For the better part of the last several years Kozmik Force, comprised of Native Threat and Jaded Jag (formerly known as Jagwar) have been making their rounds in the mixtape circuit and Underground Hip-Hop scenes of L.A. and the Inland Empire. Also garnering and maintaining a sizable and ever-growing audience online through the clever use of social media, Kozmik Force’s reach and influence as consistently grown with every passing year. Needless to say, the duo has kept busy in 2019 with numerous performances and of course tirelessly working on new music. While the first half of the year has been relatively quiet from the group, for fans who have patiently anticipated the group’s return the wait is finally over and Kozmik Force is back and bolder than ever with a brand new project. Coming right on the heels of their sophomore project Untamed, Unchained which dropped late last year in 2018; the duo has come forth with their brand new project Ceremony On Concrete, the latest effort in the group’s ever-growing catalog of work. Continuing on in the long tradition of conscious, politically engaged Hip-Hop; Kozmik Force continues with yet another lyrical assault critiquing the U.S. government, the criminal justice system as well as expose the fallacy ridden history of the nation, destroying myth riddled narratives that the establishment tries to push as historical fact. Needless to say, Kozmik Force doesn’t just continue their commitment to revolutionary struggle showcased in the content in their music; in fact, they up the ante only further raising the bar, making Ceremony On Concrete their most complete and fully-fleshed out piece of work yet.
Kozmik Force once again returns to familiar territory on Ceremony On Concrete continuing on in the same tradition of its predecessors War Cry and Untamed, Unchained; filled to the brim with pro-Chicano philosophy and the promotion of Pan-Indigenous unification across both North and South American. However, that’s not to say the group has stagnated lyrically or sonically. While both War Cry and Untamed, Unchained featured older production from prominent established artists and original production from producers SNAPS, this time around Jag and Threat enlist a new cast of fresh faces to handle production duties for Ceremony On Concrete; featuring brand new, original production from producers Underground Chemist, Zapata the Ghost, and Enoc Beats. With an eclectic team tasked with crafting the sonic blueprint of the album, the duo’s latest entry is easily their most ambitious effort yet sonically. From the very beginning, listeners can tell that the album’s production promises a much darker and brooding tone than that of past entries. This is made evident on the album’s opening intro track, appropriately titled ‘Ceremony On Concrete’, which clearly displays the duo’s longstanding theme of pro-Chicano/Indigenous ideology present in their music. Showcasing the de-colonial lyrics and content that Kozmik Force has come to be known for are on full display on ‘Ascend’ the album’s first full track where both Jag and Threat trade bars. The album’s third track entitled ‘Chronicles of Michoacán’ however is where Ceremony On Concrete really begins to take off. An ode to the Mexican state of Michoacán, Jag pays tribute to the homeland of his family and the rich history of the Purépecha people where the emcee traces his family’s lineage to. With the exception of the track’s second verse the song is entirely rapped in Spanish and is also helmed entirely by Jag himself. The track is a testament to Jag’s abilities as a bilingual emcee and proof that he is continually getting more comfortable on the mic rhyming in both Spanish and English, as well as switching back and forth between the two languages. The production featured on ‘Chronicles of Michoacán’, courtesy of Underground Chemist also makes the song an album standout. With production that is eerily reminiscent of that from Jedi Mind Tricks producer Stoupe the Enemy, à la the group’s Violent By Design days; the album is filled with various obscure audio clips that are peppered throughout it with heavy, atmospheric layering of the production heard on ‘Chronicles of Michoacán’ and throughout much of Ceremony On Concrete is easily some of the group’s darkest most atmospheric yet.
On the album’s fourth track entitled ‘Womb’, the duo once again heads into new territory exploring more personal, sentimental subject matter. The track itself is a beautiful ode to Indigenous women, a poetic tribute to mothers, grandmothers, sisters, and matriarchs around the world who sacrifice and hold families together. Jag himself even dives a little bit into his own personal history, talking about his own mother and the sacrifices she made raising him and his siblings as well as his Grandmother as well. Similar to ’Natural Beauty’ from Immortal Technique, the song is a rare, sentimental moment where both members of Kozmik Force allow themselves to be vulnerable and even share some of their own personal history on record. The fifth track, entitled ‘Through The Night’, produced by Zapata The Ghost is changes things up as the first entry on the album not produced by Underground Chemist. Featuring an audio sample courtesy of Nas, the track is yet another testament to both Jag and Threats ear for production which only seems to get more and more sharp with each release. This ear for stellar production continues on to the album’s sixth track, ‘Never Stagnant’ produced by Enoc Beats. The track features a funkafied flip of a classic oldies sample, a common trope for many contemporary Chicano rappers, but one Kozmik Force has decidedly steered away from thus far. The track is probably one of the most lively and energetic found on Ceremony On Concrete; unfortunately with that being said is also probably one of the shortest on the album, just barely clocking in at over two minutes. The seventh track, entitled ‘Alone’ which brings back Underground Chemist is the first track on the first solo track by Threat on the album. A moment of self-reflection for the emcee, Threat touches on topics such as toxic masculinity, as well as alcohol and drug abuses, ultimately pushing a message of sobriety in the song’s final third and a testament to his own abilities to equally hold a down a solo track along with partner in rhyme Jag.
