Nuance. And how Chicago is brimming with it, screaming it and flooding records like Vakill's sophomore LP, Worst Fears Confirmed, with it. God, it makes sense: songs as roots, verses like branches, dipping and swelling and breaking off, suffocating the Molemen's beats. Or is it the other way around?
Fuck the hyperbole. There hasn't been a marriage of beats and rhymes of this compatibility since Illmatic. Start anywhere. Over the plucked soul of "Serpent & the Rainbow": "I push pens like a seamstress/ When I seem stressed/ And life extremes depress/ And crippled, my dream crests/ Thought about servin', but/ Let the triple beams rest/ When three assailants with chrome/ Triple team jests/ And three clapped his brain/ Still breathin' when that white sheet wrapped his frame/ So vividly I recap the pain/ Cops caught the three cats that flamed/ Now that's four niggas total that these traps done claimed."
The chorus is Greek tragedy: "I'm on the grind 'til my veins go cold/ On my grizzly, 'til the game's in a stranglehold/ Somewhere over the rainbow, there's gold/ But watch out/ For them serpents, tryin' to snatch an angel's soul." Tough love is all over. "Farewell to the Game" is sincere without being self-righteous, mature without forfeiting passion. The thugs that gave up the dumb shit, the hustlers that leave the clips empty, the strippers who realize self-worth: these are Vakill's peers, his people, and he is no better than them just because he is less ignorant. Judgment is cast on the human condition as a whole, not on the perpetrators or victims that are smothered by it. ("Every man has a breaking point," Vakill says at the beginning of "Man into Monster." "My question is: What's yours?") In "Heart Bleeds," Vakill begins with cold assertions ("Son of an alcoholic/ Son of a minister/ Son of a bitch") before going blank: "Sorry, Moms, even God took a day to rest/ I'ma settle this shit/ So just look away, I guess." Then a bomb: "Don't fuck with my money, moms and music/ Fuck the money and music/ You fuckin' with moms alone, I'ma lose it."
"Acts of Vengeance," the album's final track, is a harrowing narrative about a pastor who tries to rid the block of violence but who feels the need to go there himself when his children are killed by dopemen. It's told documentary-style; Vakill's relaying the story like he's reading headlines out of the newspaper. But then he switches to devil's advocate: "What would you do?" he asks. "Remember: You're a man of the lord." What would you do, "Throw away your beliefs and mine Would you rather leave it up to God/ Or load up tecs and nines and even up the odds?"
But again the nuance. Crescendo synths that heighten the suspense in "Acts of Vengeance"; the ill Jay-Z lines cut in at the end of "Farewell to the Game" ("On that note I'm leavin' after this song so long hold on"); the crackled soul and skeletal kicks that play on after the third verse in "When Was the Last Time"; the perfect cadences between Vakill and guest Royce Da 5'9" in the incredible "The King Meets the Sickest"; Vizion's gut-wrenching turn over a tearful sample in "Man into Monster"; the "whoa-oh-ohs" dropped at the right moments in the title track; the powder keg that goes off when Ras Kass shows up for "Introducin'." This is Vakill and Molemen's statement spelled out in fifteen brilliantly worded sentences. Nothing more than what's necessary. Everything in its right place. Hip-hop, you're welcome.
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