California’s Pariah is no stranger to heady themes. If the dude’s rap name wasn’t already a big clue, his digital presence and catalog presents him as a rapper whose wheelhouse is the kind of introspective, wordy hip-hop that would be pigeonholed as conscious if it didn’t err so often on the side of quirky and fringe instead of the approachable chai tea and backpack boom-bap that’s synonymous with the tag. There’s a specific kind of person that makes music like this – people who probably listen to Tool and Bill Hicks, have more knowledge abut ancient civilizations than your average person, and see “The Matrix” as a turning point in public discourse about reality an society. In fact, this is the kind of the person who’d use the words “reality” and “society” with conjunction frequency.
In electronica, rock, and metal, this is pretty common, but aesthetically and conceptually, its a rare find in hip-hop. There are inward discussions in rap, but so much of it is more conversational/philosophical than something that’d function as marketable pop music that it, predictably, stays underground. Still, Pariah’s style, and that of his “The Architex” group mate Cerebral Coretext, is admirable. Chris Carter rap will probably never be fashionable outside of Ab-Soul, and even he mixes it with other styles to make it more palatable. On Fool’s Gold, Cerebral and Pariah team to consciously create an EP that they describe as having “dark, gritty, and complex soundscapes” and a “despondent yet poetic style of writing”. In their credit, they definitely offer something different – their cadences are cleaner and more rhythmic than many of the rappers who mine similar subject matter, and producer Pedi Talai’s humming, grinding digital beats complement the duo’s philosophical rhymes with a sense of dread and spaciness appropriate for a pair of MCs sporting such healthy pretensions about the state of things and the future. Riding out their own bleakness over the course of 7 tracks, the two narrowly, and thankfully avoid Linkin Park territory (despite Cerebral’s uncanny vocal resemblance to Mike Shinoda) and keep the EP short and pensive rather than long and whiny.
Fool’s Gold is available for free download from Bandcamp.