Album of the week: Black Noi$e – Oblivion
Back in the beginning of summer, BET founder Robert Johnson told the U.S. government that roughly $14 trillion is owed to African Americans for reparations from slavery and wealth inequalities. The eye-opening estimation correlated with an overdue revolution sweeping the nation following George Floyd’s death in late May. Systemic problems such as overblown police budgets, criminal justice scandals , and rampant gentrification only recently found the spotlight in American politics and middle class suburbia (at least to a meaningful degree).
Johnson’s proposal may never reach the epicenter of Congress, but his intentions align with those who want to see some form of budgetary reallocation.
Without having to say a word, Michigan producer Rob Mansel-aka Black Noi$e-appears to reference Johnson’s call to action with 20 seconds of purely scintillating turbulence-the kind that mimics an abrupt awakening from centuries of quietness and blatant disregard. The title of this track, “14 Trillion,” functions as an astonishing exclamation. It’s a utilitarian leeway into the myriad of Detroit musical influence riddled throughout his newest album Oblivion. The distressing roar represents years of poor health and economic situations for Black and Brown people in Mansel’s home state and beyond, climaxed by a virus that disproportionately affects minorities in a historically segregated city (and again, beyond). One could say the noise is perfectly warranted.
Backed by Earl Sweatshirt’s new label Tan Cressida Records, Mansel’s latest trek never plants itself in one aisle. Oblivion fizzles and shudders like a steaming pot of boiling water, only reconstructing its blueprint when a new artist enters the labyrinth.
Mansel’s schizophrenic production style circles around stability and conventionalism like a shark who craves food, ready to attack the listener with some type of nebulous concoction. Strobe-like synths and verbose drum patterns become the focal point of the title track as Pink Siifu untangles his thoughts on asset accumulation. “Glitch’s” instrumental swiftly changes direction like a basketball player who stutter-steps before zooming to the hole for an and-1. The Danny Brown-assisted 1999 sounds and feels like static from a TV caused by a terrible thunderstorm. Brown turns back the clock, morphing into the colossal shapeshifter from the Old days. Mansel takes horror movie piano keys and transforms them into a bouncy vortex for dilapidation on “Mutha Magic.” Tennessee rapper Bby Mutha prepares fans for her upcoming album with a myriad of flexes about her outfits, and a stout outro that blurs the lines between traditional stereotypes (“Masculine but so feminine, miss lady be droppin’ dick/I’m nice as fuck, I’m nice as shit, waist is tiny, ass is thick”).
One of Mansel’s greatest contributions as a producer is allowing the featured artists to flaunt their skills without having to sacrifice musical integrity. Mike and Earl can still sound existential over slow-rolling piano keys, and Dallas upstart Liv.e happily drifts above the funky nectar on “The Band” like a fluffy amorphous cloud. The album as a whole resembles an assembly of moving parts. Patterns scratch and grind together without proper instructions as Mansel wholeheartedly attempts to mirror the world’s confusion. For 24 head-spinning minutes, he accomplishes this daunting task.
Some other Music
Cliff Notez and Dephrase – Social Absence
Cliff Notez’ music comes from a place of empathy and understanding, which is something I can fully admire since our country abrasively lacks these attributes. “I feel all your pains lately” are the first words that radiate off of this collaborative EP with local Boston producer Dephrase. The lyrics offer a welcoming fervor, a noticeable feeling reaffirmed by the glistening keys and teeter-totter bass.
Social Absence doesn’t stay flat-footed for long. “Spiral” contextualizes mental and physical isolation as a swirling nightmare. Notez enters an endless rabbit hole of contemplation where a mundane thought can quickly turn into inescapable paranoia. Dephrase reflects the urgency with his own batch of polyrhythmic sounds that loop around each other like a inconvenient knot found on a shoe. The landscape winds and unwinds with the free-form nature of a classic McCoy Tyner album.
Between this and his last album Why the Wild Things Are, Cliff Notez continues to shine as an observant lyricist who intertwines topics of racial inequality and mental health with a stark sense of intellect and compassion.
Rico Nasty – “IPhone”
If someone were to put together a summary of Rico Nasty’s punk rock aesthetic, “IPHONE” would undoubtedly be used as a main bullet point. There’s the anime-style vocal aesthetic that makes her sound like a giddy cartoon; the candy-coated singing that’s just as endearing as it is mythical; and the balanced rapping that’s used as a self-motivator (“Can’t go back to my old ways/Time is now and I can’t wait/I’m in love with a nightmare”). Dylan Brady’s caustic production only adds fuel to her fire. If this is any indication, Rico’s next album is about to go nuts.
Cousin Stizz – “Mac Roni”
I’m not typically the one for shameless capitalism, but it would be cool to witness a Massachusetts rapper become the new spokesperson for some type of mac n cheese company. And why stop there? Maybe use the scrumptious cheesy goodness as a design for new merch. Some masks too possibly? Heck, maybe he could create his own recipe of mac n cheese like Mac did in that It’s Always Sunny episode. The roads are endless. Stizz, hit me up if you want to talk.
Drake and Lil Durk – “Laugh Now, Cry Later”
Kevin Durant refused to play in the bubble for the NBA playoffs, and not because he was recovering from a season-ending injury. No, the future Hall-of-Famer was secretly challenged to a one-on-one game by Drake, who just so happens to be the ultimate celebrity fan outside of Spike Lee. Spoiler: We don’t know the outcome, but we do know Marshawn Lynch enters the equation at some ridiculous point.