Daggers in the Heart
Suffer in Style, the debut album from duo Look Daggers, is a Los Angeles-centric take on the live hip-hop blueprint crafted by the Roots. Instead of the smoothed out jazziness that was a trademark of the Roots’ early style, Look Daggers lean heavily on L.A. musical multiculturalism. Think genre blending Southern California acts like the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Ozomatli and Sublime as a signpost for the Look Daggers sound. 2Mex, a longtime member of the Visionaries crew, handles MC duties. The tracks he flows to, arranged by Mars Volta keyboardist Ikey Owens, vary in tempo and temperament. Lean rock grooves, jittery, often dissonant guitar work and even psychedelia are featured on Suffer in Style. The backing band comprises musicians from Sublime, The Mars Volta, Breakestra and members of Free Moral Agents, among other L.A.-based groups. Owens and his all-star band fuse hip-hop, various strands of rock, funk, soul, Latin and electronic genres over the course of the album’s 12 tracks.
Songs are constructed in a similar way throughout the album. Between standard 32-bar verses are extended instrumental sections. Owens’ focus on groove keeps the instrumental sections from sounding jammy and helps build anticipation for the next verse.
Lyrically, 2Mex carries an angst and sense of alienation that is more akin to alt rockers than anything put down by his mostly gangsta rapping South Central brethren. There’s a spastic urgency to his delivery that lends itself well to Owens’ propulsive backdrops. Songs like “Shades of Orange”, “Know Turning Back,” and “Youth is Getting Restless” seethe with conscientious rage. When he’s not egging on the revolution, 2Mex is reaching out to his lady. “Beautiful Freak,” “Before You Say No” and “Call U Later” show a more sensitive side to his flow without losing the fellas. The standout track here is “That Look,” which juxtaposes a tense, angular guitar line with a soaring chorus.
Thanks to the high level of musicianship and 2Mex’s topical dexterity, Suffer in Style is an engaging listen. Existing on the fringes of both hip-hop and alternative rock, Suffer in Style never feels like a shotgun marriage of the two genres. This is a release for those that geek out on the rare, organic mix of the two.