PREMIEREHIPHOP.COM lost a co-founder, our brother Kevlaar 7 of the Wisemen. A poet, philosopher, musician, loving father, an honorable poor, righteous teacher and as fellow MC Genghis Khan noted, one of the “true freedom fighters and artists of our time.” We, here, are dedicated to sharing the best of this music and culture that is Hip Hop and so much of it is unknown and unheard for the worst of the worst instead. We won’t allow that and we bring you this endless series that will reveal the artistry of Kevlaar 7 and so much more. Easily one of the greatest lyricists of this era that ranks in the entire cannon of the music, Kevlaar 7 was also a true and living great mind we must not forget.
Following is a compilation of early #ArtOnArt #ScienceOnMusic reviews I was honored to share over the years on Kevlaar 7’s solo works:
There is often the question of definitive proof of the Wu-tang Clan being a completely empowering and ever increasing movement of the best Hip Hop ever made. That legends like Killah Priest and Hell Razah come out of Sunz of Man, timeless works like Killarmy’s debut LP exist or memorable works by La the Darkman, Cappa and others only cements them in one era. But when we look for the Wu Saga as a generational continuation of excellence we must first go to Bronze Nazareth, Kevlaar 7 and the Wisemen. While most will openly see Bronze as a beatmaker harkening the golden days well like 9th Wonder, the listeners hear some of the most insightful and pensive lyricism of the decade. As Bronze first came through as part of The Unkown and ushered in The Wisemen, we now must focus on another engaging lyricist in Kevlaar 7.
Only needing that one impeccable verse on “Mixture of Muhammad” from 2007’s Wisemen debut, Wisemen Approaching, Kevlaar’s music is fight music you sit and deeply listen to. This is makes it the next generation of the Wu without question. On Unbutton Your Holsters, 29 cuts only hint at the depth a Kevlaar album may display. “Final Dark Sip” is filled with quotables with rhymed couplets that work off each other seamlessly. The beauty of rising out of depression and defeating oppression is something Kevlaar and his brother Bronze endlessly excel at. The ability to express the most intense anger with calmly delivered lyricism is a Wu elevation from the Rakim school. “Blood Diamonds” is a beautiful display of this as Kevlaar exquisitely notes:
“The Blood Diamond, I’m exploited for the enhanced,
The band and the clock is tickin, Been in this position,
Reaching the tipping point, My vision is bending,
A stigmatism fitting rusty razors through prisms,
A dealers deal’n a kingpin, Keeping pawns in prison,
Leaving thirsty lips drip’n, Affliction was they mission…”
Here, Phillie of the Wisemen bluntly states their creed: “Chastise/Ronald Reagan-ize/ Oblivious,
Inferior cause I aint got millions, I’m not serious, Refuse to be a sellout”
On “Streets is My Home” the crack smoke is the inspiration but is relevant to any and all things our people wastefully inhale. Here Bronze and Sav Killz amazingly hang with one of Kevlaar’s best verses. With extravagant detail that needs to be rewound again and again, he begins, “My blood is hazy, smokey gaze/Glazed in ways, eye lids cook up my hybridI’ve witnessed every act of violence/ Silence is isolated; I’m in a crowded basement/ Sitting adjacent, cane vapors raining carbon faces” to the ultimate summation of “I’m the reason you’re homeless habit be speaking in codes/ I explode outcomes, lungs and atoms are blown/The streets is my home, ’cause I need to be sold” Is this all worthy of being the next generation of the Wu? Easily, this verse would be one of the best on Raekwon’s superior Only Built For Cuban Linx..Part II.
Unbutton Your Holsters is only a teaser. It introduces us to the rest of The Wisemen from June Megladon, Illa Dayz to keeping Phillie and Salute close by.ose by It gives us some taste of Kevlaar’s beats as he also has great work on the boards but more than anything it primes us for another great lyricist to emerge and keep a great movement moving powerfully.
