The Evolution of Eminem

Eminem is one of the most well-known hip hop artists of all time. Even people that don’t listen to rap that much usually have an Eminem song in their playlist. His second solo album, ‘The Marshall Mathers LP’ is the highest selling rap album of all time and holds a Guinness world record. He has won an Oscar for his song ‘Lose Yourself’ from the 8mile soundtrack. Most rappers would say he is a big influence, and he is in my top 5 greatest rappers of all time.

Today we are going to explore the evolution of his style, and how it has changed over the years. From his first radio freestyles to his latest feature on Big Sean’s new album, we will be able to observe a big change over the years as his life influenced his rhymes.

We start in 1995, with a tune called ‘Fuckin Backstabber,’ featuring the late Proof of D-12. This is one of the first songs Eminem put out back in his early career before ‘Infinite’, before ‘The Slim Shady EP’ and before getting signed by Dr Dre. We can hear the difference from the Eminem we all know immediately, with Shady rapping at a fast pace, going double-time, about someone who has done him wrong. The lack of Humour is evident, the lyrics focus more on getting revenge against this backstabber. The song has a true underground vibe to it, a far cry from the commercial sound that would arise from working with Dr.Dre. He is more focused on displaying his lyrical prowess rather than not giving a fuck and putting a middle finger up to the world.

Next up is some rare unreleased music from Eminem’s first album, ‘Infinite’. This song ‘Tonite’ is a happy tune, full of party lyrics but lacking Eminem’s signature ‘Fuck you’ attitude. He is again eager to display his lyrical skills, showing us that he can write intricate, multi syllable rhymes. It’s all very clean and upbeat, there is no danger or humour in the rhymes yet. There’s nothing to make him stand out from the rest. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a good song that I enjoyed, but only because I’ve been an Eminem fan for years. Without his catalogue on top of it, It’s just another song with no real exceptional lines, a bit clean cut and dare I say bland?

Here we see Eminem on the radio, what suddenly grabs our attention is that the clean cut image has been fucked out the window. He grabs our attention with the first rhyme, disregarding PC, claiming that he has ‘Met a retarded kid named Greg, with a wooden leg’, and if that wasn’t bad enough, he proceeds to ‘snatch it off and beat him over the fuckin’ head with the peg’. Painting a fucked up image, embracing his alter-ego Slim Shady. He isn’t concerned with displaying his lyrical skills as much with this one, with a simple rhyme scheme of greg/leg/peg, its more about the sick imagery. The skills are still in there too though, rhyming ‘foster mammas’ with ‘Nostradamus’. This style would serve him well in his career with his shocking rhymes gaining him millions from here on out.

Now we arrive at Eminem’s first street single, just signed to Dr.Dre’s Aftermath label, the middle finger toting madman starts rhyming about ‘ Buying a ticket to your concert, just to come and kick your ass’. He is embracing his sick imagery and fuck you attitude that he has developed since throwing out the clean cut image, taking shots at fellow white rapper Vanilla Ice in the process. He tells us he is Slim Shady, an ‘Impulsive drinker, addict.’ Assuring us he doesn’t give a fuck, painting a twisted self portrait of his alter-ego. You can tell he had fun writing this song, he must have just sat and thought of the most fucked up rhymes to spit for a good while. The multi-syllables are still there, but intertwined with the shock rap style, remember this is around 1999 when no-one had heard anything like this. He was making money with a sick style consisting of the craziest things he could think of saying, he must have been pretty happy.

On his second album, Eminem is still at it, spitting the most sick and twisted lyrics he can think of, but on this tune he has gone all out and sped into hyper-drive. The ill flow over the Dre production is just pure fire, and he doesn’t stop painting fucked up pictures with each line. His trademark style is still there but in my opinion it is even sicker on this album. ‘The Marshall Mathers LP’ is a solid listen, and I suggest that you should go and listen to it right now. With songs like ‘Stan’, the emcee tells a story, the same way he did on Brain Damage, displaying skills beyond the average rapper. The latter was a crazy story about getting bullied and flipping out, ending up brain damaged. But Stan is more realistic, about an obsessed fan. With his superstardom, the song received critical acclaim from rap fans, and is still one of the best tunes ever written.

With his third album, ‘The Eminem Show’, Em starts getting more political, and speaks more on his situation, his career. The sick imagery we grew to love has been replaced with a more sober narration of his views and beliefs. He has tamed his style, even singing a song for his daughter on ‘Halie’s Song,’ showing us a different side of himself. While millions love this album, some hard-core fans of his sick and twisted imagery feel it’s a step in the wrong direction. He took a producer role in this album, taking over from Dr.Dre, giving himself free reign over what content went into the tunes. Perhaps Dre was influencing his sickness.

Then we get to ‘Encore’, where Em adopts a true mainstream flow. Many fans enjoyed this album, but just as much noticed the decline in lyrical skills. He himself admitted that he was becoming heavily addicted to drugs during the creation of this album, and you can tell when you listen. Gone are the days of sickness, and even the sober views of the Eminem shows have been masked by the drugs. There are still some stand out moments in the various songs that make up Encore, but I personally think this is his worst album. Simplistic rhymes without the really explicit content in them, and whole rhyme schemes of nursery rhyme simplicity. You can hear the drug’s effects coming through in his voice too, it sounds like he doesn’t give a fuck, but not in a good way.

After going quiet for a while, cancelling a tour I had tickets to, He returns with ‘Relapse’. Fans like me are excited about a comeback. He drops 3 AM, and we soon realise he has adopted some sort of serial killer persona. He has got an accent that sounds half Arabian, and it is weird. But true fans embrace it, the skills back in the rhymes along with the sick imagery to a degree. It’s not as good as back when he first came out, but well take it. The humours back too, dark, sick humour. It’s probably because he has been rich for so long, he doesn’t have the life that could inspire his earlier work. He keeps the serial killer persona up for the entire album, and we know he is not a serial killer so we are left wondering why. It’s still better than encore though, so this is possibly a return to greatness for the emcee.

