Recorded from '95 to '97 for Loud/RCA (before Loud's ignoble fall from grace), Darc Mind's Symptomatic of a Greater Ill is a record almost without comparison in the history of NY rap. By this, I mean to say that there are songs on this album, "Visions a Blur" chief among them, that sound as if they arrived whole from another world altogether. Inevitably, the press surrounding this record will struggle, mightily but vainly, to figure out how Darc Mind fits into Anticon's larger oeuvre. Let's just say, if less for the sake of accuracy and more to avoid such aimless arguments, that 1. it doesn't, and 2., anticon is profoundly grateful to be slipping this rare record to the wider world.
One could, at perhaps too great a length, detail Kevroc's powerfully unique sense of timing, his nearly instrumental phrasing, and the density of his lyrics, the strange words he cobbles together and lets off in bursts in a voice that's the lowest, Moses-fresh-from-the-mountaintop rumble.
One need merely skim the surface of the record to see the scars of cynicism about the sea change just then occurring in hip-hop: the transition from "Illmatic" to "It Was Written," the ascendancy of Biggie and Jigga, a newly surfaced affection for making couplets from the raw material of brand names, and the R&B hooks that swaggered out from Mary J.'s shadow into pop-rap ubiquity. In "Visions a Blur," his transcendent addition to the critical tradition of O.C.'s "Time's Up" and Jeru's "Come Clean," he evokes the absurd spectacle of pharaohs buried with their jewels, as if to buy off the underworld gods: "You brag of Maximas and Accuras to carry you to heaven." Or the bacterial effect of the fashions of the time: "Suckers are suffering from drinking off the same 40 bottle." Elsewhere, he states his role plainly: "I do work on the circuit, preach in the city,/ rap like I'm standing before the Senate Ethics Committee."
And the beats--oh, the beats--ground this insider/outsider sense of the tradition. Like a shadowy take on DITC at its prime, a treasure chest of horns, vibes, and pianos are taken in, ruggedly reworked, and laid in with full-bodied basslines and chopped drum breaks. Darc Mind's DJ/Producer GM Webb D (aka X-Ray) released his first rap record in '89, and in the span from the fractured, unsettling "I'm Ill" to the horn stab and drum machine-driven "Fever Pitch," which could almost be lifted from P.E.'s cacophonous first album, one can almost hear rap's history and its future being willfully crosscut and interlaced.
This is, bluntly stated, the album that, if released in '97 by Loud/RCA as planned, could have effected, if only slightly, the orbit of mid-to-late 90's hip-hop: it could have given heart to the innovators who were just then giving up the ghost, skeptical and exhausted; it could have given testimony that NYC rap was not divided between the too-simple categories of Rawkus-brand backpacker and dionysian thug; it could have stated clearly that a certain kind of NYC rap record, both traditional and envelope-pushing, was still a serious possibility.
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