To achieve the highly anticipated debut album without hype, propaganda and the co-sign of the payola patrons is one of the greatest feats in Hip Hop today. The realest ones do it the old school way. They can drop mixtape after mixtape of tight material and endless cameos and production features that entice us. So we get the ill like Joell Ortiz or eLZhi. They were developing before our eyes and they gotta get the props from us. But there are others that appear with a mixtape or two or a million and their beginning is at the peak of everything else out at the moment. Some call out Jay Electronica and they can wait for an ill Roc album. That’s peace but the God I’ve called out is from Detroit, brother of already great Bronze Nazareth, with that sick Unbutton Your Holsters mixtape: Kevlaar 7.
With this EP, Who Got the Camera?, who cannot marvel at an MC that has now dominated every chamber of released music without a solo album. Appearing capably on Bronze’ debut classic “Who can fuck with me on the table of elements/Hand me a mic and I’ll melt MC’s irrelevant…” (“Detroit”), then exploding on their Wisemen group’s debut, Wisemen Approaching, with the solo feature “Mixture of Muhammad” (“Intense incense, spread fear and icey whispers/Deliver, flaming labels/spit omega fables/Cradle graves in my arms and lay in level angles/Angels visit basonets/ whistle clarinets/Cuz I rush my last moments on murky clouds of death”), release the Unbutton mixtape with original material like “Nothing to Hide” (“Keepin the fury full adds dirt to my burial,/I’m grippin on a piece so my fam can see peace,/A rare experience under the heaven we beneath,/My expense is war until my temple’s deceased”) only to peak higher last year with the amazing work on Wisemen’s superior sophomore album, Children of a Lesser God. To then release this EP isn’t about proving his skill but maybe getting more buzz as he lets go of some b-side tracks that demolish the a-sides of the majority.
Kevlaar, as he revealed blatantly on the Children LP, with “Thirsty Fish,” “Victorious Hoods,” “The Illness 2” and “Faith Doctrine,” is an rugged beatmaker incorporating booming basslines and now any drum from the wax to bangin conguero in his studio session. On Who Got The Camera there are two Kevlaar beats where “Boulevard Article” is that ruggedness that now seems easy for him. This really is an EP of the best beats that won’t be on his Die Ageless debut and an exercise in lyricism. Kevlaar is an MC that truly a writer penning an entire concentration of deepest thoughts and burgeoning swagger on the page. For this EP he goes thematic and focuses on deft socio-political rhymes that are guided by the countless deaths of our people by the pigs despite camera footage and other measures of obvious proof. The great crate to support the theme is his use of the Martin Luther King, Jr. quotes that go against the mere integrationist propaganda that his canonization has offered. Kevlaar is a lyricist and his gift for the abstract artful brilliance, is contained here to instead detail the streets and oppressive bullshit as candidly as possible without sacrificing lyrical density.
Who Got the Camera is a concentrated effort of just a handful of Kevlaar’s gifts and these builds on our plagued communities might be the most relevant to prelude the most anticipated debut album in years, Die Ageless.
Now, this music done right you could lose your hand gambling on the real when the time’s reading famine o’clock. Someday passes again and again with federal reserve notes selling out more tracks. So are we wrong for trying if this is life then we gon, then we gotta make it breakout?! Still, if it stays like this solstice to solstice, there’ll be nothing else my people got to get them open. No more ill changes like lyrical duels of the mind, stories of fallen angels or the metamorphosis of kings into sons of the most high. Lately, it seems like the Wisemen are of the few to heed the final call to keep this Art to the lean-not traditional rap-just Hardcore Hip Hop. Far more than a wet pen moistening a glittered scroll but a liquid sword through the mind that dies ageless.
So to Die Ageless, Kevlaar 7 has the intention to leave a poignant work that lasts. The audacity in that daring is achieved with a very carefully crafted debut that loudly yells a wakeup call to our people as one of its sufferahs. As the first Wisemen solo album to be released not from Bronze Nazareth, it also makes the Wisemen movement official, a movement that prospers from its extraordinary talents as it is also hurt by its lack of proper coverage.