Em teams up with Rihanna on his next album , Recovery. He has switched up his style again, distancing himself from the accented rhymes of relapse. We can tell the drugs are gone, but is that a good thing? He was on drugs in his early career, on ‘Encore’ he just took too much. But we can tell the skills are back bigtime, with his intricate multi-syllable rhymes, his style has been given a breath of fresh air and resuscitated. The humour is more or less absent in this album, with only one hidden bonus track giving us a blast of slim shady fun. He forgoes his usual satirical pop single, replacing it with a sober yet uplifting anthem, ‘Not Afraid’ which is epic live, with all the fans singing along with the chorus. While his rhymes on that record are corny, overall it is an improvement on relapse.

He is back with Rihanna again on his latest album, ‘The Marshall Mathers LP 2’, for a personal favourite of mine. ‘The Monster’ has a killer hook, an anthem for anyone with mental illness. Em has developed his new style even further now, his skills are back to the first Marshall Mathers LP grade, and while there isn’t any sick imagery anymore, he weaves different rhyme schemes together in a very entertaining way. He is spitting commercial yet personal rhymes, sober as ‘The Eminem Show’ yet more lyrically intricate. While every song on the album isn’t incredible, song like ‘Bad Guy’ which is a seven minute long sequel to ‘Stan’ give us faith in his new styles potential, and the song ‘Rap God’ dominates the game with skills rivalling all competition. The humour is back too, showing us that he must be in a good place.

Eminem is back on top of his game, while running his own record label Shady Records, signing super-group Slaughterhouse, and Alabama emcee Yelawolf, he joins them on the Shady Cypher. Going acapella, he displays skills that surpass any of his career so far. He weaves rhyme schemes together with ease, painting sick images reminiscent of his early career, but much more intricate. His style has become mind blowing again, this is Slim Shady on steroids. While some might argue that it is too wordy, he is far from trying to sound smart, he is displaying lyrical genius. He doesn’t put any unnecessary words in there, every word works towards painting the picture. With his verse on the cypher coming in at 7 minutes, we are left amazed and fully entertained by the end of it. Slim shady at his peak.

And so we arrive in the present day. Ems style has gotten even more intricate. He is rhyming overtime. Diving into complex schemes that no one else is doing, I don’t even think they would be able to. He has humour in there but he is taking a more serious stance at the same time, painting fucked up imagery yet again. With an album supposedly on the way this autumn, we are left eagerly anticipating what he will do next!

Arcane Soakes – Milk Straight from the Udders EP Review

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You may not have heard of Arcane Soakes, hailing from Lisburn, Northern Ireland, he has recently dropped his new EP – Milk Straight from the Udders! With a name sure to grab your attention, you can probably already tell this is going to be something different. You can find the EP below:

Soakes wrote his first rhymes as a child, with his next door neighbour, about killing a man for staring through his window at him. It wasn’t long until his mother found the song, and demanded that he write a clean rhyme instead, and so he did, along with his dad. He left music after that until at the age of 12 he got an iPod touch, and using the notes function he reignited his interest in hip hop, and started writing new material. He’s been at it ever since.

You can hear the Aesop Rock influence coming through in Soakes rhymes, with his abstract style. Rock musician Warren Zefron has also influenced Soakes, lending a melodic quality to his flow. Eminem too, is a big influence as you can hear through the young emcees lyrical capabilities. But it’s not just musicians who have influenced him, authors such as Charles Bukowski and Cormac McCarthy lend to his intellectual style, while comedians such as Louis CK have inspired a bit of humour in the rhymes too.

Arcanes style will be new to your ears. It may go over your head, you might have to look up some things. He refuses to hide his intelligence, and won’t dumb it down like other emcees, it’s the first thing you notice when you hit play. He operates on a higher intellectual level than most, he’s not trying to fit in, he’s trying to stand out, and succeeding.

1 ‘Be Right Here’

The first track on the EP has a happy wee piano melody, as Arcane assures us that when the pylons collapse, and his peers board the mothership, He’ll be right here. He dives right into it with his trademark intellectual style, bombarding the listener with a spectrum of different rhymes packed full of imagery and metaphor, jumping from scene to scene in this picture he is painting with ease. A closer look, a second or third listen, will reveal a deep meaning to each of his rhymes. He astounds, rhyming words like iPhone 6 with hieroglyphs, psychosis with micro-chips, while at the same time packing each line with metaphorical meaning. This song doesn’t just have one theme, it has tonnes. You may call it genius, while another might dismiss it as an attempt to sound intelligent. The average listener may be confused by the style, lacking the lexicon necessary to take in his lyrics. He is catering to a certain audience, who enjoy vivid imagery and thoughtful metaphor, his style is a poetic one.

2 ‘Swill from the Fountain of Youth’

As I listen, I notice the melodic aspect of his rhymes. He’s not just rapping, he is half singing the rhymes to us. Amidst the weed bars and battle rhymes of underground hip hop, this poetic style is a breath of fresh air. This song paints a picture of roads not taken, and so little time, that life is short and needs to be seized before it’s too late. He raps with happiness about his quest for the truth. The sheer amount of time he must have put into each line gives definite replay value, as you will find an aspect of the verse you missed with each listen.

3 ‘Just Escape’ Interlude

In this skit, Soakes seems anxious and worried, he is in trouble. A situation he doesn’t want to be in traps him, with ‘snake oil and blood diluting the puddles of sweat’. A very strange and random interlude, we are left hoping he escapes.

