King Rhythm – Hardships and Headtrips (Catalyst Act)


There’s something really refreshing about King Rhythm’s approach to hip hop. The opening piece No Magic/ Bangin’ The Wall felt like the needle was locked in a groove, the record scratched, repeating the same stilted stuttering phrase. But then new elements are introduced and sound similarly stitlted and it became clear that though unnerving it’s all intentional. At some point in its genesis it may have been a real krautrock jam, but now it’s been cut up and manipulated, changed to this strange, somehow quite logical, yet still jerky music. Then the hip hop comfortably flows in over the top, like nothing’s wrong and you wonder why no one has ever done this before. We’ve had Aerosmith and Run DMC, the Judgement Night Soundtrack, even Buck 65’s last album Secret House Against The World where he played with Tortoise to tell us that you don’t only have to limit yourself to simply rhyming over drum machines and funky breaks, but very few seem to have taken up the challenge. King Rhythm’s approach is innovative and unique, it feels dangerous. Worlds are colliding and the explosion creates a third world. It’s some truly unique music. Here’s a guy who’s production could give DJ Shadow cold sweats. In fact the final instrumental piece Current Floor, a charging fuzzed out repetitive grove is nothing short of incredible, the last thing you would ever expect on a hip hop album. The remainder of the album is filled with funky rock and roll jams, raw fuzzy, guitars, all cut up and reordered, looped into this bizarre and unique form of prog rock psychedelic hip hop.

It becomes easier to understand when you realise that it all comes from vinyl, samples from between 1965 and 1975. Even the production trickery is reflective of these years. It’s all the work of one man, Baltimore native King Rhythm, who’s understanding of hip hop shares the kind of broad minded thinking that we’ve come to expect from the likes of the Anticon roster. Though of course he’s not on Anticon, yet you still feel like everything’s possible. It’s actually quite complex, the pieces are multilayered, often with multiple changes, and over the complexity King Rhythm’s rhyme’s reigns supreme. A kind of relaxed drawl, he finds space where you never thought there was any. His flow and delivery is awe inspiring, like he’s rapping over a 4/4 break, not the collision of worlds. It’s the kind of hip hop you yearn for, a little bit different, more complex, where the music and the rhymes are equal partners, making for a much more rewarding listen.

Bob Baker Fish


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Bob is the features editor of Cyclic Defrost. He is also evil. You should not trust the opinions of evil people.

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