The Wisemen are the Hip Hop ghetto dwelling Blues builders, reppin’ Detroit and they are their own entity. Due to the Bronze Nazareth being named a Wu-Element producer by the RZA, their a-likeness to the Wu-Tang is acknowledged. However, unlike the immediate Wu-Fam generation, not one Wisemen-affiliated album has ever been officially produced, executive produced, presented or even overseen by RZA or Wu-Tang Clan. Yet, it is the Wisemen that have mirrored the spirit of the Wu the most as they have elevated street lyricism and beat making uniquely. They have earned everything making and growing their albums from the beginning.
Die Ageless becomes an ideal representation of this as throughout he displays a complete portfolio of his many developing techniques and varied sounds they have been prospering with since their last collective effort in 2010, Children of a Lesser God. This isn’t the exhaustive debut of all that an MC has left but literally a long sampler of how diverse Kevlaar is and where his growth will take place. Kevlaar’s themes are his most powerful gift as an MC, where he constantly rhymes verse after verse as a soldier in the field taking shots at the fakes, snakes and devils, always showing you his wounds. His stories suffer setbacks that push us all back (“Solstice,” “Fallen Angel”) and yet line after line there is exposed artistry that paints for us the “beautiful nightmare” he triumphantly comes out of (“Sons of the Most High, genuine article/ blow apart my crown, you better cop a particle/ turn a page/ autobiographical stage/ raw realness/ my soul speak in the zenith…” – “Sons of the Most High”).
The cornerstone songs (“I’m Open,” “My People”) of the album that call out to our Black and Brown people suffering are sincerely delivered and simply stated (“We was built from grains of sand, born from the base of pyramid lands, it was never in our plans/we caught in a concrete war/gun stores and liquor on all corners…My people, let’s learn confederate flags burn/My people, let’s uplift, knowledge of self’s the gift” – “My People”) setting up the sculpted scrolls that close the album (“Now,” “Final Call”). Yet before Die Ageless’ closing, we have that complete package portfolio to bang out too.
Sonically, this is obsessive Boom Bap where the Blues, that tone of soulful warring in song, that every Wiseman release has furthered, becomes a unique sound for Kevlaar. While the aforementioned cornerstone songs are slow tempo, hand clap, soul grinders, the majority of the production (most by Bronze), bangs breaks and snares and is arranged to drum stutter and roll to refresh and recharge each verse. The arranging exposes the real time taken on this album as they catch Sha Stimuli perfect on the snare on the Kevlaar produced “Sons of the Most High,” Bugsy da God’s verse on Bronze’s “Famine O’Clock” rolls and cymbal crashes him into his smooth, up tempo flow or the conga tumbao and lady wail on “We Gon Make It” from Central Intelligence that seems inspired by a monk out of Sabu’s Afro Temple.
As an MC, there is a major technique displayed dominantly on so many songs. We can shift from the rugged stream of conscious phrasing of “Kings,” (“I bleed a hard road to follow, swallowing shadows/ the past left me hollow, xylophone sutra..”), the metaphor of female gaming extended on “Losing Hand Gamble,” the build on the corruptive legacy behind money (“Federal Reserve Note”) or the rapid fire battle beasting on “The Lean” (“…Compose notes from hunger and bungalows and froze deserts with blessings from natives/originating the making of molecules/ consume melodic skills/ and robbed and killed Emmett Till’s killer’s spirits on bleeding hills…”). All to include one of the most beautifully soulful and poetically mastered Hip Hop songs in years with “Someday.” Here Bronze’s lead verse is guided by a long held churched organ note and vaulted by the precise beat crescendo. The verse is pure poetry that is literally greatness relived as Kevlaar shadows the verse with his own that is identical in rhyme structure, theme and both are at the same exact bar for the summative line (“when Granddad died I felt a little less alive” – Bronze, “when Tyler died I cried and felt less alive” – Kevlaar). June Megalodon’s binding bars in the center will become another of those wonderful subtleties to explore that the Wisemen work offers.
