THE FIGUREHEADS – Life and Depth, Sustainable Hiphop Vol. 2
Modern hip-hop has reinterpreted its sound with seminal producers moving beyond the boomy, b-boy aesthetic toward something truly fresh. The Figureheads are absolutely hitting on this new ideal, with glitch, techy, gnarly beats crafted with a defined nod to classic techno and the more esoteric side of Chicago house; from the tight grooves of Derrick Carter to the mind-bending sounds of the Detroit underground a la Carl Craig. In fact, this new-school hip-hop absolutely draws its sound from old school underground dance vibes.
In fact, the production on this newest EP from this local high-minded and poetic group sometimes overshadows the flow. The grooves, created by producer Dave Olson, are clean, rough and utterly airtight, rarely moving too far from the synth/techno edge but mutating each track to a new end. Space and silence are absolutely effective accents to the deep vibrations of each groove on this short disc.
Jer One, the lead voice for the Figureheads, is perhaps one of the best emcees in town and his flow on this disc never falters. While the complexity of his rhymes call to mind the legendary Eminem, his lyrical content is far more positive, far more introspective and far more spiritual. Pegleggreg, the secondary voice on this disc, hasn’t yet reached the level of control and complexity that Jer One brings to the mix. But he does bring a different feel and sensibility to his style that helps these tracks move beyond a single voice. And this emcee actually sings and actually hits the notes. Far too many emcees have tried to sing and failed so miserably that it has almost become cliché, thanks to Biz Markey and his ilk.
The Figureheads touch on spiritual significance in virtually all of their tunes and it starts sounding like they were having a hard time spreading their wings and delving into new lyrical arenas. While I respect any artist’s spiritual inspiration, it starts sounding preachy and played quite quickly. While many in modern hip-hop seem to drag God out to sell more records while praising materialism and a selfish pursuit of wealth, that is decidedly not the case with the Figureheads. They are dedicated to supplying music that exalts virtue and faith while eschewing the negative, materialistic, self-aggrandizing mantra that has plagued hip-hop for a generation.
In fact, the Figureheads have released a previous album just for kids, making it clear that their hearts are in the right place and their desire to educate and elucidate is pure. But that doesn’t change the fact that I don’t put on a record to be preached at, I don’t spin records that espouse a belief system that exalts a single spiritual perspective above all others, and I long for a day when hip-hop music doesn’t waste time praying. But until that day comes, Figureheads act as a balance to the mountains of negativity and bullshit that have created stereotypes that cast hip-hop in the light of gangsta pain and misogynistic attitude.