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Noize Rap For 'Yeezus' Freakz

by Chuck Eddy

Noize Rap For 'Yeezus' Freakz

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While we may never see eye to eye on anything else about the new Kanye West album (somebody out there is probably even waiting for an instrumental version!), few would deny that Yeezus is quite the clamorous record -- or at least its first half or so, anyway. It directly links itself to Chicago's recent drill-rap scene (what with Chief Keef on it and all), true, but more intriguingly it can also be heard as an heir to a decades-long tradition of people (not even just rappers) talking in loud rhymes over disruptive distortion and disorienting detonations.

Chicago's been a major noize-rap player since at least the mid '80s, thanks to acid-house and the often shouted-not-sung industrial dance-punk released on Wax Trax Records. But I'm also talking theoretical precedents dating back at least as far as Rammellzee and The Fall's Mark E. Smith around the turn of the '80s, and all sorts of developments since: from Tricky's trip-hop to Dalek's experimental hip-hop; from The Prodigy and Hard Knox's big beat electronica to Atari Teenage Riot's and EC8OR's digital hardcore; from heavier tracks by big guns like Public Enemy, The Roots and M.I.A. to more obscure extreme perimeters of grime, dub and dancehall.

This mix starts (Mr. Lee, Bam Bam) and ends (Phuture) in '80s Chicago; in between there's lots from England, a few things from Germany, other clatter from all over. The scenes don't always intersect, and Kanye and collaborators might be oblivious to most of it. But what holds it together is commitment to beat-wise abrasion that might well make you hold your ears.

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