“Genre-bending” is one of those lazy music writer-isms used when a band defies easy classification (and, yes, any of us who’ve written about music that combines styles have likely been perpetrators in perpetuating this crutch). Typically, even the most unusual juxtapositions and mixtures can be traced to a few discrete influences, whether specific artists or genres on the whole. It is not that “genre-bending” is an inaccurate description, simply one that often puts a bandaid over the actual work of figuring out which genres are being bent.
Another lazy music writer trick is copying biographical data from press releases into hastily assembled posts (again, we’re all culprits at times). In the case of firmly eclectic trio Young Fathers–and in light of the concept of genre-bending–this copy/paste method proves too fun and fitting to pass up:
“From the UK via Liberia, Nigeria and Scotland, Young Fathers have pursued a unique trajectory, from mid-teen hip hop trio via psych-pop rap to where they are now, on their own original island thrown up by a pop volcano, tectonic plates of genres rubbing up against each other like under-sea dirty party-people; seams of molten pop history spewing lava more fertile than guano, upon which the rich foliage of hook, rhythm and bass grow immodestly in the sun.”
Such a vivid and outlandish description is what you’d hope for from a group releasing their debut album, Dead, through a label like Anticon, one of the forebears of avant-garde, occasionally head-scratch-inducing hip-hop.
Dead follows proudly in the Anticon tradition of combining challenging sounds: familiar hip-hop rhythms are hemmed with buzzing synthesizers distorted beyond whatever real-world instrument they were intended to resemble, surprisingly euphoric pop faces is stripped to barest essentials and cast again through waves of the unfamiliar. Spoken word, gospel, west African percussion, and, of course, straight ahead rap collide at various points (particularly on a few of the albums most satisfying and cohesive moments, “Just Another Bullet,” “Dip,” and “War”), creating a listening experience like few others you’re likely to have this year.
Certainly not for everyone, but Dead provides an often exhilarating and surprising collection for listeners who might find Death Grips a bit too aggressive but the usual hip-hop of the blogosphere a bit bland.
Watch the video for single “GET UP” below.