Kill the Vultures – Carnelian

5 out of 5

Label: Totally Gross National Product

Produced by: Anatomy

The “problem” I find with a lot of outre hip-hop – in quotes because obviously this is opinion, but also because I own and like a fair amount of the stuff, so it’s also a relative term – is that it often, in embracing its back-packy, electic-ness, gets away from hip-hop itself. That’s also a judgment call, of course, and I’m all for genre mixing, but I’ll often dig in to an artist based on a song or two, and then pick up an album, discovering that, during its course, that song or two might be the closest to the style I heard, elsewise going a bit more poppy or singy or experimental-y than I was prepared to hear. I can often absorb this on an album, but it leads to a trend over a discography, gravitating more towards that showmanship than, again, towards the rhymes and beats that likely initially drew me in.

Kill the Vultures is the first act I’ve heard that manages to stand far outside of the mainstream, but is clearly hip-hop, through and through. Crescent Moon’s slow-roll delivery – somewhere between the flat talk of MC dälek and the bouncy roll of Blueprint – travels through a cache of literate wordage to put him in company of dudes like Aesop, but his imagery is much more accessible, and thus often more directly visceral; his floating between on- and off-beats are what give it a unique flow, though, and keep a listener on guard and attentive, moved by the beats and rhythm and then also keenly tuned in to what’s being said. And then throughout, we have the madness of Anatomy’s beats, which encompass an insane blend of improv jazz and hymnals and circus bounce and marry it to “traditional” beats which are anything but. Every track is wholly its own, bizarre thing, but also linked by the off-kilter sound, and Moon’s themes of – amongst other related themes – questioning of faith, and belief. The impressiveness that bundles this altogether, though, is how it doesn’t ever feel like it’s off the rails, and yet, track to track, is unlike anything I’ve yet heard: it’s passionate, dark, dense, and also funky as hell; it’s beats are impossible to stylistically summarize, but every track is grabbing.

I have zero clue how this album didn’t take over the world.