various artists :: Definitive Jux Presents IV
Author: Steve 'Flash' Juon
It's a little perplexing to consider that it's been over five years since the last
Definitive Jux installment hit store shelves.
A lot of things have change in the half decade since, and not necessarily for the better,
including the death of Jukie legend Camu Tao on May 25th of last year. Appropriately the
second track of "Definitive Jux Presents IV" embraces his memory by including the
song "When You're Going Down," which is also a bit of a teaser for a posthumous album
due out later this year being put together by El-P. Tao's track here is self-produced and
intentionally or otherwise it's a bit rough around the edges musically, and he sings to boot:
"You said, that you'd leave
I'm not sad, go ahead and leave
And you said, that you'd bleed
Go ahead and bleed, get away from meeee
I'm not leaving, I'm not leaving
I'm not leaving from this place
I'm not leaving, I'm not leaving
Go ahead and leave, get away from meeee"
Given the limited amount of original Camu Tao music that can be released after his
death, beggars can't be choosers, and when I say "intentionally or otherwise" that's
worth closer inspection. For those who weren't up on Definitive Jux in the last ten years
and weren't exposed to any of their compilations during the hiatus of the last five, this
is a crew of musicians who are likeminded when it comes to being unconventional.
They don't do the same kind of rap music everybody else does. Calling it "futuristic"
would be far too simple, and implies that this is somehow what the rest of hip-hop will
evolve into in the future. I honestly don't see any chance of that happening. It would
be much better to consider the Def Jukies visitors from an alternate universe Earth X,
where all rhymers and artists are blessed with superpowers from birth. That's how I
envision Despot when he raps on the E*Vax produced "Look Alive" - walking through
the swirling terrigen mists straight into our present day reality:
"Don't look now, now or now either
But here see hear and speak evil
He's fear itself dressed as people
Sum of all equals, hi pleased to meet you
Come and get beat to each punch you throw got
softness better known to clean a whole clock
More chips on his shoulder than the ol' block
Short distance to go to where the buck stop
Listen, Hell is one hell of a town
You ain't on your way out, better change up your route"
The unconventional Jukies form their own supergroups at will for any reason with no
excuse. One moment they'll be busting raps over a smashing and snapping Aesop Rock
drum track as Hail Mary Mallon (Rock, Rob Sonic and DJ Big Wiz) on "D-Up", the
next they'll be spitting "Reports of a Possible Kidnapping" as the Weathermen (Cage,
Aesop Rock and El-P). Some members still manage to maintain their own form and
function without being transmogrified though. Absurdist Yak Ballz explores a "Gas
Galaxy" created by Chapter 7, traveling at speeds of thought that are unimagined by
Kool Keith. El-P flows over his own production on "How to Serve Man (The Meanest
Things I'd Never Say)" opening his rap with words suitable for a horror movie:
"That's not a hand, it's a claw
And this is not a song, it's an exorcism of numbness
We are not in my bedroom any more
It's a prison camp that I've been stuck in
This isn't skin, it's a scramble suit with a thousand me's rotating
That's not your mouth, it's a boredom generator, powered by irritation"
Incidentally if you're not familiar with scramble suits, I recommend "A Scanner
Darkly" by Philip K. Dick, a sci-fi take on a dystopian future of drug users and pushers.
Coincidentally "How to Serve Man" is an ideal final track for both this album and review
because it serves as textbook example of the type of shit Jukies are on - references
that could easily be obscure to a majority of the people exposed to it. The Definitive
Jux collective don't just cultivate a cult following, they purposefully exclude anybody
who isn't willing to get on their level from joining it. If the axiom that the effort is
worth the reward has ever proved true though, albums like "Definitive Jux Presents IV"
fit it. This is not an easy album to listen to, because there are no comfortably cliched
rap phrases or familiar themes of conspicuous consumption, and no conventional
dumbed down beats to hear them over anyway. Everything is taken to a new plane of
existence that's so high above ground you may need to come down between spins
for a lungful of oxygen. It may be too much for most but for me I offer this toast
to the Jukies - well done, and long overdue. R.I.P. Camu Tao.
Music Vibes: 7.5 of 10
Lyric Vibes: 7.5 of 10
TOTAL Vibes: 7.5 of 10
Originally posted: September 1, 2009