Review

LABEL: HUMBLE BEAST RECORDS
RELEASE DATE: OCTOBER 29, 2013

In the summer of 2012, group Beautiful Eulogy popped up on the CHH radar and, frankly, the music scene has never been the same again. The Humble Beast Records group is an eclectic group consisting of wunderkind producer Cortland Urbano and lyricist Braille and Odd Thomas. These artists were already stand-alone artists who could’ve easily flourished as solo acts but after much deliberation and working together on their label, the idea of a collective seemed like a good idea. It was! Since their arrival on the scene, this group has been a breath of fresh air with their unique musical offerings. Now, with this release, it isn’t presumptuous to say that they are one of the best groups to have done what they did with their releases. If Satellite kite meant anything to you, then you have an idea what I’m driving at with this new release, Instruments of Mercy.

It’s hard to talk about such a creative album and do it the justice it deserves. For one, it is obvious that these gentlemen from Portland have worked extremely hard to craft a very exclusive sound and have worked equally hard to pen some of the most powerful lyrics I’ve heard. That’s the main reason this album is so awesome yet, so terrifying to review. For a while in CHH, it would seem that for an album to sound exceptional, one shouldn’t expect well-written lyrics to complement it. Given that, some of the best sounding CHH albums could only manage to stay in rotation a few weeks before fading to the background because of the transient nature of their lyrics. I’m happy to discover that isn’t the rule as Beautiful Eulogy enters stage right.

Instruments of Mercy is an album with many meanings to its name. On one level, the group sees themself as an instruments of mercy used by God to people. They also explain how in their lives, and the lives of people, situations, circumstance and, other people have been instruments of mercy. These are the claims the album makes a convincing case about. This is thoroughly a very consistent album laden with dense and hard-hitting theological arguments via rapid verses and exchanges over (or maybe under) jaw-dropping instrumentation by Mr. Cortland Urbano. The group gels so well as is because you can tell the same creative spirit is the consensus of the hour. I’ve been deliberating who’s really the star here- rappers or producer. As far as I’m concerned though, every 4-minute interval of this 14 track LP is simply remarkable. Enough words aren’t there to describe it fairly.

I usually talk about production quality of an album last but this time around I have no choice but to gush about it. Courtland Urbano IS a class by himself. To have single-handedly produced this album to achieve this rich atmospheric and organic sound the way he did, he must be applauded. Talking about organic, your mother’s favorite gardening tools can be heard making rhythms and beats on this number. Refreshingly, there are no overpowering mainstream 808s and excessively wobbling synths that usually floods your standard rap album these days. Nope! Comparatively, it is like Satellite Kite but progressively better. The music in itself is very vivid that you can’t help but being swallowed up in it. For this reason, I listened all the way through nonstop the first time I listened. Though lyrically a hip-hip album, it is rich in folk, electronic and indie inspired music with a feel of the Portland environment, complemented by the natural elements of that city. So, you’ll here running water for instance or, leaves, or footsteps and almost any and every other thing you wouldn’t imagine would make a beat. All of these of course are expertly mixed with your traditional instruments and I guess it is so inviting because it is all analog and so, the authentic sounds resonate with you. This makes the release more harmonious than their first offering.  Improbably as it would seem, this is even a more consistent blend of lyrical exchange and poignant music. Whatever was their strength on their last album, they simply magnified it and this is what makes the album distinct.

Anyway, I did say I was going to gush (in hindsight rather copiously) about the productions. Let’s talk features. This album could’ve still excelled without features. Not to say they didn’t add any value but rather the two front men were ravenously devouring the music alone already. The solid features then only make this album exceptional. Thankfully, there isn’t an unnecessary, weak or forced feature. Each collaborator simply got the memo about the quality of music being produced and simply showed up. Up and coming songbird, MARZ beckons me to question whether she’s really a newbie or just New York’s best-kept secret! Well, the cat is out of the bag now. She wastes no words with her resonating chorus for You Can Save Me- inspired by a C.S. Lewis piece. You shouldn’t expect any less then from label mates Propaganda and Eshon Burgundy, two gentlemen who just simply understand how words and concepts should go together. I dare you to tell me one time you’ve walked away from a track from either of them and weren’t dumbfounded. You can hear them on Symbols & Signs and, Organized Religion, respectively. The former eats away at the prosperity gospel movement while the latter, which also features poet Jackie Hill, creatively talks about using the part of the body as instruments (of mercy) that glorify God rather than maligning His name. You can just say that you’re in for a treat. Then there is also Hello Abigail on the title track. I’ve never heard of this group but their melodious harmony on the chorus turns it into a rather prayerful litany. Such is the case also with According to God, a very humbling track, which paints the picture of the struggle that comes from the thoughts we tend to have of ourselves versus what God himself, has of us. Artist feature Joseph is behind the chorus and also shines here. I get the sense that this is more of a worship album than hip-hop as I go through these songs.

Finally, I would say the most powerful feature comes not in the form of a ‘hot 16’ but a striking exposition by preacher Art Azurdia on Blessed are the Merciful. Just brace yourself! There’s something preaching does for the human heart and you’ll see that here.

I guess the final aspect of this review comes down to talking about the slick deliveries from the two front men. The difference with this album from the first is that this time around they don’t exchange line for line of some of the songs. I sort of miss that. That doesn’t detract from what they each do separately to make this album a stellar one. I want to say that Odd Thomas is the William Tell of this age. His quiver is full of sharp rhymes that get straight to the point. Watch out! Braille is his equal contemporary and they complement each other so well. Their lyric-driven deliveries are different but far from superfluous. I am yet to find a wasted line and it’s this very thing, which seals the deal for me. Gimmicks in CHH albums are such a deal breaker and so, for them to present this with such seriousness is exceptional. I wont bother to divulge lyrics with here. Each download comes with a package so you can read for yourself and follow along.  With that said, I really encourage you to dig into this album as best as you can. For a group that was designed to reflect the magnificent glory of the God of the Bible, Beautiful Eulogy is well on its way in to achieving that goal.