“Cold Like Russia”: перестро́йка (Perestroika) Album Review

apathy-oc-album-cover-e1506284065919Not many emcees can boast a musical catalog and resume as illustrious as O.C. and Apathy. For over twenty years between the two artists, the respective Brooklyn, New York and Willimantic, Connecticut based emcees have released nineteen studio albums, nine compilation albums and plethora of features over the years that includes a roster showcasing the likes of DJ Premier, Pete Rock, Statik Selektah, Jay-Z, Big L, Jedi Mind Tricks, Fort Minor, Army of the Pharaohs and dozens of other mainstays and respected artists in the genre. When one looks back at each artist’s catalog and incredible work ethics, it comes as no surprise that the respective Diggin’ In The Crates and Army of the Pharaohs alumni have finally teamed up and joined forces in their very first joint album together Perestroika.

Announced all the way back in the beginning of 2015 on Apathy’s Facebook page, even featuring musical snippets in a now since removed YouTube video, Perestroika was initially set to be released in the Fall/Winter of 2016 but was pushed back several times until its eventual Fall 2017 release date. Needless, to say more than two years after it’s first initial announcement to the world it was well worth the long and grueling wait for fans clamoring for one of underground Hip-Hop’s most anticipated albums to finally see the light of day. With both the Starchild and Alien Tongue joining forces, the two veteran emcees manage to deliver one of the hardest, strongest, most cohesive collaborative efforts from a supergroup released upon the genre in years.

Coming on the heels of O.C.’s latest solo effort Same Moon Same Sun, which was released as a free LP on the D.I.T.C. official Website back in February, Perestroika is O.C.’s first official full-length collaboration album with another emcee since 2009’s Oasis with fellow Diggin’ In The Crates Crew member A.G.. Likewise, Perestroika is also Apathy’s latest studio album (not including Dive Medicine: Chapter One, an instrumental project released earlier last Spring) following his last solo effort, 2016’s Handshakes With Snakes where the two emcees first collaborated on the tracks ‘Don’t Touch That Dial’ and ‘Run For Your Life’ respectively. In addition Perestroika, is also Apathy’s first full length collaboration album with another artist since No Place Like Chrome with long time collaborator and Demigodz/Army of the Pharaohs cohort Celph Titled back in 2006.

Perestroika not only serves as both the album’s title but also the group’s name as well. The duo and album barrows it’s namesake Perestroika, a Russian term which was used to describe the changing political and social structure as well as the policy of economic, governmental and social system reforms instituted by Mikhail Gorbachev in the Soviet Union during the late 1980s. In fact, in Russian the term literally translates to ‘restructuring’. With that said, restructure and the world’s dire need for change are major themes of the album. Change is very much one of the dominant themes explored on Perestroika, both in regards to the current state and direction of the Hip-Hop game and the personal lives of each respective artist. With both emcees, each veterans in their own right having entered their second decade making music the two artist take the time to lament and reflect on their long, storied careers, their personal experiences outside of the booth as well touching on a variety contemporary societal issues.

In fact, the duo themselves describe the album in their own words on the group’s page saying, “Apathy (Demigodz, Army of the Pharaohs) and O.C. (D.I.T.C. – Diggin’ In The Crates) combine forces to form ‘Perestroika‘, a supergroup inspired by the Cold War being waged on the rap industry. Anti-mainstream propaganda has become a bit of a cliche, so instead of speaking out against the unflattering direction that today’s Hip-Hop music has gone in, Apathy and O.C. have taken action by building a pillar in the ruins of what’s left of true school Hip-Hop. Picture the first time you heard Wu-Tang Clan’s debut album Enter The Wu-Tang: 36 Chambers and were immediately swept up in to a dark Kung Fu movie, with the sound effects and painted visuals – Perestroika is intended to have the same effect… except it transports you to Cold War, Soviet Russia. From the Kremlin, to small villages affected by the economically devastating times of Perestroika, this album is a salute to the underdog and all those who are able to survive the coldest winters. Not entirely conceptual however, the album allows both wordsmiths to flex their greatest strengths over solid head-nodding East Coast-styled production. In a time of worldly political conflict and scandals, this project plays as the perfect soundtrack to the madness”.

As expected the lion’s share of Perestroika’s production is handled by Apathy himself, where Ap’s eclectic use of unusual, unconventional and left-field samples is on full display, along with several contributions from both MoSS and Illinformed. Sonically Perestroika largely continues in a similar vein of where Handshakes With Snakes left off, albeit a bit more reserved and menacing in both its progression and production. O.C. finds himself comfortably at home, effortlessly rapping over Apathy’s signature production which harkens back the sample heavy Boom Bap style production of Hip-Hop’s golden era where O.C. first cut his teeth and honed his skills as an young emerging emcee in the New York Hip-Hop scene of the early 90’s. Not to be outdone over his own work, Apathy proves himself more than capable of holding his own weight along side his elder partner in rhyme; with each exchanging a barrage of complex syllables and rhymes in a unrelenting lyrical blizzard that’s just as cold as the two emcees delivery and mic presence on the album. Apathy also cleverly makes genius use of dialogue from old stock soviet era PSA’s, news broadcasts & vocal samples form Cold War era 80’s films such as First Blood and Red Dawn in Perestroika peppered throughout the album’s run time which sets a dusty, stone cold tone to match its aged soviet era moniker. Expertly applied in the track ‘Covey Leader To Raven’, along the backdrop of an old eerie sample flipped to perfection. Perhaps most notably as previously mentioned, is the album’s frequent use of war time and soviet paramilitary references and imagery conjured in the albums lyrics are eerily similar and bare a strikingly resemblance to those in the past, displaying parallels to those heard on album’s such as Silent Weapons For Quiet Wars from the since disbanded Wu-Tang Clan affiliate group Killarmy heard periodically throughout the albums duration.

