The Darkmonk :: True Underlord :: XIL/Metal Face Records
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon

[True Underlord] "Thematically speaking 'True Underlord' is a post apocalyptic journey into the mind of a modern day anti-hero." That concept may be rather bold for a new and completely unknown rap artist, but Darkmonk's grandiose conceptual design is bolstered by the big names associated with his "True Underlord" CD. He benefits from having the backing of long time hip-hop favorite MF DOOM, who is releasing Darkmonk's album on Metal Face Records. He's also got a who's who of hip-hop producers making the beats for his rhymes including Madlib, Jake One, DJ Kool Akiem and Daniel Dumile himself. He's also got some lesser-knowns on the boards too such as Wesutrxx, who produces and raps on "Text Off Da Celly" among others.

Wesutrxx: "Nuttin on the radio, lookin at the telly
Ring ring, bling bling, text off my celly
Bumpin got the heartrate racin like Pirelli
Have it all in package like peanut butter jelly
Unknown numbers get muted like mimin
Money come late still make it great timin
Busters all selfish on shady porch whinin
Morals unthorough like sun is not shinin
Nuttin on my Facebook, pillow on the griddle
Get through the Bluetooth wireless signal
These type of calls run vital like Fido
Crazy on the track like psycho on Tyco"

The beats on both songs are acceptable, if not spectacular, but listening to "Text Off Da Celly" one can't help but notice the rhymes are not living up the press release hyperbole. Deltron 3030 was a post apocalyptic anti-hero without even needing to say so over a decade ago. He took us on a journey to a place and time where urban cyberpunks rebelled against an oppressive world state by downloading viruses into government mainframes. Del's spectacularly freeform flows mirrored the anarchistic hip-hop values he wanted to inject into the masses of his dark future, liberating them from a totalitarian mainstream. Needless to say the whole thing was a larger commentary on creative rap versus pop culture, but it was powerfully packaged by superb Dan the Automator beats and advanced Del rhyme techniques. "Text Off Da Celly" is none of the above. Here's how easy it is to imitate:

"Wake up in the morning, had juice and coffee
Bad music on my radio, chewed a piece of toffee
Plans for the afternoon interrupted by my Berry
BBM message from a dude that's kind of scary
Finished my candy then I went to the dentist
He says I have cavities, he's a real menace
Got my shit drilled while I'm surfing Facebook
Made a date for later yo, that's a good look"

That's not post apocalyptic or futuristic, that's shitty and simplistic.

I kept looking around for what the press released said about Darkmonk in vain. The Jake One beats of "Real Terror" are nice, but neither Monk nor his partner Mobonix deliver impressive raps. "Sugarfoot phony, used to call you little homey/call an ambulance, peel him off the block like baloney." REALLY? The Herbaliser produces "Can't See 'Em" featuring Kayenne, but once again the beats exceed the rhymes. It's worth noting that it's not just that these rhymes are uninteresting, it's that they're delivered in a totally uninteresting way. Darkmonk raps with the enthusiasm of a depressed methadone abuser. It's a stylistic choice meant to make him an intriguing persona in the Metal Face roster (as is his mask and skateboard) but it doesn't work. "Your heart pumpin Kool-Aid/I'm pumpin hot curry." Not only does that sound absurd, it's contradictory given the total lack of emotion with which he says it.

I can't completely bury "True Underlord" because there are some interesting moments here and there. One of DOOM's old "Special Herbs" beats is resurrected for "Sinista," and it seems to inspire both him and Mobonix to spit some better rhymes. "Hyena!" is also a DOOM production, and for once Darkmonk seems to have some passion to his flow, even if it's still a very stilted one. The Kool Akiem produced "So Kold" may only be two minutes long, but both rapper and emcee make the most of it. One other problem emerges here when comparing a wannabe post apocalyptic anti-hero to a real one like Deltron 3030: the latter is over an hour long while The Darkmonk can barely clock in at 30 minutes including interludes between tracks. I feel bad for the publicist in this case, not because Darkmonk is a disappointing emcee, but because in trying to find a marketing angle to promote this album they made it far too easy for me to find a point of comparison he can't live up to. Even if Deltron 3030 never existed though this album would still be unfortunate. One can only hope Darkmonk gets a charisma injection between now and his next CD.

Music Vibes: 6.5 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 2.5 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 4.5 of 10

Originally posted: February 21st, 2012