Well, that’s a new one on me. Hip-hop has always had something to say, at its most basic it is boastful and self-aggrandising, at it’s most clever it is observational and socially aware, but listening to Land of The Lost I have stumbled upon another incarnation. Hip-Hop as philosophy and philosophy on the grandest of scales. Not merely the street philosophy of the underdog but pure, unadulterated cosmic thinking and musing on our place in the universe. But then again anyone taking the moniker of Black Astronaut is probably not going to be bounded by the usual physical barricades.
This, of course should have been obvious from the start, the album is after all called Life on Mars after a fairly faithful rendition of the Bowie classic which sits within but also threaded through the title and subjects, the samples and the lyrics is a stargazing attitude and a enquiring mind. Lunar Lunatics takes the drifting vibes of a Pink Floyd classic and projects them like alien voices and the ancient echoes of the universe being picked up by deep space probes whilst the insane rap increases around it.
Is The Galaxy Just Pimping Me reminds us that Charles Luck and his collected lyrical cosmonauts never take themselves too seriously, something many of their contemporaries could learn from and over a De La Soul pop-hop vibe they take their universal musings to its almost illogical conclusion. When You’re Down approaches the cosmic embrace from a different angle, lyrically it asks some big questions, throws in some poignancy but does so whilst adopting a psychedelic groove reminiscent of 60’s sci-fi themes, the past sound of future possibilities.
Some might call this a concept album, a journey across vast distances and across vast subjects. I prefer to see it as an album of concepts. Science Fiction has always had the ability to give us the framework to tackle the biggest questions; the ones that have plagued philosophers and existential thinkers since Copernicus first said “ wouldn’t the map of the planets look better with the sun in the middle?” Iain Banks built vast million year old galactic empires, Arthur C Clark predicted technological advancements, Ursula Le Guin explored gender fluid societies and Douglas Adams took the piss out of it all. So the why shouldn’t hip-hop get in on the action and rap it’s way across the universe too, exploring those same big issues and asking those same unanswerable questions.
We all set our own limits, especially musically. Some artists are happy to talk about their small lives, loves and concerns, some embrace the world and join dots between cultures and creeds. However I suspect that if ever we send a probe to the other side of the galaxy the first images that NASA sees through its grainy glimpse of this alien world will be Charles Luck grooving away to the dying echoes of the big bang and adding some hot beats to the galactic groove.
Who knew that cosmic hip-hop was even a thing?