HASAN SALAAM – LIFE IN BLACK & WHITE LP Review

By SUNEZ 

Fuck your #TeamLightSkin!

A little bit lighter now

They crescendo a chorus—

A little bit lighter now

They call—

Pass as pale…

and respond—

Like they used to do

They call—

Pass as pale…

and respond—

Like they used to do

Now they wait for the Man’s head nod—

Swing High, Rebel Minajiette…

They shuffle and chuckle—

Cooning more to get in they home…

They plead and implore—

If you gets there before I do…

They bootlick and rear sniff—

Tell all your friends, I’sa a coming too

 

Good evening freedom fighters!  Y’all been marching so the kin can go charging high.  Into new whiter places they make for us to belong.  It’s really only the wet white paint you sitting on fooling your Black ass, rubbing your Brown nose and striping your yellow back.  You’re on a losing team with great stats with lots of seasonal wins that’ll make you think you’re blowing when you just getting blown.

But I’ve been surrounded all my life by conformity and complacence as an Original man from the Boricua lineage.  Around so light skinned, many loved ones are the potential captains and lieutenants of tomorrow’s #TeamLightSkin.  That is if we don’t survive the welfare concentration camps and the preseason docility schooling.  And now my #TeamNoMysteryGod is losing recruits because Gods and Earths are self-chosen and everyone really wants to gorge the last Thursday of November, that new holy day, the genocide survivors’ reunion.

One brother refused to play for #TeamLightSkin, never was gonna fight against his #TeamDarkSkin family–cause it’s fuck all #TeamSkins.  His Boom Bap scores had some autobios but were mainly powerful revolution anthems pushing aside the coon trap soundtracks every battle.  Now with Life in Black and White, Hasan Salaam fully cracks the binder of his journal open and more than conniving crackers and savage bucks fall out.  With Life In Black And White, Hasan Salaam continues to dominate the blaring rebel backdrops while he tempers his tempos with the most intimate verses of his career.

Life in Black & White is a portrait of grey where Salaam waxes humanity, one that is immediate if you just see him as a literal fucking revolutionary.  Yet, the scars are undressed by the lyricism as some of the most clothed layering you’ll find.  A difficult work as the LP foregoes the showing of the obvious MC truth since his last LP in ’08, Children of God, that Hasan’s technical skill has increased dramatically.  Instead, the focus is on the mastery of the personal tale, dynamically revealing its micro reality as a truth of the macro hell we reside in.  This feat may only appear easy because he is with a Viper Records team that included two of today’s most important MCs [Immortal Technique and Constant Flow (CF)].

“Grey Area” is a thematic battle track lead off where his wordplay’s cleverness is at a peak (“After that spike lee joint was called a product of the fever/Jungle boy/ always up in some trouble boy”) and his grey truth is titled off (“Ain’t Never been a follower/(I’m a) Philanthropist, philosopher/Poet and pornographer”).  This opens up poignant autobio tracks that make it a worthy blueprint of how to do such an LP.   They merge articulated tales and retrospective forays from “Father’s Day,” “Savor the Moment,” “Black Angels” to “Like Silence,” and “Scars Over Scars.” These bedrock songs are interspersed with tracks of vivid and charismatic politico-social and spiritual commentary from “Modern Warfare” and “Unorganized Religion” to “Jericho” and “The Way (Kilo).”

With a distinct baritone of clarity that never muffles his vocals catapult the bassline isolation he verses over on “Jericho.”  It also powers his verses through on the snare heavy and musically noisy “The Way (Kilo).”  A voice as Hasan’s only amplifies his charismatic fluctuations as his lead into “Pain Killer” rhyming, “Oooh K!… So I got a lot of problems and I usually use the bottle to try and solve ‘em.”  Salaam’s pacing gives tons of range to the mid to upper mid tempo his breaks stay at and the low, sultry melodic sentiment to wild chaos his backing music samples around him.  His use of precise pauses allows him to rhyme on basslines and horns as well as the classic 1,2 breakbeat.  On “Modern Warfare,” he rides the bass rhythm on a slow motion enunciating emphasis, “It goes: Unmanned drones/Attack of the clones/Bulldozing homes word to Ariel Sharon/Beyond the Green Zone/… Shhhhhh it’s a secret…” to then double time speed up in the most casual form, “Army of one/Take him out of high school hand him a gun/Just do what you’re told/Salute the patrol/And exude the controoooooool…”  Hasan is a lyricist that is writing actual songs that are penned for our read and the rugged chanting.  Aside from his massive energy on stage, this expert composing is why crowds sing along enjoyably to his catalog.

Musically, the instrumentals cannot survive on their own as the Bronze works or the RZA scores.  Instead, these tracks are the ideal pairs in their reflection of Hasan’s audiobio and are amplified by the lyricist themselves.  Due to Hasan’s exact writing and performance, these instrumentals are truly owned and won’t transfer to a nigga’s mixtape freestyle without disappointment in comparison.  The track diversity is where Hasan’s technical elevation can be noticed from the tempered volume and conversation bars on Kendal Good’s acoustic guitars of “Like Silence.”  On the sensitive keys of Craig Rip’s (co-produced by Sean Nimmons) “Father’s Day” that engage bridges, Hasan expertly rhymes through, his flow and volume again are properly stable but his fluctuations are realness captured.  DJ Static’s “Savor  The Moment” beautifully layers itself with reverberating horns, Gaye’s vocals and invading high hat scratching through over a boom thud bass drum and clicking snare while the conga coating on the back of Hezekiah’s “UnOrganized Religion” with distinct piano key notes lead sharp tambourine high hat work on a rugged drum break.  These tracks further the mentals instensely.

For this writer, knowing who we are is the root of what we can truly become.  A knowledge of self is the ultimate equality in the reality of life that is so grey.  In this hell Hasan Salaam fights against, as an artist, educator and activist, he offers us Art on the root of a knowledge of self.  That is, an awareness of where he is from and studying it constantly propels him out of mysterious confusion into action.  Action in the streets, acts for the people and active anthems on the wax.  All to honorably and artfully fight the isms that attack Original Black and Brown people directly and affect all humanity indefinitely.  So Freedom Fighters! Play this at the next Genocide Survivor’s Reunion at the concrete corner near you wherever Gods are made niggas. #TeamFreedomJusticeEquality

 

Purchase Life in Black & White at Viper Records site HERE or ITunes HERE