Over the past couple of years, I’ve been enjoying a number of Toronto based hip hop acts with releases through Hand’Solo Records. Whether it was Swamp Thing’s Creature Feature, Wordburglar’s Welcome to Cobra Island, or Chokeules’ Stay Up, I’ve found myself excited by the sometimes geeky, sometimes soulful rhymes that each of these albums had to offer. Even my co-host, Mr. Green (a dude who generally doesn’t like rap music), found Bigger on the Inside, More or Les’ Dr. Who concept album to be one of his favourite records of the past few years. It’s no secret that I am a fan of each of these guys. So when I heard that they, along with the rest of their crew Backburner, we’re releasing the new album Eclipse, I was more than ready to give it a listen. As expected, I was not dissappointed by the genre bending lyrics or the first rate production values.
This is the indie hip hop crew’s second group album. Following their critically acclaimed Heatwave, Eclipse is a balls to the wall, in your face performance featuring some of the best MCs, DJs and producers including: Timbuktu, Fresh Kils, Wordburglar, Ghettosocks, Chokeules, More or Les, Savilion, Beatmason, Jesse Dangerously, Jay Bizzy, Uncle Fes, Thesis Sahib, Ambition, Johnny Hardcore, Mister E, and Ginzu 333. Even with all that talent, they still manage to fit in guest appearances from D-Sisive, Mega Ran, Attikus, Rift and The Mighty Rhino. No wonder the album is called Eclipse – They have so many guys collaborating here that their collected mass would block out the sun. But each plays their part and no moment of music is wasted.
As this is the Backburner crew, the references to pop culture and geekdom are present on most tracks. In Scarecrow, the main hook mentions “Wendigo Warewolves” and there are also references to The X-Files, Frankenstein and The Empire Strikes Back. The greatest of Star Wars films is brought up again by Chokeules in Death Defy with the statement that Darth Vader is Luke’s Dad dropped in a rhyme that also mentions vampires and Evil Knievel. Future Shock is chock full of nerdom as Alien, Back to the Future, Johnny 5 from Short Circuit, The Mars Rover, Bladerunner, Bruce Sterling and William Gibson are all name checked with pride. Later on the album, Back to the Future gets even more love with the track DeLorean which not only gives props to the film franchise but also to John Conner, Adam Sandler and comedian Doug Stanhope. It’s these little throwaway lines that jump out at me throughout the album, like Ghettosocks saying he’s “Reed Richards meets Keith Richards” in the track All City. I love listening for these nods to films, television, books and comics the most.
What stuck out for me was the number of references to classic wrestlers in both Idea Junkies and Bottle Caps. King Kong Bundy makes it into the hook of Idea Junkies along with the line by Mega Ran – “My Team gets respect like Bret Hart in Calgary”. In Bottle Caps, an ode to alcohol, Savillion says he’s “Getting Dumb like I’m Wrestling Kamala” and Chokeules throws out “Rowdy Roddy Piper up the party all trippin'”. Even the Big Boss Man gets a mention in the satirical Bad Lieutenants. As a wrestling fan from way back, it’s fun to catch these quick mentions of my childhood heroes.
In my reviews of previous albums, I usually take this time to highlight some of my favourite tracks of the bunch but I find that really hard with Eclipse. The album is solid with no really drop in quality throughout. To quote Wordburglar in regards to the album, “Call it old school, new school, boom bap, backpack, alternative – whatever. There’s one undeniable fact – it’s rap music made by rap maniacs.” I can’t think of a better way to sum it up. With strong beats and great samples (Bruce Willis’ line from The Last Boy Scout, “Play Some Rap Music” at the start of All City is my personal fav) Eclipse is a bombardment of lyrical mayhem to overload the senses.
If you like hip hop you’ll love this album. The nerdy and pop culture references are just icing on the cake. You can pick it up now on Bandcamp for $8 U.S. Check out the video for Bottle Caps (Directed by Boom Shoal Enterprizes) below and give Backburner’s Eclipse a listen.
If you’re gonna geek out, GEEK HARD!