Neferiu Records makes no bones about the fact they’re underground. In fact every page of their website has a lush green carpet of grass sitting on about an inch of topsoil, with all of the actual content you read underneath it. To the unitiated it’s just a funky design element, but to those in the know the subtext of the image is a visual reminder of their core values. It’s both aesthetically pleasing and a tad intimidating. It’s an unsubtle reminder that while their website is a public presentation for all, the music they produce goes deeper than an audience weaned on pop radio rap may be prepared for.
“The Fly” is a collaboration between renowned Canadian rapper Touch and in-house Neferiu producer The Dirty Sample. Speaking of a lack of subtlety, if you guessed there would be Jeff Goldblum samples on this album, you judged correctly. Like Seth Brundle himself you could split this matter at a molecular level, with a proton of praise for choosing a sci-fi subject that could lure in skeptics, or a neutron of negativity for being so obvious and not going a direction that befits their underground values. Since this is clearly a case of the quantum effect where the value can only be known by the one observing it at the moment it’s observed, I choose to view this as “the cat is alive” and praise them for at least making the attempt to reach a broader audience.
The choice of metaphorical inspiration for Touch’s transformation may be in the cinematic mainstream, but songs like “Lusus Naturae” prove that Touch is not dumbing it down lyrically. Neferiu may be reaching out halfway, but you have to be willing to reach out the other half, and embrace the lyrical proficiency Touch spits over these Dirty Samples. The song’s chorus is in fact a lack thereof – only giving you time to reflect on what he spit while listening to an eerie cross between a wail and a siren. The bass and beat are boom bap with the adrenaline turned up.
“I’m a monster; lasers from my eyes destroy your power plant
I’m exploring my new kingdom – you an ant
I step on you by accident, go ahead rant
I was once channeled by Immanuel Kant
Y’all mean nothing to me – you’re new to this planet
If I exterminate your species my God will understand it
News cameras will flash – it’ll be dramatic
The size of my dorsal cause worldwide panic”
There’s an inside joke following this song for fans of Mystery Science Theater 3000 that I won’t spoil by describing it here. There are some I don’t mind spoiling though, such as the artists involved mocking the convention of bookending albums by having both an “Outro” and an “Outro’s Outro.” That’s a good description of Touch’s style in itself – a mixture of the intelligent and the good-naturedly absurd. He’s not what you would classify as a stuffy elite inellectual emcee. Though he clearly has a mentality beyond the average and a lexicon to go along with it, songs like “Real High” and “Name Names” keep Touch at a down to earth level listeners can relate to.
“This dude he’s popular but I ain’t feelin him at all man
This dude, he gets pissed off if I don’t give him a call
And this dude, he’s got an ego that his flow can’t cash
The studio where he lives, and his shit’s still whack
This dude, he had a chance but, bitches made him lazy
This dude, he think he’s good but everybody know that’s crazy
This dude, somewhat successful but I ain’t feelin the way he dress though
This cat think it’s all about his fresh clothes
And this cat – he too young to be lippin people off
His homey think he hard, but he actually not
He hang with old school cats that’ll write him off
And when the shit hits the fan, he’ll end up like Jimmy Hoff'”
Ostensibly 20 tracks long, the album is actually a rather quick audio hit, clocking in at under 38 minutes total. The longest song on the album is “Mr. Smoketoomuch” at 2:53, which is lengthened by the guest verses from Fatt Matt and Kaboom. Like the songs themselves on “The Fly” cameos are kept minimal, with “Your Mind” featuring Birdapres and “Stop Buggin'” featuring Apeface. Though Neferiu may be known for being unknown, a label that takes pride in making art first and a commercial success second, there’s a real chance for “The Fly” to push up through that grassy field and be seen flowering for the masses. If it doesn’t, they can still rest assured that their quality before quantity approach has resulted in an artistically sound album.