ILLECT Recordings (April 24, 2012)
Review by Aidan Severs
Cas Metah and Wonder Brown, both of Scribbling Idiots, are The Darke Bros. With a whole host of releases between them, you’ve probably already heard of them and checked some of their music. If not, their new album The Darke Bros. on Illect Recordings isn’t a bad place to start familiarizing yourself.
The album has a very strong start with some of its best tracks heading up the project. Nan Knew, The Way I Cry and Mindbender are cuts that stick in the mind long after listening. There’s a brief skit and then things are back on track with another three memorable songs: I Know, In Or Out and Back And Forth (and the unforgettable beat skit Over and Over). Things pick up again with Drowning Man which features Elias and Copywrite over a J. Rawls beat and Winding Down featuring Holmskillit – if the album had only the aforementioned tracks (and Bros. On The Run) I’d have been satisfied. As it happens you get 7 other tracks on top of those, just to ensure you get your money’s worth. None of these 7 are particularly bad; every good album has standout tracks which overshadow the more conspicuous ones.
One strong point in the LP’s favor is that it sounds like a secular record and has escaped the watering-down that some Christian Hip Hop releases seem to have received. I’m not talking in terms of subject matter, but more in terms of the production and the rap styles and flows. Beats from Theory Hazit, Vintage, Mattman and J. Rawls contribute well to the weighty sound of the LP. Cas Metah’s work in secular Hip Hop circles may provide reasoning for this although the same could be said for the Illect Recordings catalog as a whole, including past releases from Scribbling Idiots and Cas Metah. This is just real Hip Hop that any head could connect with.
So if an unconverted Hip Hop fan did bump this, what messages would they take away? They’d mainly realize that Christianity does not provide secret formulas for a happy life (contrary to the teachings of some churches) and that we rely on one who is able to forgive us and give us eternal life: “I’ve been forth and back between alive and dead, then finally fed up when it was my time to get up, down I got on my rotten knees and out called ‘please’ to God almighty for my autobiography… self wasn’t righting the wrongs” (from The Way I Cry). It’s lyrics like these, although the project is not heavy with them, which set the context for the overall theme – that life can be very tough. The songs, usually implicitly, point towards sin as the root cause of strife in this world and the MCs are very honest about their own struggles: “I long for the nights when there’ll be no dark… because despite faith founded, it ain’t grounded, somehow I always end up under, drowning in my surroundings…I’m a drowning man, thought I could stand…just reach out your hand, I wanna believe but I just don’t understand…I see these black tears of ink, are dripping again, holding my breath under water as I’m swimming in sin.”
Both MCs bring their A-game on this release and the subject matter is so brutally honest that most of us will relate to the feelings they portray – for some it may be a breath of fresh air as the realization comes that others out there feel the same way as they do. When music empathizes it connects with the listener and in doing so is automatically successful in having a valued impact – The Darke Bros. album does just that. Listen to it, and remember, you’re not the only one.