It is not possible to compartmentalize the music of Dälek. Birthed out of the mid-90s DIY scene, the group has been responsible for groundbreaking avant-garde hip hop for over 20 years. Composed of rapper/producer MC Dälek, producer/live electronics Mike Manteca, and Turntablist DJ rEk, Dälek continue their tradition of creating mesmerizing and powerful work with their seventh studio album release, Endangered Philosophies.
The album takes the various styles the group has been known to use, embracing them in a way that expands across the technical and emotional spectrum of music. Within each track, multiple elements can be found from several genres; everything ranging from your general hip hop beat progression, to touches of jazz, electronic, and shoegaze can be found throughout the album. This is evident immediately in the opening song “Echoes Of”, where the material begins with a waving distortion that shifts its way under the skin. This leads into a steady pace of drumming, providing a sharp tone to an already hazy production. The vocals come over the drone, pouncing with a weight of authority. The following track, “Weapons”, takes a more ambient approach, its atmosphere reminiscent of the poetic nature of 90s east coast hip hop. The instrumental flow exudes a meditative aura, the work at times injecting a sense of tension with waves of bright sound that rise to the forefront of the material towards the halfway point.
With incredible chemistry, the lyricism blends with the various instrumental tones to create track after track of magic and wisdom. There’s a blend of political and personal lyricism within the record, bursting out in a storytelling grit. “The Son of Immigrants” is a powerful message expressing the strength and will of those who refuse to be put down as underclass citizens, demanding respect as equals. MC Dälek expresses this in such lines as, “I’m your worst nightmare/ Educated and born here/ Prepared for warfare/ We ain’t going nowhere/ Never scared of opposition when positioned strategically/ Generations deceived repeatedly/ Keep your deities at arms length/ Faith manifests as wavelengths.”
“Beyond the Madness” comes in shades of melancholy, the work being driven by a bright drone. The vocals present themselves in contrast to this sound, their inflection giving off a cut throat directness that steps away from the somber waves of the instruments. All these components come together to aid one another, the vocals adding a weight to the environmental minimalism, and the instrumentals providing a gentle essence to the vocals. While there are some lyrics within “A Collective Cancelled Thought”, the material is mostly an ambient noise track. Consistent drum beats provide eerie waves and bursts of distortion that introduce this unsettling tension, rocking with a heavier appeal. “Battlecries” is one of the more experimental songs on the album, being one of the works to play around with contrasting sounds. Uses of shoegzaze droning, drum work, and ambient bursts make for a song that establishes a sense of wandering and discovery, letting loose a sense of mystery. MC Dälek shows off his rhyming proficiency further with lines such as, “Whole understanding of sonics shifted in an instant/ Very few have bared witness to true potency of linguistics/ There is a vast difference between originators and mimics/ Substance versus gimmicks.”
In a time where we are surrounded by radio rap, Dälek are amongst those that continue to carry the torch of hip hop storytelling. Their brilliant use of composition and lyricism breathes life throughout their work, flowing its way into the listener. This collection of music presents a variety of powerful and beautiful stories, while also showing off an excellent blend of elegant instrumentation. Endangered Philosophies goes to show that now over two decades into their career, Dälek remain one of the most artistically unique acts of our time.