environment coupled with defiance of societal requirements is what creates violence.
That and repetition of pimpin, shootin, and lootin in media transmissions
In addition to the negligence of parents due to lots of broken homes
Bitterness and broken dreams lead to brittle broken bones
So little kids roam the streets like wide-eyed prey
Continuing the cycle of decay
Everyday a vital image of a foolish imitation is impressed upon a person and becomes an aspiration
They want to acquire the chain that they had on the flyer
The want guns, girls, rings, rims, tires
They want heros but they got liars
Those that focus only on material desires and will do whatever necessary to acquire
A hot spot on a skewer roasting in eternal fire
...I mean, honestly. When was the last time you heard a Hip-Hop record that had lyrics that hit you like that? You aren't going to find a song like this on the radio. You just aren't. And there is the rub, I suppose. The production here has more in common with Nine Inch Nails than it does with 50 Cent. The fact of the matter is that as a fan of electronic music, I can appreciate these beats. I can vibe to them. I love that Thavius Beck is doing something different musically...but this is going to be lost on a lot of people. Lyrically, I can tell you that every track on this album has a honest-to-goodness Hip-Hop quotable.
I'm an escapist, yup it's time to get away
The day like any other
Outside forces conspire to smother the flames of desire raging like wild brush fires
It's so easy to inundate the true state with one full of compromise
Content with your comfort until you realize the extent of the facade you place before God
What's the difference between gold and gold plated?
What keeps the Ivy and Rec league separated?
Educational access? There's roaches on the mattress.
Why does one become a ho and not an actress?
From "And The Beat Goes On"
The day starts when the sunrays embark on their routine excursion of illuminating the bark and the fiendish perversions of which we take part
Along with all the beauty and the bliss of this slowly turning granite balanced on the slanted axis
Consider the magnificence of all we're given access
Desire and action the key to unlocking unknowns spaces on this atlas
See what I mean?
Time and time again the man hits you with powerful, imaginative, captivating lyrics of some real substance. But you need to be able to appreciate the beats and lyrics and - as long as you are adventurous - there are plenty of moments where that happens such as "Away" (a deceptively simple beat mixed with some incredible horns and a hot vocal sample), "Violence", "And The Beat Goes On" (another excellent example of Beck putting it all together with a compelling electronic track and some fantastic lyrics), "IDC", and "Transmission". But yes, there are some moments where it's all a bit too experimental and perhaps not catchy enough. Also, the purely instrumental tracks didn't grab me as much as the ones where Beck is MC'ing, and can you blame me?
I'm not sure I'm doing a great job selling this album but that's ok. Hopefully, the people who care about brilliance in lyrics and who can appreciate some original electronic beats will read this and look into it some more. Everyone else can go back to the radio. But yeah, listening to this album makes me mad! It really does because I agree with so many of the things that Thavius Beck has to say.
...if nothing else, listen to "Violence". I really think that that song is important and find it a shame that it may not be exposed to as many people as deserve to hear it.
4.200 out of 5
|1. Cracking the Shell (01:41)||4|
|2. Away (02:20)||5|
|3. Go! (02:24)||5|
|4. Money (02:31)||4|
|5. Violence (02:25)||5|
|6. Burn (02:54)||3|
|7. And the Beat Goes On (02:39)||5|
|8. Painful (02:40)||3|
|9. Hardcore (02:38)||4|
|10. IDC (02:07)||5|
|11. Sheepish (02:32)||4|
|12. Transmission (02:17)||5|
|13. Sometimes (03:35)||5|
|14. Pressure (03:06)||3|
|15. 4 Part 2 (03:38)||3|