Guest features on Perestroika are smartly kept sparse, with select features from long time collaborators Slaine, Kappa Gamma, Marvalyss, Celph Titled and Jus Cuz appearing on only four of the album’s twelve tracks along with cuts supplied by Apathy’s long time DJ, Chum Zilla. Highlights from Perestroika include, ‘Tomorrow Is Gone’, ‘Soviet Official’, ‘Covey Leader To Raven’, ‘Gorbachev’,’Perestroika’ and ‘Globetrotters’. ’Gorbachev’ is a rousing banger supplied with pounding drums and regal horns where both emcees go toe-to-toe in an exchange of verbal warfare, trading bars laced with war time militaristic imagery closed out by cuts expertly executed by Chum zilla. While ‘Tomorrow Is Gone’ featuring the likes of past collaborators Slaine and Kappa Gamma which has the three emcees reminiscing and detailing the lifestyle and culture of their own respective East coast hometowns, recalling their own personal experiences making it one of the most detailed and vivid, as well as catchy tunes due to Kappa Gamma’s hook featured on Perestroika. ‘Globetrotters’, featuring Jus Cuz on the hook serves as the perfect closer for Perestroika featuring the two travel weary emcees after years of touring detailing the struggles, hardships, frustrations and rewards of tour life on the road as independent Hip-Hop artists. However, one of the record’s standout tracks is the album’s title track, which makes brilliant use of classical piano and string samples. Apathy and O.C. speak their piece on what they see as wrong in the world, taking a microscope and fine tooth comb to both society and human culture. O.C. tackles seemingly timeless subject matter of government corruption, war, police brutality and media bias; while here Apathy dives into others giving his hot take on environmental bio-terrorism, the food industry and society’s creeping over-reliance on technology. Both emcees urge listeners to critically think in order to understand what is truly at stake and how bad our world can and will get if genuine change is not eventually implemented.

Clocking in at 43 minutes, Perestroika is 12 tracks of hardcore, no-nonsense underground Hip-Hop from arguably two of the most talented and hardest working emcees in the game, underground or otherwise. The album is yet another gem in a rather recent trend of contemporary underground Hip-Hop artists enlisting the talents of golden era emcees (which undoubtedly served as their inspiration) for collaborative ventures or even the creation of brand new groups.  Such examples include: The Godfathers: Necro and Kool G rap, Czarface: Esoteric and Inspectah deck, The Goondox: Sean Strange and PMD and now Perestrokia: Apathy and O.C.. Apathy, arguably one of the hardest working artists in genre, producing for both himself and others, consistently dropping solo projects, and other side projects such as his ventures with Army of the Pharaohs and The Demigodz has more than outdone himself both on the production and lyrical ends of Perestroika. After years of producing beats for himself, the Demigodz, Army of the Pharaohs, Cypress Hill, R.A. The Rugged Man, Ras Kass, Styles of Beyond and many others, it’s a pleasure to hear him comfortably rock along side O.C., one of the most respected and driven veteran emcees of the New York underground. It’s unfortunate that Perestroika featured no D.I.T.C. guests or even a guest feature from long time Apathy collaborator Blacastan; but, it’s hopeful that in the event of another Perestroika project sometime down the line in the future that O.C. can enlist some of his Diggin’ In The Crates Crew members to assist in the production as well as even making a guest appearance for old times sake. After years of hype and wait, O.C. and Apathy delivered with the goods and did not disappoint, Perestroika will have heads bumping the album well into the coldest days of winter and well beyond in the seasons and years to come.

Perestroika is available to purchase on CD, vinyl and cassette directly through the Demigodz Store and bandcamp page as well as to stream on Tidal, Spotify, Apple Music, Prime Music and iTunes.

NOTE: A instrumental and acapella version of Perestroika is available now as a digital download exclusively through the Demigodz store .

Full Album Track Listing & Credits:

1. Live from the Iron Curtain

2. Tomorrow Is Gone (Feat. Slaine & Kappa Gamma)

3. Soviet Official

4. Winter Winds (Feat. Marvalyss)

5. Covey Leader to Raven

6. No More Soft Shit

7. Gorbachev

8. The Broadcast

9. Perestroika

10. STOMKILLCRUSHMODE (Feat. Celph Titled)

11. What It’s All About

12. Globetrotters (Feat. Jus Cuz)

All tracks except for “Soviet Official” and “Globetrotters” produced by Apathy
“Soviet Official” produced by MoSS, “Globetrotters” produced by Illinformed.

All songs recorded, arranged, sequenced, mixed and mastered by Apathy @ The Danger Room – New London, Connecticut.

Original cover art painting by Samantha McGiver

Executive Producers: Apathy & Celph Titled
(c) 2017 Dirty Version Records

FullSizeRender-6

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s