Viceverses :: Native Blood :: Cloudscraper Records
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon

[Native Blood] Viceverses is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma that's far from easily solved. The first mystery is that the group calls themselves The Double V for short, when in fact that's actually longer if you count the spaces (or equally as long if you don't). The second is that the members of this rap crew hail from Kent, Ohio while stating that they've also spent time in Cleveland and Boston as well. I'm not sure what different that fact is supposed to make given none of the rappers sound like Bone Thugs or Big Shug. None of these puzzles are near as mystifying as the sound of the Viceverses on "Native Blood." None of the rappers here appear to have any Native American heritage, nor does their official bio state as much, yet the artwork and title of "Native Blood" and lyrical references to "our ancestors" suggests Viceverses is expressing an awareness of indigenous Americans spiritually if not in direct ancestry.

A majority of "Native Blood" does not feature the traditional percussion or rattle sounds associated with American Indian music, but Viceverses certainly doesn't have the contemporary hip-hop sound of their peers either. The closest one could get to describing their style both musically and verbally would be the Rhymesayers collective, a crew that prides themselves on bucking the status quo whether in the sound of their artists or the topic matter said artists rap about. "Drop One" certainly starts things out in this direction with a scratchy record sample of almost ghostly harmonies, which are mixed by turn with a hi-hat and ringing bells, until suddenly a voice rings out saying "The Earth does not belong to man, man belongs to the Earth." To be sure there's no mistaking the vocables heard in the title track of "Native Blood" as anything other than Indian, featuring the "ya" and "hey" sounds one might associate with a pow-wow. The lyrics herein offer provocative condemnations of America's racist past:

"With they contemplated blood, they sprayed my native blood
Drug my DNA through the desecrated mud
Despite the genocide, my spirits are rich
Connecting Cairo to Chalula on the pyramid's tips
My ancestors huddled 'round the Mississippi puddles
I represent that Alabama black belt buckle
We have felt struggle, nooses hang in my family tree
Pull and twist through the tribe's teepee
But every drop of life that be runnin through the tunnel of my veins
is simply just funnelin the pain
The massacre of Africans, the slaying of the Natives
created the greatest ghosts I see for my inspiration"

As passionately as Viceverses raps about these issues and how historically indigenous peoples warred against Manifest Destiny because they'd rather "rebel than dwell within this living Hell," I wish their bio or press kit had explained more explicitly why they are so adamant about these issues. It's not just that it makes them stand out musically compared to the same old shit - it's quite honestly refreshing and inspiring to hear hip-hop artists who want to speak about historical issues and their descendants in modern day grievances. You won't find a Bentley or a bottle of Moet in the raps of Pro Chill, Citizen Spaid or The Muser (who also doubles as their DJ and producer). The vibe drifts ever closer to the political revolutionary views of The Coup and Immortal Technique as you go further into the half hour EP, as the rappers encourage you to go "Offline" and experience a "Catharsis" musically and personally. "See the truth of the matter is/no matter how bad it gets/pain can help 'em or heal or it can serve as a catalyst" is their message to the deaf, dumb and blind - a call to the youth to overcome all negativity.

From the tribal rhythms of "Congo Square" to the funky bass guitar backdrop of "Revolutionary Suicide," from the weirdly hypnotizing bass and harmonica melody of "Walnuts" to the uplifting airy sound of "Kites Away," there's little doubt that Viceverses is clearly out to do a song that you've never heard before. The mystery deepens the further you dig into the Viceverses sound, and although you can never truly explain or quantify what it is you're hearing, you can't tear yourself away from it either. Regardless of their origins, their motivations, their inspirations or their inclinations, whether or not they hail from a sovereign trival nation, Viceverses "Native Blood" will awaken a warrior spirit within you.

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

Originally posted: January 18th, 2011