Humble Beast (June 19, 2012)
Review by Aidan Severs
Braille. Odd Thomas. Courtland Urbano (formerly known as Xperiment). All mainstays of the popular Humble Beast Records camp, all purveyors of dope music in their own right. As a group their first outing was on the King Kulture compilation on which they performed the title track. Individually they’ve been responsible for some notable releases, particularly Braille’s Shades of Grey and his most recent Native Lungs, and collectively they featured on Lecrae’s Church Clothes mixtape on the track “Misconception”.
First Humble Beast released the sophisticated-looking artwork; secondly the snippets went up on iTunes. This reviewer, being somewhat of a Braille fan, rushed to listen to the clips, and was surprised, confused and, truth be told, a little disappointed by what was heard. I suppose I didn’t really listen properly and I put it down to there only being 30 seconds of each track to listen to and resolved to listen to the album in its entirety on its release.
Well, I’ve heard it now, so what do I think? I like it a lot. The beats are something new in the Christian Hip Hop scene, and something not often seen in Rap in general – think Flying Lotus and Brainfeeder’s general output and you’re on the right track – this is that electronic, bleepy, experimental-type production. The tracks vary in pace, “Motive 1, 2” is quick whereas the title track and the majority of the rest are more down-tempo. Lush sustained synths accompany the complex, staccato, found sound rhythm patterns, creating something startlingly ethereal.
Braille and Odd Thomas’ rhyme style suit the production perfectly. Whereas both can flow flawlessly on more traditional beats, the rapid-fire, spoken-word aesthetic on show here is, again, something fresh in the scene. The MCs play off each other well, for example on “Entitlement” and when they join forces for a chorus they are harmonious and catchy, see “An Open Letter To Whoever’s Listening”; one of the albums stand-out tracks.
Lyrically this album is outstanding – the content is this album’s absolute strength. The inclusion of all the prose-like lyrics in the digital booklet gives you that old-fashioned listening experience and the lyrics read very well and make for great material for meditation. There are tons of quotables on this release, so here are just a few so you get the picture: “Make you logically stop and think doxologically cause honestly a little bit of music and theology never really hurt anybody”, “There’s no scientific system sufficient to measure the distance. Big words and images are limited descriptions…” and “Dear descendants of Adam and Eve, we’ve been contaminated with a disease. The infiltration of sin is deep in our nature, peel back the layers.”
Some might find Satellite Kite an awkward listen due to its revolutionary and ground-breaking combination of production and rap styles; others will relish this for exactly the same reasons. As with all Humble Beast’s releases it can be gotten for free so you are at liberty to make your own decision.