Rebelmatic “Prey For the Vuture” – Album Review
In New York City, there’s three landmarks that every tourist inadvertently has to see: the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building and Creature. Rapper, published author and innovator of street salesmanship, Creature’s spot in Hip-Hop’s birthplace is one that every person winds up visiting. Originally one third of Beatnuts-produced 90s outfit The Triflicts, Creature rose to infamy by riding a self-propelled one man campaign picking up where New York legend Percee-P left off. After appearing everywhere from MF Doom’s album to a Tony Hawk video game, he self-released 2005’s Never Say Die, an album considered alongside Legendary Status and The Prelude as an underground hand-to-hand classic that featured collaborations with indie-rap darlings Slug (of Atmosphere), Jin (of the Ruff Ryders) and Busdriver (of Project Blowed). Despite the celebrated guest list, it was Creature himself whose East Coast Goodie Mob mentality made for a layered professional sounding release that sounded like nothing else in the independent Hip-Hop marketplace. One album, monthly concert series and critically acclaimed book (The Underdog Manifesto – a fantastic read) later Creature returns with his band Rebelmatic for the one-of-a-kind listening experience Lil Wayne’s Rebirth should have been – Prey For the Vulture.
The term “rap-rock” has become a dirty word in the average listener’s lexicon, and with good reason as the purveyor of one usually has little-to-no understanding of the other and the results are failed cash-ins at best and failed crossovers at worst. It tends to be capably adequate rock groups semi-rhythmcally rehashing “hear/fear/hate/wait/to/do/whoa/go” to the delight of frat boys and angst-y pre-teens for 45 minutes, or successful rappers having remixes over the the cockiest of cock rock or the the softest acoustic guitars as if those are the only two types of rock music to ever exist. Both sides are guilty and there was a secret tribunal sometime in the mid-2000s where a truce was reached to insure these atrocities never happened again. Prey For the Vulture works because Rebelmatic doesn’t attempt to improve upon a flawed formula, they discard it and start for scratch.
Prey For the Vulture has Creature seeming to follow an unspoken “only do it if it sounds good” rule. While he’s had a flow that has effortlessly shifted from a straight-forward rap cadence to a more melodic delivery when the moment has called for it his whole career, now that he’s backed by a band there has to be a temptation to force rapping or singing on everything. He avoids this for the most part and his flow has never sounded more at home. Along with an incredible vocal performance that finds a way to showcase everything he does best somewhere on the record, an amount of credit should also go to Fred Ones and Ken Heitmueller whose mixing and mastering find the perfect balance of boom-bap thumb and flourishing guitars to give the entire project a cohesive sound that sounds professional on a rock or rap level.
The album opens with “Get Up N Go” which, along with “Reckless Eyeballin,” is one of the two remakes of songs from his 2007 album Hustle to Be Free. I say ‘remake’ and not ‘remix’ because the songs are re-recorded from the ground up and feel as if this is how they were supposed to sound all along. It’s a proper kickoff to an album that carries a sense of epic-ness far greater than any synth-based faux-film score beat cluttering countless rap albums today. It gives an added strength to Creatures lyrics which marry the social outrage of punk with the class struggle of rap, best exemplified on “Set Myself on Fire” where he asserts “Poverty ain’t paradise in a room full of parasites.”
Genre-bending has seldom sounded so natural, and the first 2/3 of this album achieve it well. But it’s how polished the best moments are that make the lesser ones stick out. Both “Close as Strangers” and “Ballad of the Cyclops” capture the bleakness and despair of this pre-apocalyptic New York dystopia perfectly, making the call-to-arms “Silent Alarm” and the heavy-handed “Wet Baby” almost redundant. On an album that makes such a punk rock effort to deliver the bare-essentials, they tack on unnecessary fat to the tenderloin. Otherwise, the album succeeds in not being a rap album for punks or a punk album for hip-hoppers, but just being a great Rebelmatic album. That alone makes it a hard album to recommend because the thick musical roots seem strong enough to trip any potential genre converts and since the fierce unapologetic politics might prove an obstacle for Creature to win Kid Rock’s audience, a full fledged crossover seems somewhat out-of-the-question. I doubt this is what the man was aiming for in the making of Prey For the Vulture, but for the P.O.S. or Bad Brains crowd wanting their “stereotypes with a side order of rebellion,” this album will bring the nest they built in the ashes of CBGB’s together perfectly.
We give Prey For the Vulture a Four Out of Five.
Until next time Let’s Agree to Agree!