(twenty second Century Sound, 2022)
Area Past the Photo voltaic System is simply too lengthy, positive, however too lengthy for what? Consideration spans observe technological curves, and the hip-hop album, you would argue, has all the time been longer than it wanted to be: as soon as to squeeze each minute from its storage medium, extra lately to maximise its marketable data density. The hip-hop album is entitled by birthright to be a sprawl of repetition and tangent and experimental drift, and the DC rapper Raw Poetic and his longtime collaborator Damu the Fudgemunk don’t have any qualms about taking two hours plus to recreate a time and place by which it was. Or is, or shall be—that is an album that luxuriates within the uncertainty. To hell with snackable content material, with spectacle optimized for engagement. To hell with the substitute shortage of the circulate state. In one other time and place, we name that state a groove.
The groove is the weapon of selection on Area Past, and it’s much less martial than didactic, but additionally much less didactic than utopian. The groove is a beam of nostalgia and homage that in some way harks again, in the best way solely a hip-hop album can, to each pertinent time and place—dusky golden-age increase bap, wailing avant-garde jazz, sinuous electro, steely Afrofuturism, glitch hop, journey hop, no hop—abruptly. It’s a pulse, syncopated and tireless, of affirmation and protest and braggadocio, the soapboxing and finger-wagging and half- or all-baked dot-connectings which can be the essence of most nice rap. Refreshingly, it’s additionally a pulse that beats outward fairly than in, its consciousness extra world than native.
Uncooked Poetic is a selfless narrator however an interesting information: by turns charismatic and corny, conscientious and word-drunk, an ornery elder and a man who’ll paint a grim image of, say, biodiversity loss after which marvel out loud why he introduced it up, then namecheck Hamburglar. He drops down the occasional rabbit gap, however when he locks in he’s a lean, even riveting rapper. And he’s smart sufficient to step again usually to let Damu’s orchestrations stretch out, percolating and shapeshifting over upright bass from Luke Stewart (of free improv firebrands Irreversible Entanglements), guitar from Pat Fritz, and calligraphic tenor sax from experimental jazz luminary Archie Shepp. That churning melodic undercurrent, extravagant but earthy, is the album’s heartbeat and middle of gravity.
This isn’t the primary time Damu and Uncooked have recorded with Shepp, who’s the latter’s uncle. However the place their 2020 team-up Ocean Bridges was a jazz report with some rapping, Area Past is a hip-hop album to its core, embroidering its gamers’ pedigrees right into a fastidiously appointed collection of oases and passageways. What it surfaces from its jazz roots is fairly a sure ceremony, a cosmic exuberance, a knack for trying concurrently again and never ahead, precisely, however obliquely into an untold, barely plausible elsewhere: the area past. None of which makes it sound any much less like a digging inward too, a tapping into that substrate of the current that incorporates each time and place we are able to neither dwell in nor neglect, that groove that’s all the time been right here.