Stepping into the world of Black Astronaut is like entering a world that you recognise but nothing seems to be in the same place that you left it. Take opening salvo Staring At The Ceiling, yes, the blends of hip-hop and rap that drive it follow familiar lines but there is a wonderfully disarming quality as it bounces along on an almost nursery rhyme groove, a sharp contrast to InZane’s in your face, ninja punch delivered lyrics. So you know that you are getting into something beyond the usual run of the mill…way beyond. But that’s good right?
If you think the genre has got too safe, is too conforming, to enamoured with the commercial prospects of heading into R&B territory for an easy buck, Charles Luck and his fellow collaborators that make up this collection will restore your faith in it. At one extreme I Am The Ninja is a sultry, lazy groovesome classic that just snakes its way through your consciousness, at the other The Ambient Rap might heavily reference Eminem but it is anything but mere pastiche. Rather it sounds like Stan’s little brother coming back to chop Slim Shady into pieces, toss him into the trunk of a car and drive around Detroit listening to The Marshall Mathers LP in an act of pure irony.
Lyrically it doesn’t pull any punches either; mixing edgy deliveries with tongue in cheek street poeticsm, from slow burning sassy grooves to intense psycho-rap insanity. And following the well established tradition, even heavy rock gets sampled, the opening guitar riff and beat of Paradise City providing the perfect platform for swansong Coming Home.
I will be the first to admit that this isn’t my usual musical territory but I love what Charles Luck has built here. A global community of collaborators, a plundering of styles and genres to find the sounds he wants to work with and warp to his vision and lyrics which are often as confrontational as they are humorous but which always have something to say. In the argument between evolution and revolution as the way forward, Black Astronaut is already storming the barricades.