Don’t get holes pumped in your mind with the Existential Nine
Duo composed of X-Ray Da Mindbenda on the instrumentals and Kev Roc spitting some labyrinthine bars. Marked by the expressionistic jazzy production and Kev Roc’s deep voice and wordplay. X-ray has also worked with EMPD, DOOM, Monsta Island Czars, and MC Sham. Kev Roc was in Legion of D.U.M.E. The album is probably most readily comparable to Jehru the Damaja’s The Sun Rises in the East or Kool G Rap 4,5,6.
It’s an album steeped in that dark soundscape that equally could be a 40’s noir murder in big band chicago as mid-90’s NY Boom bap. It’s really kind of ageless except for the macabre type of textures that don’t really feature in most Hip Hop nowadays, but were noticeable on like Gravediggaz’ 6 Feet Deep and Nonphixion’s early stuff. Kev’s rhymes emit like fronds from an alien tundra and perfectly complement the street-lit vibes.
Opener ‘Visions of a Blur’ is a classic underground gem. First heard on the ‘Soul in the Hole’ soundtrack, the only track off Visions of a Blur to get an official release before the album was buried when Loud, the label DM was on, folded in 2002 taking the record into the deep dark with it. It never saw the dusty light of day until 2006 when Anticon put it out, whereupon DM released Bipolar the same year- an eclectic collection of earlier material, demos and b-sides.
That being said, apart from some of the basslines and drum sequences which have the early-90’s starkness the group, there is no way to tell where the group comes from; could be NY, could be West Coast, could be via Saturn with Sun Ra.’Seize the Phenom’ has a caterwauling jazz horn on the verse that’s pure steamy Gotham City alleyways at night and then these almost outside-sounding keys on the chorus break. The utilitarian beat in the background like a cat strutting about, confident it owns the scene because it’s there at every crime without being fingered. ‘Knight of the Roundtable’ speeds things up a bit to bebop velocities and shows their diversity, while ‘Covert op’ has these dangerous chords ringing out dissonantly over sparse Dnb beat and reverb-drenched horns.
‘I’m Ill’ features one of the most idiosyncratic samples of the ubiquitous Nas soundbite, but over some really colourful brass and a hummable piano lick. There’s a great bit of crackle in the background of the beatscape as Kev shreds all over the top of it with his wildstyle eloquence.
In fact, what really marks this album out as singular is Kev Roc’s flow. A clear monotonous baritone that pulses like a metronome and is as dense as sulfur hexafluoride, it almost sounds like an alien language if your brain can’t process phonetics joined in such a skein. While it might take a few listens to even discern individual words from each other, off the bat the flow deserves veneration as one of the most original and percussive since Kool Keith. Even Rapgenius has nothing on Kev Roc’s verbosity (the only lyrics currently available are for ‘Visions of a Blur’). This is a real testament to the man’s wordplay and prose, as his delivery is lucid and metrical, but apparently too deep and coiled in intricate internal rhymes to reveal themselves in few listens. If you had to place the flow anywhere it would be akin to Charli 2na x Doom x Kool G Rap.
You’ve really got to be floored by some of Kev Roc’s lyrical collages like on ‘Outside Looking In’ where he spits something like: ‘On the eve of my release/ Pleasing my season and appease your peace/ Kev Roc steezing fine like fleece/Magnifique, Belisse *mwah*/ Mic checker/ this party be bomb I’m making the piece to be/ fogging up the bakery glass from all the pastry’ and ‘Rebuff and suffer me you hoes say/ running back as aperture collapse I beat a rap like OJ’ or ‘Impressive punk aggressor fuselage pressure deficit/ ill verse of my precursor punk I push him off a precipice/ Kev Roc a brother betwixt a hard place and L/ lacing L space i dwell with great taste and grace in jail’.
A seminal underground Hip Hop album that should be in the forebrain of more groups to show how a holistic sound can really be achieved. Also if anyone’s ear is slick enough to grasp the lyrics, send ’em atchaboi. Peace.