“Hell on Hell” is a collaboration between San Jose MC Megabusive and British producer Awkward. Awkwards name may be familiar: he is part of L.A.-based crew the Cloaks, and produced Open Mike Eagle’s 2012 album “4NML HSPTL.” According to his Facebook page, Megabusive has put out five solo records and been rapping for almost twenty years.
With a name like Megabusive and a title like “Hell on Hell,” you’d be forgiven for thinking that this was going to be horror rap. That is, until you see that it is on Myka 9’s label and it has features from Open Mike Eagle. Megabusive makes cerebral art rap in the same vein as Open Mike with a healthy dose of Aesop Rock thrown in. There are lots of big words, lots of irony, and lots of big ideas condensed into song form. “You can’t dance to this/Too many words at ’em/No need to throw up a fist/Just listen,” he raps on opener “Re Re.” So it’s gonna be that kind of party.
The title track isn’t about fire and brimstone, it is a criticism of the capitalist system:
“I never owned a car
Don’t watch TV
Don’t advocate overspending
Or trust our currency
Subversive as I can be
Harvest the knowledge and wisdom around me”
Album closer “So Much” criticizes the U.S.’s wars abroad and wars at home:
“It can get much worse
This country don’t know war
We know overseas carpet bombing
And cheap labor on imports
Disregard all rules we claim to enforce
With armed forces forced in a commodity sport
Who pays the price?
The soldiers do
And who blames freedom?
The ones that told them to
Who’s at fault?
Whoever has the most to gain
And as a result people are murdered senselessly each day
Even at home transit cops and neighborhood watch patrols killing young black men
In cold blood with no time given
It’s outta control”
Awkward’s production sounds like he is using a Super Nintendo to make banging beats. They are full of dirty, heavy bass but also tons of bleeps and bloops and MIDI sounds. His production reminded me a little of El Producto, in that he is using elements of electronica to make b-boy beats. Awkward is a definite strength of the album, and I’m going to seek out his other production work.
Megabusive has good lyrics and good beats, but his delivery didn’t always work for me. I mentioned Aesop Rock already, and it’s a fair comparison. Megabusive has a stentorian flow and slightly monotone delivery with bars full of intricate wordplay. The problem is that sometimes his delivery is so flat that it kills the song, at least for me. He sounds so detached in “Re Re” that I thought he was some amateur dude making songs on his laptop. It wasn’t until three songs in that I realized he was actually good. The last two-thirds of the album is solid, especially on more banging tracks like “Sidewalk Symphonies” and “Broken Language 2014.”
“Hell On Hell” is a solid indie rap EP. Megabusive tackles some big topics with insight and humor, and Awkward’s beats are consistently good. Recommended if you are in the mood for hip-hop that switches things up and makes you think as well as nod your head.