SpaceGhostPurrp – “Black God”
“I don’t have money, I don’t have cars / all I got is the truth and a couple of bars.” – SpaceGhostPurrp – “Mystikal Maze”
Rap artists, whether producers or rappers, come in a myriad form, but there are very few rap artists who have a truly visionary perspective and impact. Artists who are able to not only create a new lane for themselves, but carve out a new niche in the rap game large enough for other like-minded individuals to follows suit and potentially find success. Some artists, like The RZA or even Lil’ B, are able to create musical movements that cross the boundaries of the musical world into the spiritual world and inspire a cultish following of artists and fans. Musical revivalism has been a strong theme throughout 21st Century hip hop, whether it’s been the Cool Kids reviving the striped down stabs of the 80′s, various producers trying to recapture the grimy mid-nineties SP1200/MPC-60/Akai950 crafted classics of the 5 boroughs, or the revitalization of country rap tunes by the likes of K.R.I.T. and Burn One. More recently, within the last couple of years really, SpaceGhostPurrp, his affiliated Raider Klan (known in part for their specialized alphabet which excludes the use of vowels), and others in his more extensive circle, have brought about a new form of revivalism that combines both a sense of history beyond their years and a creative and innovative energy rarely paralleled on today’s rap scene.
While some of the crew’s music and imagery, especially album covers and song titles, is reminiscent of the Memphis underground scene from the early and mid-nineties and artists like Three 6 Mafia, Kingpin Skinny Pimp, the Hypnotized Minds Posse, for the most part their work actually belies simple comparison. There is a lot of homage present in their music, to TV shows, videogames, movies, and oddball regional references, but even within Raider Klan the stylistic variation from one song to the next or from artist to artist is as diverse as anywhere in rap – in fact it could easily be argued that Raider Klan music is much more diverse than mainstream rap. As we’ve entered into a post-regional rap world, where New York rappers frequently rap over southern instrumentals, underground rappers from Harlem embrace the chopped and screwed aesthetic, artists in foreign countries affiliate themselves with famous NYC crews, and with a whole generation of rappers raised with social media as a primary source of social interaction, it makes sense that crews like Raider Klan would crop up online, combining the musical aesthetics of various locations and eras to create something new and powerful. What they’ve created is a fictional historical rap narrative that would have been impossible to realize in the 90′s, but with the benefit of hindsight, social media, youtube, and affordable bedroom production and recording equipment is perfectly possible in 2012.
At the head of the Raider Klan is undoubtedly Florida’s (or Blackland’s) SpaceGhostPurrp, the most prolific producer and prominent figure in the group. SGP gained a lot of his notoriety for his work with internet darling A$ap Rocky and the A$ap Mob, despite the fact that he had been grinding away for some time before those collaborations took place. Where Lil’ Ugly Mane’s Mista Thug Isolation was more beholden to its early and mid-nineties predecessors stylistically, SpaceGhostPurrp is more of an innovator than he is a revivalist. There are certainly aspects of DJ Paul & Juicy J, RZA, and various others at work in his techniques, but his musical product is only occasionally sonically imitative, in fact in an era when so many producers can get caught up in trying to re-craft old hits, re-flip old samples, borrow and techniques from other successful artists, SGP sounds like nothing else on the market. His production is a layered concoction of video game samples, pornographic moans, horror film bells, organs, synths, guitars, basslines, drums (often not the 808′s one would associate with the mid-nineties south), and whatever else he can throw into the mix within the rhythm of the phonk. His brilliance behind the boards is undeniable.
