You don’t need to hear the lyrics to know what Dälek is preaching
There’s a long, underground history to industrial hip-hop — a subgenre of rap that brings much more abrasiveness and darkness than its overarching musical family. Death Grips could be considered the group that’s found the most mainstream success in the field; Kanye’s Yeezus is likely the most prominent album. The crown for industrial hip-hop’s longest run might belong to Dälek, however, a New Jersey-based duo that’s been in the game for nearly 20 years.
“It’s purely hip-hop, in the purest sense,” MC dälek told the Chicago Sun Tribune in 2007. Many mainstream critics have turned their nose at the group’s distorted, noisy sound, but Dälek sees the way they adapt and modify different sounds in the same fashion as hip-hop’s forefathers digging through the crates to birth the genre.
On their newest album, Endangered Philosophies, the group remains true to their industrial essence while keeping the lyrics secondary. Make no mistake, their words are powerful, cutting, and important — you just have to struggle to hear them. The intro song, “A Collective Cancelled Thought,” opens with two minutes of mechanical, swirling winds, followed by two more minutes of the same but with menacing boom-bap drums tacked on. When the lyrics finally kick in around the five minute mark, Dälek’s snarling bars are hidden behind the overwhelming metal, although his emotion matches the hard-hitting soundscape covering him.
Short phrases that come to the surface are enough for the listener understand the message the group expresses on Endangered Philosophies. Fragments like “cops keep shooting” and “we act so predictable” show the politically charged conscience of Dälek, drowning in the industrial sea of ignorance. It’s an interesting twist on the typical dynamic in hip-hop, as Dälek opts to tell his story through the metallic sounds while using his voice only to emphasize.
“There’s a Jackie Wilson for every Elvis,” the rapper proclaims on “Battlecries.” The track grips you in despite limited, arrhythmic percussion, instead utilizing harsh, ambient sounds to set the tone. Later on “Echoes Of…,” MC dälek references several political leaders while stating that he’s following in their footsteps with his socially conscious lyrics. Sampling (and distorting, true to the rest of the album) a speech from Fred Hampton, it’s one of the most powerful songs on Endangered Philosophies.
It doesn’t take long for the album to muddle together, with little differentiation between songs. It’s already hard to hear the lyrics, but there are many extended periods where lyrics are completely absent in the songs. The industrial wind remains constant throughout, and is the only “melody” for the majority of the album.
“Beyond the Madness” is the closest thing to an organic moment on Endangered Philosophies, raising the pitch of the noise to the point where it’s more dreamy than hard-hitting.
Metal and hard rock fans will find that Dälek’s newest album is right up their alley. For fans of modern day hip-hop, it may be an acquired taste as it’s a far cry from the type of songs on Spotify’s culture-influencing “RapCaviar” playlist. MC dälek’s been in the game for nearly 20 years, however, and his style of music has never been dominant in hip-hop. It’s safe to assume Endangered Philosophies isn’t an attempt at newfound popularity, but rather an album with a message that needs to be heard. Hip-hop was founded on the basis of self-expression; here MC dälek once again shows his commitment to this philosophy.