Terror trails a marathon bossed on the worst of musical measures. Where the struggle silences masses, it is then the counter-cultural sounds, known as collisions of mined melodies and deconstructed drum hits, that resurrect ideals, ethics and the memories of being uplifted. It’s like our people are the tires of tired, tiered into loco-motivating the vehicles of our own despair. Until a gage one, two, three click, click clicks and our horrors become passages that write a newer history. It’s just Hip Hop. Words that honor us in their rhythmic accumulation, amazing us that the poor can find time from surviving to thrive on a canvas. Feels otherworldly like Space Gorillas versing in extended players. A collection of the most humane rhyme animals, the ones with dictionary diligence and the spirited freedoms of an unwesternized jungle.
Gage-One is a charging MC ideal to lead posse cuts with intense punctuation on his verses, uses his pauses for all the violent cymbal crashes and bass drum reboots and works anger bars into anthems every turn. A mid-tempo MC at his best, the tracks, built over years, represents the cerebral ruggedness that hardcore lyricism developed throughout the late 2000s and survived into the this decade.
The dominant force musically here is DJ Extremidiz’ who starts with digital rock funk that was a staple of early Def Jux, specifically EL P’s oft kilter productions, that spark the title track. Led by a powerfully articulated verse from Prince Po, Gage follows in a distinct double time start that inspires the MCs to make their own mark. There is an aura on these tracks where each MC is calmly excited to deliver a rhyme that is tough enough to earn the center stage. “All Star Weekend” has DJ Extremidiz loop a bassy string melody with a spilled change high hat and thudding one two break in the under current. Fes Taylor battling off to then relay to Gage’s rugged braggadocio with a great surprise of contrast in the gravel voiced Nine, who hits with great inflection in the introspective questions he bounces on the breaks. DJ Extremidiz “28 Days” is a thicker funk where the grueling bassline never leaves and the break runs feverishly. The cryptic verses follow the MC tones are augmented. “The Underground” by Plague Plenty is a guitar licked, smart snared classic Boom Bap that Gage honors even as he is sandwiched between great verses by Tame-One and Mykill Meyers. Gage’s “I mastered the word even if before they’re written on page…I still got sources of rap pages that could fill a refrigerator/obliterate/ any affiliate/I don’t affiliate/it all equates to king me or check mate/destined to be the prize possession/12 inch in every DJ’s milk crate,” is battle MCing defined. The best work from DJ Extremediz is his slow tempo deep thud bang and chipmunk’d Soul vocals on “Double Creature” where we really hear where posse cut MCing became greater and less accessible to the masses. All of the MCs from Crisis to Junclassic to Graveyard Shifter, yet epitomized by Holocaust’s slowed tone to a talk, express their energies by the sharpness of their word choices and visual imagery. Gage’s layering and aforementioned techs are at their peak here. The listener that seeks to see a song as this performed live is the measure of today’s most wonderfully obsessive Hip Hoppa. Word is bond I’d knowledge the live cipher.
And then Ayatollah chimes in with an airy orchestral palette on “Lay It Down” that we get to RIP Wisemen’s Kevlaar 7. Remembered In Perfection, Kevlaar builds, “gave birth to journals, vivid as street sermons, extra smooth scorcher/sip liquor in Boston/I move like a sorcerer/mad magical/tactical gains/staying in my lane is hypnotic/my click deal with logic/street economics/whoever’s mind is brolic/King Solomon’s knowledge/times is change/hours is dollars/elders tipping bottles/my city gave birth to scholars…” Bronze follows his physical with just as much layered poetics and Gage matches the lyrical challenge with a battle rap that offers the most personal trials and keys to insight than all the rest. Continuing to honor that, Gage-One shares the entire Space Gorillas EP digital sales to the family of Kevlaar 7.
So many times terror takes its notes by the stumbles that angered the weak into wickedness. Yet here the strength of the fallen is emblematic of the righteousness the Art is approached. Not only is Kevlaar 7 is honored but he would be proud to be part of Gage-One’s interstellar cipher of hardcore rhyme apes.