May 3, 2009

My Gut Reaction: 8th Platoon - A Matter Of Darkness (EP) (January 6, 2009)

A while back, I reviewed an album by Long Beach artist Contribution X, and while not many of you responded to it, the few who did seemed to appreciate that the blog branched out a bit. In keeping with the "Max can write about whatever he wants" idea, today's post is regarding 8th Platoon's EP, A Matter Of Darkness.

8th Platoon started off as a loose collective of West Coast artists who would work with each other in an attempt to gain followers on a not-yet-invented version of Twitter. At some point, though, its roster dropped down to only rapper Contribution X and producer Habitual (or Medic, depending on whom he is addressing, although the name "Habitual" is shouted out a few times on here, so I'll run with that for now). While a lot of rap groups might have used this as a reason to break up and start solo careers, Contribution X was already established as a solo artist, so instead, he and Habitual use the name to offer listeners a consistent listen, with the lone producer providing every single beat, something that almost never happens in hip hop anymore. A Matter Of Darkness, is, as far as I can tell, their first EP release.


Seems to take a while to start up, but maybe that's just my copy. The hook is elementary at best, but if you ignore that and concentrate on the lyrics, you'll find that Contribution X is outshined by Christ Apostle, if only because you won't get tired of listening to his voice over this ineffective beat. A weird way to start things off.

Okay, this is much more like it. Bomshot sounds like Twin Gambino from Infamous Mobb, which longtime readers will know that I consider a good thing. Habitual's production here rocks, and everyone sounds pretty good, even if the lyrics walk that fine line between quasi-religious psychobabble and fantasy role-playing.

On this track, Contribution X shares the mic with no one, forcing listeners to acclimate themselves to his unpolished flow and personal observations. This isn't bad, though. He matches Habitual's beat turn for turn, and the fact that the song isn't even two and a half minutes long definitely helps.

Luckily for Wu-Tang fans that dive below the Rza-maintained surface level, Contribution X doesn't even bother to dismiss comparisons to Shaolin's finest, from the very title of this track to the 4th Disciple/Allah Mathematics-type Habitual beat. Portarock (which is actually a pretty cool rap name) adds nothing to the proceedings, although his mere presence helps to draw attention from the overly wordy chorus.

The beginning sucks, in a “we don't really know how we should start the song off, so we'll just shout 'motherfuckers' a bunch of times” kind of way. Make it past that, though, and you'll be rewarded with a Bomshot and Contribution X collaboration that is actually really fucking good, with Habitual's production going the distance. The only other complaint I have is that the song is waaaaaay too short.

The title alone will draw more Wu-Tang comparisons (the game of chess has long been a major influence in the Clan), but some of these lyrics leave a lot to be desired: “Call me Radiohead, motherfucker, 'cause I'm a creep”? Really? Maybe a reference to a Radiohead track that wasn't their most commercial radio hit (once which still gets played around my way as if it was the only song the band ever recorded) would have been more impressive. Anyway, the hook is (once again) too wordy (but, then again, this is underground hip hop we're talking about; it kind of goes with the territory), but at least it supports the chess theme. This track is alright, but not that memorable.

That title is pretty fucking awesome. Portarock sounds more and more like Jacky Jasper, in both his flow and in the way he can't compare to his host. Habitual's beat is both understated and well-defined, though: if he hasn't already done so, he may want to lobby for a slot on the eventual Killarmy reunion album. Contribution X would actually fit in on that project, too, since he sounds like a less assured Holocaust (who, yes, I realize wasn't ever a part of the group, but he was impressive during his guest spots on Dirty Weaponry). After a brief pause, a bonus track called "Real Life" features a quick verse from Contribution X over some nice instrumental work, capping off the evening.

THE LAST WORD: A Matter Of Darkness is a mixed bag, one that is most definitely not intended for a general audience. The pairing of Contribution X and Habitual Isn't exactly Guru and DJ Premier, but the duo have a chemistry that creates some sparks. The better tracks, though, are the ones that feature additional guests: “Bloody Tarantulas” and “Big Guns” are easily the standouts on here. I'm not sure if this project was always intended to be an EP release, or if 8th Platoon was just testing the waters, but the short duration of this album works in its favor. It isn't for everyone, and not every song works, but the ones that do will entertain those of you two who travel off the beaten hip hop path. And even with all of the Wu-Tang talk above, this can be enjoyed by non-Wu stans as well, although it definitely helps to have some knowledge of the crew's subject matter. Overall, this isn't bad.


Contribution X - Cobra Of The North

1 comment:

  1. AnonymousMay 28, 2009

    nice post Ill have to check these guys out Im always looking for that raw and independent hip-hop.