December 27, 2012

Article: Rap Genius & The Source Present: 10 Best Bars From Pro Era’s “PEEP: The aPROcalyspe’ Mixtape

Rap Genius & The Source Present: 10 Best Bars from Pro Era’s PEEP: The aPROcalypse Mixtape

So the world didn’t end on Friday after all, but Pro Era did drop a mixtape and just might have ushered in a new era of hip hop.  If there was ever a doubt, Beast Coast is here to stay and the confluence of talent in just one borough, much less one collective, is astounding.  Most rap fans are already well-acquainted with Joey Bada$$ since his impressive mixtape debut, 1999, and he’s as lyrical as ever here.  Now we have a chance to meet Joey’s whole crew and he’s certainly in good company.

The Brooklyn collective’s mixtape, creatively entitled PEEP: The aPROcalypse is less music for our final days than it’s a sound and skill for a fresh new focus in hip hop.  Lyrical, spiritual, playful, prolific, and in most cases, over heads, the young Prodies flow quite literally like water.  They rap about their borough, overseas rendezvous, high school, women, and more, all the while using clever wordplay nearly every other bar and bending their words wherever possible (see CJ Fly’s “pacifist/pass a fist” or Kirk Knight’s “so far/sofa”) leaving us constantly guessing exactly what they are saying.  The beats they’re rapping over are seductive, exotic, funky and soulfully-sampled. Resident producer Chuck Strangers stands tall next to several Statik Selektah gems.

Perhaps one of the only real disappointments on this tape is the absence of PE’s first lady, T’nah, whose rare verses rarely failed to impress in the past. Still, the Pro bruhs brought it.  Joey’s complexity continues to climb to staggering heights.  Nyck Caution is a welcome addition, Kirk Knight has a uniquely fresh flow, Capital STEEZ is a clever standout,  and CJ Fly is a name and style we want to remember.  With more group members than spots on this list, it’s impossible to construct a complete breakdown, but here are ten (or so) of the very best bars.
- Nicole Otero (@RapGenius)

1. “Like Water”
The first song on the tape and perhaps the most memorable. Three of the strongest Pros go in on this Statik Selektah beat. They’re all intoxicatingly lyrical matching spiritual references that float above our heads with light-hearted wordplay that make us chuckle. So much so, we chose bars from each Pro’s verse in a three way tie:
“You catch me floating on a four-leaf clover/ That’s the pot of gold so we sonning them like Maury Povich/ We gon need paternity tests I guess” – Capital STEEZ
STEEZ begins  this song and the whole tape both light and layered. Finding a four-leaf clover is a sign of luck, as is finding the pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. Metaphorically speaking, STEEZ and his fellow Pros are somewhere along the rap rainbow, surely en route to gold.  And to the competition, he’s “sonning” them.  Steez disrespects the others, while playing off the concept of the Maury Povich show where many people determine who is the father of their child.

“Third eye codes,  your third eye closed/If Steve Jobs made you purchase a third iPhone/ All seeing eyes know what eye means/ But 33 degrees can’t make us freeze” – Joey Bada$
Effortlessly, Joey connects planned obsolescence, spirituality and science through the number three. Without the higher consciousness of a wide third eye, we fall victim to materialism of this world, buying a new iPhone whenever it’s released.  Water freezes at 32 degrees fahrenheit, but Joey, who is like water, does not. So whether his 33rd degree is fahrenheit or Freemason, Joey continues flowing.

“You don’t smoke -ism, I introduce you, not a buddah abuser,/ feel like a Bad Boy when I take two puffs, I and I/ Be stoned so Mary Jane is like Medusa” – CJ Fly
Fans of herb as much as herbal references in their bars, the Pros’ buddha bars never get old. CJ packs clever references and introspection into just a few lines.  A non-smokers philosophy or “ism” plays off Buddhism, which is another word for bud (“buddha”). Mary Jane is yet another name for weed, and getting high is also getting “stoned”  just like those who peer at Medusa. But even as he “puffs” (No Diddy), his conscious questions if this make him a “Bad Boy”, which happens to be the name of record label started by, none other than, Puff Daddy.

2. Run or Fly
“My homies steal, leave you still with the steel/ That when shit get real/ It all started back in the day/ Took the high-way but still wasn’t trafficking weight” – CJ Fly
What’s interesting about the Pros is that they can be dizzyingly loquacious, and then, at times, they’re so succinct and still communicate a lot.  Fly bends his words subtly creating a homophone three times.  Nevermind the significance of the number three for PE, but this “steal/still/steel” communicates a lot about life for CJ.  Despite a tumultuous environment, CJ rose above, both metaphorically on his path and literally on the ganja.  He plays off yet another homophone “way/weigh” to distinguish himself from the D-boys he was surrounded by.

3. “F A Rap Critic”
“Like the chromosomes losing ends/ The cells gone wrong/ All I see is D-boys, tryna hold it down/ While I’m in the lab tryna take the crown” – Kirk Knight
The only Pro with a solo track on the tape (see “Florists”) — and it’s no wonder from this boy wonder.  Rapper and producer (and freshly 17), Kirk has several standouts if not only because his subject matter is most distinct.  If a chromosome (organized DNA and protein structure in cells) loses its end, it’s mutated.  And since they’re found in cells, a mutated chromosome does indeed mean a cell gone wrong. Of course Kirk’s science is also music as he’s in the lab (booth) ensuring his sales won’t end up like the chromosomes and he won’t end up another D-boy.

