There’s a deliberate mixing of pop culture references in the titling of this album. If on the one hand you abbreviate the underground rap pugilist Virtuoso to a singular “V,” you might be reminded of a 1980’s NBC mini-series called “V: The Final Battle” where aliens attempt to steal the world’s resources. If on the other hand you’re of a horror movie mindset, you may instead flash back to the 1981 film “Omen III: The Final Conflict.” The trilogy depicted a child named Damien Thorn who was actually the Antichrist incarnate, at first unaware of his demonic heritage, later embracing his destiny and promulgating evil until his ultimate demise.

Either one is ultimately apt, because both reference dark days for humanity, and Virtuoso is proud to be one of rap’s most gothic emcees. He seems to have found a like-minded soul in new production partner Blue Sky Black Death. They aren’t co-credited on the cover or binding, but they produce two-thirds of “The Final Conflict” and give Virtuoso an appropriately menacing sound. GZA’s once boastful line “I be the body dropper, the heartbeat stopper/Child educator plus head amputator” is given a newfound menace when sampled for the grim “Heartbeat Stopper,” which appropriately also features a sample of Ryzarector cackling “HA, HA HA HA HA HA!” V’s raps are penned with poison:

“High speed your dial-up, extra memory free my style up
It happens every time I’m rappin, I watch the bodies pile up
So why fuck with the knowledge from this scholar’s crown
It’s all around, in the hollow ground, walls of reality falling down
There’s not a sound more beautiful and terrible
that Big Virtuoso, musical, lyrical, grand imperial
Master, of celestial and ethereal
The intangible and material
Cut the tape, cause that’s a one take masterpiece
Pass the hashish ‘fore I snap and smash your teeth”

One might believe a rapper so brutal in his approach would be unlistenable and/or have few friends; then again one might forget that the equally savage Vinnie Paz has been an underground stalwart for years. Likewise the Boston native Virtuoso has stayed well connected through his long years in the indie rap scene, and he calls upon those friends to lend him a hand for “The Final Conflict.” The guest appearances are both local and bi-coastal on “No Fear” as Akrobatik and Casual get it in on a heavy BSBD beat.

Virtuoso: “To each his own then, this shit is all me
They call me creator of the big bang that keeps exploding
Weak eroding land mass smashed by my deepest ocean
Flow take your {*inhale*} so the wisdom that I speak can soak in”

Akrobatik: “Enter the black Burt Bacharach
With enough force to merk Cadillac Williams
This is Virt, Cas’ and Ak’ killin ’em
Silly dumb young full of cum rappers bounce into our millenium”

Casual: “Well on the West, I provide the bless for y’all
But digestin y’all gave me high cholesterol
You on your own dick thinkin you the best rapper
Your impact crash smaller than a stress fracture”

“The Bay of Pigs” reads like a who’s who of independent hip-hop too, inviting Del the Funky Homosapien (billed as Deltron 3030) and Vast Aire to join him on on a track that still sounds haunting despite having a pleasantly sung hook and symphonic background instruments. The only collaborative song not produced by BSBD is the early leaked single “Wie Kings” featuring German rap star Torch, laced up by Sicknature with sick cello sounds one could mistake for Apocalyptica. Other production partners to join in the debauchery are Khrome, who can be heard lacing the apocalyptic Chuck D sampling “Catch Me on Two” and the appropriately titled and heavy-handed “Hypnotic,” newcomer Sandhill on the stripped down and DJ scratch heavy “How to Make Fire” plus “In My Lives,” and Musicologo on the album’s grand finale “S.O.S. (The System Is Failing).”

Virtuoso: “In this culture of consumption, gas pumpin for 3.20-somethin
Twelve year old girls fuckin, them little drama kikos bustin
at they own cousin for nothin, just to get a rep
Just to get a check, set up they brother and cut his neck
Left in the penitentiary, servin a quarter century
You can’t rehabilitate when you can’t develop mentally (nah)
Like a flower with no rain and no sunlight
All pain and no fun right? Of course them boys gon’ fight”

Therein lies the secret to Virtuoso’s success – he’s not dark simply for the sake of the darkness. There’s a definite method to what V would willingly describe as his madness, an underlying message to the seemingly unrepentant violence within his rhymes. When you read between the lines you find that Virtuoso is actually hopeful for a better world. If one compared Boston to Basin City, Virtuoso would be our Marv, always being manipulated by the system he’s a part of yet, intelligent and powerful enough to exact revenge on the forces against him. He’s the anti-hero who is not afraid to let the ends justify the means, the man who would kill a rapist rather than see him arrested and beat the charge at trial. While “The Final Conflict” may be deeper and darker than the casual rap fan is willing to go, Virtuoso’s world is no less compelling for those willing to tread through the blood soaked pages of his rhyme book.

Virtuoso :: The Final Conflict
8Overall Score