4 ‘And the Atrocities Continue’

In this track, Arcane touches on everything from ‘social engineers that these colonies distribute’ to offering a helping hand to someone, leaving his arm severed. He urges us to trade our ego in for a ‘shiny skeleton key, and just escape’ from this harsh world. I am somewhat confused by the lyrics in this tune, but I am aware that it betrays my ignorance of poetic stylings. ‘Jester never to jig for the harpsichord of a zealot’ had me looking up definitions for a while. It would be helpful to have these lyrics written on a page, to be able to read and ponder over like a poem, as there are so many layers to the song, requiring a few re-listens to decipher the meaning.

5 ‘Dare to be a square in a world of Tetrahedrons (Termites)’

A nice chilled out beat welcomes us into this one, with Soakes hitting us with references to Nicola Tesla, Archimedes and Friedrich Nietzsche, and again it’s a far cry from the drug references and bitches shaking their asses that is modern day hip hop.  He speaks of how ‘termites tear down the tabernacle’ assuring us that even the supposedly divine doesn’t last forever. He has ‘Stood knee deep in Gehenna’s Chambers and kept the secrets of these feckless heathens’, which is a pretty deep line.  This kid is ahead of his time. Again, his metaphorical imagery paints scenes he guides us through elegantly.

6 Picturesque Scene

For the final song, we are greeted with an image of Soakes Studying Sun Tzu ‘by the plunge pool’ as he delves into another story filled with imagery. He speaks of villains pillaging a village until nothing is left, and making off with everything. The chorus may come across as a bit weird with ‘Picturesque Scenes’ such as ‘crops in abundance’ and ‘monstrous pumpkins’, imagery that would be more at home in a novel, but we were promised something different! An image that really stood out for me was of Soakes fishing from a crescent moon, catching rainbow trout. And as quick as that, the EP is over.

In Conclusion:

The poetic nature of Arcanes style stands out from the rest, yet it can be overwhelming too after a few songs. It’s so different, we aren’t used to it. The sheer complexity of the rhymes gives replay value to the EP, as you’re going to have to give it a few listens to truly get it all. You will find something you missed with each listen. The intellectual nature of the songs can get a bit confusing too at times, requiring a google search of what some rhymes mean. This isn’t a bad thing though, as it will improve your vocabulary. All in all, I think Arcane Soakes is a highly intelligent emcee who is ahead of his time, this EP is a breath of fresh air, a diamond in the rough. It will no doubt stand the test of time.

The Occult

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Regarded by some as ‘The work of the Devil’, ‘The source of pure evil’, and feared by many, The Occult is a collection of writings, rituals and beliefs kept hidden throughout the centuries. The teachings of the ancient mystery schools, once reserved exclusively for selected students, carefully guarded by them, (spilling the beans was punishable with death at one time), are all now available online. You will find books on witchcraft, wizardry, magic, telepathy, and everything from astrology to alchemy. If you’ve ever wanted to see what the craic is and ‘Dabble in the Occult’, now is your chance.

I was recently doing some research for a novel I am planning to write, involving the occult, and I came across a website with a library consisting of thousands of texts on the subject, most of which are available in pdf form for free download. You can find this extensive occult library here.

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Modern occultism was made popular by a man named Aleister Crowley. Born in 1875 and deemed by last centuries media as ‘the wickedest man in the world’, he was an impulsive man, known for leading a life of debauchery and sin. He publically proclaimed his love of sex in various explicit poems he published abroad, to avoid being prosecuted for profanity. He was a magician, who joined ‘The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn’, which is an organisation dedicated to the study of the occult. Other high profile members included those such as WB Yeats.

He popularised black magic, writing books dictated to him by voices he heard in his head. He allegedly sacrificed animals and even people in his rituals, rebelling against a religious up-bringing with his occult practises. There are a few documentaries about him here on You Tube. While he sounds like a very evil kind of man, these documentaries were an interesting watch for me while in hospital recovering from an episode of psychosis. I was in a suggestible mind state then and believed in magic, making the stories of this Crowley fellow intriguing.

During the middle ages, the Catholic church destroyed any and all occult manuscripts they were able to find, burning the books along with the people caught with them. They torched anyone who mentioned an opposition to God, occultists and schizophrenics alike, at the stake in a horrific instance of mass murder across Europe, now called the inquisition. Victims were often accused of being ‘heretics’, meaning they opposed Gods will, and were tortured for months until they confessed to their crimes. Voice hearers and vision seers were accused of demonic possession and left to rot in a cell for long periods of time until they were eventually forced to confess, admitting demonic possession before being publically executed by the church.

During the missions by the church throughout history, the beliefs and rituals of pagan tribes such as the Celts were suppressed and destroyed. Whatever survived now resides in occult libraries, giving us a glimpse into what was lost to us. Different festivals of our ancestors were adapted by the church, and turned into Easter and Christmas, a practise as old as the hills. Jesus Christ himself was endowed with aspects of his story which came from numerous prophets and religious figures before him such as the virgin birth, 12 apostles and resurrection. For more on this, check out the movie Zeitgeist here.

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The occult is basically the study of the supernatural. Most of us believe the supernatural is just a fairy tale, that doesn’t stand up to scientific scrutiny. Many self-proclaimed psychics and clairvoyants have been found to be charlatans and fakes, namely Uri Gellar, a magician who claimed he could bend spoons but was caught out when an interviewer switched his ‘special’ spoons with regular ones, which he couldn’t bend.

