That legendary Greek guy, Aristotle, was an expert on the subject of ethics, or ethos as it was called in ancient times. In your ordinary dictionary, ethos just means moral competence, but Aristotle insisted upon that it was a bit more than just that. According to him, ethos should be achieved only by what the speaker says, not by what people think of his character before he begins to speak. Isn’t The Ethos Project the perfect way to describe a group that has stayed unnoticed on the hip-hop radar in every way?
Partially, Ethos’ stealth can be explained by the simple fact that this group, which mostly originates from Texas, makes a brand of hip-hop music that is not well known around these ‘ere parts. Artists like Paul Wall and Slim Thug have been attracting a lot of attention as representatives of the Houston Screw scene. Arguably, Ethos is quite different from those grimey members of the Lone Star State scene.
The Ethos Project, a collaboration between the veterans of K-Otix and Kay of The Foundation (another Texas-based group), comes with a jazzy, self-reflective sound that is stripped of any braggalicious tendencies that their Texan counterparts are so accustomed to. The group, supplemented by Ohio MC Donte from the semi-legendary formation Mood (has Main Flow in its ranks), has been steadily digging up from the bottom of the underground and combined, these musicians have at least as much experience as the average blues legend.
The first thing that jumps to mind while listening to “Ethos” is the surprisingly versatile production. Overall, the album has a laidback feel but it doesn’t make the mistake of being so mellow that it becomes boring. The ARE of K-Otix is very inventive in his sampling and sometimes switches (for instance on “Something”) samples within songs, causing the whole to get a completely different feel multiple times. Upcoming talent Kay, who did some work on ATCQ’s Ali Shaheed Muhammed’s debut album, adds to that.
The second thing that sticks out about this album is the surprisingly little amount of information that can be found on the Ethos Project. On the K-Otix website, the album is hardly mentioned, distributor Groove Attack didn’t deem it necessary to give any extra background on the project and the only information on the Ethos website consists of three lemons and the cryptic message: Coming sooner than you think!
The MC’s in the Ethos project hold their own lyrically, although they don’t have the metaphorical agility of, say, Common or the delivery of, say, Immortal Technique. What they do possess is a straightforward way of bringing their message across. Damien and Mic of The Legendary K-O (as K-Otix are also known) haven’t lost their hunger after almost fifteen years of making music. Unfortunately, the guest appearances on Ethos are not as strong as they should be. V-Zilla is at best a mediocre MC and the Underclassmen (who reside in Switzerland) should have stuck with trying out for the Winter Olympics.
Ethos’ shining moments are in the self-reflective moods they present on this album. The unavoidable battle songs are decent, but don’t stand out as much as the material in which the group tries to deliver a message to their audience. For instance, in “Declaration” Ethos plays around with the definition of the rights within a democratic nation to express one’s opinion in a musical kind of way:
“To speak a clear mind without fear of oppression
Through our possession of time and years of progression
Can’t question: these truths are evident
Whatever impression I choose to represent
The freedom of expression through my own penmanship
Allows me to roam where you condone censorship
Exempt from the clones, the critics, the heretics
The simpletons in thrones, the hicks and the derelicts
The right to remain authentic and genuine
My declaration of independence defined”
In “Dues” they contemplate the possibility of being young and having achieved your goals in life. Instead of trying to sound like they have already got it all, like their Houston counterparts, they envision the possibility of having no goals in life anymore and aren’t too happy about that:
“What would you do if you had no dues?
If you had nothing to lose; what would you choose?
If you’ve done anything that you wanted to do?
What’s left if you got nothing else to pursue?
So what happens when you get to point B?
Got to the end, nothing left to see
Nothing left to do, it’s already done
If you already did it, what’s the outcome?
A whole life ahead, but no road to tread
I never make dreams that I ever outgrow
Wherever I’ll live, wherever I go
I know that I’ll still have dreams to fulfill”
The Ethos Project is not the most accessible group of musicians, but the strong production and the overall steady lyrical delivery make this an album even Aristotle wouldn’t mind listening to more than once. Cause even men in robes have the urge to nod their head once in a while.