Some of the dopest concept albums of our time – Operation Doomsday, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, Black Star to name a few — intertwine intros, skits, and tracks with a recurring theme for a dynamic artistic experience. Complete with raw, thought provoking lyrics, and gritty and soulful beats, Welcome to Hell packages not one, but two artistic journeys where listeners get to view the twisted society in which we exist through the dark, radical lens of The Culture God.
Makin’ art meant to synchronize the brain and heart for the paisley dark/ my blade is hack saw, serrated sharp/ run the track because you already heard your favorite part – Welcome to Hell
25-year-old D.C. native The Culture God, aka Evan X, placed the album’s title track at the conclusion of the 14 song masterpiece, strategically. The construct of the tracks which are full of mini-themes and storytelling, allow his audience to take a complete musical journey listening to the album in sequential order and a whole ‘nother artistic experience listening to the tracks in reverse order. One brilliant feature of the album is it’s cleverly placed racial-themed Paul Mooney snippets which add sophisticated comic relief and which fully come to life when the album is listened to in reverse.
TCG’s fans will find Evan X’s sophomore album, Welcome to Hell, distinctively darker and more revolutionary than his 2013 release The Student Enrollment (1-10), which offered a journey through the eyes of a college-aged Evan X. Welcome to Hell’s first track Dear Death, which tells his spine-tingling story of coming face-to-face with death, seemingly picks up where The “1-10’s” final track Sky’s The Limit left off.
The album’s production offers everything from dynamic intros (Kid Icarus), to instrumental filled beats (Madness). While the album’s tracks exhibit technical excellence, the beats never trump TCG’s lyrics or delivery. His deep voice, smooth flow, and immaculate vocabulary have drawn comparisons to Jay Electronica, and Aesop Rock among others, however, his flawless cadence and his concurrent lyrical prowess make The Culture God an incomparably unique artist. Upon decrypting his sophisticated lyricism and crafty word play listeners will quickly find that Welcome to Hell’s tracks offer far more than just impressive spelling-bee words placed in an aesthetically sound rhyme pattern, but they offer explosive imagery and thought provoking tales so vivid that they seem literary, while in actuality they are his take on reality.
While many albums today offer “vent” tracks that speak to the relatable struggles of being a man or touch on the trials and tribulations of growing in the industry, The Culture God’s tracks grapple with far more than the common surface level topics offered by his peers.
In Hip-Hop is Gay (cliché), The Culture God takes the frustration of the current state of hip hop shared by many underground artists to another intellectual level when he spits about the white industry being a conniving beast:
"tryna keep us deep in its clutches/ before it can eat us must feed us destruction/ fattening up our egos for consumption... a plot to infiltrate the mental state of blacks living in the states.”
Heaven’s Basement confronts the over-sexualized, self-destructive mentality that poses detriment to the black community.
Listeners can vibe out to the melodic, trippy beat of Mareefa-Jones – while listening to The Culture God’s illustrative tale of his love for MJ, (or as the track is cleverly titled Mareefa Jones), his favorite mistress, tension easer, escape from reality.
Guitar riffs wring from each bar of Madness where the listener may drift into the beat that so nicely compliments TCG’s fantasy of living a free life in a tropical land… before even realizing that the tone quickly shifts back to the black reality of systematic oppression/trickery, and double-standards.
“Ain’t no average nigga babbling black quasi-radical talkin’ out of my ass/ fuck that I done the mathematics I seen the madness/ so get at me if you ready for action tell the niggas get your guns motherfuck law passages sayin that shits a hazard ‘cause them crackers packing got their babies at the gun range if you ask em their reason why they reply it’s cause ‘the niggas are comin’’
Welcome to Hell may not be a choice album for “sheeple” or the easily deceived and offended. It may leave conscious black listeners feeling enraged and ready to suit up for an untelevised revolution…but in the words of Evan X “enraged is good.” With the slaughters of Michael Browns, Eric Garners and numerous other unmentioneds closing out 2014, the album feels right on time. Its powerful revolutionary messages, tight production, and The Culture God’s mind-blowing talent make Welcome to Hell a hip hop classic, must listen