Track eight, entitled ‘KF Boyz’ is another Underground Chemist production, this time featuring a heavy stringed orchestral sample that again can’t help but bring comparisons of Jedi Mind Tricks’s early production. The song is filled to the brim with historical references, referencing the three strikes crime bill signed by President Bill Clinton in the 1990s and George W. Bush’s opportunistic nature using the tragedy of the September 11th terrorist to justify an illegal and ultimately devastating invasion of Iraq. However, history lessons and imperialist critiques aside the track is also a textbook example showcasing the ever-growing abilities of Threat and Jag. With the two trade bars back and forth in expert fashion, ‘KF Boyz’ showcases off the duo’s amazing chemistry on record and their ability to harness the synergy that is created while in the studio. Likewise, it is also the first track from Kozmik Force ever to feature DJ cuts on a record courtesy of DJ 1′; again further proof that even after three full projects Kozmik Force is still very much full of surprises. Track nine entitled ’Star Child’ is, in fact, a five-minute monologue, courtesy of Jaded Jag and again another first among Kozmik Force releases. This speech serves as a spoken word homage to indigenous history; an honest, heartfelt testimony of both wisdom and knowledge of self where Jag is allowed self-reflect. Jag himself also acknowledges that everyone (himself included) as star children, universal children are always growing and are forever in perpetual motion on a path of self-discovery throughout the universe and that we must all use our gifts to inspire others positively. The monologue is spoken so eloquently that it sounds like it could have been easily plucked from albums such as Immortal Technique’s Revolutionary Vol. 1 or 2.; a testament to the power of the ideas and themes explored throughout the album. Track ten entitled ‘Lo Nuestro Nunca Muere’ (Ours Never Dies) marks the final contribution from Zapata The Ghost on Ceremony On Concrete. The song is also the second track on the album in Spanish, and this time rapped entirely in Spanish by both members. The track is perhaps one of the most powerful entries present on the touching on religious indoctrination from the Catholic church in Central and South America, colonization by the Spanish, Portuguese and English; as well contemporary Indigenous power struggles in Bolivia and the Amazon rainforest of Brazil and it is no surprise that it was selected as the album’s lead single which had a video shot for it. The eleventh and final track featured on Ceremony On Concrete entitled ‘528’ (a reference to the number of years since Columbus first stumbled upon the shores of the Americas) a spoken word slam poem from Native Threat that ends the album on a pensive note. Serving as sobering closer to a stellar album further proving that Kozmik force is only continually getting better with each release.
As a whole Ceremony On Concrete is not only yet another solid release from Kozmik Force, it is a moment of clarity for a still relatively young group that is starting to find its voice. Here, both Jag and Threat really seem to have come to a point where both emcees have reached a consensus on the style of production that both feel comfortable over and properly play into the tone and atmosphere invoked by the subject of the group’s music. Likewise, the duo also appears to be getting progressively more and more comfortable emceeing in Spanish, with not one, but two tracks present on the album where Spanish is the dominant language of the song; as well as growing more confident switching back forth between the both English and Spanish on releases. Likewise, with the exception of cuts and scratches, courtesy of DJ 1′, the album is completely devoid of any features. A rarity and a welcomed breath of fresh air in today’s oversaturated mixtape scene, where most projects sound like aimless compilation projects rather than coherent fully-fleshed out projects. Also, the duo’s move away from utilizing other artists’ production and opting to use brand new, all original production to score the project greatly enhances the project’s replay value, with Kozmik force no longer living in the shadow of other artists and giving the project more of its own distinct feel and character. With eleven tracks and a total run time of just over thirty-six minutes, Kozmik Force plays it smart by keeping Ceremony on Concrete at a brisk, concise length void of any filler or throwaway tracks. One of Kozmik Force’s strengths has always been their ability to keep things brief; and while many underground emcees and groups often linger on tracks, overstaying their welcome on drawn-out releases or bloated with unnecessary skits and features Jag and Threat know how to make their point without being overbearing or wearing out the listener. Like their past releases, the subject matter of war, anti-imperialism, police brutality, Indigenous/Chicano empowerment and the dismantling of white supremacy are common themes that are further explored throughout Ceremony On Concrete but never old or stale to the point of redundancy. While the two stopping just short of directly addressing contemporary politicians and current events, the specter of the Trump presidency and far-right movements across the globe still weighs heavy throughout the album’s run time. In fact, the wake of the far-right coupe in Bolivia and the ouster of Evo Morales, the South American nation’s first Indigenous president; the pan-Indigenous message and philosophy within the music of Kozmik Force feels more potent and needed than ever before. There is a certain earnest in Kozmik force’s lyrics, especially knowing that unlike most posturing from hardcore underground rappers the warrior imagery and lyrics of war and extreme violence are not merely fantasies conjured in the imaginations of the emcees but indeed rooted in very real fact and history. Setting themselves apart from many of their peers, the pro-Chicano and Indigenous empowerment philosophy layered throughout the music makes the group among one of the most overtly political Chicano Hip-Hop groups in recent memory. With political messaging still a rarity by-in-large from Chicano Hip-Hop artists, Kozmik Force has managed to fill a void with their music that for many, many years has unfortunately gone unfulfilled. While the internet is filled countless conscious emcees, and even other Indigenous Hip-Hop artists; Ceremony on Concrete proves yet again there is only one Kozmik Force; and it appears the group is poised to enter the new decade as one of the premier rising conscious Hip-Hop groups underground or otherwise. One that we hope to hear continue making music well into the next decade and beyond.
Ceremony On Concrete is available to stream now on Apple Music, Spotify, YouTube and other streaming platforms with physical copies coming in 2020 to purchase directly through Kozmik Force’s official Instagram account.
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