According to many eminent scholars, authors and theorists of the English language, ‘cellar door’ is a phrase which is beautiful pure in terms of its sound – regardless of its meaning. It’s a weird juxtaposition then that the young and gritty rap duo The Underachievers, hailing from the urban outlaying of Flatbush, Brooklyn have decided to name their latest project after it. The frenetic rhymes, hazy and dark beats; that type of hit-you-in-the-face, hundred mile an hour flow. This is a gnarled and darkened beauty, one which someone may revel in a full moon on a clear, warm summer night, or appreciate the beauty of a graffiti-layered backstreet alley. The rhymes are hard hitting, the rappity-rap ganja-toking archaic style of MCing prominent on all tracks.
Comprised of rappers Issa Dash and AK, The Underachievers have been making noise for a while now, releasing two successful mixtapes last year, Indigoism and Lords Of Flatbush. Both mixtapes stood out, competing and holding their own at a time when fellow Beast Coast allies Pro Era and Flatbush Zombies were really starting to blow up. They cemented themselves in that new wave group of hip-hop artists hailing from the Brooklyn streets. Cellar Door: Terminus Ut Exordium builds on the success of these mixtapes, and sees The Underachievers finally reach their much expected heights.
From the outset on the opening track ‘Luminescence’ the duo flaunt their distinctive and unique tag-team style of rap. They’re vocally noticeable from one another, which makes the back and forth flurry of rhymes easy to follow. In this opener they take the roles of the knowledge-of-self scholars, looking to school and elevate the minds of the youth – a theme that continues throughout the album. Hazy beats and deep rooted conscious lyricism is what the Beast Coast boys are all about, and this is best found on the track ‘Chrysalis’. An icy vocal undercurrent with a trap percussion proving to be the perfect platform to express their empowering views –
“Timeless repetition, them lies in pages visit, surprised we are the victim, societies secret mission/Got your mind twisted and fuck, I ain’t just rhyming nigga, keep up”.
Other tracks that stand out are ‘Felicity’ with its dreamy, pop style and slowed down lyrics, the closest to a mainstream track that the duo will create, looking to equate and impose their message to a more universal audience – and the penultimate track ‘Amorphous’, a desperate plea to society to stop their ways, the evocative lyrics being the ideal marriage to a heavily sampled Portugal. The Man beat. However, this album does have its flaws. A lengthy middle section does tend to blend together and become monotonous. An overly conceptual style at points means at times you lose the message, with no gripping tale or captivating subject matter, the thoughts just run off randomly.
This album is a big step in the right direction though, and continues the progression made on their last two mixtapes. They have huge potential and with the right guidance under legendary producer Flying Lotus they could continue to elevate.
First published: August 15, 2014