- by Jon Burke Rating:8 Release Date:2016-11-04 Label: Friends Records
I am resisting the temptation to spend this entire review shit-talking Bond St. District’s clunky moniker. Instead, I am just going to refer to them as BSD from here on out. That said, especially given the quality of their music, the name Bond St. District is just shit and I hope they change it at some point. There is no reason for such a great duo to be saddled with a name that so completely fails to encapsulate the sound, vibe or character of their music. With that out of the way it’s high time to heap some praise on BSD for what they do best: creating cutting-edge, anthemic hip-hop, that attempts to combat the horrors of Donald Trump’s America with rhymes about faith, family and community.
A Church on Vulcan’s titular track serves as the album’s opener and proceeds to immediately grab listeners by the throat with its Def Juxian electro-apocalyptic soundscape, laid over a plodding beat, and Katrina Ford’s ethereal vocalizations. MC Manny Williams, aka DDm, whose flow and conscious raps would also have found a comfortable home on the Definitive Jux label, spits about the trouble he sees around him: “Nowadays folk’s so facetious/ Hide behind dollars and Jesus pieces”. DDm feels trapped in the airless space between the unfeeling politics of race and unending police violence. Ultimately “A Church on Vulcan” amounts to a litany of society’s ills which DDm punctuates with the phrase “this is gospel”. In this case gospel is less about religion and more about a series of socially accepted truths that we all must contend with… very powerful stuff.
The next two tracks, “Show Me Your Hands” and “Technicolor”, fail to match the power of “A Church on Vulcan”. “Show Me Your Hands” is a gospel rap which features DDm rhyming about his childhood and the lessons he’s learned about dealing with conflicts, staying healthy and finding his passion in order to survive his rough upbringing. Despite incorporating a fire-and-brimstone preacher screaming “show me your hands” over the hook, the track ultimately fails to keep things interesting. Lyrically “Technicolor” is equally uninspired although, musically speaking, producer Paul Hutson’s looping marimbas set atop stutter-stop beats are quite catchy.
If “Yesterdays” fails to catch-on as Baltimore’s 2016 hometown anthem I’ll be shocked. BSD’s immense love for their hometown comes through loud and clear on this upbeat track. “Yesterdays” is a summertime jam with the broad radio-friendly aspirations of Skee-Lo’s “I Wish” or Nelly’s “Ride Wit Me” coupled with a consciousness those MCs sorely lack. Speaking of what other MCs lack, lesser MCs *COUGH*Macklemore*COUGH* have been attempting and failing to make a jam like “Yesterdays” their entire career. DDm shouts out the best of Baltimore in a track that is at once reminiscent and fully aware of the city’s current social ills while also remaining genuinely hopeful for the future.
Producer Paul Hutson’s turn to shine starts with “Hey Mister” in which he brings back the Def Jux synth-grime, enabling DDm to get highly political – at one point even comparing Hillary Clinton to Yasser Arafat. “How Come” starts out with the twittering birds and nature sounds you’d expect to hear on a Yes album which then quickly transitions into a big complex beat you’d expect from an Outkast record. DDm morphs his flow to match the southern vibe by adding a drawl and weaving in and out of the beat. Hutson’s love for epic sonic landscape provides a twinkling vastness to many of the tracks on A Church On Vulcan which adds an otherworldly element to the record. So if you’re like me and would love to live on any other world right now, you might consider spending some time in A Church On Vulcan.