As a rapper SpaceGhostPurrp hasn’t yet received the credit he deserves. While obsessive syllable counters won’t appreciate the simple straightforward rhyme style, and punchline fanatics may find some of his similes to be fairly simplistic, SGP has developed a great mic presence over the years, and it’s the content of his music that is most worthy of analysis. While there are plenty of explicit tales in his music, like “Grind On Me” and the 2012 version of his “S*ck A D*ck” series and the violent expressions of songs like “Get Yah Head Bust,” both of which appear here on Mysterious Phonk, there are also messages of empowerment and upliftment in his music, albeit sometimes clouded in SGP’s self-deification and the disrespect he aims at hypebeasts and haters. On his powerful manifesto, “Tha Black God,” while not related directly to the beliefs of 5%ers at least via any clear references, SGP revisits the afro-centricity of the early nineties through his own lens, including the assumption of title and empowerment of being a god:
“The world ain’t a good place to be in if we’re not in the right state of mind. So all you got to do is maintain, stay true to yourself, love yourself, believe in yourself, and you will be your own god, and the universe will make your life better, have faith, always think positive, be strong. Words from the Black God.” – SpaceGhostPurrp – “Tha Black God”
The dichotomy in his speech is important as on one level SGP offers the empowerment of the assumption of god status to those who will believe in themselves, he in the same breath acknowledges his role as the leader of the movement. SGP recognizes himself not just as “a black god,” but as “the Black God,” suggesting that his status as conveyor of this message, perhaps because he is the conveyor, gives him special authority. On “Osiris of the East” SGP cautions the importance of being careful with the selection of sexual partners, “livin’ like a slut now/ f*cking only clean goddesses, n*ggas out here fuckin’ mutts now.” In his selection of a god persona to take on, Osiris is clearly an intentional choice, aside from the association with African history, Osiris is both the god of the underworld and dead. In Ancient Egyptian culture the underworld was the source of life and including vegetation, the Nile River, and the rising of Osiris would lead to eternal life. It is through the use of this historical, religious, and mythological imagery that SGP creates a world inviting to those who feel dis-empowered and rejected by society. A self-described outcast, it makes sense that SGP would create a symbology in his music to offer a safe space for similarly minded individuals.
Although it’s subtle due to his explicit descriptions of sexual activity, and because of the use of terms like “bitch” and “ho” used in juxtaposition and occasionally in place of the term “goddess,” SGP’s view of women and relationships is also more empowering to women than the more common misogynist views relayed by many rappers. In fact, it would take greater analysis, but it’s possible that SGP spends more time focusing on the empowerment of women than he does that of men. Mysterious Phonk ends with track one off this winter’s God of Black EP, “Raider Prayer,” which touches on his view of women, stating, “my g’s be the goddesses, the queens of the phonk / ass fat, all black, Vicky’s Secret thongs / my songs is for the goddesses who be putting in work / at they job, come home, now she making it twerk.” While most references to women throughout his music are sexualized, he does deify the women with whom he interacts throughout his music.
Mysterious Phonk is for the most part a greatest hits collection from SGP’s mixtapes, which is an interesting choice for SpaceGhostPurrp’s label debut. Rather than making a new collection of songs or taking any shots at radio airplay, SGP uses this opportunity for greater exposure of the ideology that he’s developed over the course of his series of “underground tapes.” The songs are re-recorded, in some cases remixed slightly, in some cases rehashed more completely, and completely remastered (or perhaps mastered for the first time). The result is a more polished and trunk ready SGP. While some fans will undoubtedly bemoan the increase in fidelity, as the lo-fi sound in homage to early nineties basement cassette tapes was certainly part of what set SGP apart initially, the reality is that SGP’s brilliance behind the boards and on the mic deserves proper mixing and mastering to fully appreciate production work. In addition, SGP was still finding his voice as an emcee throughout some of his older tapes, leading to variation in pitch and occasionally unrefined cadences. While again these qualities lead to an often endearingly unpolished product when compared with the often overproduced and overly glossy rap albums released by major labels, creating part of the counter-cultural appeal of SpaceGhostPurrp, the professional treatment ultimately creates a more fully realized product. The benefit of the modern era is that SGP fans can have their cake and eat it too on this front. Those that prefer the unpolished lo-fi SGP can download those mixtapes, and those who would prefer to hear the artist able to fully realize his potential in a collection of his greatest songs professionally recorded, mixed, and mastered have the opportunity to see his genius reach new heights.
Ultimately only time will tell how SGP’s music and the Raider Klan movement will develop and evolve. There have already been in-house disputes aired out on twitter, the roster of members and affiliates seems to be amorphous, and SGP’s musical ideology is not present in the music of many of the artists with whom he has worked. That said, SGP has all the makings of being another visionary musical leader in the rap world, and one, who because of the power of social media, youtube, and a post-regional sense of rap history and due to the creation of a strong and empowering religious framework within his music, could inspire a massive cult following.
You can find out all you need to know about SpaceGhostPurrp and the Raider Klan via their facebook pages and SGP’s youtube account. Mysterious Phonk, SGP’s commercial debut, will be available on 4ADrecords on June 12th.