4. “Resurrection of Real”
“No armories get aimed at your arteries/ For butter cheese, niggas play with the lottery/ Or commit grand larceny” – A La $ole
A la’s verse is heavy in figurative language, his speedy flow runs through similes and metaphors almost every other line. He plays with numbers, onomatopoeia, and homophone. These bars are just one example of how he says something without saying anything outright. A la doesn’t take out his competition with violence like he’s accustomed to.  Using subtle synonyms, he describes how people in his hood make their bread (metaphorical and literal) — they either hustle, play their odds, or steal. It’s just much more poetic when $ole says it.

5. “Resurrection of Real”
“When I rap it’s like I’m blowing through a crack pipe/ Flowing on this half pipe/ Dope like, why the fuck you ask twice? What the fuck is YOLO? Probably been a Pharaoh in my past life/ Eighteen so this dynasty gon sound right” – Nyck Caution
We all know the double meaning of “dope” (cool/crack) here, but what’s more interesting about Nyck is the intensity of his cadence and his ability to string many bars together. He uses dope twice and repetition to question the notion that we only live once (sorry Drake). That’s because he’s been reincarnated. And in one of those other lives, he was a Pharaoh, which happens to be an Ancient Egyptian ruler of a dynasty.

6. “Vinyls”
“Circulating anticipation of having niggas waiting/ For that album, it’s like cutting off your circulation/ I used to say I couldn’t live without my radio/ But in this day and age, all I gotta do is play me doe/ I keeps it verbal, Pro Era got that herbal/ And joint so high it makes your body wanna turmoil”
- Dessy Hinds
Dessy’s rhyme scheme is really fun throughout this entire verse and his ability to use the same word several times makes his flow continuous and continually interesting.  He’s talking about music — both his and that of weak rappers. Using circulating as a verb and then a noun to show how nervous weak rappers are about getting their music in rotation, Dessy asserts his confidence in his own music. PE has “joints” of two kinds and both have the ability to elevate body and mind.

7. “School High”
“We see nothing with open eyes/ I’m smoking lies/ I vocalize just to close these riffs, these broken tides” – Dyemond Lewis
Dyemond’s flow matches this seductive, jazzy beat almost too perfectly (shoutout to brandUn DeShay with more than one dope beat on the tape). Taking an almost humorous hook (play on “high school/school high”) Dyemond subtly connects how his elevated mind and lowered eyes gave him perspective.  His eyes might be low when high, but he doesn’t need his usual vision to see anyway.  He smokes away the lies and then uses his higher perspective to spit truth. Dyemond gives “riffs” two meanings and uses his bars to connects the metaphorical gaps.

8. “School High”
“My green thumb touch a leaf beyond a cigarillo/ Put me in a coma for days, as I sleepin willow I was never blind my nigga/ I been open the window too much smoking whipping hair/ Like willow mine is still on the pillow” – Kirk Knight
Kirk is usually teaching us about hydroelectricity or genetics. But even when he’s not scientific, he’s still in his element.  Kirk uses an extended metaphor of sleep and the most famous whipping willow from a Disney movie  to describe his higher state.  But he dispels any notion that his eyes are closed to the world.  Just like the willow and the maturity of these bars, he’s very wise.  He might be out of his body, but he’s always in tune with his mind.

9. “K.I.N.G.S”
“But they don’t know the inner G, I try to keep serenity/ But enemies, always try to end me and my entity/ But eventually we all gotta go someday/ And I ain’t shine as a star if it ain’t on a sunday/ But I know you see my rising son” –  Joey Bada$
Joey’s lyricism is made even better by his ability to bend his words.  You hear rhyme that would otherwise be lost with a regular rapper’s flow. The sounds of “en” and “me” are repeated here and emphasize the pressure for him to keep peace with so many clamouring after him on his ascension. And speaking of his height, Joey likens himself not to any star but to the center of our solar system — the sun. He uses homophone (“sun/son”), simile (“shine as a star”) and metaphor (“he’s rising”) to establish himself in the center of the rap game.

10. “Bun N Cheese”
“So I snuck in the room like an elephant, you can’t hide the truth that’s evident”
- Capital STEEZ
As we were compiling this list, we were saddened by the terrible news that Capital STEEZ is no longer with us.  By the time you listen to all of PEEP you’ll realize what a terrible loss it is to hip hop. An undeniable asset to Pro Era,  STEEZ had an uncanny ability to be both heavy and light in his verses.  Bars that were always layered with multiple meanings, many of which we’ll never be able to decode, STEEZ still playfully connected his bars with humor, creativity and poetry. He truly was a lyrical “elephant” — he might have “snuck” in but his verses can’t help but stand out both for their skill and incredible truth.  There’s no doubt he would have reached great career heights, but the bars he left us will ensure STEEZ still soars.

Props to Source Magazine 

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