September 29, 2012

NEW TRACK: Duende (Gap x Nimbus 9) - "Ugly"

It’s disheartening to know that “Ugly” will never get the airplay it deserves because most listeners will find its glumness off-putting. It lacks the noise and gimmickry that mainstream hiphop thrives on, its pair of MCs shrugging off any cheap word battle or jarring guest verses. The simplicity of its production is its most prominent trait, highlighted by the problems that Gap and Nimbus9 had in recording it. As mentioned on Duende’s Soundcloud page:

This is our first song, recorded around 2010. Unfortunately, we lost all the raw files so we didn't get to do the final mix and master. This track had attracted so much negative energy that we both got into fistfights and encountered some bullshit drama days after it was recorded. Even the hard drive couldn't take its negative vibe that it just broke. But it’s cool though. Listen, learn and hopefully you change the ugly in you.

Suffice it to say, Gap and Nimbus9 know the difference between mindless arrogance and strong attitude. They lay out their narratives with as little embellishment as possible, emphasizing the grim stories they tell rather than have them overshadowed by a quicksand of chorus and samples. “Ugly” provides both artists with a more defined direction, one that gives them the license to kill without taking their hoodies off.

The dark mood created by the pounding beat and ominous piano, aided by the occasional pauses, is quite consuming, but it only intensifies the violent atmosphere triggered by the lyrics. When Gap raps “Cursin’ the heavens for the life that I lead” and “It sucks to be around so it’s vital to move on,” there is no-nonsense sentimentality—he puts his domestic torment at the center and expects nothing in return, no warm hugs and no kind words, enunciating “yuck” with delicious contempt.

On the other hand, Nimbus9 continues the flow and tells his story with the same temperament. He speaks of hunger and the “feeling of being eaten alive.” He’s “no longer dreaming of seeing whatever’s out there.” He’s as frustrated about the world as Gap is, exasperated by the injustice of the world, resigned but enlightened.

What brings their verses together is a chorus that resembles nothing but a kind of humming gibber, a brooding layer that seems to enclose the track in thick white smoke. Gap and Nimbus9 take a rest and wait until it boils, two brilliant minds keeping their rage in clenched fists, letting their voice heard only when needed. “Ugly” is a confessional of many unpleasant things about living in this country, but one that is soberly moving, its understated production values complementing it so well. Only time can tell how important this release is to local music, as it’s a reminder of scary good things to come. - Richard Bolisay

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