Verses From the Abstract: Fourth Quarter Flavors (Better Late Than Never) | Under The Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Wednesday, June 16th, 2021  


Verses From the Abstract: Fourth Quarter Flavors (Better Late Than Never)

Wrapping Up 2020 Releases From Moor Mother and billy woods, R.A.P. Ferreira, NappyNappa, and Darko The Super

Jan 19, 2021 By Dustin Krcatovich Photography by Christina Nguyen Web Exclusive
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Conventional (or at least, capitalist) logic dictates that it’s insane to release your music during the holiday season, much less on an actual holiday. Unless you’re a megastar and/or releasing a Christmas album, you’re dooming yourself to get lost in the mix; besides which, all the year-end best lists are already written by then, right?

Some people just have chutzpah, though, or perhaps a principled disrespect for marketing-oriented dictates; I’d have to imagine that one or the other (if not both) of those accounts for BRASS, the new collaborative LP by Moor Mother and billy woods, being released on Christmas Day. Whatever the case, it’s a damn ripper, maybe even a late entry for this prolific pair’s best work of 2020. Hard to say for sure, though… both have been extraordinary in the last twelve months, with woods dropping Shrines as half of Armand Hammer and Moor Mother releasing a spate of singles, EPs, and collaborations every which way (including a furious punk/noise-rock set with Mental Jewelry as Moor Jewelry, and Who Sent You?, the cataclysmic sophomore LP from her free jazz/fire music ensemble Irreversible Entanglements). Horrific surrounding circumstances notwithstanding, it’s been a great year to dive headfirst into both of their work.

Miraculously, they might be even better together. BRASS finds Moor Mother hemming closer to MC conventions to spectacular effect (not to speak ill of her more freeform declamations elsewhere… she’s just also very good at rapping in the more traditional sense), and woods brings his A game, too. The beats here bear a woozy menace which brings to mind prime-era Tricky, without ever sounding the least bit like a throwback. Algiers belter Franklin James Fisher drops in for album highlight “Gang for a Day,” and I’ve yet to hear him not make a good track better.

As if this weren’t enough holiday excitement, here comes R.A.P. Ferreira with a new album, bob’s son: R​.​A​.​P. Ferreira in the garden level cafe of the scallops hotel, on New Year’s Day. Well, kind of: the album came out early in the form of a “VR experience” inside a virtual cafe, which you had to jump through some hoops to get into until the doors were flung open on NYE. If we’re going to go by the official release date, though, bob’s son is 2021’s first great album. It comes less than a year after the excellent full-length Purple Moonlight Pages, and like that album, it lives and breathes with the eternal oxygen of jazz: it projects looseness, but is actually the result of discipline and careful consideration, of meditative attention and an acknowledged connection to its historical forebears. In this way, R.A.P. Ferreira is not just the child of Bob Kaufman, the mad genius poet for whom the album is named (and whose “Abomunist Manifesto” is performed at album’s close), but also of someone like Sun Ra: in other words, an artist who knows the history on which his own work is built, and is reverent to that, but also uses it as a springboard for surprising new directions.

The same could be ascribed to DC’s NappyNappa, but generally speaking, he might be more Albert Ayler than Sun Ra: that is, less world-building, more brashly improvisational. I’ve gone on extensively about his freewheeling, noise-damaged duo Model Home in this column before, and the essential juice that they inject into underground hip-hop. Nappa’s new solo album IFEELJUSTLYKTHEIRART is less outwardly experimental, but the juice is still there. Turns out that Nappa excels in a more straightforward rap framework just as much as he does in the clattering, junk-fi sound world he inhabits with Model Home, and outside the strictures of that group, he also reveals his strength at diving deep into heady concepts, in this case the impacts of white colonialism in Africa.

In a recent piece in The Washington Post, it is said that Nappa “isn’t an ‘alt-rap’ abstractionist. He’s a realist. He’s rapping about the reality he lives in — his time, his city, his head.” That being the case, and given his homebase, I have a feeling he’ll have a lot more to say in the foreseeable future, and I have full faith that it will be vital.

Speaking of vital: fucking RIP MF Doom. Few in Doom’s generation did more to push the limits of what hip hop could encompass, what it could reference. When Madvillainy came out, I was working at a fucking Borders with a bunch of other music nerds who listened to everything we could get our hands on; I, for my part, had just gotten into Steve Reich’s early minimalist compositions. As such, when we first put Madvillainy on in the store, it flipped me out to hear Doom and Madlib drop a sample of Reich’s “Come Out” into “America’s Most Blunted.” It was revelatory to realize that, while we probably started in different places, true music obsessives would always eventually meet in the middle.

To wit: on There’s a Horse in the Hospital, Philly’s Darko The Super shows that you can make a great hip-hop record even if your foundational building blocks (like mine) start with ’90s indie rock. Darko references Pavement and Daniel Johnston, but he also owes a clear debt to Dr. Octagon both in his goofy, elastic flow and dedication to concept (the album title, lifted from a famous and gloriously-soon-to-be-irrelevant standup bit by John Mulaney about the fuckhead crime boss leaving the White House, summarizes it pretty well). There’s lots of subtext one could unpack here, but you don’t need to think hard or check the footnotes to dig Darko’s jokes or the monster beats, the best he’s rhymed over yet.

2020 was a trash year for everyone, and I’m glad it’s over. That said, so much great, poignant music has come out in the last 12 months, and I’m sure there’s more to come as we start to round a corner (knock, desperately, on wood). If you need a reminder that humanity, for all its messiness and awfulness, is worth preserving, spend a little time on Bandcamp or whatever and find a new artist saying something you haven’t heard before. It’s one of the few things that’s gotten me through this nightmare, and I know I’m not alone in this.

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Harry Potter
January 19th 2021

Hi Dustin Krcatovich. Thanks to the music you’ve provided, it’s so awesome, I listen to it before I go to bed.

Rajiv Verma
January 28th 2021

Nice article.Thanks for this.

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