Die Ageless will live as such because it is the work of a writer with heavenly thoughts, right out of hell. As the album closes with “Now,” Woodenchainz gives a straight Blues belly with that ol’ guitar plucking coupled by an elegant piano touch and a sharp swishing snare. This Blues literally adapts to Hip Hop before our ears as the drum stutter reloads it ready for some of Kevlaar’s best verses, if not his most summative of the entire work. Lacing three verses from the hell he is fighting through (“I’m a descendant of masters raping slaves…navigating on elevated thinking, swing my fists… ) to embracing the knowledge of self and getting the fatigues on (“ink from my pen bleeds, blink some, my pen falls asleep, deep history, Peep the Black sand ministry/modest man dealt an honest hand, awaken my inner mystery…”) he eventually works to march us into victory (“But we survivors from Black bottom to the top of the mind cuz we accomplish plans of Sudans and yachts, exotic amounts, we open business accounts, no losses, just ain’t hit the Forbes yet,..Today begins forever…”). Hard work done, Die Ageless will be key to the Wisemen movement that innovated Hip Hop music in its fourth decade of industry warfare. It’s also another great, honorable work in music for the people.
An immediate return by Kevlaar 7, who just released the opus Die Ageless in May, continues the legacy of Detroit’s Wisemen with Sophisticated Movement, an effort of the toughest Blues you can find. Sophisticated Movement is a classically cohesive, short LP that is beautified by the wonderfully crafted worried notes of Woodenchainz and verses from one of the most poetic hardcore MCs in Hip Hop today.
The sophistication of this album is its focus on Kevlaar’s greatest MC gifts- that poetic engagement of detailing our oppression, viciously brutal battle rhyme phrasing and insightful love for our people. Many greats have these sentiments but cannot transform them to acetate as easily as Kevlaar. The movement is in the track by track surge of such clear anthemic material that is bedded lovely by Woodenchainz’s sample choices and arranging along with great Boom Bap programming.
Thus S.M. is a duet where the best addictions of the former feed the addictions of the latter promoting a new Wiseman top for the junkie listener. From the title track with the horns punctuated by snapping high hats and sandy snares of which become a defining element to Woodenchainz’ superior work here. Kevlaar then introduces the progression of the movement as that dream for the people isn’t being waited on but grabbed for. With “Detroit’s Agony,” a brutally wailing track with bass drums punctuating throughout Kevlaar is wildly pissed spitting, “Eastern promises/ felonious for commerce, students stroll the school and made them come out their Converse/ converse with my daughter while I sip a Corona…resurrect dead presidents/ impressed at the decadence/ celebrate no evidence…,” as he is on “Ask About Me,” where funk stabs, clipped lady soul wails and a reverberating guitar lick let Bronze and Styles P grind rugged militancy with Kevlaar leading with “Ask about explicit life like writtens laid back between reality and carnivorous intentions/ unshaven heathen spitting live on location scraping bones with a blade with the turntables blazing…Godly heathen shoppin’ out in Sweden/ autograph seekers seeking/ validation, vintage dreaming…hell is empty and this is where all the devils live in…”
There is also the beautifully Womack’d soul of “At Last” to the roaring vocals spilling on the incredibly sharp drums on “Life’s on the Clock,” Woodenchainz promotes Kevlaar’s lyricism just as much as he zombies the listener with the cacophony of massive snare tricks he employs. The features are all well done (from Wisemen’s June Mega & Illah Dayz to Willie Waze, S-Class Sonny & Shake C) with the future spotlight clearly being on Rain The Quiet Storm with a dynamic verse on “Life’s on the Clock.”
Kevlaar is an MC with tons of ideas, themes and manners to convey the struggle with the answers. On Die Ageless, he gives a deep portrait to offer himself while here on S.M., his thematic concepts are deliberately narrowed but exploration is broadened yielding beautiful line after line. On S.M., his annunciation and lyrically dexterous phrasing continue to excel offering a greater mastery of the track. Ultimately, the entire LP is quotable because there is his obsession with saying all, even “Fuck You,” in the illest way. That greatest peak is on “Why” where Kevlaar’s timing is supreme from acapella to beat drop building and destroying vividly with, “Brush my life on the canvas/touching the Earth cuz life’s so candid/ inundated both will never understand it/ perfect planning just off the papel/ burn a plantation question everything…” With Sophisticated Movement, Woodenchainz emerges as one of the new producers to immediately listen to whilst Kevlaar 7 continues to be one of the great lyricists of this era.