Independent Spotlight is a continuing series on Stewart’s blog. The series revolves around independent artists and bands sending their music to Brett to review. No band is promised a positive review, and all music is reviewed honestly in an effort to better independent music.
One of the most frequent features here on the Independent Spotlight is Charles Luck, the driving creative force behind the Black Astronaut hip hop collective. His release style, at least until now, has consisted primarily of dropping random singles every few weeks, some incredibly thought-provoking, some incredibly loony. Now, Black Astronaut has released their first full EP, an endeavor entitled ‘The Walrus, The Ninja, and The Gypsy From Sydney.’
Essentially a concept record, ‘The Walrus, The Ninja, and The Gypsy From Sydney’ tells the story of an insomniac that takes a heavy dose of Ambien and enters a bizarre world of equally bizarre characters. This alone marks a massive creative departure for Black Astronaut, which is prone to releasing strings of unrelated singles. The opening track of the EP, ‘Staring at the Ceiling,’ introduces the story perfectly, however, and sets a strong stride for the short collection.
‘Staring at the Ceiling’ features and was co-written by InZane, one of the more notably excellent hip hop artists that Luck collaborates with at Black Astronaut. The eerie track feels like it’s right out of ‘Alice in Wonderland’ as InZane muses about the ceiling staring back at him in the dark of night, unhinging his inner demons. If the concept of insomnia could be embodied into a single track, it would be ‘Staring at the Ceiling.’ (Granted, the song is also jam-packed with vivid insanity.)
‘Pawn My Kidneys,’ a track featuring Vedo, introduces the comical world the EP’s main character falls into after succumbing to his sleep aid. Frankly, the song makes absolutely no sense. The man loans his kidneys to the gypsy and the ninja, both who live in Sydney. He also wants to ride a dinosaur, and at another point, he confuses David Cameron’s penis-in-a-pig scandal Tony Blair and a dog. It’s a fever dream of a track, which in truth, is probably why it’s so hilariously fun.
‘Jipped By The Gypsy’ is, of course, fairly culturally insensitive. The track actually delves into a lot of questionable subject matter, albeit with a fantastic production backing it. At one point, Vedo even admits to the perverted nature of the subject matter, but insists that Black Astronaut pushing the envelope is what will get audiences to listen as they re-invent rap. Even though Black Astronaut is a perennial favorite here on the site, it’s worth noting that shock-and-awe showmanship rarely equates to longevity.
The next track, ‘Who Is The Ninja?’, is peculiar, recounting an array of sexual explorations, perhaps even with the ninja? Truthfully, nothing is fully clear on the song. Much like its predecessors, I imagine it’s the kind of material to arise out of a clouded Ambien-induced haze. That’s the central notion around the entire album, actually, and it continues onto the stunningly-produced ‘I Am The Ninja.’ It’s nearly impossible to follow the lyricism; it’s essentially stream-of-consciousness internal banter.
The final track, ‘Coming Home,’ utilizes a Guns N’ Roses ‘Paradise City’ sample, which surprisingly, isn’t kitschy or ridiculous at all. (Usually GNR is both.) “Rising from the couch like a phoenix from its ashes,” InZane raps on the track - a perfect send-off to a surreal EP. As always, Black Astronaut's usage of a well-known sample is wonderfully executed, too.
‘The Walrus, The Ninja, and The Gypsy From Sydney’ is unlike anything else Black Astronaut has released. It’s very erratic, often confusing, and it doesn’t shy away from being entirely politically incorrect, if not even borderline offensive. The dream-induced narrative is, however, somewhat followable. This is an EP one will listen to and catch new lines each time; it’s not meant to be memorized or quantified. It’s ridiculousness in six crazy tracks. That's its charm and why it's worth tuning into.