Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Every neighborhood is a project

150. Mystik Journeymen - "The Odyssey" (from the Mercury Rising EP, Outhouse, 1999)

For a while I've recalled the part of my formative years during I went in and and out of listening almost exclusively to underground hip-hop, from like 12 to 16, with a kind joking embarrassment. I've pretty much lost interest in that scene completely and while I still put on some of the records I listened to then once in a while, a lot of them sound overly pious, silly or, even worse, boring to me. But you know, we move on, and these days the non stop indie-ing of my 18th year seems much more embarrassing anyways. Not that I'm actually embarrassed by any of this mind you. If you've read this blog at all you prolly realize by now that (as gauche as it is to make things like this explicit) music for me is a personal experience (which includes being a part of a communal experience, natch) more than anything, and there's no such thing as bad music to be embarrassed about liking anyways.

That's a pretty roundabout way of bringing us to this excellent song, but here we are. Mystik Journeymen were the founders of California's Living Legends crew, and "the Odyssee" is a rather serious song (I was a rather serious 13 year old, I guess) that I remember thinking was one of the best things in the world when I bought the Mercury Rising EP at Gramophone Records. I use the word epic semi-seriously most of the time, but this song, by virtue of its title and narrative alone, deserves that the fairly literal use of that word, and the super-dramatic makes the looser definition work too. The lyrics are basically about the feasibility of keeping one's sanity in the modern world, not an uncommon topic certainly, but one very well executed here. The way the raps kind of trail off and/or come in with unexpected bursts fits the subject matter and the beat perfectly. My favorite moment is at 2:54, when the list of channels kind of splits up and the number "four" sneaks in there so it can be rhymed with "propaganda is the tool that they use to win their wars!" That sample that comes in with 20 seconds left is great too. Lesson for Maciej: just because this subject matter and style was like candy to me when I was a corny seventh grader doesn't mean it doesn't still taste delicious.

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