The cover art of Moves’ “Hiss 3 – Hissterectomy” is purposefully designed to look like a wrap around insert for a cassette tape. These days tapes are as “retro” as my Retro Hunting Adventures, a format from a bygone era that still works… provided you have the right equipment to use them with. I’m going out on a limb here but I think it’s reasonable to assume most readers born after 1992 have never seen or used audio tapes, don’t own a Sony Walkman, and never had a tape deck in their car stereo. The cover art is convincingly authentic, but it’s not authentic in the way a Def Jam or Tommy Boy Records tape would be (who else misses the smell of the latter) — it’s authentic in that “you bought this out of somebody’s trunk at the swap meet” way.
As for the artist himself, Moves is reputed to be “a living legend and a true Canadian classic” by his record label, but no record label would ever send you a press release stating “here’s a guy you’ve never heard of who is a local hometown hero” even if that was the truth. Hyperbole is to be expected and just as often to be disregarded. I’ll accept the claim that he has been in some way part of 60+ albums as stated, but this happens to be the first one I’ve ever listened to, so I can’t judge him on the other 59+. One thing I can state for certain though since I was able to independently verify it is that Moves was part of a Nova Scotia rap group called Hip Club Groove who made a small amount of noise with their song/video “Shootin’ the Gift.”
The “Hiss” series dates back to 1995, so there’s a fair to good chance it could have come on a cassette tape back then. I was still making mixtapes back then with similar inserts, and according to the artist the name refers to the audio static you’d hear on certain high end cassettes (though YouTube audiophile TechMoan might disagree). Nevertheless that distinction doesn’t exist in today’s digital distribution world unless you intentionally insert distortion into your mix to recreate a nostalgic feeling. I don’t get that sense from “Hiss 3 – Hissterectomy” though. The artwork might be a throwback but the production is crisp and clean and the raps are up-to-date for modern listening ears. It’s not Moves on the mic though — it’s a collection of his compadres — he’s actually the one providing the production. It’s refreshing to hear long lost legend Kwest Tha Madd Lad on “Hip Hop Is Born.”
Even though he’s clearly aged since the 1990’s, the vocal tone and crispy slicing tongue is almost exactly the same, which makes me regret that this track is only a couple of minutes long. If the whole album was Americans from back in the day who got major label deals but didn’t experience platinum success (Omniscience, 8-Off the Assassin, Saafir the Saucee Nomad, Cella Dwellas, et cetera) I’d thoroughly enjoy it. Most of it is Canadian emcees you’d know if you follow the scene, but there are occasionally WEIRD moments. Take for example the “Driggity Drunk” remix by Cee!!!!!!!! (Yes all of those exclamation points are part of his name). “I drink until my brain is congested […] call me on my landline I’ll be rambling gibberish.” It would be depressing if it wasn’t so FUNNY. It’s like if a Halifax rapper decided to do an impression of a New York stand-up comedian who decided to become a rap artist. He purposefully mispronounces things like “Two Pac Shacker” to accentuate the act.
Despite the mixtape like impression the whole presentation is meant to give you, the album actually clocks in at 73 minutes, just under the length of a standard compact disc (though longer lengths have always been possible with compression or special tricks). I’m happy to be listening to something longer than an EP to review but I have to admit that it’s a lot to take in. Standout tracks include another drinking anthem from Ghettosocks titled “12 oz,” the fresh fried funk of “Onion Rings” with Sars Kuma, the minimalistic “Rap Mode” from Epik, and what’s billed as the original mix of “Lightskin (For the Win)” by Tachichi.
It’s honestly hard to go wrong with ripping this album and turning on your audio player’s “random track” button. I will make a few observations for the record though. Amanda Silvera is clearly a talented singer, but her vibes on “Lovely” seem out of place compared to the rest of “Hiss 3.” Young Sin & Mike Murder don’t turn in a bad song on “Roll Up & Get High,” but the sample and the subject are both rap cliches as is the G-Funk style singing on the hook. I can’t really decide whether I like or hate Nathan Cruise on “No Crew.” He seems more like a beat poet than a rap artist, but the production keeps me head nodding anyway. In summary “Hiss 3” is an eclectic compilation with enough surprises to keep a listener intrigued from start to finish.