Release Date: April 9, 2017
The thought that rap music is a lesser art form is one that my generation (you probably call us millennials, I call us Humanity’s Last Hope) will permanently abolish.
REVIEWED BY DEMITRI ADDERLEY
The human voice has marched soldiers onto the battlefield, separated men from the money in their pockets, and has stripped strangers of their underwear. Rap music is the genre of the voice: one voice, one mic. The genre where one voice can literally build a nation. The thought that rap music is a lesser art form is one that my generation (you probably call us millennials, I call us Humanity’s Last Hope) will permanently abolish. For now, trust when we say hip-hop– rap music is a high art form and its practitioners are some of the most skilled poets of this (or any other) time. And of this genre, few are as skilled as the man they call Sahtyre, and few works of art are as hauntingly impactful and complex as Cassidy Howell.
There has been much said about rap music being the lowest form of music in the entire history of existence. There are clueless and brainless walking disappointments who call rap music degrading, misogynistic, violent, musically redundant, and socially unacceptable. I’m here to tell you today that—yeah—rap music is crude, and rap music is abrasive, but rap is potentially the most dynamic genre in all of music. Think about it. There’s nothing more powerful than a voice that believes wholeheartedly and absolutely in what it’s saying, and the voice that adheres to this pathos most faithfully is that of the rapper.
Sahtyre, one of the original members of the hip-hop historic SWIM TEAM, debuted his classic album The Buddha in 2012. Since then he’s made himself a name for both lyrical prowess and fluid drug-use…but his most prevalent addiction is to literary devices, and as his name suggests, each of his punchlines is crafted with methodical precision.
Cassidy Howell is the modern day retelling of the William Blake proverb: “The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom.” Right from the opening tracks the album lets off the ambiance of a surreal, drug-soaked amusement park where bits of past struggles and regrets collide into present day excesses and indulgences to create an explosion of fearless expression that is equal parts humorous, self-deprecating, glorious, and grim.
The wise men of the past once said one cannot stare into the abyss without the abyss staring back into them. On Cassidy Howell the abyss bum rushes the stage, commands the microphone, and delivers a potent cocktail of searing vocals with moments of absolute insanity:
“Only father figure was pops and Grandpa Addy/ Now all I’m doin’ is shots and poppin’ addies/ till my vision crooked like them cops when they grab me” (gut-wrenching word play) –“Grammy”
“Spent the rent money on some coco/ Skipped the car payment got some dro tho/ Partying like every day’s the weekend/ we fucking while she listen to The Weeknd” –“Oxytocin”
And moments of true introspection: “I’m everything I ever said I’d never be/ I never thought i’d wonder if I’d live to see a better me/ my liver overflowing in this fucking sea of Hennessy/ I’m living like my father I swear it’ll be the death of me” –“Ego Death”
All of these and many more moments from the album reveal all at once that the man who wrote this is a great writer, a sincere poet, and the album Cassidy Howell is a credit to the art form; a reminder of the genre’s potential for poetic integrity and psychologically precise evaluation.
Rap music’s true superpower has always been emotional analysis. In other genres you can speak an emotion, you can even express an emotion. In rap music, however, you can explore the nuances and peculiarities of that emotion. Mull that over. In pop rock music, there isn’t much of a place to go to with emotions. The singer usually just declares his emotional state: “Havin’ a bad day, havin’ a bad day/stay out of my way, I’m havin’ a bad day” (Blue Flannel “Havin’ a Bad Day”). But with rap, expressing a bad day is powered by literary and poetic devices: “I don’t wanna live no more/Sometimes I hear death knockin’ at my front door/I’m livin’ everyday like a hustle, another drug to juggle/another day, another struggle” (“Everyday Struggle” Biggie Smalls: Ready to Die).
The emotional analysis can lead to an artistically-manifested spirit-cleansing—where the soul can proceed from past trauma, where it can evolve and grow.
“Used to hate myself cause I ain’t know better/Now I give myself eternal love forever.” –“Broken High.” To you reading this—whoever you are, wherever you are—this is my hope and wish for you: to know better, and to give yourself eternal love, forever. ♦
4. Ego Death
9. String Theory
10. Broken High
15. Sun People
Cassidy Howell is available for purchase on Itunes.
May 10 – Low End Theory, The Airliner 2419 N Broadway, Los Angeles, CA 90031
Demitri Adderley. The Bass Lord Cometh.