Back in 2014: I follow a white rabbit trail of some sorts (The Custodian Of Records – Your blogs in my business) and end up on Free Music Archive: a curated collection of unheard Creative Commons music with more material than I could ever listen to in a lifetime. I browse through it like a kid in a candy store and stumble upon The Impossebulls seminal “Everything Has Changed; Nothing Is Different“.
Now, I’ve never been a big Hip-Hop fan before: I come from the house / techno / progressive scene, used to DJ in microscopic parties; I did that enough to win a small contest in Flanders and disappear from the surface of the Earth. So I went “Meh, why not” the second before I hit play the album and…
BLAM! I got hit by a herd o’ bulls. Hard!
It’s like, I dissed a whole genre of music because all I was hearing is the mainstream cliché stuff about guns, b!tches and heavy Mr.T-like gold chains. Then these guys come and prove me wrong: Hip-Hop can be clever, joyful, deep and even political whenever it’s needed. It’s a humbling experience.
“Everything Has Changed…” is huge. A lot of stuff has been written on the web about that album and it’s all good as far as I see.
So the question when I grabbed “The Devils You Know” is: how are they going to top this?
Well they didn’t. If you expect more, but bigger and louder, you’ll be disappointed.
They did better than that: they proved they’re not a one trick po… ehm, a one trick bull!
The album truly takes off with the second track “Back to it“, a song that’s true to the ‘Bulls: with a killer brass riff and a killer bass line! For some reason it makes me think of something the Beastie Boys could have made. Play this one against Body Movin’ (Hello Nasty) and you’ll see what I mean. This is the “anthem” of the album if you ask me, the one they could start their concerts with as a cue to their fans, like “okay let’s start this party”. And they make it look like they pull it off so easily…
The Impossebulls has always been about a love affair with their craft. You can feel it when you play their songs: they’re not selling out, they’re not necessarily choosing the easy path. It’s all about respecting their heritage and bringing their own energy, their own twist to it.
So it kind of felt natural to listen to songs like “Never Met a Mic“, an ode to the tool they’re probably born with. Or “Brothers“, an amazingly funky song (with a killer chorus!) about those friends we still think of today, even after life made us follow our own separate paths.
But it’s with tracks such as “Debt” that they show their true genius. The words are deep and the production is absolutely out of this world. I mean listen, the track starts with a killer organ riff, alternating with a groovy Rhodes-like keyboard section and ends up bringing in some funky, soulful guitar licks. But you won’t hear it on the first go, because you’ll be listening to those dope rhymes about debt in all its forms (in dollars, in promises made to others…). The Bible says we’re all born sinners. The Impossebulls would say we’re all born in debt!
Now for an interlude.
[Maybe they will or maybe they won’t. Better the devil you know, that the devil you don’t]
(This line has been haunting me for months. Guys, where does that sample come from?)
End of interlude.
“Heroes” will make fans of “Everything Has Changed…” very happy: telling the story like it is and praising Hip-Hop as the unifying experience it is, in The Impossebulls’ glorious style. A sure bet, like “Hit Me With A Hit (Parts 1 & 2)“: a funky couple, with part 1 going for a tricky 15-step beat.
But that’s where “The Devils You Know” differs from 2014: the next thing you know you’re thrown into “Who Killed The Cactus“, a hilarious cautionary tale about… eeeeh, unprotected love affairs. Kids, don’t try this at home… Yep!
Or you might be taken to the other spectrum with “Bleeding Envy“, an introspective (IMHO) examination of fame and its implications. From this song I’ll probably have to quote what I believe is one of the most memorable lines of this album “Air out your grievances and void your maturity / Sitting in the middle of fame and obscurity“. Wait, are we talking about some Twitter-lovin’ president here? Excellent.
The Impossebulls wrap it up with the very moving “Blood On The Sidewalk“, a drama played in two parts; two perspectives from what looks like a revenge story. A story where no one’s completely right, no one is completely wrong. Everybody’s on that gray area.
Aren’t we all? Don’t we all have our angels and our devils? In the booklet (available from blocSonic‘s site) Marcus J writes: “For you are the only true Devil you know“.
Maybe so, but in my defense I’d like to quote track one: “I’ve got to get you to Heaven before the Devil knows that you’re dead“.
Well this album took me to divine places. Guess I’m saved then?
Cheers to the ‘Bulls!