‘I’m droppin ill spells in a physical dimension’
Around this time of year Seven years ago the West London MC was gearing up to release his debut. The collection of songs he put out took his talented, charismatic flow and dipped it in a thick black tar; emerging even fresher, yet darker and slicker than before. After the praise he’d gotten off his side of the Technical Illness/Backhand Slap Talk split with Verb T on Braintax’s Lowlife label; the quickly rising MC capitalised on his momentum, extensively touring the UK and getting into the studio to record ‘In The Hour Of Chaos’. With production from UK heavyweights Chemo, DJ IQ, Beat Butcha, L.G. and the man himself.
From the first utterance on ‘The Ark’ Kashmere spits venom with a righteous fire. Coming lyrically laden with comic book and occult imagery effortlessly inter-weaved with myriad biblical references. It’s definitely an alone in your room, headphones on, zone-in experience; even with full attention to the lyrics the man crafts it’s still hard to catch everything he’s putting across in each verse.
I had to stop and look up ambigram and cumulonimbus just to understand one sentence from ‘The Ark’. Kashmere writes from an omniscient perspective; like someone having a near death experience and viewing the world objectively as one consciousness free from time and space. In the first few bars he namechecks a doctor that delivers euthanasia, the time travelling car from Back To The Future and a mythical sect of witches from Argentina with a straight-faced delivery that makes the last two sound as plausible as the first. He’s so far down the rabbit hole he’s set up a lab and started sampling Agharti breaks on tracks that would make Jules Verne shit.
Things get even deeper from there. ‘Black Sea’ sees Verb T and Red joining the fray. The Three spinning shadowy soliloquies that paint vivid pictures of vampire transformation, altars of sacrifice and tales of the evil forces in the universe feeding off fear. Kashmere’s verse is strikingly impressive once again; “The only way to defeat something is understanding it, but deep inside my soul I’m trying very hard to balance it. The darkness feeds, off your weakness, and so I’m here to show the extreme on both sides of the deepness. Yo peep this, my lyrical form is peak-less, elevating infinite like the ascension of Jesus.” You can’t even attempt to write like that without some serious knowledge of self and complete conviction. Alhamra’s beat knocks hard and mean with a creepy orchestral edge and a chorus that’ll stick in your mind like mental post-it notes.
Every beat on this album is a certified classic; one of the most instantly recognisable is L.G’s haunting jazz on ‘Souls Of The Unborn’. Jehst’s verse finds him at his peak flowing tight and esoteric. “At the epicentre of the sandstorm, many men perish in the belly of the Rancor, know they ran for the cover of the trees, they were already marked with the number of the beast”. The two men’s verses together are near impenetrable at first, one after another in quick succession covering a lot of ground thematically and leaving you barely enough room to work out each reference before moving on. After countless listens, I still find little touches I never noticed before. Subtlety is the highlight in this understated anthem.
The idea of villains feeding off fear is delved into again in ‘Bones’. With tales of dragons, dinosaurs, Godzilla, and Kashmere playing hero confronting George W. Bush as a malevolent entity revealed to be ‘an evil beast with ten heads and fifty eyes’. It’s over the top, and cartoonish, but with a little research you realise that taking the more extreme notions of the conspiracy world and melding them with a cohesive plot is demented genius. To make that a highly listenable experience over a stripped down Jehst beat all in under four minutes is straight up talent.
‘Opium Foetus’ floats along with Verb T guesting again over breezy rhythms. The pairing works as amazingly on tracks as it does on stage. Pineal glands, out of body experiences, ‘cannabis dreams of fire oceans’, and mind elevation is the content embedded within this ethereal allegory. L.G. picks up the vibe nicely after a real gloomy few tracks, beginning an alleviation of the mood that IQ continues into ‘Dead Gorillas On Broadway’. A confident recital that shouts out a diverse number of sources, from Clarence 13X and the 5% Nation to Sega’s Golden Axe, and puts the fakes in their place with a reminder that Kashmere can brag as engagingly as any of his peers.
After that brief breath of fresh air from underneath the tide of information you’re joyfully drowning in by this point, shit gets bleak again. End-Of-The-World-Bleak. ‘Spawn Of Pazuzu’ is witches, paganism, catholic assassins, and theological war invoked by the wrath of the eponymous ancient Assyrian demon. Add Beat Butcha to that eclectic blend and it’s another heavy track. “It’s the beginning, the end of all times, can you see the signs? The chaos hour, paralyse, kill devour, summon the ancient power.”
L.G. kills the production again on ‘Have Faith’. Sampling choral singing with an eastern feel and Krs-ONE bars to create one of the more spacious songs on the album. The lead single ‘Playing With Fire’ is the perfect intro to his work, primarily as his subject matter is made slightly more accessible through the use of standard song structure and an atmospheric Chemo beat. Secondarily, if a cloaked man bopping about a mountain chattin about magic is too much for the casual listener, they’d be reaching for the safe predictability of a more mainstream album upon meeting the rest of the albums content.
‘Divine Communication’ finds Kashmere and Iron Braydz trading verses over a futuristic Chemo beat. The third verse especially stands out. Both rappers firing off densely packed sentences contemplating dimensional shifts and astral projection. On ‘Lady Of The Lake’ the MC sidesteps the popular myth of Arthur’s retrieval of Excalibur at the lake’s edge; and goes straight for the lady herself. Experiencing a lucid interval which takes him on a journey through love and death with Nimue ( that’s the watery sword wielding bint btw ) by his side as they take hallucinogenic trips into the psychedelic heavens. Tranqill’s production is an album highlight. For a guy that was closer to being unknown than the other big names behind the boards; he sounds unphased, and builds a grandiose beat that ramps up the scope of Kashmere’s unfolding saga. Check out his 2011 Hidden Treasures EP for more.
“Greed and science, Lucifer leading us astray, well curiosity murked the cat people say, even though we were created crazy, as inquisitive creatures, always on the look out for the newest features”.
The Iguana man takes a heavy handed stab at the Darwinian school of thought accredited by mainstream science on ‘Alpha to Omega’, the first in a Chemo two punch combo that closes the album. He’s strongly opinionated when it comes to his belief; lamenting the fall of spirituality in modern society as science takes prominence in the minds of the public. And casting his third eye over the invention of the wheel and the curability of disease to chart man’s ascension and eventual demise within the cyclical nature of the universe. “Prepare for the end, and from the end to the beginning, the lord starts again peep the aqua life swimming, now see the brave ones venturing onto the land, Knowledge, Wisdom expand”
‘Veronica R.I.P’ had to be the last track, it’s too good not to be, if you were in the studio trying to follow any verse he penned on this last one you’d stumble harder than Arkwright gettin Granville’s name out his lips. It’s storytelling at it’s peak, a love story with a bitter twist. I won’t wreck it you haven’t heard it, but it’s a perfectly crafted curveball. “Deception, it was unreal, Stephen King combined with Danielle Steele“.
The album endures as a classic, you’d be hard pressed to find better fantasy lyricism from anyone. The sheer magnitude of Kashmere’s reference material would take the average man months to begin to decipher; as with all great MC’s the more you personally overstand, the more rewarding the listening is. It’s not an easy album to get hold of, but some online digging can get you a cd copy. The follow up release on YNR ‘Raiders Of The Lost Archives’, and the Boot Records ‘Power Cosmic’ LP under the name ‘Galaktus’ are both available at Suspect Packages and are well worth a look. His Hunter S. Thompson inspired ‘Kingdom Of Fear’ project with Jehst, and ‘Scarlet Jungle EP’ under the Strange U moniker with Dr Zygote indulge his more experimental side, but still keep things hip hop.
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