Emcee Returns with Trifecta of Hip-Hop Theses
After a five-year hiatus from the music industry, Beans has emerged from the desert of artistic silence. A niche rapper and part-time monarch of hip-hop’s avant garde, Beans has returned to the game with a defined impact, releasing three full-length records and a debut novel simultaneously. The records, Wolves of the World, Love Me Tonight and HAAST, exist independently, and each surely paints a different image of the New York native’s outlook on his life and on his world.
With hooks few and far between, vocal mixing that forfeits clarity for intensity and song titles that read like sentences, these records assuredly don’t make concessions for increased public appeal. However, this oughtn’t be a surprise coming from a founding member of the hip-hop collective, Antipop Consortium.
As an emcee, Beans has long appealed primarily to concept, concerning himself centrally with aesthetic intrigue. Thusly, each of his three new records exist fundamentally as theses: Wolves of the World is a study in dense, electro-centric storytelling, with production by Canadian producer Toboggan; Love Me Tonight examines the peaks and valleys of modern romance; HAAST analyzes the social causes and ramifications of the current trend of violence targeting Black America through the lens of contemporary academic music.
However, the ability of an emcee exists in the duality of lyricism and musicality — note the thudding symmetry of Biggie’s phraseology, the Charlie Parker-infused syncopation of Common’s stanzas, or even the tripletized approach of the status quo (à la the Migos crew). While each is thematically sound, all of Beans’s three new records feature moments of rhythmic sloppiness, causing this approach to beg the question: why can’t rhythmic and thematic strength exist simultaneously? Syllables frequently are crushed or strewn together haphazardly, distracting from the ambience of the music itself, as in Wolves of the World’s cheekily titled “I Don’t Know Magic Tricks to Get Your Attention So All I Can Do is Be Sincere.” “He suffocated on the plastic bag that he put over his head / playing spaceman,” he raps in a series of words that don’t quite fall into any rhythmic grid.
Fans of Beans and the Antipop Consortium family will likely dig their teeth into this new body of work. Within such a breadth of output, there is no doubt that there is much in which to revel. In particular, the integration of Beans’s vocabulary, classical composition (by way of Cleveland Institute of Music graduate Christopher Auerbach-Brown) and sound art (via noise rock duo Snake ZVK and producer Ay Fast) gives way to a complex and, at times, compelling collection of songs on HAAST, and moments of the tongue-in-cheek in Love Me Tonight that achieve the status of sonic greatness.
However, complexity does not necessarily equate to success, particularly within the artistic culture of hip-hop. And who better to remind the listener of this than Beans himself?
While each of these releases is a relatively intriguing experiment in and of itself, Beans would be well informed by reflecting on one specific track he released back in 2004: “Death by Sophistication.”