Lightweight but upbeat backdrops characterize the second release from Haiku D’Etat, and in partnership with the crew’s jarring rhyme schemes, the puzzling name is far from a puzzle. Loosely translated to “a poetry takeover,” Haiku D’Etat emcees Aceyalone, Mikah 9 and Abstract Rude drop complex lyrical manifestation over a largely jazz-influenced series of tight cookers on Coup De Theatre.
Aceyalone and Mikah 9 hail from the Freestyle Fellowship, a four-emcee collective that made its name imparting impromptu wizardry to the underground hip-hop circuit in the early-’90s. Along with Self Jupiter and Mtulazaji P.E.A.C.E., the Fellowship released two highly regarded LPs before Aceyalone broke off to put together his own Capitol release, All Balls Don’t Bounce, and his Project Blowed label. Mikah has meanwhile prominently carried on his freestyle mastery, gaining notice in many outlets since starting the Fellowship in 1991. Abstract Rude has fronted the Abstract Tribe Unique and served as a key collaborative member on more than one additional project, the three made time for an effective poetry takeover in two servings. Coup de Theatre, the second course, parts the sea of mediocre major-label nonsense with refreshingly mixed backgrounds and introspective, melodious and often humorous verse.
As the final track indicates, Haiku D’Etat’s seemingly flawless abilities are “Built to Last.” To those outside of independent circles, the “impenetrable” imagery may be as common within hip-hop as the discussion of oral sex is. But Haiku D’Etat has probable cause to claim such rights.
Aceyalone, Mikah and Abstract match memorable three-part harmonies on Coup‘s choruses while facing off in whirring lyrical circles. They manipulate the haiku poetry formula on a subtle bonus track, rhyming only occasionally over minor-key guitar strumming and flute snippets. This subtlety surfaces immediately on the first intro track, as cafe piano stylings accent an impromptu roll call and scratching. On “Mike, Aaron and Eddie,” the threesome pushes a set of stutter-laden circular rhymes over a chilled, fireside drum loop, sneaky percussion, and quick outro scratching. The obviously dominating aspects of their winning partnership accelerate all over the Coup, both from the emcees and their guests, including Blackalicious, Lyrics Born. As their first effort turned nodding heads back in 1999, punctuality is the only detractor here. Five years would be too long a wait for another piece of the poetry takeover.