Nickodemus :: Sun People :: Eighteenth Street
as reviewed by John-Michael Bond

How much you get out of Nickodemus' music depends on what kind of music listener you are. Simply put some folks just can't get down to anything that doesn't strictly fall into one easily classifiable genre of hip hop. For those with an adventurous ear, who don't hear world music inspired production (and no, I'm sorry bumping "Arab Money" doesn't count as digging world music production) and ask "what the fuck is that?", "Sun People" is just the kind of brain food your starving ears have been searching for. With comfortable break beat roots that lay firmly inspired by hip hop Nickodemus lays down multicultural layers of musical tributes to the common ground between the rhythmic music of other countries and American rap.

Traditional programmed beats and live (or at least live sounding) instrumentation, ranging from stringed instruments to hypnotic horns, make for a surprisingly fluid mash up. On "Brookarest" a stuttering beat fit for Jigga possesses a Gypsy wedding band and creates a stomping storm of horns and beautiful song bird crooning fit for a king, be it that of rap or some far away country. The record spends an equal amount of time trying out African, Latin, and dub percussion, and the corresponding musical influences to go along with them. Twinkling keyboards, washboards, guitars; the depth of these musical layers is stunning, and the common thread that ties them all together is simply the joy of music. One need only to listen to the complimenting opening and closing tracks, "Sun People" and "N'Dini" respectively, to see the way Nickodemus ties these different cultural elements together to bring this record full circle.

When putting my Vibes together for this record I've found myself with an interesting quandary; on a record where the music is obviously the focus and the lyrics are seldom in a language my ignorant American ass can understand, what the hell am I supposed to do about the lyric score? If I knew what was being said I might found out the cats involved are dropping some serious knowledge on me, and considering the progressive nature of the recording I wouldn't be surprised. But I have no idea what's being said most of the time, so I have no way of knowing for sure. Comprehension however, in this case, simply doesn't matter. One of the aspects of lyrics is delivery and in a case such as this where my limited knowledge of foreign language leaves me clueless the performances on "Sun People" get the message across loud and clear. Whatever the heck these ladies and gentlemen are rapping and singing about they're excited and happy to be singing it. Few lyricists make sense when they're speaking in English, while the cast of "Sun People" merely let their inflection tell whole stories even as the listener's vocabulary leaves them in the dark.

"Sun People" isn't for everyone. For example there isn't a Plies fan on planet Earth who is probably going to be throwing this on at their next house party. But you know what? There probably is a kid out there somewhere talking about how much he likes rappers like Plies (and I'm not picking on Plies guys so please don't send me hate mail) who secretly is wondering if there is more than anger, bitches, and violence available in hip hop. For that kid the "Sun People" awaits, and when discovered music like this will open a whole new world of possibilities to their ears. In the Bible Nicodemus was a member of the religious political establishment who turned his back on the safety of what he knew to follow Christ. In hip hop Nikodemus might just be the push for some music fans to turn their back on the safe sounds they know and follow a more open minded path as well. Progressive hip hop heads are going to be stoked. Here's hoping this record finds its way into the mouths of wondering fans as well.

Music Vibes: 9 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 8 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 8.5 of 10

Originally posted: July 7, 2009