North London MC Ray Vendetta comes out spittin like he’s got something to prove on his first official Triple Darkness release. MKD’s 7th Dan handles production for the most part, and creates a darkly brooding atmosphere that sets off the EP’s ominous tone from the get-go. Every song’s a street anthem and a thought-provoking zoner in one. As with every TD member, Ray’s lyrics are deeply interwoven with mysticism and esoteric knowledge that immediately impresses; while his contextually relevant rhymes possess a depth that allows the listener to return as his or her’s wealth of knowledge increases, and find deeper meaning within the lines. Thematically every MC to feature on 7 Swordz Ov Light covers a wide array of important topics; each verse serving as a potential catalyst to spur the listener onto their own path toward wisdom if listened to with open ears and mind. Ray wastes no words on trivialities, and there’s not a bar on the whole EP that isn’t potentially career-threatening for Britain’s lazier MCs; on Seven Swordz Ov Light not only has he firmly announced his arrival within the TD camp; but has stepped up his whole lyrical game to mark the occasion.
The Grand Opening lets you know from the start. This is no easy-going club rap for the deaf, dumb and blind; this is righteous rhymes from the heart. His mid-paced flow is confident and well-informed over the melodic beat, as he layers tight lines heavily laden with style. In my view, before this EP his verse on Cyrus Malachi’s Papercuts was his best work; after listening to this there’s too many standout verses to even call it. The title track is exactly why I back UK Hip Hop so heavily, 7th Dan needs to calm down before he takes his own headtop off with snares that hard; every beat smacks like a backhand from God, which is apt considering the Supreme Mathematics encoded in the EP’s title. I suspect the choice for the title’s numerology to correspond to the alphabet’s Seventh letter, the 7 days of creation in Genesis, the notes on the musical scale, the chakra system, and the representation of perfection in ancient Kemet was an0ther intentionally occult move on Ray’s part. Fire In The Pen is nothin’ but warfare on the mic with no apologies; and keeps things moving at a speed that barely gives you time to chill between each songs heavy attack, with the verses from Ray and Cyrus Malachi providing a deep listen, both rhyming as uncompromising and captivating as ever.
Addictions is the first real variation in beat and tone on 7 Swordz so far; and relaxes things slightly despite the continuation of the weighty content. Ray takes a sombre and thoughtful look back on his past vices through a lens uncoloured by shame or regret; instead sounding humbled by his previous shortcomings and grateful for the lessons he was given. His words warning of over-indulgence in women and herb, and his ability to recant his more youthful assertions on how to live are wise; and should be commended for their power to positively influence the younger generation listening. God knows there’s more than enough voices promoting the opposite over the airwaves these days. Tesla’s verse on Genuine Cuts is one of his most solid, amongst a back catalogue of bars harder and denser than neutron stars; Ray’s long-time collaborator and comrade keeps getting better with every guest verse I hear, hopefully 2014 will see the Two MC’s releasing many more collaborations along with a Tesla’s Ghost solo LP.
Take any MC from TD and put them on a track with Cyrus Malachi & M9 and you’ve got a trinity capable of some serious verbal contusions. Take the pair and add Ray Vendetta and you get one of the best songs on this already outstanding EP. 3 Strike Kill holds some serious wisdom, M9 in particular showing his dexterity as he drops lines that could have easily nestled amongst his best-to-date on his Magna Carta LP that dropped a year ago. Director and film-maker Jimmy Chiba expands his cache of dope music videos with another edition to the already interesting content on his youtube channel; and Malachi and Vendetta’s verses serve up some more of that fire in the pen they brought to the table earlier. 7th Dan creates some seriously epic melody behind the Three dreamscapes Ray writes on Reality’s Dream, the second verse in particular stands out for it’s vivid descriptions; “In dream Two I’m shivering, chains ’round my ankles, I’m feeling seasickness, the slave ship rammed full, up to the brim no space for me to move, my inside eating itself from lack of food, desperation, I can hear it in my brother’s cries, old dad got his back lashed, I saw him die.” He does what only a few MCs can do and turns past events such as slavery into contemporary source material without sounding contrived or forlorn. It took a while for impartial information to be published concerning slaves that stood up and took their freedom by force; which makes songs like this important for upcoming generations more likely to blast a mixtape than sit and read the ‘Narrative Of The Life Of Fredrick Douglass’ or be Googling Nat Turner & Denmark Vesey.
Bodyshotz is where the EP needed to go after the heavyness of the last track; Ringz Ov Saturn slows the pace to a crawl and lightens the tone as his beat prowls through dense string melodies and Phoenix Da Icefire flows cool and calm as his TD alias Solar Black, his darts sharp and on point as always. Ray Vendetta presides over the track with authority on a strong chorus and another hard sixteen from his brimming back catalogue of bars; his ability to adapt to a slower style of spittin adds a definitively strong presence to tracks like this one and on the subsequent track That Gang. As the EP continues it’s unstoppable momentum, Iron Braydz and Vendetta give the system’s enforcers a piece of their mind and weigh in on the heavy police presence and racial profiling rife both globally, and closer to home in London on another slammin Ringz Ov Saturn beat.
It doesn’t take Hideous Ugly’s chorus to tell you that the kick and snare is dusty; the beat is one of 7th Dan’s roughest with heaps of swagger and flare. The song’s a creeper that seeps into your veins with every repeated listen, and the content Ray’s bringing is tight as ever; his more reserved flow winds it’s course through the track with purpose, and the video from Chiba Visuals uses the colour palette of the EP cover well to create a warm tone; along with GlobalFaction, Chiba is quickly becoming one of my favourite videographers in the country. There isn’t a dull track on the whole release; its just banger after banger until the end, and when that end is brought about it’s with trademark TD venom and verbal dexterity on Crowbar HeadTopper. Ringz Ov Saturn pulls another savage beat out the bag that defines the clique’s sound and gets bodied by Iron Braydz, Solar Black and Ray Vendetta; every MC spits nothin’ but flames, as Braydz slaps up a racist, Solar Black pens a mean verse that leaves your head spinning, and Vendetta drops another career highlight with his last bars on the EP. “You see the scarab on my torso and scratch your head, I resurrect the type of verses that could wake the dead, send a tremor through the ground, watch it break your legs, spin ya premises around, back to bakin’ bread.”
Seven Swordz Ov Light is flat out one of the best releases of last year; if you like your Hip Hop underground, rugged, intelligent and righteous you owe it to yourself to cop this EP; Vendetta’s honest portrayal of the environment he sees on the daily is modern Hip Hop in Britain at it’s most lyrically prolific and accomplished. When he adds to that already deadly concoction a heavy dose of knowledge, love for the culture and the raw hunger that exalts all members of Triple Darkness; he elevates to levels unattainable by so many of the crew’s somnambulist contemporaries on these grey shores.