Yet many religious people still regard the occult with fear, I have heard stories of houses supposedly burning down after a Ouija board was used, of people dabbling in the occult only to be set upon by demonic entities and possessed, speaking in tongues and needing an exorcism. I have listened to lectures by priests warning of the dangers of the occult practises of Reiki and Fortune Telling, of the evil of Tarot cards and ‘energy stones’, and it all seems ridiculous to me.

One reason religious people may believe in the power of the occult is the unexplained apparitions of the Virgin Mary in various places across the globe such as Knock, Fatima and Lourdes, and the ‘miraculous’ cures observed in these places. They could be explained as mass hallucinations, and the cures of different diseases could, in theory, be the psychosomatic power of faith, the same principle is seen in the use of ‘placebos’ in medicine. They work because the person taking them believes they are the cure, and this can sometimes actually cure the illness. Miracles can happen because the sick person believes it will cure them with such faith that it does. There are different instances of statues of the virgin Mary crying human tears and blood though, and while there must be an explanation for it out there, it probably causes religious people to lean towards a belief in the supernatural.

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During my last admission to hospital, a fellow patient told me of a book he was reading, filled with stories of Freemasons and magic, of mystery schools and astral projection, teleportation, Jinn and lost knowledge of the ancients. I was intrigued, as at the time I had been hearing voices and seeing visions of a different world, and I was open to anything out of the norm. I promptly went and bought ‘The Secret History of the World’ by Jonathan Black on my next day pass into town with my Mum. I read it, furiously making notes in the pages, enthralled with the stories of supernatural knowledge, allegedly suppressed by the powers that be. Then someone in the hospital stole the book. I didn’t care, I bought another one the next day, and proceeded to take notes again.

I studied that book in depth and my imagination was given a fresh dose of amazement with each revelation I came across. I truly believed in magic by the end of it. It lead me to read the gnostic gospels which had been forbidden by the church and left out of the bible. I was really into the occult, that patient who told me of the book describing how a priest had taken all of his occult literature and burnt it, and performed an exorcism on him, drove me on to find out what I wasn’t supposed to know. A few months later the medication had done its job and I had come around to the real world, and I quickly forgot about the occult and the forbidden knowledge I had been chasing. But to this day, that book still conjures up images of mystical states and arcane schools of thought in my imagination.

One thing that still stands out to me is thaumaturgy, or the art of ‘divine magic’, allegedly studied by saints and prophets throughout the ages, leading to the ability to perform miracles and levitate. It is an enchanting thought that one could learn this art and therefore perform miracles. I imagine this arcane knowledge sitting in the vaults of the Vatican’s libraries, hidden from the populous but studied by those in the know, bestowing superhuman abilities upon them. Great content for a story.

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Another aspect of the occult which sparked my interest was tales of remote viewers being enlisted by the CIA during the cold war, allegedly discovering Russian facilities with accuracy. Apparently, to remote view all you have to do is use your imagination. You just think of a place and time, and whatever you imagine happening is true, it actually happened. This is also true of the future according to some psychics. Perhaps they are just imagining things, or else all humans have an innate ability to remote view. If you have nothing to do it can pass the time to test it out.

Extra-sensory perception, clairvoyance and telepathy is something I once believed in. I was hearing voices and I thought they had to be coming from somewhere, little did I know they were coming from myself. But the thing that gets me is that I believed I was hearing telepathic people, and this belief was so unacceptable to society that I was forcefully hospitalised for it. Many psychics believe this exact thing, and it seems like tyranny to be locked up for a certain belief.

I have experienced things while psychotic that appeared to predict the future. I would hear a voice or see a vision which would describe something I would later see that day. It’s hard to explain unless you have experienced it yourself, but it is one reason I delved into the occult, in an attempt to understand the phenomenon. It is truly freaky, and it has stuck with me, how it happened, keeping me interested in the subject to this day.

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There is a theory that these visions and mystical experiences and powers are real, and come from our third eye chakra, or our pineal gland in our brain. Theoretically, this gland produces dimethyltryptamine or DMT, causing one to see visions and enter mystical states. DMT is one of the most potent hallucinogens in the world and has been used by Amazonian tribes since history began up until the present day, to enter into mystical states and commune with the spirits, when brewed up into a broth using different plant materials found in the jungle. Combined, these plants form Ayahuasca, with the active ingredient being DMT.

This compound is also thought to be produced by the human brain naturally, causing us to dream and see visions of heaven during death. The topic is explored in depth in the book DMT: The Spirit Molecule by Rick Strassman.

I have only touched on some aspects of the occult in this article, there are many more to explore if you wanted to. While it may be just an archaic relic of the past, its teachings of ESP and magic holding no basis in fact, it is still an interesting topic to research, showing us the beliefs of our ancestors. For some, it is alternative to mainstream religion, if people believe in God, and the Devil, why shouldn’t others have the right to believe in Magic and Telepathy?

Waking Android – Adrenochrome

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Waking Android is a meeting of two minds, Kronus and Dsgrace. Both from Belfast, they are veterans of the Irish Hip Hop scene. Kronus has been making beats for various artists in the scene for years, while Dsgrace has been sitting back observing things since he began rhyming at 14. The pair teamed up this year after finding they both had similar tastes in music, to bring us their debut EP Adrenochrome.

After tirelessly gigging all across the country in the lead up to its release, it’s finally here.  You can find it on Band camp, free to listen to or download, along with on You Tube and Sound Cloud. I had a listen, and this is what I thought.

First off, the beats are sick, and production value is high. The rhymes are well written and well performed. It’s a work of art, inspired by each emcee’s life, and that comes across when you listen. There are some issues such as dsgrace’s delivery in some parts; obscuring certain words, and one instance of the sample on the beat obscuring, the lyrics a bit too, but luckily the lyrics are all there on Band Camp for anyone who missed any. I will now delve into the EP song by song and give you a rundown.

