Sunday, March 25, 2012

March 25: Shock G, "We're All Killaz"

Artist: Shock G
Song: "We're All Killaz"
Album: Fear Of A Mixed Planet
Year: 2004

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN (will open in new tab)

Though there have been a number of elements that have contributed to the rather bland state that one finds within the current world of hip-hop, one of the largest is the idea of "commercialism" in the genre.  So many artists have clearly traded in their exceptional skills as an emcee or DJ for the predictable and  uninspiring sounds of heavy bass and rhymes about nothing more than "money, cash, ho's."  Even the so-called "underground" of the world of hip-hop has been shrinking over the past decade, with few groups or performers showing anything resembling originality or artistic integrity.  Then of course, there is the seemingly endless creativity that is Greg Jacobs, better known as Shock G of digital underground.  Over the past few decades, few other artists have shown as much range and vision in every sense of the word as Jacobs, and yet it was not until his 2004 solo effort, Fear Of A Mixed Planet, where the entire breadth of his talents were on display.  Pulling sounds and inspiration from the sounds of psychedelic, blues, ambient-electronica, and a number of other sources, it was the way that he brought them all together in a cohesive, thought-provoking, musically intriguing unit, quickly contrasting nearly every other album of the era.  While every song is superb in its own right, few tracks on the album sum up Shock G's talents and focus better than "We're All Killaz."
From the moment that the first beat drops in on "We're All Killaz," it is clear that much like the rest of the album, Shock G has a mind for production that is miles beyond any of his peers.  On this track, the sound is slightly more stripped down than most of the other songs, and yet there is instantly a strong groove set into place.  The skipping programmed drums are absolutely perfect, and at the same time, it is this sound that injects a level of tension into the track.  At the same time, it is the fact that there is a layered sound within the percussion that enables it to hit just as hard as any of the "mainstream" tracks, and yet it sounds completely unique.  Along with this, the keyboard that runs underneath all of "We're All Killaz" is not only one of the trademarks of Shock G's sound, but also the source of the depth of the song.  The swinging, jazzy sound that the keys and piano lend to the song serve as a reminder that there are no limits in what can be done within the confines of the hip-hop genre, further separating Shock G from his peers.  Throughout the entire song, there are smaller sound effects that weave in and out of the core sounds, and it is these smaller touches that vault the song beyond the others on the album, as there is a light, almost playful feel within the sound at times, and yet there is also an aggression and power that cannot be understated.  It is the way that Shock G is able to extract so much sonic presence from what seems like a rather simple arrangement that serves as a testament to his exceptional talents, and they've rarely been as focused as one finds here.

However, while there may be no other producer on the same level as Shock G, it is within his vocals and lyrics that one can understand his true mastery of every element of hip-hop music.  Though many are partial to his "alter ego" of Humpty Hump, it is when he is "playing" Shock G where he becomes far more focused and thought-provoking, and "We're All Killaz" in many ways sums up the entire Fear Of A Mixed Planet record.  Bringing a purposeful clarity to every word, there are few emcees in history that have shown as natural and smooth a sound as one finds here.  Each line hits with an equal impact, and all across the track Shock G shows an unsurpassed talent for mixing together social critiques with amusing and absurdist thoughts, resulting in a combined lyric which cannot be ignored.  In many ways, "We're All Killaz" is a rather fitting title, as Shock G points out countless hypocrisies and oddities of human nature.  Whether he is addressing the idea of "mystery fish" at fast food restaurants, etiquette in dance clubs, religion, or the frustrating irony of environmental protection, there is no subject that is out of the reach of his pen.  It is the fact that he covers such a wide range of subjects, yet never lets the song "get away from him" that highlights his talents as a writer, and again, he proves that there are no limits within the hip-hop style.  Combined with the music over which he rhymes, every moment of "We're All Killaz" is a refreshing reminder of what hip-hop music is meant to be.

It is rather amusing to see that while most emcees talk constantly about "keeping it real" and staying true to "the streets," nearly all of them do so under the heavily mandated "rules" of the music industry.  That is to say, if a song does not "sound right," it is likely that a label will step in and alter it.  This in itself is the biggest tragedy within the past decade of music, but thankfully, there are a few artists who refuse to compromise their musical vision or integrity.  Standing high atop this group is Shock G, and this 2004 solo release, Fear Of A Mixed Planet, remains one of the most diverse and outright impressive hip-hop records of all time.  At every turn, he presents exciting and original sounds, along with some of the most intelligent and challenging lyrics that have been written in decades.  Whether he is calling into question the current smattering of hip-hop "stars," or being his more jovial self, there is not a moment on the album that is anything less than exceptional.  Yet at the same time, the overall focus of the record in every sense of the word can be found on "We're All Killaz," as Shock G deploys a somewhat sparse, yet completely captivating sonic landscape, and combines it with some of the finest lyrics on the entire record.  Truth be told, "We're All Killaz" is the sort of song that once heard, cannot be forgotten, and this is a testament to his talents in every aspect of musical creation.  Though the entire album is well worth hearing, Shock G proves once again that he is a hip-hop artist far beyond any of his peers with his 2004 track, "We're All Killaz."

No comments: