Eye 8 The Crow is a hip-hop with a great sense of itself, it comes through as a confident piece of work even though some of the tales told within may be about uncertainty and fear. Art Vandelay have done it again with their brand new album, and if it feels like you’re being hit on the head with a plank or two, good.
Art Vandelay consists of rapper Ricky Pharoe and producer Mack Formway, and while other media types might call them “alt rap”, I call them hip-hop. Is it left of center, is it a bit more demented than what you may expect, sure, but I love it when a group plays head games, even more when it involves a powerful voice, moving production, and there’s a storyline where… forget storyline, just give me a line or two that drives me to want to hear more than a recipe for spirits, and I’m sold.
For this album, Ricky Pharoe sounds like a cross between Tyler The Creator and Blueprint, and immediately one is reminded of how those tones tend to bring a sense of confidence to a song, which can lead to more for the entire album. Even when he makes reference to being stick in a corner in a club in “So What?”, that’s a very small part of what he’s talking about. Yet that mere reference keeps you listening about how he “got a bad habit, killing tracks and getting all explicit/life passin’ by, I’m just hoping that I don’t miss it/it’s the late night, all day, next week, whole month/hangin’ by a thread, I wonder how it even holds up/so much pressure, I might go nuts/heard the world’s about to end, I’m like so what?” and with a few lines, one can’t help but sit back, relax, and take it all in.
For a complete 180, Formway turns electronic and dark with “Fingernails”, where you may think you’re listening to some European remix. Pay attention to the lyrics and it’ll lead to the understanding of entering a new world with younger people who may speak new, look new, act new, but question their existence as trendsetters. Not as people, but as the future. Eye 8 The Crow questions a lot of things, for it is a thinking person’s album, for those who see things but aren’t satisfied with the given answers. Even when one has the answers about the world, there are still problems. Art Vandelay aren’t about coming up with solutions, only revealing the wounds and giving subtle suggestions along the way. In other words, getting the album is a bit like looking at a map, but wondering how you’ll get from here to there. What you want is a sense of knowing that whatever road you take to get to the finish line, you’re going to come up with surprises. When Blueprint does show up in a track (“When Death Things”), that’s chemistry at its best. This is that album that will lead to a number of surprises, and will help them stand out from others who are not doing the same.