WISEMEN- CHILDREN OF A LESSER GOD By Sunez Allah
The flourishing of Wu discipleship is one of the greatest sights in the saga of Hip Hop music. That the root takes Earth when Bronze Nazareth is realized by The RZA is the revealing premonition that we will receive the innovations of versatile epiphany and expert expansion. After 2006’s classic debut, The Great Migration, Bronze presents himself as the focal point to introduce his extended Detroit roots with the whole Wisemen crew’s debut of 2007, Wisemen Approaching. A debut album that played as an addictive continuation of Migrations’s stripped down hardcore beats with more rugged verses from Bronze. To listen deeper to Wisemen Approaching one can see that great lyricists and unique voices lurk within the fold as brother Kevlaar 7 and Phillie.
3 years pass and the waiting of the fan and the hustling of the artist is revealed as a diligent study of debuts that deepened in listener worth and MCs that have made the craft a profession. The sophomore effort of Children of a Lesser God must be understood as the success of mastered experimentation fortified by developed technique. With Bronze, Kevlaar 7, Phillie and Salute joined by members June Megaladon and Illa Dayz there is a reduction of versatility in flow and steadiness of track tempos as they seek perfection with exquisitely developed mid-tempo rolling breaks they accent with congas con tumbao and soaring soul wails all laced with seasoned rhyming.
In an age where Hip Hop seems scarred by a lack of skill as much as exploited gimmickry the Wisemen have an album that charges through with innovations of sincere musical exploration and a band of MCs that all have incredible mastery for syllable coupling and the imagery projection of their survivalist blues of enlightenment. Like the Wu-Tang Clan itself, each member of the Wisemen are brothers before they rhyme so their convergence on the mic has a completely unified sentiment that is compelling.
Bronze Nazareth is criminally unknown and garners the most respect merely as a great beatmaker. While this is as valid yet incomplete as understanding Michael Jordan as a great defender there is no rest in the earned respect. The tracks add live instrumentation with a band guided by Bronze and Kevlaar with the emphasis on unique snares, roaring bass lines and wailing vocals as if they are modern orchestrators with the spirit of Barry White in them. Whereas Wisemen Approaching may be seen as dynamic sampling from Love Unlimited Orchestra to Candi Staton to wonderful effect, Children… must be recognized as a distinct orchestration. As this is the epitome of the addict’s album, the innovations are felt with constant repetition. Bronze’s work this year has been with 60 Second Assassin’s debut, Remarkable Timing, where much like RZA with Wu’s 8 Diagrams, provided soundscapes that evolve with the inflections of the MC. 60 Sec, more the soul wailing orator of select terms like Greg Nice, was given hard tracks that isolated his verses (i.e. “Remarkable Timing”) or fluctuate with him like the oft kilter breaks on “Fizza Funky.” With Children…, Bronze, now with Kevlaar adding on substantially, offer hard breaks that ride with deliberate pausing that emphasizes on the MC’s rhythms and punchlines.
The marriage of beats and rhymes is exceptional and where we can understand the production advances. The Wisemen are all literally rhyming in a mastered tri-patterned flow that often has a punctuated rhymed syllable as the fourth word note. So many tracks achieve this synergy we can look at the Bronze produced “Corn Liquor Thoughts” where Kevlaar, who has a gift for the wonderfully chosen word, takes the verse from Bronze and on the isolated vocal hook begins, “Spin the cylinder/cyclical spitter/realer than lead spit at the White House pillars…” and on that tri pattern flow the break invites itself right on time. The amazing verse is followed by Phillie on the tri-pattern also going in with “Laser daggers piercing your skin…The power to devour whole cities, oh so Phillie, gotta Fo(ur) Fo(ur) wit me/ my bank rolls sickly/ pockets throwing up, regurgitating fifties/Long Beach ice teas/ chronic by the tree. it’s all I need to rock an m-i-c..” leading to the most deliberate use of the tri-pattern flow by June. June Megaladon, with a voice that has bass and command like the well featured Big Rube, goes in penning the song title to begin the flow, “My Corn Liquor Thoughts/ trouble I brought/ Liver than raw damage/you niggas fall famished…” The track is brilliant with a swooping bass line like a car engine churning and the break propping it up while the soul wails musically support the intentions.
And the tracks are where all this is immaculately attached. Kevlaar is literally the next great musician, with beats and rhymes. His reworking of the Charmels cymbal crash used on RZA’s “C.R.E.A.M.” has all the signature of his young stylings. With beautiful soaring vocals that chime in like the illest zombie Doo Wop group, the break has a marching crunch while that Charmel’s cymbal crash shines like a light in a dark attic finally discovered. Every sample, every type of vocal, every snare, every break, every bassline has a plan that promotes the MC intentions. Kevlaar’s “Faith Doctrine” epitomizes this where beautifully introspective lyrics on the enlightenment of honorable survival are led by a vocal sample of a lecture on principle that is then applied to their Black Detroit reality.
Beats like this make verses seem effortless but it isn’t easy to have six MCs have such concise timing, heavily employing that ill tri-pattern flow with fluid inflections, punchlines and introspective insights. Bronze’s work on the intro title track is filled with wild cymbals cut short or left roaming on the break and blaring horns constantly reintroducing themselves. The beat and rhymes marriage here is led by Bronze on a beatifully abstract, introspective verse, “Screaming bags of madness/ can it stop?/ Planet Rock/Motown, no manuals out/Fam is left to plan my route/ I vanish, iron chains/ surround my city’s canvas/ Brandish lanterns in overcast moments…” Kevlaar’s great use of congas on “Thirsty Fish” and “Victorious Hoods” or Bronze’s snare work on “Lucy” or “Panic in Vision Park” are more of the many notes on the illness.
Children of a Lesser God has no immediate conclusion to its exploration. It is an album of six Wisemen that indeed create Hip Hop blues, the introspective lyrics of hardcore intensity and sincere awareness tailored with a unified flow, storytelling detail, abstract phrasing and superior word choices and phrasing. And all backed with some of the greatest music today’s Hip Hop has to offer. That these brothers can’t merely be children of a lesser god is the real jewel.