Instead of being dystopian or post-apocalyptic or post-human, this album depicts the final leap into the abyss. It’s a sidelong view of the nadir of human depravity; of society still (somehow) standing even as we all fall– survivalism the new norm while we tiptoe around a newly-erected police state. It revels in the inescapability of the end while watching it with a heavy heart and reddened eyes.
Non Phixion is a rap supergroup assembled by 3rd Bass’s MC Serch, comprising NY MCs Ill Bill, Goretex (now Gore Elohim) and Sabac Red and with production mainly from Ill Bill’s brother, Necro. Rick Rubin tried to sign them to Warner circa 2000 but shit happened and they self-released The Future is Now in 2002 on Ill Bill’s Uncle Howie Records. It went on to spawn several singles (Black Helicopters, Rock Stars, If You Got Love, Drug Music) and to reenergise the underground hip hop scene. Notable for its lyrical rapaciousness, head-banging boom bap beats, convoluted twists of many counter-cultures and unique packaging, Non Phixion were hip hop savants. Despite only releasing The Future is Now, all the members of Non Phixion went on to extensive solo careers. The Wu Tang diversification made possible by the redoubtable and unique talents of each of the members.
The album opens with ‘Futurama’, a colossus of Necro production featuring angry anti-political bars from Bill and Gore. A stream of consciousness sketch of the world heading into the future, or maybe heading down the drainpipe, or maybe just there already. They say, ‘They got aids affecting the globe, laser weapons and clones, comfortable as presidents, death, artificial intelligence, frozen organs, post-mortem, aliens.’ This salad of New Age themes, metal imagery, and sociological embeddedness typifies the paranoia and vivid counter-cultural motifs of the album. The realism of geo-politics meeting heady conspiracy veins meeting debauched street culture is the ultimate schizo mix of modern day ambivalence.
‘The C.I.A is Trying to Kill Me’ is indicative of the album both in format and lyrics. Its got the three members all going in hard; a necro beat; themes of governmental control (or is it paranoia??) and love for the everyman and his banal strife. The type of socially aware lyrics instanced in this track are so rare in comparison with most hip hop (or even rock bands singing about similar ideas) and with the ferocity they are uttered are reminiscent of fat drippy graffiti on the Berlin Wall. These are street poets, or street prophets even, yelling rhetoric at you from some febrile haze while you run away because you recognise the truth they’re saying but are too terrified to believe it or talk to them. They embody a sadistic hatred of those above trying to kill us and masochistic love of self-destruction. The opening lines of Sabac’s verse are heavy as–he paints the picture that Non Phixion was forced to view growing up,
Symbolism, socialism, live life lead, learn
Struggle war whole drug fiends, the white house burn
Sex, pain, fear, freedom love, young guns be shootin’
Genocide, revolution, lost souls prostituting
Military confrontation, safe sex, and masturbation
Peace to all the homeless people livin in the train station.
They basically created and popularised the crossover metal x hip hop image. Look at that title font, pure 80’s speed metal (created by Michael Langevin of Voivod, too). Plus they rock Slayer and Agnostic Front shirts and reference pit bands where other hip-hop groups wouldn’t have the vocabulary. There’s an intense grittiness to Non Phixion that other rap groups only attain when aiming self-consciously at ‘Horrorcore’ and its dark gimmickry. The apocalyptic sprint of late-80’s thrash metal and early-90’s serious hardcore mix like a ying yang. Like all 80’s-90’s metal bands, thematically there is a pronounced apocalypse-looming vibe to the album. From the raucous cover to the dystopic context, constant references to angel dust and other life-ending gambits, it seems to narrate the feeling of being driven to apocalypse by our leaders, but is more intelligent and mature acknowledging the sundry ways regular people, characters on the street, are contributing to the end just as much. It’s an album that refuses to just beleaguer world leaders for their negligent actions. As much as NP attacks Reaganomics and wider economic structures and the police state, there is just as much filthy detail about the decaying state of the everyman on the street and how this reflects the state of the world whilst simultaneously creating it. ‘Drug Music’, ‘There is No Future’, and ‘Black Helicopters’ are anthems for the ignoble downtrend of regular people. Obviously the epitome of these acerbic characters in the perennial Ill Bill/Necro walk-on Uncle Howie. Lyrical inspiration, label eponym, album cover, ad-libber extraordinaire, shoot relative, Uncle Howie is a survivor stoically navigating the underground; a mascot and extremified version of the blank faces on the street watching Black Helicopters above.
This album is NY AF, it could have been written as the consciousness of 70’s disintegrating Bronx, the grit of the 80’s crack/aids epidemic, or the apathetic 90’s envelopment in conspiracy and social consciousness. Lyrically the album is dense, articulate, and so so cold. The blending of tones from wistful street noir, to the nihilistic embrace of personal and total apocalypse, to the unpublicised desires to better the populace though revealing hard truths, navigates a catalogue of powerful emotions. There’s paranoia, elation, terror, highs both real and artificial and lows the same. There’s beats that bang so hard with essentialist boom-bap (‘Drug Music’, ‘There is No Future’), brighter punchy beats (‘Rock Stars’, ‘It’s Us’), and horrocore heaviness that make 80’s icons like Iron Maiden seem downright soft (‘Cult Leader’, ‘Suicide Bomb’). 80% of the album is produced by Necro but there is production credits from DJ Prem, Beatnuts, and Pete Rock and Large Professor.
The impressionist sketches of urban life, pulling together glyptic flotsam from so many different sub-cultures and codes, explodes like a mine underfoot for the casual listener. It is an album that can’t not pull you in to its self-sustaining uniqueness and power. It’s got revolutionary zeal and the power of lyrical violence; the roar of youth shattering the silent cold war being waged on the highest lines by society.
‘Cult Leader’ might be my favourite track on the album. It’s stompingly hard, and embodies the heinous characters that populate the album. A heavy af A-Trak beat with Ill Bill shredding fire over the top, it’s a biographic sketch of a cult leader that celebrates indecency and perversion, Bill eulogising the egotistic power of a cult leader from the first person, ironically delving into outright immorality with a grin on his beaten face.