Monday, September 9, 2013

The Beatkillerz "Sheep Killerzzz" EP out September 12 on itunes - Not Smart to Miss this One

Beatkillerz TM Logo used with permission.
Weed rap? Eh, not exactly. SoCal underground Hiphop? I guess technically that's what were dealing with, but The Beatkillerz new EP, "Sheep Killerzzz" contains so many complexities and transcends so many genres that labeling on this new EP seems academic. What is certain is that this bass-driven, lyrically complex assembly of tracks may be the best underground release of the summer, so you're welcome for this piece. As you can tell, I'm having a hard time categorizing the ubiquitous Beatkillerz sound, but don't get me wrong; that's a good thing. With so many strong influences in the DnB, HipHop, Funk, and yes, even Punk scenes, this trio still manage to come up with a unique and uncharacterizable style which doesn't sound frenetic or confused but rather completely different and just plain good.

 Founded in 2007 by main MC Catfish and Havok Mega, who mastered this EP, The Beatkillerz then brought in Ethyx soon after to lend his MC and production style, and have been writing and performing since that time.  If you've seen their energetic and chest-thumping live shows wherein all 3 emcee (Catfish prefers the term "emcee" to "rap", though it'll probably kill me to use "emcee" as a verb throughout this article), man the decks and tweak the sound, then you've been anticipating this EP drop for a while like I have.

Album art used with permission.
Catfish has named a gallery of influences to Beatkillerz sound in general: everything from Shapeshifters and Awol One to Gramatik and Pretty Lights. On this EP the beats also have lashings of mid-90s Wu-Tang and almost all of the tracks sample heavily from 60s soul, funk, do-wop, and even a scratchy-sounding 1920s calliope.  The beats, however, as would be expected of 3 kids who grew up in the DnB and Grime scenes, are anchored in heavy bass and this EP should only be listened to on a set of good headphones or properly woofered-out speakers. All these elements make for an interesting musical track to be sure. Another refreshing thing on the EP is that of the 10 tracks, only 5 actually have lyrics.  The rest are full instrumental and showcase Ethyx's unique style as he did most of the beats and instrumentals. For me and many others who have always gravitated to the clean production values and a solid core bass and drum structure of a song before any lyrics, spoken or otherwise, have been added, we have been oft disappointed by some underground groups' inability to pull off a good backing track.  It's a welcome feature of "Sheep Killerzzz" that the group showcases just how important it is to have a track stand on its own without help or need of lyrics, and indeed tracks like "Sinatra" and "MPCxyz" do just that.

This is not to say, however, that the lyrical stylings of Catfish and Ethyx are just tacked on for good measure, or are somehow boring and not important to the album - far from it.  The MC skills of these two are featured heavily either as a tag-teaming duo or separate, and Catfish and Ethyx's styles, like the beats, are a many-splendoured thing.  Catfish's vocal timbre is young, fun, and a little nerdy sounding - kind of like a white Humpty but with tighter enunciation which allows him to spit really quick circles around the beats, creating another layer to the track (though I'm not sure if he likes his oatmeal lumpy).  Content-wise, his writing ranges in topic from fun, silly jabs at the ridiculousness of social conventions in "Table Manners", to the more serious, psychedelic, and intellectual musings of "Dementia" (easily my favourite track on the EP), to the joys and perils of growing up SoCal in "Cali Sun", where Catfish identifies himself as "a modern-day Spicoli": probably a better description of his lyrical style and attitude than I've attempted to present in this whole article.   Ethyx's lyrical style sounds a little more conventional, but whether he's backing up Catfish or they're tag-teaming, his vocal  weight and speed can easily stand up to whatever Catfish is putting down.  It makes for a great duo, and they complement each other stylistically quite well.

Overall, the EP really has a great flow to it, moving seamlessly from song to song and telling a story on the way and hearkens back to the days when an EP or LP would be seen as a whole body of work, not just the random fragmented songs which comprise it.  Remember those days when you would go to the store and purchase a record or CD and listen to the whole thing all the way through, expecting the artist to take you on a journey through his or her world and what he or she was going through at the time?  Remember when you couldn't mention "Mother" without talking about "The Wall" in all its greatness, or talk about "Let Me Ride" without thinking of the whole new genre Dre's "The Chronic" ushered in?  Remember when every track was a banger, and you weren't constantly flipping through you ipod or Pandora to get to a track you really liked?  Ok I know I'm waxing jaded old lady nostalgic now, but that's what this EP does, and it's really a nod to Havok Mega's mastering skills but also to the way I know all 3 of these guys wanted the record to sound and make the listener feel.  Each track can stand on its own, but the body of work that is "Sheep Killerzzz" deserves to be listened to as it's own playlist on your ipod.

As mentioned, "Sheepkillerzzz" will be out on itunes on September 12 and is available for pre-order now.  The EP is also available for sale on The Beatkillerz website, and I recommend that method because all profits go straight to the group where, as you know, on itunes there is a significant cut taken.  They've made it convenient on the website to pay by Paypal or by credit card in the Beatkillerz shop.  While you're there you can listen to clips from the EP and buy yourself a cooler-than-everything Beatkillerz tshirt (both women's and men's styles and sizes available), and if you want to book the guys (who wouldn't), booking contact info is on the site as well.  I've also got some links below to their Soundcloud page, Savageland, because I feel I've done a rubbish job of fully explaining this album but hopefully I've piqued your interest enough to want to listen for yourself and say "that bitch doesn't know what she's talking about.  This is way better than she described," because it is.

**All website images and track links used with permission from artist.**

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