Dälek is a group that has been lost in translation for many hip-hop listeners. While their career has certainly been fruitful, their more than 20-year and eight album tenure as a group has been largely lost in the haze for many underground “hip-hop heads.” While this is certainly unfortunate to a degree, it actually works out quite well for the duo of MC Dälek and producer Mike Manteca. They clearly thrive in the hazy area of the hip-hop world.
The DIY darlings have never shied away from being themselves. Their presence on a track is unrelenting. On top of this, their sound is extremely diverse. It draws elements from genres such as jazz, shoegaze and even metal. This vast mesh of sounds may be disconcerting to some hip-hop purists, but Dälek has found a way to make some of these big ideas work extremely well over the years. With that being said, the group can get a bit carried away sometimes as well. Now, on the second wind of the group’s career, Dälek hopes to continue with their best foot forward. Having released eight albums up to this point, the group decided to release an EP to celebrate their label’s (Exile on Mainstream) 20th anniversary. While the group has never been known to be stale, an EP was certainly an exciting prospect for the group. It was an opportunity for the group to truly hone in their creative edge for six-sleek tracks. Sadly, Respect to the Authors falls short quite short of this expectation.
With a title like Respect to the Authors, you would expect MC Dälek to play a major role on this record. And while the emcee certainly has some incredible poetry on display in the latter half of this EP, it is not enough to make up for this project’s confusing beginning. The title track is a menacing abyss of tension-inducing noise. The rising guitar lines and the crushed together vocals creates an effect that makes the listener feel trapped. While this is certainly commendable on a production level, Dälek’s lyricism is nearly indecipherable. The instrumental’s doom-flavored daze drowns out any content that would lead the listener to respect the author. Sure, the poorly mixed vocals and encompassing production may have been used in a tongue-in-cheek fashion, but it still does not change the end result. The track feels disconnected from itself and ultimately very underwhelming.
“With These Mics” and “Defiant” strike a similar tone, but are actually more disappointing than “Respect to the Authors.” These tracks once again implement drone-y instrumentals that are extremely well crafted. The problem once again is with the verses of MC Dälek. Both of these tracks see Dälek using more monotone and slow-paced flows. This does little to add spice to the hypnotic and stagnant dazes being presented in the production. While the latter track certainly offers some commendable rapping, it still does not quite stand out.
While the lows are quite low on this project, the highs are equally high. “Words Connect” is an utterly commanding display of scholastically spit hip-hop lyricism. Under Dälek’s challenging word-salads is a screeching guitar drone. This unsettling noise brings a certain character to this song that is hard to describe. The environment just feels so cold and unforgiving on this track already, but this beat certainly elevates all of Dälek’s lyrics. “Molten” is one of the more dynamically crafted songs on this album. The whispers that Dälek places over the DJ scratching contrasts nicely with his angry and aggressive delivery later on in the track. Lastly, “Seek Harbor” ends the EP on a magnificent note. The production used on this track is absolutely jarring. It sounds like a chainsaw being ran underwater, but somehow MC Dälek sputters out his slam-style political verse with ease. On this track, Dälek is certainly an author that can demand respect. Sadly, this form not a frequent sight on this EP.
Respect to the Authors has some truly triumphant moments. Some of the tracks are even some of their best in years. Unfortunately, the EP just fails to come together in time to salvage itself. With a bit more uniformity and lyrical clarity, Respect to the Authors could have been an incredible release. Still, even with its inconsistent nature, it shows that Dälek still has plenty left in the tank. Let’s hope their next project fulfills a bit more on that promise.