Track 1 – Adrenochrome

The intro takes us into the realm of hard-core drug use, namely, the substance extracted from a living human adrenaline gland: Adrenochrome. You may remember it from the film Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, where the main character takes a few drops and madness ensues. A fitting metaphor for this EP.

A gritty underground beat encapsulates what it may feel like to take this drug. You can imagine your head swirling with these sounds circling it. Dsgrace sets it off, addressing rumours of retirement, informing us that his hiatus was taken because he had to “diffuse some bombs while wired”. He assures us he’s still hanging with “bulk wine buyers” and “lighting fires”, while fellow emcees “sulk right by us”.

Then kronus busts in, assuring us that if we want to “stir the shit pot”, then we can “lick the ladle”. That he is the type to neck whiskey and then “flip the table”. And while people joke because his names Kane and ask “where’s Abel?”, he tells us of how he strangled him to death, “with a cordless mic cable”.

These are the thoughts of Waking Android, and you may not catch their meaning on the first listen, I know I had to go back and read the lyrics to understand the complexity. For instance, Kronus describes how he is “the butterfly who fluttered by” and caused a “whirlwind of change through infinite dimensions”, referencing chaos theory, a concept in which even the flap of a butterfly’s wings can cause untold changes in this universe and the next.

Dsgrace informs us of Waking Androids status as a “pair of perpetual piss-heads”, and goes on to reference Decepticons as a metaphor, “flexing his lexicon” upon them with words even I had to look up. While Kronus compares himself to The Rock as he drops a peoples’ elbow to the heart, and mixes some slang in while he “fries our loaf” with the adrenochrome dose. If you’re a synesthete beware though, as he warns that his words will give you a seizure.

 

Track 2 – Frostbit

This one hits with an ill beat with a bit of drum and bass influence, as Kronus introduces himself as the Dragon-Born, imperial warrior whose words form like a swarm of locusts. He describes living in a nightmare while getting little to no sleep, and tells us of how he dug his own grave using his “hand as a spade”, and letting us know of an interest he has in comic books, he compares himself to Dr. Manhattan as he loses touch with his own species.

Dsgrace then steps out of a mushroom cloud, “with an afterglow” and proceeds to get “get high off the fumes” from his “acapella alchemy”. He rummages through empties in this “life full of guzzling”, reminding us of Androids ‘pisshead’ status. He describes how he is lost “at the junction” trying to “figure out his function”, yet his sights are 20/20 when trained on a snare. He speaks of his life being filled with “strange stares” as he dodges train fares, and the “beat blares”, confirming he is addicted to hip hop, “imprisoned in the writtens”.

This tune is fiction mixed with fact in true underground style. Metaphors are abound, and are mixed to describe a struggle they both live through, travelling “cold paths”. Confusion takes hold as their heads and their hearts “drift apart” only to be reunited in music, and art.

Kronus describes going though pain, as his friends only see him joking around, yet he searches for the “bottom of the bottle when its empty”, carrying a load of heavy thoughts, that would “sink in the dead sea”. A metaphor I thought was ingenious was “these aging hands building castles in the sky out of sand”, referring to the art of making music, and staying young at heart.

 

Track 3 – Spectres

The third tune on the EP, is one of the more serious songs. Dsgrace appears under a “shroud of black clouds”, preaching a “demagogue’s monologue” to the cities inhabitants whose dreams are being whisked away, painting a beautiful picture of the youths’ struggles. He tells us of how he connects with “veterans amongst the bedlam”, how he doesn’t “cry for attention”, but instead “thrives in the quietness, lies with shut eyelids”, premeditating his “massacre of the silence”.

Waking Android describes how hip hop can be a gift and a curse, and leans toward the latter to describe being up all night, “lurching” towards dawn, as they write rhymes and the “pen spurt births the verse”.

Kronus then continues “scripting an internal inferno into this journal”, describing the page as an open friend, helping him escape his heartbreak and hate by writing about it. He then speaks to someone, calling them “the words scripted in between the lines”, the ball point pen to him, “the ink inside”. He expresses the pain of feeling his friends barely know him as he puts on a persona, comparing rapping to impaling himself on “social rails”. He feels lost and alone, despite there being “7 billion people” we “share this life with”, concluding with the belief that his “music, words and memories” are all that he has got.

All in all, this song is a very deep and introspective look at things, painting a picture of the struggle and pain most of us have gone through, and I can definitely relate.

 

Track 4 – Demogorgon

The title refers to a fictional character from the TV show Stranger Things, named after a figure from the role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons, the villainous “prince of demons”. It’s a reference of a reference. Right off the bat, Kronus “makes a racket like Slazenger” which is a tennis racket manufacturer, he breaks through the spacey instrumental telling a tale of cruising in a “pimped out DeLorean” going 88 mph, assuring us that he is “raps flux capacitor”, making shit possible. More metaphorical references populate this verse, as Kronus “Manipulates heads like Derren Brown” and his “rep grows intergalactic”. He compares his verses to the bible and his fans as “disciples” spreading his message, asserting his stance in the end that Waking android is Vinyl and the rest are only CD quality.

They set themselves apart from the competition, letting us know they are on some “other dimensional shit”, and that “that’s why it’s hard for some cats to make sense of this shit”’.

Dsgrace then comes in with a verse about splicing sentences “precisely to satisfy a vice”. While he depicts the “highs of low life”. A line I particularly liked was “I operate with callousness to paralyse the passionless”. He describes “home-made bombs from the infidels” as he sits pretty in the “citadel”, and how his lines are creating heart palpitations.

