Coming less than a year after the release of their debut onto the mixtape circuit with their debut project War Cry in December of last year, Inland Empire based rap duo Native Threat and Jagwar, better known collectively as Kozmik Force; has made a roaring return with a follow up in the form of their latest mixtape entry appropriately entitled Untamed, Unchained. Generating a sizable buzz online in Hip-Hop’s underground circuit, since their debut Kozmik Force has caught the eye of some of the genre’s most prominent, of notable underground heavyweights; receiving praise from artists such as Tef Poe, Chino XL, and even Immortal Technique. All who have praised the duo for their rhyming abilities, their unrelenting critique of American society, the U.S. criminal justice system and the myth riddled, fallacy ridden history of the nation; as well as their commitment to other revolutionary struggles discussed in the content of their music. Needless to say, along with the praise of their musical contemporaries, since their debut the duo has managed to garner a loyal and dedicated following online as well. Having quickly risen to the title of being one of the most prominent torchbearers at the forefront of Indigenous resistance through Hip-Hop in the face of white supremacy and neo-colonialism in the 21st century.
This time around both Jag and Threat return to familiar waters, only diving to deeper depths in their latest musical endeavor. At its essence, Untamed Unchained continues in the same vein of its predecessor War Cry, though that’s not to say Untamed Unchained is a mere retread of past concepts or recycling of old ideas. Rather, the duo presses even further into the group’s message of fostering a pan-Indigenous unification across the American diaspora. Once again, utilizing rough, rugged and raw production and complex lyrical stylings that invoke the memories of past emcees of yesteryear. Much like their presence online in social media, Kozmik Force manages to do modernizing said ideas and messages for the modern digital age of social media. The music itself not only matches the tone of a time period where viral social movements have become ubiquitous, but the group’s message of resistance and justice is perhaps more relevant than ever. Particularly in the midst of white supremacists led racial and far-right political violence which has become all too common in a Trumpian era of U.S. politics. Needless to say, Jag and Threat’s pro-Chicano philosophy, advocacy for militant decolonization, and aggressive mission of dismantling white supremacy in all its forms and manifestations, their music and activism has not lost an ounce of its potency since the duo’s last release; and if anything, it has only become even more urgent and relevant than it has before. In many ways, what is touched upon on the tape by both Jag and Threat are merely old problems come to a head in a new and dangerous era where they can no longer be ignored. Like on their last effort, Kozmik Force manages to find a way to straddle both the old and the new on their release in both terms of production, stylistically and content-wise. Utilizing audio clips of recent interviews and newly recorded material the pair’s spoken-word interludes peppered throughout Untamed Unchained strike an eerie resemblance to those heard on releases of other influential artists who released albums filled with politically charged messages. From Public Enemy to Paris, to X-Clan, Ice Cube and even the early releases of Tupac Shakur the influence cannot be understated here on Untamed Unchained. This, along with the tape’s decidedly low-fi production only adds to the tape’s intentional underground sound which places Kozmik Force at the task of picking up the torch dropped in the early ’90s and bringing it into the modern era of 21st-century Hip-Hop scene.
With eleven tracks and clocking in just under half an hour, Untamed Unchained contains just one more track than its predecessor and is just a mere eight minutes shorter in overall time. However, the power of Untamed Unchained lies not on its length, but rather in the potency of its content that is squeezed into every second possible of the tape’s brisk twenty-nine-minute runtime. With little time to waste, both Jag and Threat waste no time trading back and forth expertly crafted rhymes, with precision, timing and ease seldom seen amongst many contemporary underground Hip-Hop groups. Utilizing a combination of original production provided exclusively by in house producer Snaps and classic beats borrowed from some the genre’s most prolific veterans such as Compton’s Most Wanted, J Dill and 50 Cent among others; Kozmik Force manages to create a sonic collage to use as the backdrop to their lyrical odyssey. The album’s opening track appropriately entitled, ‘Uncivilized’ is a fiery intro that sets the tone for much of the project. The stands apart, with its calls to ‘abolish ICE’, militant resistance and defiance of the U.S. government’s treatment of undocumented people (most of whom are of Indigenous ancestry), the track is a no-nonsense preview to the experience listeners are in store for on Untamed Unchained. Following ‘Uncivilized’ is ‘Every Direction’, an aggressive joint that makes clever use of a 50 Cent sample. ‘Every Direction’ is also one of the select tracks on the tape that also has an accompanying video, which contains footage filmed in San Diego’s historic Chicano Park located in the neighborhood of Barrio Logan. Up next is, ‘Underground Rebels’ which begins with an audio clip of the late Tupac Shakur, who also considered himself a ‘rebel of the underground,’ another high energy defiant track which makes excellent use of foreboding production, utilizing an eerie, sister piano sample which sets itself apart from the rest of the original