TheDeadCanRap’s new single Imitations feat. Open Mike Eagle is a transcontinental collaboration by London born and based Remi Rough, Chicago born L.A. based Open Mike Eagle and Boston born Paris based, Mike Ladd.
On first listen, Imitations may sound like an overdue elusive showcase of Mike Ladd’s inevitable return to the satirical, imagery lush, ambidextrous poetics of Advanced Art Rap explorations that Ladd pioneered decades ago. On further, deeper listening, it’s apparent that Imitations is actually an inspiring example of what’s possible beyond imitating the current malaise set by imposter rappers’ self-flagellating predictable battle raps, political-rant-raps, or banal-narcissistic-capitalist extremism glorifying toxic patriarchal braggadocio, that’s infested Pop-Hip-Hop globally, for decades.
On the contrary, it resists all gimmicky, excessively toxic Trap-Boom-Bap-Jazz-Rap-Throw-Back standards. There’s no overused similes or predictably safe rhythmic deliveries conveniently disguised as; accessible flows from convenient easy-listening non-threatening rappers, politely ranting about their pathetically veiled narcissistic emotional difficulties in maintaining personal delusions of grandeur. But that’s always been the point of Underground Resistance Rap culture, right?
Every bar from these Underground veteran M.C.s articulates the multi-dimensionality of their individual identities via abundant social, psychological and spiritual commentary illuminating the seldom regarded power of manifestation through imagination, towards personal and artistic liberation…
Consider each verse a lyrical gallery and the song itself, an exhibition in some interactively-curated-inner-mind-museum. Open Mike Eagle’s bars are framed in cinematic poeticism via honest almost-surreal-inner-imagination-illustrations,
As a teenager in Seattle’s Green Acres/ My memories move like a screensaver/ My brain’s dark and my heart’s in a spin cycle/ I’m ready to pop like bullets within rifles/ I wrote a spiritual manual and biz bible/ Buy in bulk twelve tees and ten vinyls…”
Openly expressing the lifestyle of unconventional B-Boys whose bibles are rap books and album archives, we get a glimpse into the religious discipline and dedication it takes to become and maintain the Jedi-esque inner-life of an been-woke M.C. enduring beyond youthful-egotistical games and gigs. The coded language illuminates Open Mike Eagle’s evolution from B-Boy (Breakin’ Boy) to influential business man (perhaps B-Man) sustained by Hip Hop Asceticism.
After a chorus-less chorus, the M.C. torch is passed to Remi Rough who exquisitely navigates the contours of his sleek, slippery, space-age-flanging-parade groove, with astral travelling commentary regarding contemporary transportation that serve as loaded metaphors full of fluid imagery indistinguishable from the tone of his vibrant and salient paintings.
In Arrivals at Gatwick airport/ With too many bags and I’m travelling barefoot/ Dealing with these idiots at every square foot/ Death tolls roll in the billions output/ Cheap Imitations and designations/ Relegate, devastate I hate innovations…”
Closing out the inner-museum exhibit is thee always complicated, unpredictable, evocative anti-syncopated flows that’ve inspired intense Hip Hop minds, serious MCs and art-disciples of Mike Ladd for almost thirty years.
Like a white house leak/ Never airtight like bluetooth beats/ Never paired right the rich out for delf cuz the world is fortnight/ Dim the porch light / Strike at waist height/ Like adidas vs nike/
This ain’t a fair fight/ Culture War, like so many before/ Revolution’s raw and loveless/ But this one here’s mostly bloodless/ Historically it’s been far more reckless/ Check Robespierre and Mao in comparison/ The Right’s reaction’s embarrassing
There’s no doubt that Mike Ladd’s adventurous multi-dimensional/ political/ spiritual commentary continues to expand the boundaries of lyrical free-association and abstract expressionism, while somehow staying rooted in the broader global paradoxes of institutional corruption and self sabotage, abundant in all ‘ism culture.
Altogether, each word-wizard achieves narrative and lyrical climaxes with unique insights into their artisanal perspectives on the current state of the world, internet and their ascent for inner clarity. Just as improvisational Creative musicians cohesively collaborate and respond to one another, so do these three M.C.s.
Instead of battling one another, each rapper relays off the previous, to exhibit a buoyant conversational landscaping critique of the systemic crisis of impostors syndrome politically and personally via detailed albeit brief, self-portraits of their experience with breaking the external and internal toxic loops of anti-expertise/ amateur-culture. All this atop Remi Rough’s hypnotic mercurial flanging loops & sci-fi synth-leads, transporting us to some small yet intense south of Spain Brass Parade in the Summer of the humid AfterFuture.
No matter where your allegiances may lie in the ongoing battle between Underground Hip Hop vs. Commercial Rap and it’s almost unbearable toxic-immaturity, there’s no doubt in my mind at least, that TheDeadCanRap have just served us up an enticing and fulfilling entrée of soul food for thought. One can’t help but regarde one’s appetite for the soulful-sonic holiday (family reunion-style), that is guaranteed to be their forthcoming full length self-titled album and art book available on Def Pressé, December 11 2020.
Verbalist by Malik Ameer Crumpler.