The latest Band of the Hawk release, Kangol, finds the collective dropping their strongest lyrics while retaining the languid, disconnected groove listeners have come to identify as classic BOH. That sound, the loop-driven, bottom-of-the-closet beat tapestry (provided by producer/MC Noah Archangel), is perfected here with vocal samples, skit interludes and instrumentation woven to seamless effect (for Noah’s best output, check the instrumental Levitikush from his Maschine Wars release last year). His approach is minimum input/maximum result, as the tracks give fellow MC’s appropriate room to fit verses in every pocket without altering flow or compromising the subject matter.
The MC’s shine here, as their hardest observations are countered with witty self-deprecation and doses of wild humor. King taunts “I’m musically high/never cursed or got drunk/you niggas ain’t rapping/just mumbling junk” over Downtown Friday Night’s fierce Funkadelic sample. The group’s strongest lyricist, King’s delivery is representative of the album’s wide-ranging appeal. His is the group’s gateway flow, as the other MC’s enter and exit joints primarily anchored by the his bars. It’s a formula with a high rate of success, as brother MC’s Noah, Spear Chucka, Whoa Vada, P.Ey3 & STX meet the challenge, tossing bon mots like “back it up to the side of the house with the funnel cut/So I can swim in it like Donald Duck” or “Stomp and stone ya/I’m fucking pneumonia” with an off-the-cuff casualness that feels improvised.
The rumor mill abounds with talk of 2019 being The Band of the Hawk’s final recording year. Let’s hope that’s just talk. Kangol’s achievement lies beyond the crossroads of creativity. It’s artistry represents a possible new path, not a conclusion.