“Continuum” is one of those English words that immediately evokes thoughts of science fiction. In general use (if there is such a thing) it means “a whole that’s continuous and uninterrupted even though it can differ greatly at opposite ends,” you’d generally think of as part of phrases like “the space time continuum.” That’s become shorthand for every kind of motion through the universe that breaks the laws of physics, whether it’s time travel, warp engines or making the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs. No matter how implausible the premise, the method of travel invariably goes beyond the limits of the space time continuum as we know it, making impossibly vast distances passable in mere seconds.
Dating back to 2011, the Backburner crew has been breaking the laws of science through continuous expansion. Most clans, crews, posses and cliques have an initial surge of growth and then contract as egos collide and rappers spin off into solo acts. Every time I look at this Canadian collective though they only seem to have gotten larger! At last count the members include (but are not limited to) Ambition, Beatmason, Chokeules, Dexter Doolittle, Frank Deluxe, Fresh Kils, Ghettosocks, Ginzuintriplicate, Jay Bizzy, Jesse Dangerously, Johnny Hardcore, Manalive, More Or Les, Mister E, Peter Project, Psybo, Savilion, Thesis Sahib, Timbuktu, Uncle Fester and Wordburglar. Given how many of those names I’ve covered individually in the past, the size of this crew is truly mind-boggling.
That makes it all the more appropriate that on their newest project “Continuum” they exceed even their own limits by inviting even more people to join the party. It caught me by surprise to hear Mega Ran on “Ask Around” but his appearance is more than welcome. It’s not the first or last time on the album that non-Backburner members are featured, but given how massive they are, any guest could become a new addition or honorary inductee. It would make sense for Sean One or Tachichi to join strictly on their Canadian roots after hearing “The MacKay Bridge Is Over,” which is both an amusing BDP reference and a deep cut for those who don’t live in Halifax or Dartmouth.
That’s the kind of album “Continuum” is though. This is a rap massive that wears Canadian pride on their sleeves, but the skills still come first and matter the most. They roll so deep it’s hard to cite individual members on any tracks, but I still notice Wordburglar here and there on songs like “It’s Going Down,” probably because I’ve gotten so used to his comedic stylings reviewing one project after another. He’s joined by More Or Les, Jesse Dangerously, Frank Deluxe, Ginzuintriplicate and Psybo and it’s fair to say nobody drops the ball over the Beatmason horns and drums.
The same producer also laces “Juiced Crew,” another song title that playfully references 1980’s New York rap, but the members also ride the “juice” concept as it’s “served in a bottle or a can” and gets you messed up quick. The fresh cuts by Uncle Fester are the slices that go through the fruit before it’s mashed up and fermented. This is quite literally grown folks rap. If you’re under 18 or 19 (depending on the province you live in) you need not apply to go “full throttle” with Backburner. Mobb Deep might drink away their pain, but these rappers only use the brews to enhance their flow.
If that wasn’t obvious enough “Hold My Drink” should make it more crystal clear than a bottle of Dan Aykroyd’s vodka.
If I had to issue a complaint about “Continuum” it would be a relatively minor one at best, but I still think it needs to be addressed — when you have a crew this large it’s hard for people to stand out. I already mentioned that I can pick out Wordburglar’s distinctive voice on tracks, and the same goes when I hear Chokeules or Timbuktu, but often there are so many names on a track you’d wind up getting lost figuring out who’s who. That may be the kind of thing that would only bother an OCD sci-fi nerd like me who wants to know what’s going on at all times though. If you just allow yourself to get lost in the lyricism and mesmerized by the music, “Continuum” delivers some very solid hip-hop beats, scratches and rhymes.