Crocker and Walter Kronkite - High Almighty

What can I say about Crocker that so many South Carolina media outlets haven't said already? Well, a lot actually since I don't condense things into easily-digestible soundbytes and remove anything even remotely against the status quo, but let me not go off on a tangent here. For those of you unfamiliar with this artist's body of work and the controversies that have surrounded it over recent years, allow me to sum it up by saying that Crocker doesn't bite his tongue for anyone and certain people in the local hierarchy don't like that one bit. To be completely clear, the top spot on the southern totem of power is held in a vice grip by the church. I can only imagine what they would say about Crocker's latest collaborative effort with fellow Lovelorn Records artist, Walter Kronkite, "High Almighty".

The album opens with Crocker reciting Deuteronomy 6:4 in both English and Hebrew, something that is sure to make the average radio-rap fan turn the album off in a dismissive huff. That's right, folks, do not walk into this expecting to hear about cars, fashion or any kind of "bottle-popping". Thank God. I'm tired of all that stuff, personally. If you're anything like me, you grew up with albums like "Heavy Mental" by Killah Priest in your Friday night playlist. What can I say? I like rappers with something on their mind other than their money. Anyway, the title track is a bit like an overview of the philosophical and existential questions raised throughout the rest of the album and in many of our heads on a daily basis. "High Almighty, will you take me?" and the sincerity shines through as well as the accompanying vocal of soulful chanteuse, Hillary Keane. The anxious violin strings on the track add to the dark, reflective tone of the song to craft a truly excellent instrumental for lyrics of this nature. It's not happy or sad, it's just real.

Next is "The Rot", featuring a Portishead instrumental that showcases Crocker and Walter Kronkite spouting lyrics intended to challenge your way of thinking. The chorus asks, "Are you programmed? Can you feel it yet?" and mind you, this isn't some sort of conspiracy theory rap, these are thoughts that you are invited to reflect upon for yourself. Speaking of reflection, "Adult Swim" shows both rappers getting deeply personal for a verse over a thoroughly somber beat. Never is it a "poor me" story, it's just real, perhaps even a glimpse into each man's psyche. It shows great inner strength to be okay with revealing such personal tales and if I had to speculate, that would be the takeaway for the listener, at least on this song.

"Cecedit Corona" is a scathing commentary on modern society, artfully done. The song's title is a reference to Lamentations 5:16 "The crown has fallen from our head. Woe to us, for we have sinned!", but instead of being "preachy" it is truly a revelation. At it's start, a sample of a JFK speech is used containing the line "We are opposed around the world by a monolithic and ruthless conspiracy that relies primarily on covet means for expanding it's sphere of influence". Later in the song, a sample from late comedian and philosopher, George Carlin says "Everyone's got a cellphone that makes pancakes, so they don't want to rock the boat, they don't want to make any trouble. People have been bought off by gizmos and toys in this country and no one questions anything". One need only observe our lives closely and without outside influence to see how profound these statements are when juxtaposed. Walter Kronkite expands on the idea that we've been bought and conditioned to not ask questions with the line "Education don't pay enough for me to want to teach you", a sadly accurate commentary on the use of debt to control our way of thinking. If you pay attention to this album, you just might learn something.

I could continue on about the profound lyrics and somber, yet at times vaguely hopeful tone of this album, but I'd rather encourage you to listen for yourself. This isn't background music or something to party to, but there is no shortage of head-nodding beats. "Revelation 6:8" would be a good place to start for someone who is open to stepping away from commercial hip-hop's focus on materialism and going back to the essence of the genre; skillful rhyming with plenty of realism and social commentary over a hard beat. "I.D. (Idol Displacement)" examines influential people being reduced to nothing more than a marketing scheme, "please, when I die put my guise on a shirt and let it misrepresent and make light of my work". Think about that the next time you see a Bob Marley poster at Hot Topic.

Before you write any of this album off as the manifesto of a bunch of conspiracy theorists, keep in mind that the term "conspiracy theory" was coined by none other than Richard Nixon at the beginning of the Watergate scandal. At no point in "High Almighty" are you told what to think, you are merely presented with information and implored to think for yourself. This probably isn't the album that the younger generation of rap music fans want, but it may be the album that they need. As a society, we need to get people observing something more than how many twitter followers they have and talking about something more than who got hit with a shovel on youtube or who acts like a thug on vine. Music is powerful, it can influence us in ways that we often don't immediately realize. I don't think it's far-fetched to believe that the majority of popular hip-hop's focus on mindless consumerism is dumbing-down the youth and breeding complacency, but as long as there are artists out there like Crocker and Walter Kronkite, there is at least a glimmer of hope.

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