The completely impotent but full bodied rage that is one’s post adolescence isn’t a topic touched on by too many rappers, at least not in a way that feels like it’s presently happening. It’s not too often that come across a rap project that feels as if it’s really being said by people still in the thick of their youth. There’s such a distinct mood associated with that time period and to replicate it is hard. On their newest release Cycles, Andre Gainey and John Harrison a.k.a They Hate Change haven’t just tapped into that mood lyrically, but tonally and aesthetically as well.
Cycles is as much a project that deals in lyrical content and flow as it is one that can place sole emphasis on the production and the nonchalant way that it sucks you into the emotional state of the narrators. All instrumental tracks like “Belief” or “Bryam’s Trip” exude this skeletal and heavy handed feel, and in this case that’s not a bad thing. Gainey and Harrison do what they do with confidence, so the straightforward nature of the production comes off as a confident, not a weak gesture. The duo sits counter to the more this-is-strictly-a-beat cuts on songs like “The Phone”. The song makes use of these contemplative arpeggios that sound like bottles hung from string being played with marimba mallets.
“The Phone” melts into the short beat break “Bamboo”, before falling into the closer “Renew”. An ode to the haziness of life before adulthood and to the realization that at a certain point you really can do whatever it is you want, “Renew” can embrace a sort of jest or self-deprecating humor while simultaneously delivering lines that reflect the future as a thing that can’t be ignored. Lines like “Everything I’m not made me everything I am / and really I ain’t shit so what that say about me then?” somehow sit perfectly against the legitimate worries of being an adult. “If I can’t get a grip on reality stop thinking about a salary / Settle for eatin’ salads til they payin’ for these ballads” should be the battlecry of ambitious people everywhere.
Cycles is a soundtrack for the more than casual dreamer. An embodiment of youth and the body of people who aren’t ready to abandon a dream but can’t detach themselves from needs and certainties of reality.
Cycles is streaming below and cassettes are available via Deathbomb Arc