07 May 2018 (released)
15 May 2018
Doesn't it seem like MC's these days are all getting tased when they rap? Ask anyone to do an impression of a current rapper's flow and you'll hear one of two things. You might get the triplet cadence of “Da-da-da/da-da-da/da-da-da/DA!” which has been used and abused by nearly every emcee out there today but at least allows for the use of some amount of vocabulary. The other is the clipped two syllable stutter that sounds like a combination of electric shock and Tourette's which allows next to zero lyrical content. The “Ah-zuh!/ah-zuh!/ah-zuh!/ah-zuh!” model is everywhere and it's the final step in dragging hip-hop back to the stone age. It started with trap but it has now spread throughout the genre and even into mainstream pop. This was not where the genre was supposed to be heading.
In the 80s and early 90s when rock (which had previously been the messenger of social consciousness) descended into hair metal banality, hip hop took the baton of intelligent discourse and activism and ran with it. Public Enemy, KRS-One, J Dilla all delivered brilliant, thought-provoking verses over rolling, flowing beats. An artist's flow was judged on how smoothly they could deliver their densely written material. Stuff you could sit back and think to. There's something psychically harmful inherent in the jarring, thoughtless rap style of 2018. Sure, Public Enemy were writing inflammatory songs to make you angry and fight back but this generation is writing with the mental capacity of a goldfish. It's time to make hip hop think again!
Hip-hop duo Conscious Presence pick up where old school hip hop left off. The tracks are made to kick back with your favourite relaxant, nod your head and open your mind. Filled with lyrics that uplift, encourage and promote deep thought, this is the antithesis to the bulk of rap out there today. The group wanted to further connect to the roots of hip-hop by refusing to cut it all “in the box', instead opting to record to analog tape in single takes, adding the scratching of DJ Okay and Ra Pius in real time. The result is a flowing, cohesive album that catches a vibe and rides it through to the very end.
The group takes core human concepts and dissects them one by one. They lead off with an ode to honesty and perseverance with 'Dedication', warn of spirit-crushing situations of oppression with 'Soul Trap' and preach the wonders of questioning and discovery in 'Curiosity'. The slick, groovy 'Metal & Cement' tells a laid-back tale of metropolitan disillusionment. A vein of reversed samples traverses the heavily west coast influenced beat, providing a reflective mood throughout. Joshua Synman AKA The Soul Seeker looks back on living in the concrete jungle and the intense pressures of living in the big city, seeing the depths of its intensity only after taking a step back. A very poignant take on modern living. The lead single 'Divine' reiterates the idea that the divine is all around us and urges us to take the time to see beyond the daily drudgery to see the world as infinitely heavenly.
Conscious Presence's key attribute is perspective. The music comes from an amalgamation of 60s and 70s soundscapes and textures blended with 80s and 90s beats, taking stock of the best of each era and putting it all together to make a tapestry that gives context and places ideas on a continuum. In addition, the lyrics which are often reflective and analytical, take the time to process the deluge of information we get on a daily basis and disseminate it for us. This could not be further from current mainstream hip hop and thank god for that.