production done on the album. The mixtape is also not without its fair share of other surprises either. While War Cry’s only guest appearance came in the form of an acapella verse from political prisoner Orlando ‘Elk Bone’ Watley recorded during the course of a prison phone call; this time around Jag and Threat enlist the help of outside talent to assist them on Untamed, Unchained. This accompaniment manifests in the form of ‘Guaicaipuro’, a track which takes its namesake from Guaicaipuro an Indigenous Venezuelan chief of both the Teques and Caracas tribes; who led a powerful coalition of different tribes and nations during the 16th century and waged a resistance against the Spanish conquest of the Venezuelan Caracas Valley territory. Featuring guest appearances made by Venezuelan Hip-Hop artists Amus La Rima and Victor*E of the Los Angeles Indigenous Hip-Hop group El Vuh, and performed entirely in Spanish; ‘Guaicaipuro’ is nothing short of all-out lyrical battle royal, with all four emcees fighting for dominance trading some of the best bars present on the mixtape’s collection. Another highlight is the tape’s closing track entitled ‘Mystic Connection’, which pays homage to Mesoamerican spirituality. A reflection by the duo that we are all related and connected to everything that gives us life. Making various references to Mesoamerican metropolises such as Tikal and Tazumal; as well naming important historical Indigenous figures like Crazy Horse and Lautaro; the closer is a fitting tribute to some of the great indigenous leaders and nations; as well as their accomplishments across of the Americas. The track is not only a fitting closer to the mixtape itself but in a way a proper reflection of a group that is coming into itself and solidifying its own identity. Much like Kozmik Force, the song is told with one foot always firmly planted in the past upholding history and tradition, while the other is extended into pushing the boundaries and limits that have been placed on indigenous communities for so long. Likewise, not to be forgotten or overlooked, accompanying the group’s powerful messages are the mixtape’s equally dazzling album art done none other than by Chicano artist and political cartoonist Junco Canché. Displaying a myriad of monuments and architectural wonders throughout the Americas, the album’s artwork features a cross-section of different places, from Machu Picchu, Teotihuacán, Tikal, Chichén Itzá and the Pueblo Cliff Dwellings of Mesa Verde amongst others all under the backdrop of a Kozmik celestial night sky. Again, a perfect embodiment of the album’s overall message of Pan-Indigenous unification and empowerment across the Americas linking Indigenous people’s achievements, wonders and accomplishments.
Untamed, Unchained is a brief but intense listen and is truly music that reflects and captures the volatile times in which we find ourselves in, only sharpening the group’s message of pan-Indigenous unification, pro-Chicano philosophy and broader message of pro-Indigenous empowerment spanning across the Indigenous diaspora of recognized and tribe-less peoples alike. If Untamed Unchained does have a weakness, it’s only fault is its reliance on previously used production from other artists at times. While this doesn’t water down or devalue the lyrical content of these tracks; inevitably it draws comparisons in the listeners’ heads to that of the originals which were made iconic in years prior. However, this is small, insignificant detail seeing how it’s not uncommon for mixtapes to use other artist’s production, and is more than made up by the project’s lyrical content and the original production that is utilized evenly throughout the mixtape. Untamed Unchained is not only a solid sophomore effort from Kozmik Force but more than ample proof that the group has only bare begun to tap infinite amounts of potential in a budding, promising performance career. Kozmik Force’s steady ascent in the underground circuit also signals the potential of new horizons for Chicano/Mexican-American Hip-Hop artists at large. While a few select artists in early 90’s such as Aztlán Underground, Aztec Tribe, Kid Frost and to a lesser extent Proper Dos utilized their music to convey socially conscious messages in Chicano rap; the sub-genre has unfortunately for the most part been regulated to shallow stereotypes and dated, two dimensional trappings of gang culture and other gangsta rap cliches. However, as both Jag and Threat have shown, the underground success of Kozmik Force proves that not only is there a legitimate and viable appetite for revolutionary, socially conscious Chicano rap, but that artists are more capable of tapping into brand new demographic awakened in light of continuous political and social attacks on Mexican-Americans and their immigrant family members waged by conservative right-wing politicians and political opportunists who seek political currency by demonizing these respective communities. Jagwar and Threat have managed to capture the fire and raw anger of the streets like that of their musical predecessors such as Kid Frost, Proper Dos, and Brownside; while conversely maintaining the political, militant discipline and intellectual pedagogy championed by the likes of Public Enemy, Dead Prez and Immortal Technique. What comes about is a unique combination seldom heard in Chicano rap or even broader West Coast Hip-Hop in general; which is a socially conscious, street centric, no holds barred, militant Hip-Hop group which refuses to be subservient and remains Untamed and Unchained. There are plenty of Chicano artists, countless conscious emcees, and even other Indigenous Hip-Hop artists but, there is only one Kozmik Force. It is hopeful that we will be hearing more from Kozmik Force in the near future and for many years to come.