It’s fair to assume that most of you don’t know who Madecipha is. He is an obscure artist trying to make it in an obscure genre. I’m not alluding to Hip-Hop here, but rather one of its red-headed stepchildren: horrorcore rap. With “Word Is Bond”, Madecipha follows in the footsteps of artists like Gravediggaz, Esham and the roster of Psychopathic Records. While I can hardly be considered an expert in this genre, it is with enthusiasm and open-mindedness that I will proceed to review this young musician’s debut LP.
What immediately caught my attention when I received this album was the Pen & Pixel-style graphics used to make the cover. For those who don’t know what I’m referring to, Pen & Pixel is the design team behind the legendary artwork of such camps as Cash Money, No Limit and 8Ball & MJG. Gold frame, fake glittering effects, cash…all that’s missing from this album cover is the white tigers and luxury cars. Seeing this, I automatically assumed that this album would follow the all too prevalent trend of northern rappers sounding like their southern counterparts. I was completely mistaken.
Lyrically and musically, “Word Is Bond” sounds like a cross between the music of Eminem, Necro and Jedi Mind Tricks. Madecipha’s flow and rhyme structures are reminiscent of Eminem, and his content of the latter two. So what he gives us are well-flowing rhymes, filled with cryptic metaphors and elaborate death threats.
While I do compare Madecipha to Eminem, he is lacking in one of Mr. Mathers’s strong points: charisma. He doesn’t sound as monotone as a GZA or a Rakim, but he is far from possessing Eminem’s incredible wit and presence. Combine this with lyrics that are generally hard to relate to due to their elusiveness, and what you get is a rapper that doesn’t distinguish himself overmuch. Nevertheless, there are moments where Madecipha gives us unabashed reality, an example being “Cancer Of My Soul”, one of the album’s highlights:
“I’m in trouble and I built this hell, but I’m alive
My uncle fuckin’ killed himself, I was nine
At the time my mom lied and said the bullet reflected
I was just a child, I couldn’t accept it
Now I’m all stressin, no patience exists
Reminisce we stole cable, Wrestlemania 6
He was pissed that Hogan lost, but Hog’ gave it his all
In this song I open vaults, and I pray they were gone…”
As for the production, Madecipha seems to be in the same Detroit state of mind as Eminem. The music on “Word Is Bond” is dark and gloomy, with very few rays of sunshine throughout the whole LP. The beats on the album can be split into two categories. The first category is made of instrumentals that are evocative of mid-nineties New York Hip-Hop. Eerie samples and boom bap drums can be found on songs like “The End”, “My Happiness” and another highlight of the album, the posse cut “Hit Me Up”, which uses the Eddie Floyd sample heard on Missy’s “Why You Hurt Me” and Afu-Ra’s “Equality”.
The second category of beats is a sound you would expect from a horrorcore rap release. It’s comprised of tracks that strikingly resemble something Necro would produce. Songs like “Devil’s Nightmare” and “Lion’s Den” remind me a lot of the music on “I Need Drugs” and “Gory Days”. It’s on one of these that we get what can be considered the only high-profile guest on the album, Detroit’s own King Gordy, on the appropriately titled “Welcome To Hell”. You may remember him as the fictional superstar rapper “Big O” in the movie “8 Mile”. His style is not for everybody, as he has the lyrical content of D12’s Bizarre, a hardcore delivery and a raspy voice similar to Screwball’s deceased member KL.
Live Evil and Danny Damnage handle most of the production on “Word Is Bond”. The majority of the beats start off with a good idea, but a lot of them feel very much under-produced. There are songs where all you get is a short sample and a one bar drum loop (“Above N8ure”, “Histrionics”). Some would argue that this is how “real” Hip-Hop is made, but I disagree. All the great Hip-Hop producers have made beats that seemed simple at first glance, but were filled with intricacies. This is not the case here. The producers on “Word Is Bond” show potential but ultimately, it sounds like they were learning the basics while making this album.
When listening to an independent artist, you have two likely outcomes. Either you are pleasantly surprised, or you realize why he will probably remain independent in the foreseeable future. With Madecipha, it’s neither one nor the other. There is a lot of potential shown on “Word Is Bond”, on the beats and on the mic. However, it sounds like Madecipha and his crew were not quite ready to make an LP. Had this been a mixtape, I would’ve been content. But since it’s an album, I can only say that I found it to be acceptable. If Madecipha had made an effort to be more relatable in his lyrics and his producers had devoted more time to crafting their music, “Word Is Bond” would’ve gone from satisfactory to superior.