Review by Mike O’Cull, independent music journalist. www.mikeocull.com
Oakland, California-living Voltaire Slapadelic is a hip-hop artist and producer who makes music so individualistic that it’s practically its own genre of rap. He combines glitch and trip-hop, dubstep, bass music, and time-honored East Coast hip-hop influences with his own semi-psychedelic Bay Area creative sensibilities to arrive at a sound with an entrancing, lysergic stoniness that is unlike anyone you’re already listening to. Voltaire’s second and most recent album, 89/19, hit the streets July 16th, 2019 and is a good place to start for anyone unfamiliar with what he does and a great place to pick up for those already in the know.
The record is a thoughtful piece of introspective art from a young man about to turn 30 who is taking stock of where he’s been and where he’s going. “My Own Island” is so tripped out that it’s almost avant-garde and shows us Voltaire speaking on being an underground artist who is “higher than usual, locked in my studio...goals to fulfill.” Like a lot of his music, it feels like outsider art, which is a big part of Voltaire’s charm. “Real Rhymes” deals with the unhappy facts that “I can’t affect my reality yet. Thirty years old still cashing hourly checks.” Voltaire’s flows are low-key and understated but communicate his self-awareness and frustration quite well.
“Gloomy Sunday” describes a space and time in Voltaire’s past that’s ten years gone but still on his mind. It’s built on an atmospheric old jazz sample that gives it a smoky, film noir vibe that’s tough to resist. What makes Voltaire so compelling is his ability to speak his heart so plainly over impossible-to-define beats made of shards of every record he’s ever heard. Every track here earns it wings but other highlights include “Panic Attack,” “Earth Angel,” and “Nothing Matters.”
Voltaire draws inspiration from many sources that include MF Doom, Aesop Rock, Earl Sweatshirt, and Tyler the Creator but is a well-developed recording artist and producer in his own right with a strong identity. His sonic universe is different and takes some acclimation but those who dig in will find him to be an iconoclastic artist who only spits his own trippy Truth. Dial 89/19 in for your next late-night session and let it soak in.
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