People who don’t listen to hip hop or don’t at least go through a hip hop phase once in their lives are missing out on some of the best music as well as one of the most wonderful forms of human expression that has ever been created. At the very heart of this form is precisely what makes hip hop such a great form of expression; the truth told through precise word choice, using powerful images brought on by similes and metaphors. It is essentially poetry set to a beat, a beat that is usually a drum click of one two one two. There are then of course added samples, quick cuts of blaring brass, movie excerpts, gunshots, etc. And of course these aforementioned additives serve their purpose, helping to add certain nuanced qualities to hip hop, but what remains after that is all stripped away is the message.
The message or rather messages on Chicago emcee Fanetic’s new disc Pyramids on Mars covers a wide array of territory, from life on other planets to the life of a young black man growing up in the environs of Chicago, and what that feels like at times good and at times frustratingly bad.
Pyramids on Mars opens on a strong note with Fanetic laying down some really smart lyrics over drums and a spacey keyboard loop on “The Red Planet.” Here Fanetic talks about how he wished there were life on other planets because he was “sick of this world” and he’d rather go “elsewhere.” And then he states that he has always been taught that the planets were just there for “decoration.” He later goes on to bring these thoughts all together as he explains when thinking about this that “in my own mind can’t even understand my own kind/I had to search for the truth on my own time.” Here lies the genius behind Fanetic, using the metaphor of searching for life on other planets, when he doesn’t even understand the life on his own planet.
The final cut “New Reality/Escape” is the other track on which Fanetic really shows what he’s got. The lyrics he puts down here reveal a man who is not afraid to admit being afraid. As he begins, “Don’t say I need a dose of reality/ I OD’d/the truth was unbearable I couldn’t proceed.” He goes on then to make note of the birds, how small they are, but that they are able to get away before the “snowstorm falls.” It is these subtle observations, which really give Fanetic his power.
The three other tracks on Pyramids on Mars don’t have the same exactness and scope which “The Red Planet” and “New Reality/Escape” have. The words are of course still pulled from experiences in Fanetic’s life, but “The Departure,” about a failed relationship, just doesn’t resonate with the same power that Fanetic’s observations about society have. He is best when confronting the larger problems that affect not only himself, but just about everyone alive on this planet; and maybe some other planets too.
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