Overall, you can tell the pair had fun writing this one. More witty metaphors and intricate rhymes, the only problem with this tune is the main sample on the beat which kind of masks some of the rhymes, especially in Dsgraces verse.

 

Track 5 – Labyrinth

This track is driven by a haunting piano melody, which fits well with the poetic lyrics of struggle the emcees spit. Dsgrace describes his head being fried by dreaming of past troubles, “immersed in hindsight” while he watches his back “through reflections”. He feels “lost in the populous” and talks to voices he shouldn’t, all culminating in his “self-destruct” button being hit.

It’s a sad tune they sing, of dreams of death and gasping for breath, summed up by a feeling of “drowning in a river of piss”. Like being lost in depression unable to escape.

Kronus comes with very poetic lyrics, about being tortured, by a waking nightmare in a living hell. A “shadow of doubt” follows him that darkens all he does. “A thorn bush ‘that he ‘can’t fuckin’ crawl through”. He is a “haunted house” with a maze of ever changing hallways, he can’t escape and is just “chilling like jack” and “waiting on the thaw”, a reference to the movie The Shining, where, (spoiler alert) the main character Jack freezes to death in a maze.

It’s a tale of pain and sorrow for definite, and the pain really comes through in the lyrics, you can feel it.  This would be my personal favourite tune of the EP due to the poetic nature of the lyrics and the piano on the beat, weaving together to make a work of art, albeit a sorrowful one.

Track 6 – Set Mics 2 Stun

The final song is the most upbeat of them all, beginning with a strange instrument, and building a momentum of suspense as the rest of the instruments come in, a good lot of scratching in the intro which I always like to hear in hip hop, sets the scene for Kronus to hit hard with his verse. He welcomes us to “Shamrock, Irish Hip Hop kid”, and he keeps the suspenseful momentum going with his lyrics about “breaking the ice with the clash of shattering glass”, and “rising like a phoenix from the ash on the pavement”, painting a picture of himself as a superhuman character.

On this tune, Waking Android are here to “set mics to stun” and astound with their fast paced, ill lyrics. Then Dsgrace comes in, straight up dissing other emcees, calling them “rhyming retards” and describes nicking their studio keys. He claims their hearts aren’t in it, “vital organs missin”, and claims he “shoots looks like cyclops, for what’s in your iPod”, disapproving of some emcees tastes in music. He roasts emcees who pose for promo photos, describing their face as “looking like they caught a brick in the face from Quasimodo”. He doesn’t hold back on the “comedy roastin” of emcees here, that’s “causin’ commotion”, finishing off with an assertion that he “spits a sicker rap” and will “rip the sticker off your fitted cap”, placing himself above any and all competition.

The outro is sick too, with more scratches, and the beat fits the lyrics well. Bringing the feeling that we should all be prepared for Waking Androids rise.

 

In conclusion

 

This is a decent Hip Hop album, a good first release for the group and I enjoyed listening to it a good few times. It has playback quality too, as the complexity of the rhymes become more apparent with each listen. While it’s hard to make out some of the rhymes to start with, the lyrics on band camp really help and read like poetry without the music. The beats are very good, with Labyrinth and Set Mics 2 Stun’s instrumentals standing out the most for me. While there are some fun metaphors and rhymes in there, overall it paints a picture of struggle and suffering, gritty pain and despair, especially in Spectres and Labyrinth. Let’s hope the lads overcome their demons.

This isn’t by far the last you will hear from Waking Android though, as this EP is just the beginning. The duo are planning on a summer 2018 release of the as-of-yet untitled sequel to Adrenochrome, and I personally cannot wait to see what’s in store for that one!

For more on the group you can follow them on twitter Here, or Facebook Here, and keep up to date with their releases and gigs. Peace!

 

 

 

Top 5 Freestyles in Hip Hop

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Freestyling is a form of rapping, where rhymes are kicked ‘off the top of the dome’, just rhymed as they are thought of, on the spot. Nothing is written. It is a real test of an emcees skill to fit lines into their flow seconds after they are thought of, but when pulled off properly can sound really good.

In this article though, a different type of freestyle is referred to. When an emcee has written a piece to rhyme for promo on a radio show, or in a cypher, it is also deemed a freestyle , as it isnt a song. I know a few people who dispute this and refuse to call these videos freestyles as they aren’t off the top, and are actually written, but putting their opinion aside for the moment, we are going to look at my personal top 5 favourite ‘freestyles’ in hip hop.

5 – 50 Cent – Till I Collapse Freestyle

We all know 50 cent by this stage. He started out in Queens, New York and hustled crack along with mixtapes. He was eventually signed to Columbia records but was dropped when he was allegedly shot 9 times in the street. He recovered from near death and was picked up by Eminem’s Shady Records, following that was a meteoric rise to fame during which time he became a household name all across the globe.

50 Cent – Till I Collapse Freestyle

50 cent isnt known for his intricate lyricism. He is more well known for a simplistic flow that listeners can sing along to, on chart hits. Before he was signed he wrote bars that were more full of street knowledge and wisdom and came across very differently. As soon as he was signed, by Eminem’s Shady Records, he busted this freestyle over Eminem’s ‘Till I collapse’ instrumental, and you can hear how he really uses the beat to his advantage building the suspense in his words up until It hits with a crazy flow. This is number 5 because when I heard it as a kid I was blown away and I still really enjoy hearing it.

4 Wax – New Crack Freestyle

Wax is an emcee who was born in Maryland USA, but now lives in Los Angeles, California. He is one of two twins, his brother being Herbal T who also raps. Wax is multi talented playing many instruments and harnessing his ability to sing on various records too. I have been following his career since I first heard this freestyle, years ago.

