“Travel though aeons, mentally to spit it viciously, slappin up these red eyed devils, speaking fictitiously”
The year was 2000. Will Smith was still shitting all over the charts and capitalizing off the hype of an economic collapse that never came into fruition, and our previous predictions that by that point we’d be basking on beaches of cocaine, nonchalantly resting our feet on hover pads, and sipping neon Mai Tai’s watching androids do our meagre jobs for us fell slightly short. As it turned out, we still had to get up too early to drag our tired shells from a building we didn’t own, to work at another building we didn’t own, and spend our spare time & spare money shopping at overpriced retail developments. Our imaginations would permit nothing else.
In the underground though, away from the mechanical whirring of the world, Hip Hop was continuing it’s perpetual transition; and despite the year 2000 versions of ourselves enjoying releases from Kweli and Hi-Tek, the Wu, Jurassic 5, Lord Quas and Dead Prez, the wackness was still spreading like the plague. Continuing it’s slow ascension to the lofty heights executives clutching clipboards full of bad information have dragged it up to today. Then in steps Afu Ra ( and by steps I mean fly kicks his way through a window screaming like Bruce Lee when he busts into the garden in Fist Of Fury.
His credentials preceded him; The New York MC came through originally droppin flava on fellow Perverted Monk Jeru The Damaja’s classic The Sun Rises In The East, testing out bars which he recycled and perfected on the first single off his debut release, the DJ Roach slammer Whirlwind Thru Cities.
It’s a timeless tune with so many quotables I’m not even guna begin listing them; I’d end up writing out the lyrics to the whole thing. It’s also one of the many Hip Hop songs I physically can’t skip if it comes on, I had to take time out of writing this to vibe just then when I linked the video. Muggs, Krumbsnatcha, M.O.P, GZA, True Master, Masta Killa and Da Beatminerz all collaborated on Body Of The Lifeforce, contributing towards an impressive line up that the infamous Seven MC’s from that rhyme back in the day wouldn’t wana test. Then on top of that there’s the Five beats that DJ Premier himself contributed through Afu’s affiliation with The Gang Starr Foundation. Before the MC even opened his mouth, the LP was destined for underground greatness.
From the get-go it’s a lesson. The album kicks off with Afu’s conscious words underscored by backwards loops, as he gives an intense rhetoric on the infinitude of all matter in the universe heavily laden with spiritual teachings. It doesn’t take the rat tactics of the Hip Hop Cop to work out that Muggs is behind the boards on the opener Soul Assassination, his anthemic swing bringing the album bounding into life as Afu rides the tide.
“You never heard of this, murderous, mic style superb with this
burn with this, learn with this, you couldn’t swerve with this, or speed up on me in a high speed chase,
shift the clutch and what, bump chumps, I rip it up
I’m hangin’ corners, type shift like Lamborghini, you couldn’t see me, solar rays scorch Houdini“
Lyrically the album speaks on a lot of material Wu Tang popularised over beats. If that sounds negative or comes across detrimental, it isn’t. The Clan popularised thought at a time when only small pockets of the music industry were openly conscious, ( which applies to 2013 as easily as it did in ’93) and Afu’s lyrics take a leaf out of the rhyme book they opened, penning prose on chess, martial arts, the systematic suppression of history, the ills of modern living, tricknology, the lessons of the 5% Nation, and positive mental elevation. Even on short numbers like the brilliant Self Mastery; he weaves words with a distinctive flow and potent verbal attack; placing himself among the pantheon of the Shaolin gods, not as a derivative of them. Tracks like Monotony keep his darts sharp, and keeps the album’s momentum up, through an Eighteen song saga that manoeuvres through a full spectrum of instrumentals, taking inspiration from the Reggae, Latin rhythms, and the 90’s Eastcoast school of beatmaking.
The sample structure and cut placement on Defeat is textbook Premier, it’s easy to see why it was ‘the hit’ when the album was released. When I recorded the video on VHS as a teenager and incessantly replayed it; “No stoppin’ me, I’m rockin the, Hip Hop philosophy” hit me as hard as it still does today. Big Acts, Little Acts is one of RZA protege True Master’s defining moments in Hip Hop history, make sure the bass is fully UP for this one. It’s a gully, brooding beat that lulls you in, just to smack you upside the head with a heady blend of Afu at his most stylish, a GZA verse that’s indicative of his prominent position within the Clan, and True Master’s orchestral swells floating overhead with menace. The Wu are represented again on Mortal Kombat , a raw, insidious beat from DJ Roach that Masta Killa blesses with his reserved, contemplative delivery:
“After dark he goes, bust gun, trust none, touch one
Young Chun, prodigal son, killa bees disease
home grown, flown from over seas, city under siege“
Primo smashes it again with his winning formula on Mic Stance, another classic that finds eastern note selections colliding with New York breaks, and the MC dominating the track with heaps of style; “Lyrical elixir, Two turntables, and a mixer“. The more varied sounds come through when Da Beatminerz and Smif N Wessun get funky with the reggae sound of Barrington Levy on D & D Soundclash, and Ky-Mani Marley croons his guest chorus on the almost mainstream rap single Equality.
The lyrics on Body Of The Life Force have always had that cool delivery and been ill to listen to; but now that I’ve gained a deeper insight, and overstood the power Hip Hop holds; the whole album is deeper than ever. For me, it’s like Old Boy, the first time it’s a sick experience and you’re well into it aesthetically, but once you acquire the vital information from persevering through to the end; the next time you go back to it you experience something deeper through your new found level of comprehension. It’s why I love lyricism, to me it’s an invitation to learn. If it’s the same for you, dig into Body Of The Life Force and unearth the positivity buried within it’s Hip Hop jewels.