Everything from the lyrics to the beats to the recording, Jersey’s Code Poets, consisting of emcees Off Topic and Phase Fate, does it all on their own and truly puts the meaning in “independent.”
As an enthusiast of independent labels and underground hip hop, I give praise to all artists who attempt to make solid, progressive music. On the other hand, that same production sometimes ends up being unfinished, scattered, and repetitive. I was rather confused about how I felt about the album as there is definitely a clear division between the first and second half of the album.
The beginning of this ten track album was nothing but unfinished, scattered, and monotonous. I felt as though I was listening to the same track over and over again. Each track shares the same ominous, heavy bass ridden beat that repeats itself over and over again as seen in “Know Tomorrow,” “Broke on Bullets,” and “Desensitized Lyrics.” The bass line remains simple and minimal from track to track as I was expecting a variety of sound or introduction to some innovative resonance.
Aside from the lack of interest “Mark of the Beast” begins with, the album fortunately redeems itself in its second half. Definitely more uplifting in both lyricism and beats, Code Poets initiates their talent with production in the latter part of the album. The focus is turned to self-reflection, personal experience, and recollections of the past. A stand out track in the album with its slow, atmospheric and ambient sounds, Off Topic’s lyricism in “Dust” shows maturity and awareness through problematic times:
“Waited so long, so patient, so nameless
So ageless, so blame this from mistakes so famous
I run circles ’til I can’t keep chasing and collapse
Run myself over on the next lap
Making things worse, but I can’t relax
Worry about what is this or maybe that
I should focus my energy and face the facts
When I should go for broke ’til I break my back
Carry a pen with me
It’s like a friend to me
Writes articulate eulogies of my enemies
And passionate love letters from a fragile part of me
And letters home to my family
I know they miss me
I miss me too
Don’t cry mom
I’ll be home real soon…
Excuse me when I feel out of place
Woke up a year later in a new space
All seemed like a dream that I had
Life passed so fast
What will I see when the dust settles?”
In continuing the common theme of insight, “Watershed” provides a glimpse into inspirational friends and family. In addition to its heavily synthesized beat and slow, simple bass line puts, the echoing voice of a woman situates you into a dreamlike state.
“What You Love” personifies the concept of time and illustrates the struggle to deal with it through knowledge as Code Poets show that “we don’t ask for too much in our lives, we’re just looking for a safe place to die.”
Marked by high pitched synths and a sharp drum beat, “One More Time” proves to be a positive, yet upbeat track satiated with fast paced lyricism. It provides the premise to not give up and simultaneously, sustain the strength to live another day in its entirety.
Blaring sounds and swift lyricism with the transition of sounds, speed and the robotic voices of a man and woman introduces variety in “New Days.” The track attempts to preserve the idea of optimism for tomorrow to increase awareness in our lives as Code Poets say “…if the silence weighs heavy on your mind then you’re deaf to the noises inside.” In other words, be conscious.
Ultimately, Code Poets’ efforts and attempts to construct notable music are unrivaled. Although the album begins fairly rough, the tracks in the latter part of the album show the mellowness and intelligence in Code Poets’ lyricism whether it is socially conscious or expressive. Difficult as it is to be independent artists, they provide a glimpse into what new-found musicians are truly capable of and to further acknowledge their poetic talents, Code Poets have the room and capability to make the “beast” even fiercer than ever before.