Humble Beast (October 5, 2010)
Review by Ahnon Knomis
I believe it was 2007 when I heard the announcement that Sharlok Poems would be shortening his name after 8 years. Going simply by the moniker Poems, the former LA Symphony crew alumni teamed up with Braille’s Hip Hop IS Music label for the somewhat disappointing Blooming Sounds release. Shortly thereafter, the emcee changed his alias once again to Sareem Poems. For those keeping track at home I hope you haven’t gotten lost.
One thing that’s remained a constant through-out the 12 years or so I’ve heard Poems voice (Sharlok, Sareem, whatever) is his monotone and sharp delivery. Brief inflections in his vocals often address passionate lines of frustration and calls for change in a rather calm demeanor. Insights into the artists world around him are often subject matter wrapped in social issues and even political topics sprinkled in for measure. So enters in a collaboration I can’t say I ever seen coming yet nevertheless one that I am happy to have heard.
The producer known as Dust, most notably the man behind Mars ill’s catalog of records as well as Deepspace5 contributing producer steps in. Dust has also been known in recent years for collaboration albums with Sev Statik among others. His classic rock drum samples and organic baselines and southern soulful vinyl samples scratched and blended and manipulated into works of art on tables have been Dust’s cornerstones within certain circles. So be it that the producer teams up with an artist that to be honest I would never have thought matched well in styles and techniques. Regardless, the blend of Dust’s production and Poems voice would ultimately prove through repeated listens to be something I’ve added to the top of my current playlist.
Dirty Words is the title of the collaborative album of Dust’s production and Poems on the lyrics. “Power To The People” finds itself as the lead-off track to the album filled with uptempo break-beats and group chants in a cadence like echo. Not absent from the track is resounding messages of the general masses taking influence over those with proverbial power positions albeit government, music industry, or what have you. The quick drum rolls and brass rifts keep you deeply enticed and the message although nothing new since John Lennon and the power to the people in 1971 and even hippie marches in the 60’s still proves to be just as suggestive of change and relevant in 2011.
Guest list is slim and features Dust’s fellow Ds5 member Sev Statik on “Listen Up”. Sev’s unique singing hook adds a nice touch and Dust is the master of taking hooks to the next level by chopping and scratching them on the tables like only he can do. “Grace” is quite possibly one of the standouts to me on this album. The atmospheric sound-scape on the beat matches by deep kicks, guitar strings, and Gospel samples from what sounds like an old southern soul record just laid the perfect groundwork for Poems to poor his passion into speaking life experiences and God’s Grace at work in him.
“Change” features Elias of Scribbling Idiots and Speech of Grammy Award winning Arrested Development crew. This beat is just funky like some James Brown meets Jimmy Hendrix type of vibe. Once again Dust proves his mastery of blending hooks sung by artists over tables with scratches and sample juggling. He really does an amazing job and has the crown on that niche. Poems touches on what else but topics of things that need to change in life. He furthers the message by telling people to continue “beating that drum” as the hook suggests, because “change gonna come”.
“Will Not Be Sold” is a great beat with a catchy hook. If Van Morrison was a beat producer he might have put something like this out. Add in Poems monotone voice calling out fake commercial rap acts making comparisons to majors acting like dancing salves for their slave masters. A strong and passionate position on the topic of commercial musicians being seen as modern day slave labor but one many fans of the underground share. No doubt this will hit home for some.
“Fly” features two of arguably the best underground artists of modern times in manChild and Theory Hazit. The two lend a hand to Poems over a continued theme of uptempo break-beats and Whirlitzer keys. The occasional sample lifted from a 70’s or 80’s ballad (whose artist name escapes me)… sings “fly high up to the sky!”… bridging the lead-in for the hook.
“Give Thanks” may be my second pick as standout on this album. The beat is melodic sharp chords meets a solid boom-bap drum pattern and steady percussion. Dust uses allot of drum shifts and fills in his patterns to keep the cadence from getting monotonous but sometimes it takes a steady approach to jar the ears back in tune with the message being laid out by the emcees. “Give Thanks” is a great way to begin a lead out on this record as Poems pays homage to those who have come before to “pave the road”.
There’s only a hand full of albums I can truly put on and play from start to finish. If your looking to clean out the junk in your music collection, get “Dirty Words” and add a little funk to your playlist. Worth the cost of admission this album is aimed to please even the jaded of underground critics and fair-weather fans.
For fans of: Sareem Poems aka Poems fka Sharlok Poems, DJ Dust, Mars ILL, L.A. Symphony, Deepspace5