Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Another Phat Tape For Your Backpack

Alright, I'm still in a 90s throwback frame of mind. But how can I get even more 90s than Y'all So Stupid? I had to do some serious digging in my crates cardboard boxes, but I believe I've found it. This is the 4-song cassette-only 1998 debut of Sev Statik* called Tha Pointman EP on Tunnel Rat Records. Sev Statik is a Christian rapper, but - whoa! Wait! Where ya goin'? Hang on, I was going to say yeah, he's a Christian rapper, and he does definitely drop references to being saved and refers you to specific bible verses ("don't let the index attack/ check Romans 3:23 before you do that") But his ethos - at least on this EP; I'm not going to try and speak for his whole career - is more focused on real, underground Hip-Hop, or "preserv[ing] Hip-Hop's true essence" as he writes in the liner notes. In other words, you can totally nerd out on the 90s backpacker vibe without having a vested interest in any particular religion.

This EP opens with a fantastic loop that can go head to head with the best samples dug up by any of your favorite 90s producers, on a song called "Speak Life." By the way, there's also a song called "Speak Life" on Sev's first full-length CD, 2002's SpeakLife. But that's actually a totally different song, both lyrically and instrumentally. He references that song in this one, though ("and Romans 3:23 is still in effect"), so really, you could consider that one "Speak Life part 2." It's not bad, the beat's cool but not as hot, and that version's got a sung hook which is thankfully absent on the original, which you should seek out instead.

Production-wise, "Speak Life" is the song you're going to rewind again and again, but if you're here for 90's underground hip-hop, then "Linguistic Weaponry" is going the song you're going to home in on. I mean, you can tell just from the title. "Hip-hop brought me through back spins, graffiti pens and record bins." And like all truly great, nostalgic 90s rap, it doesn't age so gracefully. Lyrics that impressed me as a young man back then now have me cocking my head and poking at the weak spots. Punchlines like "coming strapped like a brassiere" are pretty creaky, and you could make a drinking game out of all the times he pats himself on the back for being a white rapper with skills:

"I got Five Percenters saying, yo, that devil's no joke!" 

"Some say, due to my exterior, it's not in me to serve the lord or speaking life is not in my nature... got 5% of y'all believing all caucasoid MCs are deceiving you."

"When the next man says, yo, you rhyme good for bein' white,"

"Go on home, son, tell your mom who ripped it. Don't be ashamed to tell her this Anglo Saxon did it."

...In fact, the whole song "Rebuild" has a hook that goes, "white lies, under these blue skies, blurring my vision. I keep it ill and rebuild." And I think the "white lies" he's referring to are meant to be of the "white guys can't rap" variety.

But there's actually some strong, compelling writing as he tackles major social issues and soul searches, "like OJ, white people lookin' for a lynchin', all angry and shook, now there's something wrong with the justice system? While this man's life seems not fair at all, now you know what it means to say free Mumia Abu Jamal." And he sounds good even when he's just spitting freestyles. There's a low-fi quality to his sound which is probably 100% due to the circumstances of recording his earliest homemade songs, but it only adds to the atmosphere of a nice, underground rap tape with crispy drums and crackly samples.

And Sev Statik is still doing it to this day.  I've heard a little of his subsequent work, but I'll be honest, I haven't followed his whole career to really address it thoroughly. Apparently he fronts a rap rock band called Goldtooth? Yeah, I don't need to hear all that. But I'll still hang onto this tape. Even if he was a little young lyrically and even if times haven't been the kindest to the the ultra-earnest backpacker era, it still sounds good to me. So keep an eye out for this one in the wild; I think you'll find it's worth picking up if you see one. And if you're a collector of this period, man, it's gold.

*I was googling around, and some sources say this is actually his second EP. If that's true, the first one must be some super rare "had to have copped it off him personally" kind of release. But more likely, since they call his supposed previous EP Speak Life, and "Speak Life" is the first song on this EP, I think they might just be referring to this same tape.


  1. Not even in discogs...not on his bandcamp either. Maybe he himself has forgotten the existence of this tape.

  2. I have this tape and it has that perfect 90's underground vibe. Thanks for spotlighting in on your blog. You do an amaizng job of bringing to light the gems from yesteryear.

  3. You remember Blaze magazine and they would spolight emcee's in different regions. He was spotlighted when they talked about Albany, NY.