Miles Nxbxdy of Black Suburbia Music Group has released a dope new album, “Free Bird for the Free World,” which offers a ride along through some deep, dark emotions. PHOTO BY DOMINICK MCGEE
If as a music collective, Black Suburbia Music Group are Asbury Park’s Wu-Tang Clan, then Miles Nxbxdy is its Ghostface Killah with big, brooding beats and a sharp edge that flirts with punk. On the standout “Remain Calm,” Miles yells, “I’ve got some shit to say,’ and he sure does on the 12-song collection “Free Bird for a Free World.”
Throughout, Miles expresses anger and pain, as well as a certain sense of spirituality both within the splendor of it and in reaction against organized religion. What Miles also is really good at is self-editing. This 31-minute outing made me wish there was more. The songs are all between two and three minutes, and they are extremely well-produced with fantastic, eerie vocal effects. Most local music acts release too many overlong songs. Miles is the antithesis of that to very great effect.
And while he flirts more with punk than pop, there are hooks aplenty, yet not at the point of crass commercialism and with much greater meaning than most of today’s rap stars. I love how it all kicks off with the self-deprecating, socially defecating “Byrd Shyt,” which in a mere two minutes and 50 seconds crosses out the freedom and beauty of the album’s title, as do the white lines scratched across “Free Bird” and “Free World” on the album cover.
Next up is the furious “Remain Calm,” which belies its title with an expression of emotion that is jaw-droppingly awesome and incredibly cathartic. “Take What I Want” is a dope indictment of materialism with a fun, funny feature by Black Suburbia label mate Momo Da Gawd, the lightness of which beautifully contrasts Miles. “Young Sambo” is a raw, rough but soulfully sung vocal by Miles, who’s backed by a live band rather than a track in a tale about misunderstood youth.
“Useless” makes another indictment of materialism driven by a pretty but sad piano, which eventually collides with a machine gun. Now that’s some pretty inventive stuff.
On “Silicon Valley,” Miles’ rapid-fire rhymes are tres dope, but fair warning, they also are highly offensive, especially toward women. The track includes a hot feature by the Eminem-like trio Gnarly Nonsense, which, like Momo, contrasts well with Miles.
“Holy Hell” offers atmospheric flow in a tale about sex, drugs and Jesus featuring a disparate duet with Virginia rapper Desperry. Another one of the best tracks is “Boys on the Run/Kids on Drugs” featuring former Trulogy band mate C. Truth, as well as great vocal effects that take the listener down a dark, empty chamber of hope and survival. “Long Way Down” is a street adaptation of the horror and hopelessness of “Apocalypse Now,” which, in turn, was a film adaption of Joseph Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness,” the theme of “Free Bird for a Free World.”
If you don’t believe me that Black Suburbia are like Wu-Tang Clan, check it out for yourself when they pay tribute to that great Staten Island rap collective on New Year’s Eve at The Stone Pony for Dark City Entertainment’s annual “Another” ’90s New Year’s Eve” bash. That show also will feature Levy & the Oaks as Oasis, Dentist at The Cranberries, Natalie Farrell as Alanis Morissette, Avery Rose Puryear & the Thorns as Lauryn Hill, and Avery Mandeville as Neutral Milk Hotel.
Bob Makin is the reporter for www.MyCentralJersey.com/entertainment and a former managing editor of The Aquarian Weekly, which launched this column in 1988. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. And like Makin Waves at www.facebook.com/makinwavescolumn.