Just like Tooth & Nail and Facedown Records, Syntax Records recently took the route of creating a sister label. While Tooth & Nail has BEC and Solid State (and Uprok in the past) and Facedown has Strike First and Dreamt Music, Syntax's new sister label is called Humble Beast Records, and it features hip hop artists Theory Hazit, Braille, Citizen Aim, Foreknown, Odd Thomas, Othello, Propaganda and Xperiment. To get the label's name and talent out there, they're offering up a ten-song compilation featuring all of their artists (and a few guests). The compilation is appropriately called Humble Beginnings Volume 1.
Typical hip hop compilations and mixtapes usually have a pretty long tracklist (some in the vacinity of about twenty songs). The first Humble Beginnings compilation, however, only has ten, one of which is just an intro track. A lot of the beats and style on Humble Beast's flagship compilation feel more like the underground style of hip hop than what Syntax has to offer. Fans of groups like Tunnel Rats or The Roots (think their older stuff, not necessarily their newer stuff) will more than likely be very pleased with what Humble Beginnings, Vol. 1 has to offer, such as Theory Hazit's "On The Radar" and Foreknown's "The Fairy Tale That's Rarely Told." The track from Foreknown tells the tale of a strange and mysterious beast. Also, from what I can tell, it's a symbolic story about real hip hop.
The two artists that Christian hip hop fans will be most likely to recognize are Braille and Sareem Poems. The former of whom got himself some spotlight with The IV Edition a few years ago. He makes two appearances on Humble Beginnings, the first of the two being "The Dream That You Gave To Me" alongside Citizen Aim. A quasi-industrial beat makes up the backbone of the song with lots of dreamy sounds as the landscape. The music is certainly a strange mixture, but it works really well, and the artists do a great job keeping their flow in time with the strange beat. His second song, "Opportune Time," sounds a little more like a Braille style song than the first one, and focuses on God's perfect timing in every circumstance and the importance of waiting for His direction. As for Sareem Poems, formerly known as Sharlok Poems, he has released several albums with the notorious LA Symphony crew (the crew that was also home to Flynn, Joey the Jerk and Pigeon John). There's only one appearance from Poems on this compilation, in the form of "Soul Tower." He has a deeper voice with a little bit of a heavier beat. It still fits in with the rest of the tracks of Humble Beginnings, but it also sounds a bit more like '90s gangsta rap like Notorious B.I.G.
Other noteworthy artists that appear on this compilation are Odd Thomas, Theory Hazit and Citizen Aim, who actually all have a song together called "Humble Hungry." The beat is composed of thick drums and lots of high hat (the sound is impeccable), while an oriental flavoring plays throughout. The song is about humility and how pride only brings destruction. The hook contains of the words "Humble...hungry...humble...hungry," said by a couple voices with some kind of weird effect on them that makes them sound like those three-eyed aliens from Toy Story. A little creepy, but otherwise, "Humble Hungry" pretty much serves as the compilation's highlight.
Humble Beginnings, Vol. 1 was actually a pretty pleasant surprise. While I would have preferred at least a few more tracks, it's a pretty high quality release. There didn't seem to be a lot of press surrounding the new label's emergence, but this first release makes me anticipate future releases from these artists. It goes to show that, while there are a lot of underground and independent hip hop artists that really don't have the first clue about making quality hip hop, there are those that know exactly what they're doing. Like the speaker in the intro says, "Everybody wants to rap and so when a guy comes to me and says 'I'm a rapper,' two things come to mind: Either this dude is a beast at what he does, or things can go really bad." Props to Humble Beast for finding the underground beasts.- Review date: 8/6/10, written by Scott Fryberger of Jesusfreakhideout.com
Record Label: Humble Beast / Syntax
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