Today’s hip-hop exists in a paradoxical state. Rappers and beatmakers are expected to be raw and real, in line with hip-hop’s origins, “keeping it real” and “from the streets”. At the same time, hip-hop is probably the most influential genre of music on Earth, at the moment, frequently gobbling up the Top 40, dominating the clubs & charts, as well as a good chunk of our listening time and attention.
That means, for all intents and purposes, hip-hop IS Pop. Likewise, Pop needs to come to grips with hip-hop, as can be heard from the twerking, jittering rhythms of Lana Del Rey’s “High By The Beach”. Rappers are expected to sing, singers are expected to rap, and producers need to be able to blend the raw and immediate with the high-gloss sheen of pop – sometimes in the same song – for people to really stand up and take notice.
Cryptic, the follow-up to 2014’s well-received Golden Skies, from LA’s Charles Dickerson, finds the perfect equilibrium of raw and polished, creating a nuclear fusion of hip-hop’s past and present.
Dickerson, who even embodies contradiction in his producer name Mono/Poly, works in a style best known as “glitch hop”, being a fusion of raw hip-hop beats, dubstep bassweight and wobble, and future beat sound manipulation. Glitch hop is perfect fare for big rooms and outdoor festivals, but seems to have fallen out of favor with the underground heads. Hopefully, the Cryptic EP will change that, as it’s utterly addictive, as irresistible as gravity or love at first sight.
Dickerson’s productions even blend the cerebral and the body-rockin’, as can be heard in the first 15 seconds of album opener “Shapeshift”, with its 60 Seconds ticking clock sample, which is sped up to a rickety, collapsing high-hat rhythm, only to break into a grooving, headnodding ‘70s funk blur.
The tension between rawness and precision continues throughout the album, inviting repetitive listens and obsessing over. For those just looking for a taste, however, (and you’ll be missing out, trust us), toe in with the damn fine double-header of “Raw Power Movies” and “The Fuckin’ Real”, featuring guest MC Seven Davis Jr., who evens rhymes in riddles, paradoxes, and contradictions.
It’s 2016, you can’t expect anybody to just come right out and say what they mean. Everything is layered, convoluted… Mono/Poly invites us to make the most of these complex times, to RELAX and GROOVE OUT.
Everything is fine. Let’s make the most of the New Year!
You can buy Mono/Poly’s Cryptic album at https://thehitandrun.bandcamp.com/album/cryptic-hnr58
Raw Power Moves
The Fuckin Real
—Words by J Simpson