From the intro of Labtekwon’s new release HARDCORE Labtekwon and the Righteous Indignation Rootzilla vs. Master Akbar the Baltimore native makes his intentions plain. His foremost objective is “to inform the listener regarding the philosophies that have shaped the lives of mankind, from 0 AD to 2020 AD” and his second is simply “to cause rappers to shut the fuck up.” Suffice to say, this emcee with a 19-year subterranean career has been wildly successful on both counts. HARDCORE is rife with new-asshole-ripping denunciations of lesser rappers and enough jewels of knowledge to fill a book case in Alex Jones’ library.
Labtekwon is a lyricist’s lyrist, it’s as if he spits bars the instant a thought is formulated in his mind, belying the unbelievably painstaking process it must take to connect subject matter this intricate with punchlines sick enough to warrant residence in a hospice. HARDCORE does have a tangible nod factor but it takes a back seat to Lab’s challenging, often times abstract, creative direction. Labtekwon wouldn’t be out of place on a playlist with the Juggaknots and Co.Flow and effort is required on the part of the audience to fully appreciate what’s assaulting their eardrums.
“Knowledge of Self” sounds like he uses Bad Brains as his house band, and over a frenetic, charging funky backdrop waxes deep and poetic about the status quo for the average joe. “Rootzillaz Revenge” and “Dope or Dog Food” will cause faces ugly enough to prompt a warning from ma dukes about it getting stuck that way. They’re textbook “did you hear wtf he just said?” joints, Labtekwon dropping caustic, venomous battle bars that take dissing wack emcees to the next level-not disrespect, try disembowlment. The controlled sociopathic fury is reminiscent of Hannibal Lecter and Labtekwon goes in over necksnappers that are as cold, gray, and gloomy as a Scandinavian winter. Breaking one of the cardinal rules in rap, never having more than seventeen syllablles per bar, “Vocabulary” exhibits Lab unleashing a torrent of wordplay faster than 50 cal rounds after enemy contact. Delivering verses like a man who’s memorized the dictionary and thesaurus, the effect is a Cabin In The Woods level mindfuck. If more a rhyme-savvy Saul Williams got a hold of some of that Walter White and recited a piece over an Art Blakey drum solo this would be the approximate outcome.
Labtekwon fully realizes his goal with a trio of songs--“The Truth About Race”; “The Truth About Christianity” and “The Economy of Tricknology”--that clock in nearly half an hour in total. The first is a laudable attempt to break down the concept of race and it’s historical impact on society. Unfortunately Ras Kass has done this before, and better, with his magnum opus “Nature of The Threat,” which is the gold standard for this kind of thing. “The Truth About Race” is essentially the same song sans Razzy’s charisma. “The Truth About Christianity” explores the real origins of Christianity, contrasting the lofty ideals of its namesake with the ways in which it has been manipulated throughout the western world to justify atrocities. In addition, Lab touches on the personal story of the Prophet Muhammad and the genesis of Islam along with subsequent conflicts between the Abrahamic faiths. Myths concerning the dollar, The Federal Reserve, and The World Bank are exploded on “The Economy of Tricknology” and in the end it’s evident that the financial foundations of the world economy are precarious at best. While all three songs are necessarily longwinded, the beats switch up several times for each, preventing any monotony from setting in throughout Lab’s mathematics lesson.
HARDCORE is proof evident Labtekwon is sicker and more cerebral than the typical hip-hop artist. There’s a sense that given the opportunity he could freestyle a graduate level theology thesis on the Curse of Ham, hit the pertinent points, and have you nodding your head at the same time. If his purpose was to inform and entertain, Labtekwon has done that and then some. KRS-1 needs to give this man a doctorate in Edutainment, yesterday.