Wax- New Crack Freestyle

As you can see he has a killer flow along with some really good punchlines and content. The humour in his rhymes comes across well and causes him to stand out from the rest, and it looks like he just made this video for a laugh while driving about. Good thing he did, because I really enjoyed it.

3 – Kxng Crooked (FKA Crooked I) – Live on the Wake Up Show Unplugged

Kxng Crooked is a hip hop veteran from Long Beach, California. He was signed to Death Row Records with 2pac and Dr.Dre back in the day. I first heard of him through his Hip Hop Weekly series, which was an online series in which he dropped a new freestyle , for free, every week for an entire year. It got him a lot of support and he became more well known throughout the world from it. He was then signed to Shady Records along with Joe Budden, Royce da 5’9 and Joell Ortiz as part of the super-group Slaughterhouse. In my opinion he is killing everything he touches and out-raps the former trio on every song. He is CEO of both his record labels, Dynasty Entertainment and C.O.B Digital. C.O.B standing for Circle of Bosses , a collection of emcees he has gotten together forming a sort of organisation of bosses that spans the entire world, and he is the General.

Crooked I Live on the Wake Up Show Unplugged

On this freestyle, crooked kills it. Simple as that. The punchlines, metaphors, multi syllables, and flow are all on point. The live instruments add to the sound of illness too. I played this on repeat for a good while after I first heard it. ‘ see my momma named me Dominic, that’s synonymous with ominous/ I’m in this game to show you what drama is’ would be one of my favourite lines as its so technical.

2 – Eminem & Royce Da 5’9 (Bad Meets Evil) – 12 Minute Freestyle

Everyone knows Eminem. His album ‘Curtain Call: The Hits’ just became the longest charting rap album of all time. His album ‘The Marshall Mathers LP’ is the highest selling rap album of all time. He has won an Oscar for his song ‘Lose Yourself’ from the movie ‘8 mile’s soundtrack, a film that is known world wide. I’ve been to a few of his concerts and there’s never less than the venue can hold, thousands of fans pack the place singing every lyric. Hes probably the most well known rap artist of all time too.

Royce da 5’9 is Eminem’s partner in crime, one half of their group ‘Bad Meets Evil’. What you may not know is that the two were rapping together since before either of them were signed. Way before the super-stardom and hits like ‘My Name Is’ and all, they were doing freestyles like this one. They fell out then for years. Beefing with each other, but eventually they made up and that’s when they teamed up again for hits like ‘Lighters’ and ‘Fast Lane’ and when Eminem signed Royce to his label as part of Slaughterhouse with Kxng Crooked.

Eminem & Royce da 5’9 – 12 Minute Freestyle

I love this freestyle for the sheer hunger in the emcees voices. These are two emcees that are looking to get known and respected with these rhymes, and you can tell they are giving it their all. The rhymes are pretty fucked up too which is pretty ill. ‘Bitch I don’t sell crack, I smoke it’. Its one of those freestyles that are pure fire, and has an underground feel to it, not much people know about it either.

1– Token – Sway in the Morning Freestyle

Token is an up and coming emcee from Salem Massachusetts , he is quickly becoming known as one of the illest , and he is still only 18. He rose to notoriety with different freestyles and competition entries you can find on Youtube. He is praised for his lyricism and wordplay which surpasses a lot of ill emcees in the game already.

Token – Sway in the Morning Freestyle

This freestyle is just so intricate lyrically that I had to include it. The first time I heard it I was too overwhelmed by the sheer length of it and all the rhyme schemes that I didn’t fully appreciate it until at least the 5th listen.

Honourable mention :

Big L and Jay Z – 7 Minute Freestyle

I had to include this one, Big L was a New York hip hop pioneer who was tragically slain in a drive by shooting on February 15th, 1999. He was one of the illest emcees I have ever heard. His punchlines were out of control and his multi-syllable style was years ahead of his time. His songs are really ill too, notably ‘The Heist’ and ‘Put It On’ which are some of my favourites, but his freestyles were in another league.

Jay – Z is a well known emcee from New York, who has rose to stardom over the past decade and has released such classic albums as ‘The Blueprint’ and ‘Reasonable Doubt’ and has recently released the album ‘4:44’ . He is currently married to Beyonce Knowles and he is known for properly freestyling his lyrics, off the top of his head. He is known to rarely pen lyrics, mostly only while ghost writing for Dr.Dre.

Big L & Jay-Z – 7 Minute Freestyle

This is definitely one of my favourite freestyles in hip hop history. It is a relic of underground history, Big – L kills it with his rhymes such as ‘I beat kids with lead pipes/ I leave trails of dead mics’ and Jay -Z comes with crazy fast flows and holds his own with L , although i personally think L out-rapped him.

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The Schizophrenic Struggle

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Suffering from a disease like schizophrenia is difficult. Going psychotic usually involves being forcefully hospitalised and treated against your will.  There are various treatments, such as antipsychotics, Electro-Convulsive therapy and even Lobotomy. The treatments are far from perfect, with side effects numbering in the hundreds. There are different groups who offer different opinions and information and its hard knowing what to believe. On top of all this, there is an underlying disorder which can send you into a different world full of alien voices, disturbing visions and bizarre delusional beliefs that you are often lost in, unable to distinguish fantasy from reality.

Often, if someone becomes psychotic they are taken from their home by force, by a team usually accompanied by a police officer. I remember one time I was sectioned when the team came to my house, I punched one of them, they pinned me to the ground and handcuffed me as my dog snoop tried attacking them. I was forced into a mini bus van and taken to hospital with the guy I punched twisting my arm every time I hurled abuse at them. It really hurt, and I was very scared because of it. I was lashing out. I knew I was going to hospital probably for god knows how long, and that meant no more marijuana which I had been self-medicating with to stop the fear I was experiencing from hearing voices and seeing things.

