Some excellent hip-hop you haven’t heard. “So underground I raise my hand and touch a coffin,” from the song “Reigny Daze.” NAPALM is an upcoming collective of MCs making music in Connecticut. Black Mask Nation Presents: #BLVKTOBER, their debut mixtape, was released last Halloween on their Bandcamp. Then, the group was Black Mask Nation, but has since split to form NAPALM.

Whatever the name, one thing is known, #BLVKTOBER pure hip-hop. Sonically it could be from the early 90’s, with dusty beats, instrumental scrap loops, DJ scratches. There are no tricks here. Each song thrives on a stairstep beat with MCs Guererro, DHZA, IV Saint Laurent and Rellevance getting ample time and space to spew their guts. Internally, it is of the 21st century struggle. What stuck out most over these 7 songs were the lyrics. They’re tough, clever, intelligent and ready for the spotlight. You’ll hear things and have to play the song over to get the full weight of what was said.

The introduction song, “Welcome to #BLVKTOBER,” draws the listener into a widening tunnel of lush loops and distant pounds. The drums that drop are empowering, setting the record in motion. It begins in the reflective, darkly. “Third eye visions, can you tell us if you did it? / Fuck a throne and crown, we leavin’ niggas beheaded from the slaughter.” The track is remorseless, with hell only a break beat away, but the heavenly sounds of strings are able to break through. Each MC find themselves in a battle within and against the powers of the world we live in. Rellevance looks for answers, but finds only lies. “Caught in the grease of Hell, but I refuse to let my spirit fry,” he pronounces.

As the album continues, the mood does lighten up. “Lordz Of The Underground” and “Global Mind Control” feature rapper Cognition and start to pull the album from cracked earth. The hazy bubble of a bass rocks through a tough forward beat on “Global Mind Control.” Cognition is dealing with the demons that swim freely in his head, hiding in piles of weed.

Among the darkness in the record, the one holy safeguard is always marijuana. #BLVKOBER is a terrific eyes half-closed, head-nodding hip-hop album for the deep thinking pothead. The last half rides that path. “Reigny Daze” is a drift of twinkling keyboards. Keep your eyes open. This is perfect for a midday freeway drive in a hot-boxed car. “Eden 2” jumps over a beautiful harp loop with a small buzzing flute under a whomping beat.

By “Y.D.K.” the weedsmoke has cleared out for a full examination of each rapper’s self. Built off a loop of “You Don’t Know What Love Is” (Dinah Washington’s version, I think?), the song is jubilant with a hard-edged, skeptical look at our world of evil and contradiction. A strange nirvana is attained. NAPALM, standing for New Age Peace And Love Movement, hold a clear defense of the world’s every individual and their right to find peace, by any means necessary.

In their new incarnation NAPALM are Guererro, DHZA and Rellevance and they’re readying new music. Hear a snippet of the song “Lost Notes.”

Music Reviews