Black Market Militia was released a year ago, and it has remained a very slept-on album, even in independent circles. All the while, every set of ears within the vicitiny of a radio is bombarded, Clockwork Orange style, with sub-par hip-hop. Why?
To be fair, at least Black Market Militia understands it is not speaking to the usual rap fan. Instead, it chooses to address those whose thirst for revolution was not quelled by Bacardi. Its members channel spirits rather than imbibe them, and they spit over beats laced with church organs, gospel choirs and other religious artefacts, each in turn dropping science from their digital pulpits to great effect.
Certainly, there is a great appeal in the myth of the holy warrior, killing for justice, like a whirling dervish in a godly trance. Black Market Militia resounds as such, tales of vision quests, violence, and revolution abound. They are like the Boondock Saints: divinely inspired, mystic do-gooders with guns. But much like the gun-toting vigilantes of the movie, Tragedy Khadafi, William Cooper and their ilk are strong on feeling, but often short on genuine solutions. What exactly does “Support the struggle with the hustle” mean, and how is it going to help me get off welfare?
M1 and Sticman (Dead Prez) exemplify this with their verses on Audobon Ballroom. Reaching upward once more from the depths of Revolutionary But Gangsta, they lend weight to the countercultural aspect of Black Market Militia. Like Black Panther enforcers at the fringes of a basement meeting, however, their presence here is meaningful, but it’s also easy to realize that they really aren’t saying much.
At the core of the album lies the track Righteous Talk. In this space, classically reserved for ‘skit’ tracks, lies the album’s core message. In it, an old man reveals to Timbo King: “To me […] Malcolm was a gangsta. Huey P. Newton, now that was a gangsta, Timbo.” And later: “I just wanna see more life […] Everybody running around talking about they this Unit, and […] I just wanna see more life in the music, for the babies.” But does the album inject life into the drab landscape of modern hip-hop? It is by this measure by which Black Market should be judged.
Re-awakened by this interlude, the second half of the album entices the listener with tight beats and words that strike with far more potency. Final Call uses the voice of Abiodun Oyemole of the Last Poets, who wisely addresses the self-defeating nature of hip-hop in his far too brief appearance. Black Market and Think Market follow, completing the foundations of what should be the house that revolution built.
Throughout the album, it is clear that Killah Priest is the leader of this militia. With props to the previous generations of civil rights and counter-culture, he and his apostles are leading the faithful to a promised land, though where it is and how it will happen are uncertain. Whether you are in it for beats, or a glimmer of hope that revolution is not dead in a culture spawned by the disenfranchised, you will find a lot of what you like in here.
(Review originally published at MVRemix.com.)