Once there I was given psychiatric drugs, and the rest is a blur. But ive been there numerous times. I know your given the option to sign yourself in so that you are voluntary , but if you don’t you become involuntary and are kept there until you either defeat the psychiatrist in circuit court, or they deem you well enough to leave. Even if you are voluntary, if you try to sign yourself out you can be made involuntary then and there and kept in. It is a very traumatic experience being taken and locked up for being ill.

antipsychotic-drugs

You are then put on antipsychotic medication. This comes in the form of pills or injection. If you refuse to take the pills they can legally overpower you and inject you with these chemicals. There is much controversy surrounding these medications because there is no test to prove that there is a chemical imbalance in the brain, the only way to diagnose someone with a mental illness is to observe their behaviour. But the medications block dopamine receptors along with serotonin in the brain.

The medications usually stop the psychotic symptoms in most people. Voices stop or become distant and easily ignored, visions fade, and delusions disintegrate. But it is a long process taking weeks or even months. During that time you are kept in hospital, unable to leave.

If the medications don’t work, other treatments are considered. One is the archaic brutality of Electro-Convulsive Therapy. This is where they strap electric wires to a patients head and induce seizures by electrocuting the brain. Recently they have started giving patients general anaesthetic but if you’ve ever seen the procedure performed, you will no doubt be shocked and appalled.

I met a patient the last time I was in hospital that was having it done. She complained that her memories were all gone and that only traumatic ones remained. She couldn’t remember her childhood or most of her adult life either, and had trouble holding a conversation with me as she had bother focusing and paying attention. I was angered by what the doctors had done to her and I urged her to get off the treatment. But she told me the pills didn’t work so there was no other option, her doctors had convinced her it was the way forward.

When you are forced into hospital you are now given a booklet informing you of your rights. One read will leave you disturbed. They still practise psychosurgery here in Ireland. If you are able to consent and a group of psychiatrists decide its in your best interests, you can be lobotomised.

This is an age old practise, a relic from the days of early psychiatric treatment. They drill a hole in your skull, and remove part of your pre frontal cortex, in an attempt to pacify you and get rid of the psychosis. This part of your brain is essential in cognitive functioning and removal of it leads to patents that resemble living zombies.

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I can say from experience that for months after a psychotic episode you are confused and open to suggestion. If you were convinced to undergo this horrific procedure you may well fall victim to the trap and end up lobotomised and zombified!

This brings us back to the antipsychotics, medications some patients have called ‘ a chemical lobotomy’ due to their effects on motivation, emotion and general well-being. While they do treat the psychotic symptoms of the illness in the short term, there is such a thing as tardive psychosis, which can develop over time, in which the medications themselves cause a psychosis. There are disorders such as cardio vascular disease, diabetes and various movement disorders that can develop from long term use of these medications.

The psychiatrists do not give informed consent in my experience. They have a duty to inform you of the possible side effects and alternative treatments before you commit to any. But they downplay these side effects and push for you to be medicated long term, often prescribing higher doses than necessary until you are dosed to the eyeballs for years!

This is very worrying given the possible side effects, but aside from talk therapy and learning to live with the voices there is no other option. Groups such as the hearing voices movement ascribe to the view of social psychiatry, where it is believed that traumatic events you have experienced in your life cause the symptoms such as voices and visions, and that the disease model is wrong. There are various hearing voices groups all over the world where voice hearers can come together to support each other in coping, analysing what the voices are saying and how it relates to life, and what you’ve gone through in hopes of defeating them.

This can be helpful and they often quote the fact that many ‘normal’ people live with voices all across the globe, hearing helpful voices that don’t cause them any distress. They are not taken on by psychiatrists at all though, who prefer the disease model of schizophrenia and rely on medicating to cure the symptoms. There is no way for a psychiatrist to refer you to one of these groups , you must find one yourself and attend.

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In America , there is not much of a health care system and people have to pay to seek psychiatric treatment. This results in high rates of homelessness and incarceration of  the mentally ill, who often end up self medicating with dangerous street drugs and getting locked up because of it.

This is the alternative to medication, being psychotic. While groups such as the hearing voices network claim you can learn to live with it , I personally believe its unacceptable to be walking around psychotic. I cannot be hearing demeaning, nasty voices all day commenting insults on my every thought. I cannot believe there are aliens trying to beam me up to their ship, or be watching the flames of hell dance around me every day. I may be able to learn to control it but I would rather not have to deal with it at all.

For me, antipsychotics keep those symptoms at bay. They cannot help with the negative effects of the disease such as not having much emotion, being socially withdrawn. Or the intellectual deterioration over the years either. But at least they keep the voices and visions at bay.

There is so much information out there, so much studies it would take ages to get through them all. I read what I can here and there, ive read studies that suggest the antipsychotics cause the degenerative effects of the so called disease, that trauma causes the voices, ive read that its genetic, and it’s a chemical imbalance in the brain, ive even read that it is a shamanic experience to do with the spirit world, and that a psychotic experience is no different to a religious one.

It is difficult discerning between fact and fiction for a mentally ill, medicated person. You are caught in a storm of different information with psychiatrists saying one thing, then anti-psychiatry saying another. People in the middle saying aspects of both have credence and shamans telling you it’s all a spiritual experience.

Not only is the schizophrenic mentally ill, but he is on dangerous psychotropic drugs to control it, which can cause serious disorders, he is coping with the trauma that may have caused it and on top of that he is trying to find out the truth about it all before its too late. All this combined leads to a very confused , frightened mind state. If you know someone who is mentally ill, be sure that they are going through a lot.

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